The creators of the recent "DC You" Batgirl have flown the coop for a new series of their own titled Motor Crush. Scheduled to debut in December, the creator-owned series reunites Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr under the Image umbrella.
Although not scheduled to debut until December, Motor Crush is something the trio had been brewing since early in their work on DC's Batgirl.
“We had talked about Motor Crush about four months into working on Batgirl together,” Tarr told Newsarama. “I feel like it was around November and we had started in July. The two of you came up to me and were like we have this idea for this thing after Batgirl and I was like okay!”
“Our team was like this crack comics making unit,” added Fletcher. “It just felt like it would be a shame to let it go just because we wouldn’t be working on Batgirl anymore. I should be clear that, at the time, we were only given six issues of Batgirl. Cameron and I came in with ideas for multiple arcs and we were told again and again, if we have ideas, put them in these issues because that’s all you’re going to get.”
“Convergence was happening in six issues, so they had a break to introduce a new team if we were a flop, but that didn’t happen,” Tarr laughed.
Given the precarious footing at the time for Batgirl, Motor Crush was a back-up plan in case DC didn't greenlight their continued work on Barbara Gordon past the initial arc. With the success however, it put off the creator-owned series until now.
“It had always been part of the game plan to do this next,” said Tarr.
Although the trio are excited to talk about the book, they are cautious as not to spoil too much ahead of its December debut.
“These are things that, when we get closer to release,” Fletched explained. “We’re going to start teasing more about the characters and the world, but we can say this: the story is about a young lady named Domino Swift.”
“She’s on a bike, she had a cricket bat with nails and she is on her own out there against a ton of people who are bonded together in gangs or crews," said the co-writer. "Domino can hold her head high and defend herself against those who are out to get her and what she is out to get for herself.”
Fletcher added a bit more about the world at large and what they’re aiming for with the aesthetics.
“On top of that, we have this whole world of racing we’re developing. Racing is kind of the number one form of entertainment in this world that is about five minutes into the future. We’re not doing all out crazy super sci-fi. We’re going into the future that is still super recognizable, but this is a different world.”
Fletcher mentioned there won’t be any flying cars or anything like that and will keep things fairly grounded when it came to the more outlandish advances in technology.
“It’s definitely more grounded sci-fi, but have a mark that shows we are not in the world that we live in.”
Since the book was announced at Image Expo back in April, Tarr has been posting sneak peeks and some behind the scenes looks at Motor Crush in what had Fletcher dubbed “Motor Crush Mondays."
“I’m always trying to decide what panels I’m going to tease," said the artist.
Control is a key part of Tarr's interest in Motor Crush, but beyond just the creator-owned nature of it.
“I feel like I’m excited to do my own thing because I have this illustrator background and I’m used to being able to control the aspect of my artwork. Then, I went to comics where you hand something off to somebody else like the cover and the colors and all that," said Tarr. "With this book, we get to control all of it, and it feels so good because I’m able to make it exactly what I want. I feel like this is more me and that always feels great as an artist that you’re able to put something forward like that.”
She mentioned that she feels she’s gotten stronger with the page layouts, so if Stewart felt bogged down, she could power through if need be, but still loves the support from her teammate.
“He loves that kind of stuff and I hate it, so we balance each other out with that.”
One balancing act that Tarr is looking to upset with Motor Crush is the digital / physical workflow of art. Wheres Batgirl was drawn digitally, Motor Crush is being with traditional pen and ink on pages.
“People have been really enjoying it and it’s the first time I’ve been able to show off my art in that way. I love working this way because I get to take a break from the computer.”
Tarr attributes DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee with influencing her to do more traditional artwork.
“I was on this panel with Jim Lee once and I remember half was traditional and the other half was digital and Jim said something that stuck with me. He talked about how he felt like he worked faster traditionally because if he makes a line, that’s the line," explained Tarr. "You gotta move on whether if you like the line or not. So I feel like I would fuss over a line too much on the computer, on the paper, it goes faster. If I slow down and think about my lines on the paper, there’s a weird mode of control, rather than the digital guessing.”
She mentioned how she’s not perfect at it just yet, but still loving the process.
“I really like it and I’ll keep aiming to make the pages more perfect so I don’t have to do any clean up when I scan them into the computer.”
Fletcher commented on the fact that Babs has been uploaded the pages onto their shared Dropbox folder, but they’re so huge it takes a while to download and it wasn't until they were together at HeroesCon recently that he'd actually seen them.
“The thing that stuck out to me and what took me aback about them was the extra level of energy that the linework receives on the page.”
Tarr began blushing. “You didn’t tell me that! That’s cool!”
“If this story about people racing needs anything,” Fletcher said, “it’s linework that’s full of life. One thing that Babs always brought to Batgirl was this sense of life. Burnside, through her hand, felt like a breathing world. This,” as he pointed to Tarr’s portfolio of Motor Crush pages, “feels not just alive, but full of adrenaline and how it moves off the page.”
“I feel like it being on paper it makes it breathe and how it has an extra level of realness or energy to it,” Tarr said.
“It’s because your linework doesn’t feel like you can see that it’s not as labored," Fletcher responded. "You can fix things digitally like you said, but I don’t know, man. I look at those pages and they just flow.”
Tarr took out her phone to show off more process to the pages that she didn’t bring with her.
“I’m doing these ink washes on the pages, too. I got inspired by Michael Walsh, it’s so good. I saw those pages and I love the feeling of the watercolor on top. It adds to the beachy vibe in some scenes. Lilo and Stitch had those watercolor backgrounds and that’s something that’s kinda inspiring. I think it adds another level of realness I’m bringing.”
She also mentioned how she is hand-lettering the sound effects on the pages as well.
“I love that! With DC, having to hand everything off to other people for the time crunch is understandable. Now, though, I’m feeling more confident about stuff like this.”
“And our editors on Batgirl were so great, too,” Fletcher said. “Chris Conroy would definitely have been into hand-lettering sound effects, but as Babs said, it’s a time issue. We’re on this production line that we don’t have control of. That’s the difference here. At Image, we still have a production line, but it’s in our control and of our divicing.”
They talked about how even a few months into this that they’re still trying to figure out how they’re dividing up the responsibilities. Tarr mentioned that Cameron is doing the word balloons, but she wants him to do it by hand to save time.
“I just want this to feel organic. One of the reasons I switched to paper for the ink washes, because I was trying to fake it on Photoshop and it was taking me at least four times as long when I could just do it for real.”
With Batgirl, Tarr had made a list of stuff she’d love to incorporate into the story and draw, something that she read to her and Brenden’s 2015 DragonCon, but said there wasn’t any sort of prerequisites because she could do whatever she wanted at this point.
“There was no upfront list this time,” Fletcher commented. “We all worked on the story this time around. That’s the difference right there. Babs kinda gave me a list and Cameron and I would write the story. This time, there’s a bunch of story in place, but left it loose so the three of us could hammer it down together.”
“I feel like Batgirl was so episodic,” Tarr said. “With this, it’s more of a big movie. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end.”
In addition to the trio of Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr, they will add on more players to help create the look and feel of the world including one of Babs’ former co-workers.
“We’re bringing on a designer that I used to work with when I worked in games in San Francisco named John Lewis," revealed Tarr. "He’s super talented. There’s so many logos and brands of this world, just like NASCAR, but I don’t have time to do a thousand logos, so he whips them out like a beast.”
“He’s doing the production design of the book, on top of the in-world stuff of the book as well,” Fletcher added.
Former DC and Marvel editor Jeanine Schaefer is also joining the team.
“She’s incredible and a position that needed to be filled. We can’t express enough how integral Chris Conroy was over on Batgirl and once we struck out on our own, we needed someone to fill that vacancy,” said Fletcher. “We’re very lucky to have her on the team.”
Lastly, the duo talked their thoughts about what would bring in fans of their Batgirl run over to Motor Crush. The answer was rather simple: them.
“It’s faith in us,” Fletcher replied. “So if you liked one thing from us, you’ll likely enjoy the other. Now, we should be clear on something. When we initially were offered Batgirl, we were asked to make it for an older audience, but felt very quickly that it should be geared towards a slightly younger audience.”
“We were going to all these cons and seeing all these girls as Batgirls and were like we have to cater to these kids.”
“So we kept it young,” Fletcher continued, “and that was great for that audience. Motor Crush, however, is a bit more adult. This is more about our team being unleashed. So there will be some language that will be more colorful and violence that will be more on the nose and graphic. Nothing is too over the top to receive like an NC-17 rating, or whatever the comics equivalent is, but certainly not a book that is for young kids.”