J.H. WILLIAMS Brings Experimental Writing Style To BATWOMAN
J.H. WILLIAMS Brings Experimental Writin
In November, the new Batwoman title will launch with a new Issue #0 and a brand new creative team.
Artist J.H. Williams III will be co-writing Batwoman with W. Haden Blackman, as well as drawing the series.
Williams will take a break from drawing during the second arc, when artist Amy Reeder comes on board with Batwoman #6. But Williams will return for the third arc.
Now that DC has revealed there will be two Batmen in the DCU, Williams is keeping mum about how it all fits with Batwoman, claiming there are some surprises ahead for readers of the new series.
We talked to Williams to find out more.
Newsarama: J.H., does Bruce's return affect your run on Batwoman?
J.H. Williams: Yes. Bruce is going to have an impact on what's going on, so all of that will be reflected in Batwoman. It was a little tricky to find a way to play a part in DC's plans without destroying what we were planning on doing with the character, but I think we've managed to do that.
Nrama: How would you describe the comic to people who might never have met Batwoman before? What kind of comic is this?
Williams: It's the darker side of Gotham, which is pretty dark considering Gotham is already dark. But at the same time, it has lots of personal elements between characters.
The trick for me is, we want to tell a very distinct superhero series, and each storyline in the series has its own genre and voice.
For example, the first arc is a horror story. The second is more of an espionage/intrigue sort of thing. The third is along the lines of a fantasy epic. But they all intertwine with each other.
There are a lot of creepy visual and plot things in the first issue that I think people will be surprised by. We're not ignoring some of the more fantastical things that can happen in the DCU. Some of the Batman titles can be like that. They want to be so "street" that they ignore what the DCU is like. But we're trying to keep things very Gotham, but at the same time show how weird the DCU really is.
We're playing with a lot of elements.
Nrama: You're well known for being a little experimental with your artwork. Are you also being experimental with your writing?
Williams: Yeah. Definitely. The writing for the first arc isn't as experimental as it will be in the second arc, as far as the way the plot is structured. There are certain scenes that we need to be very visceral. But there are going to be some scenes that will have a very surreal, strange effect going on. It's hard to explain without giving away too many plot details.
Like a lot of things I do with my art, I have a fusion of visual ideas and techniques and different styles on one page or within the story. As I was developing plot with Haden, I found myself wanting to work on stories where the plotlines and the plot ideas do the same thing.
I think that's where we ended up with the first arc being more horror and the next one moving into an espionage thing, but they all kind of dovetail into each other through plot development and characterization.
Nrama: For people who are familiar with Batwoman, at what point do we pick up her story?
Williams: I'm treating it as if time has passed since the end of the last story, Elegy. I wanted her to have moved forward since them. I wanted to write it as if things have been going on that we just haven't witnessed yet. So we're picking up a little bit after the end of Elegy.
I think it would make sense to the reader that her life is continuing and she's doing her thing, and now we're getting to peek in on her again.
Nrama: Is she a little more confident and established now?
Williams: Yeah. Particularly in her relationships and some of her activities as Batwoman. We really conveys that a lot. It's going to give people the impression that she wants to take charge of things.
Nrama: The solicitation for Issue #0 specifically has a "Batman Mission Log Entry." It says Batman suspects Batwoman is socialite Kate Kane, which he intends to prove. Is that part of your first arc?
Williams: A little bit. A lot of that gets answered in the zero issue. And when Issue #0 ends, readers will see how things are going to play out with Batwoman's relationship with other Gotham titles and with the Batmen.
When they read it, they're going to wonder about what's going to happen next. And I think we've come up with some clever ways in the main arc to address that in ways people might not expect.
Nrama: Are you establishing a new supporting cast? Or are you picking up people from the previous run?
Williams: There are some people coming in from outside sources who are being added to the cast. We're expanding the role of a couple characters that were in the previous storyline. And we'll be following through on some of the emotional plotlines that Kate had to deal with, like her relationship with her father, and how that impacts her in her personal life and in her role as Batwoman.
Nrama: Can you tell us some of the supporting cast?
Williams: I'd like that to be a bit of a surprise. I don't want to give away too much of the character's direction. You'll see lots of stuff having to do with the Gotham P.D. and there will be a character that people will be surprised to see in the series, with an interesting role.
Her father will play a role. That relationship is pretty volatile, and that's interesting to explore.
And of course we'll be building new characters.
Nrama: Does that include villains?
Williams: Yes. One of our main goals for the title is to give Batwoman her own rogues’ gallery, so we'll be introducing some new villains. And by the end of the first year, we'll establish quite a few villains she can claim as her own, outside of Alice.
Nrama: There seems to be a lot of Batman titles coming when Bruce returns. Are you coordinating a lot with the other Batman writers? Or is the editor pretty much the go-to guy for the coordination?
Williams: Yeah, he's pretty much the go-to guy for most of it. The fine line we're trying to walk is to be a part of Gotham City and the DCU and acknowledge that without losing site of the fact that Batwoman's book should have its own voice. Of course, I think all the titles should strive for that. But it's good to have a cohesiveness when you all exist in the same world.
Nrama: As a fan of the character, it's difficult for me to separate her from my experience reading the way Greg Rucka writes. I know you were involved in the previous storylines as well, but now that you're taking over writing, does the character and her story have a different voice?
Williams: I think so. One of the things I noticed, looking over the work that has been done so far, is that the way it moves.... it moves differently. And I think it's because we're creating a variety of cast members that each have their own stories and they intersect with each other. And it's even more apparent as we get into the second arc, as we introduce new characters and concepts.
As the story builds, you get this intercutting of different scenes that are part of a later whole. It's a little different in movement and feel than some of the things Greg was doing. He had a much more streamlined sense of plotting, and he wanted to have this singular direction to the plot, whereas we're jumping around a bit, creating a layered sort of effect with different plot elements. They'll all intersect and build as we go forward.
Nrama: Some long-form storytelling?
Williams: Oh yeah. I'm a big fan of that type of storytelling. I like to see stories that might have a main plot for the first arc, but you can separate things in the subplot that will become more relevant in the next arc. I really like people to feel like there's more beyond the surface of what they're reading. If they remember all those details as they're reading along, it can spark cues in their brain.
And I want to make sure that people know that Amy's arc will be an important part of what we're doing. The stuff we present in arc one leads into key plot elements for her arc. Then those lead into arc three. It all intersects.
Nrama: How has it been working with Haden?
Williams: Really fantastic. He and I have known each other a really long time. We've worked together on creator-owned concepts, which I'm hoping will have the light of day at some point. So we've been working together for a while, and we're very comfortable with each other.
But now we're getting the chance to work closely together creating scripts. We're really enjoying the process. I think we've found our groove.
Either he or myself will take a first pass on the script, then we'll hand it off to the other person, and they put their spin on it. And then we talk it over on the phone to finalize it. So we have three to four drafts per scene or script, but it's very organic, the way we're doing it.
Nrama: The last time we talked, you thought you'd be incorporating Flamebird into the story. Is that going to happen?
Williams: Yes. Some interesting things will be happening there, that hopefully people will be entertained by.
Nrama: Batwoman #0 is being drawn by you and Amy Reeder, but you're doing the first story arc, right?
Williams: Yes, we're both working on the zero issue.
Zero issues are tough for me as a reader, in terms of really whetting your appetite for what comes next. And Haden feels the same way about them. So we really wanted to put our minds together and come up with something better, because we were really concerned. It wasn't our idea to do a zero issue. We'd already started on Issue #1 and had written the whole outline for the first story arc. So when DC came to us and said they wanted a zero issue for November, we wanted something that was strong enough to whet people's appetite without losing the surprise impact of the first issue.
But the end result is pretty cool. We came up with a clever idea that manages to have me and Amy share space on every page.
Nrama: You probably have to be way ahead, don't you? Since you're drawing? And you have to get pages to Amy now.
Williams: Yeah, she's doing the zero issue, and then she's also received the script for Issue #6. And I'm working on art for Issue #1.
So yeah, the writing process is kind of interesting. It helps that Haden and I are the type of writers who think things through. We have outlines for a one- or two-year plan. So working with Amy, we have to write the issues out of order and still make them work.
It's gotten a little tricky. When the zero issue got put in our lap, we had to work on Issue #0, Issue #1 and Issue #6 all at once.
Nrama: Now that you've actually sat down and done it, how has it been writing for someone else to draw? Has it been difficult?
Williams: In some ways yes; in some ways no. I've written for artists before, a long time ago. I find it fun and interesting to see how something that I described gets translated by another artist, with their vision. But when I'm setting up the choreography for a scene or a layout idea, I can't help but write it the way I see it in my head. So what I'm seeing in my head is a visual representation of the plot.
So yeah, it's hard for me to envision exactly what it's going to look like from another artist. So the best thing I can do is be as descriptive as possible in my scripts and my choreography. But at the same time, I understand it's not going to look like what I do. I just want to make sure the storytelling works in script form.
Nrama: In November, Tony Daniel will be writing and drawing Batman, and David Finch will be writing and drawing, while you're also writing and drawing for the Batman office. Why do you think the Bat-office is a little more open to that, and do you think this is something maybe other artists should look into?
Williams: It's hard for me the gauge just how open the editors are to this sort of thing, in general, because as you are pointing out, it's a recent thing. The only thing I can think of is that this is something DC has wanted to try before, but for whatever reasons, the way they were structured editorially made that really difficult, with whatever individuals had the power to say yes or no. And since they've had an editorial change in structure, I think that's allowed them to have a little more freedom trying things out that they couldn't try out before.
There were always writers who were artists that worked for DC here and there. Matt Wagner would do stuff, for example. But it wasn't as prominent as it seems to be right now.
As far as other artists looking into it? Yes. I think they absolutely should, it exercises different muscles. It's always interesting to look at different ways a story can be put together. There are artists out there who, if they try it out, they might not have the best results, because their mind doesn't think that way. But they should see what they could do. It allows you to grow as a creative individual, I think. So yeah, I think artists should try that kind of thing, and if they're good at it, they should stick with it.