BATWOMAN Tuesday Part 3: W. HADEN BLACKMAN On What's Next

BATWOMAN Tuesday p.3: W. HADEN BLACKMAN

 

Landing a character's first solo series in the Top 25 after five months is an admirable feat, but there are even more surprises about the accomplishment of the New 52 title Batwoman.

The character is one of surprisingly few female leads in comics, and the writing team behind the book doesn't have the type of superstar pull that will sell a virtually unknown character's comic. Yet co-writers W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III are moving into the second arc of Batwoman with the title firmly entrenched as one of the better selling comics at DC.

Much of the credit for Batwoman's mass appeal — according to fans and critics — has been placed on the art by Williams.

Yet to the surprise of some, the writing has also been lauded, which is a plus as the story moves into its second arc this week with a new artist, Amy Reeder.

While some DC readers may not know a lot about Blackman's background, he's been an acclaimed and well-established comic book writer for years in the Star Wars universe. The writer has also been a successful video game writer and developer, founding the development company Fearless Studios before its purchase last month by Kabam.

In this third installment of our "Batwoman Tuesday" interviews (see Part 1 here for J.H. Williams, and Part 2 here for Amy Reeder), Newsarama talked with W. Haden Blackman about the series.

Newsarama: Haden, as you move into the second arc and have a different artist, does the tone change much, or are you continuing the same themes you had in the first arc?

W. Haden Blackman: It's a little bit of both, actually. When Jim and I started this, we knew we wanted each arc to have its own feel anyway, regardless of who was doing the art.

So even arc one and arc three, which both have the same artist, will have a very different feel.

With arc one, we wanted to create a supernatural horror story feel, in addition to all the other genres that we're kind of mashing in there.

And with arc two, we really want to focus more on kind of like a James Bond-ian, action-oriented, spy story.

But because it picks up right where arc one leaves off, there's still quite a bit of the supernatural flowing through it.

Nrama: The series does have a supernatural slant to it so far. So you're saying that will continue?

Blackman: Yeah. You know, as we've been working on the series, one of the things we've discovered is that we really enjoy showing the supernatural side of Gotham, and having Batwoman's rogues gallery be more influenced by that side of Gotham than, say, Batman's rogues gallery.

Nrama: Her look seems to fit with it, doesn't it?

Blackman: Yeah. I think it has to do with the way Jim has envisioned her. You know what I mean? She looks a little vampiric. But I think for me, what's really nice about it is that her personality really is a nice contrast to some of these darker themes we have in there. She obviously feels very brave, and she even makes a quip every once in awhile. She has a line in one of the issues referencing back to the Friday the 13th series of movies, so she's aware of pop culture too. So I feel like she's unique in that way from Batman.

Nrama: As co-writers on the series, are there certain sensibilities that you bring into the working relationship and certain things that J.H. brings into it?

Blackman: Yeah, I think there's sort of overlap, just because we have a lot of the same interests, and that's one of the reasons why we became friends before we ever became collaborators, because we do share a lot of the same interests.

 

But I think I'm a huge horror buff. I'm really working off of that. I've spent a lot of time researching it, and even wrote a book about it years ago. So there's a lot of knowledge I bring from that standpoint.

And while Jim is a trained artist, I'm a trained writer, so I bring to the table, I hope, a knowledge of writing story structure and concepts like dramatic tension and conflict and character arc and things like that.

I'm a little more, I think, anal too about story structure, in the sense that I like to sit down and make sure we're hitting all the big beats that we want to hit.

Jim naturally is amazing at the visual side of things. You know, sometimes we'll start with an idea that comes from a character that we want to explore or a villain that we want to develop. But just as often, there's this cool image idea that Jim has that he wants to build an entire story around, and we start from that.

So for me, it's been really rewarding working with him because, you know, I've written over a hundred comics, probably, in my career, but to have somebody collaborating so closely on the story side, who can think visually and think about how we're going to lay things out to tell the story, is a new treat for me.

Nrama: We've met a few villains, and it looks like you've got several coming up in the next story arc, including new villains. You talked about how the rogues gallery for Batwoman is kind of leaning toward the supernatural, but what is it you want to bring to her rogues gallery overall? Are there aspects of Kate's personality that you're going to draw out with her rogues’ gallery, or what's the thinking behind it?

Blackman: I think it's kind of two-fold, or three maybe. One, we always want the villains to be counterparts for Kate, in some way. I think the best the villains are, right? You know, Doctor Doom being a counterpoint for Reed Richards, or the Joker being a counterpoint to Batman. And Alice is that in many ways, right? So we didn't want to recreate her polar opposite. Instead, we wanted to go and say, well, what other aspects of her personality can we really challenge with this character? With the Weeping Woman, some of it was about inspiring detective work and some of it was just a desire to show a sympathetic villain who is dealing with some of the same things that Kate is wrestling with.

So moving forward, we're going to be meeting some villains who maybe offend her sensibilities, in the sense of —we're already seen one in the first arc: the villain who kind of gutted Bette Kane. That villain will be coming back and will really serve as a way to get a rise out of Kate and get her blood boil, because he's so barbaric and vile.

Then we also wanted to create villains who in some ways play on classic villain archetypes. So Maro, who's a villain who shows up in the second arc, is kind of our take on the classic pompous, preaching villain. But hopefully people will see there are new twists to him, as a way that we are defining him. He deals a lot with identity, which again is something that Kate wrestles with too, because she's got a dual identity as Batwoman and Kate Kane.

 

And then we wanted to just try to show different elements of Gotham, so one of the villains that shows up in arc two is a Batman villain that we're kind of reimagining. He fits into Kate's rogues’ gallery a little bit better.

Nrama: Are we not revealing who the Gotham villain is yet?

Blackman: I don't think so. He shows up next month, in issue #7.

Nrama: And you're tweaking that villain a bit for the new universe?

Blackman: We're tweaking him so that he fits with the storyline, and he will fit into what's going on with this Medusa gang and Maro and some of the other characters. So his personality will be familiar and similar to what we've seen before. His motivations will be similar to what we've seen before. But he goes on his own journey in arc two that results in him becoming a slightly different — well, dramatically different, actually — than maybe the villain we knew initially.

Nrama: You mentioned Bette Kane. J.H. talked about her continuing to play a role. Can you describe what we might see from her?

Blackman: You know, it was interesting to see things online after she had that unfortunate encounter in arc one, where people were saying we were setting her up to show the impact on Kate of her being almost killed. That was certainly part of the motivation, but we actually wanted to show the impact on Bette and on Jacob.

What we've discovered in arc two is that what happened to Bette actually has a really profound impact on Jacob, and his story is one of the central stories in arc two as he really wrestles with his niece essentially at death's door.

So yes, that character does have an important role to play going forward. We're really fond of Bette Kane as a character, and we always thought she was treated as kind of a joke in the past. And we wanted to build her back up. But sometimes in order to build somebody back up, you have to tear them down.

Nrama: This week begins a new arc with a new artist. Assuming you've seen lots of Amy Reeder's art by this time for the second arc, what does she bring to the comic?

Blackman: She's amazing. I mean, they are definitely very different artists — Jim and Amy. But I think that, for me, Amy brings a little lightness to the art in a way that really draws out the humanity in the characters.

We wrote some really challenging scenes, especially with Jacob, where Jacob has to show some really intense emotion. And Amy is really good at that. Her face work is, like — I mean, there are entire sequences that are driven not by dialogue, but by expressions of the characters. And she does a really fantastic job on that.

And then, the rogues’ gallery explodes in arc two, so she was able to design and create a number of different villains. There's one in particular that we just wanted to make as creepy and evil as possible. And she did that character in a way that gave me chills when I saw it.

So she's able to, like, almost do this innocence on one level and then go all the way to these characters that are completely twisted.

Nrama: After this story arc, is there anything you can tell us about where the comic is heading? Are we still going to see some of the same themes developing, or some of the threads you've been seeding come to fruition? You also talked about having a different feel for each arc — what's the feel for the stories we'll see after this?

Blackman: The third arc, we're looking at it combining a vigilante-type comic and some romance and some things we think are staples to Batwoman, but we'll combining it more with high fantasy. I can't give too much away yet, but I'm really excited about that.

Our mantra all along has been, "there is no status quo with this book." So the idea is, ideally with each issue, but for sure with each arc, doing it in such a way that Batman and Kate can't ever go backwards. That it's not like she's just going to wake up tomorrow and everything is going to be back to normal. There is no normal.

 

So we end arc one with the big revelation that she gets blackmailed into working with the D.E.O., or for the D.E.O. So arc two explores that and has her continue on this quest to find the missing children, dealing with this underworld gang called Medusa — all things that were introduced in arc one.

Arc two serves as a springboard to arc three. So there will be threads that are continued from arc one, through arc two that go into arc three. And there will be new things introduced in arc two that carry into arc three.

We'll be introducing, in arc three, some other characters as well. And bringing some characters in from the great DC Universe, which is something that we wanted to do all along.

We wanted to first establish Kate on her own, and really begin to establish her rogues gallery in arc one, then in arc two, we wanted to start reminding people that she's part of Gotham, so we have a familiar Gotham villain coming in. Then in arc three, we reintroduce her to the rest of the DC Universe, and she starts to interact with some folks from the DCU.

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