SIMONE Talks BATGIRL #0 and 'Collision' with the JOKER

Batgirl #0

As the Batgirl comic by writer Gail Simone rounds the corner of its first year, things are heating up toward her confrontation with the Joker in the title's "Death of the Family" tie-in later this year.

But first, the title gets a little extra attention, with Batgirl #0 revealing more of Batgirl's New 52 past and a Batgirl Annual in October pitting Batgirl against Mary the Talon and Catwoman.

After a Catwoman-focused issue in October, Batgirl #14 will begin the title's "Death of the Family" tie-in, with Joker and Barbara Gordon colliding for the first time since the villain brutally attacked and injured her.

The title is also finishing up its current storyline with a new villain, Knightfall, who Simone created specifically as a nemesis for Barbara Gordon. With questions still remaining about her roommate and a hinted return of James Gordon Jr., Batgirl is finishing up its first year by building toward more than one showdown in the coming months.

But the title is also dealing with the emotional consequences that Barbara is experiencing after having been cured of a paralysis that had her in a wheelchair for several years. Since Batgirl relaunched in September, the book has been slowly revealing evidence about how Barbara's recovery took place, and it's been rounding out the character's status within that framework.

With Batgirl #11 being released this week with art by Ardian Syaf, Newsarama talked with Simone to find out more about what's coming up in Batgirl.

Newsarama: Gail, it feels as if there's a lot of coordination between the Batman books lately, particularly coming off the "Night of the Owls" event and heading toward "Death of the Family." I know you've had editorial differences on other titles. But how would you characterize the experience of working in the Batman office post-New 52, and how has it contributed to your work as a writer on Batgirl?

Gail Simone: Well, this is something I welcome because it's idea-based, all the writers and editors working on things that are cool at their core, rather than saying, "We need a crossover, here, who has an idea," which is really backwards, and clearly has been the case for some books in the past. I'm glad to see this, it was something I really missed in the first few months of the New 52, where we were trying to establish each book individually. It made sense, but I missed the tapestry, I missed connecting the threads.

Batgirl #11

We're now finding much more organic and lovely connections between books, which is where my heart is and a big part of the fun of a shared universe. With something like "Night of the Owls," Scott Snyder had a brilliant idea that just fired up everyone's imagination, I absolutely loved that, and everyone from writers to editors to artists contributed and shared ideas. Genuinely one of the nicest crossover processes I've been part of, and it shows. The books were scary and funny and a little bit infernal, and that's a joy for me.

But, you know, I'm the girl who actually wants to make sense of Marvel Bunny and Jonah Hex and the Legion of Super-Heroes all being in the same universe. That's what made me fall in love with DC in the first place. Really, I would write that team-up in a heartbeat.

Nrama: Now that readers have been introduced to Barbara's status in the New 52 and you're finishing up your first year of issues, how would you describe Barbara now, in comparison to her debut in issue #1? How do you think she's grown, and how do you think she's still dealing with some of the same issues we saw in her introduction?

Simone: I spent a lot of time speaking with specialists and survivors about this, and one thing we saw with trauma survivors over and over was, the nightmares often go on even after the body heals. It's not weakness, it's not self-pity, it happens to the bravest people on Earth; soldiers, police, on and on. And Barbara being who she is, she finds herself wondering why she is regaining her mobility when so many will never have that option.

Because of her experiences over the first year, she's having to grapple with it. But again, she's Barbara Gordon, she will find a way.

Nrama: Looking back at the first few issues of your run, the events of The Killing Joke played a big part in Barbara's introduction as Batgirl in the New 52. Why did you feel like that was important to incorporate that into the title after introducing the character in #1?

Simone: Here's the thing, Barbara has always been about inspiring people. She may have been created to boost ratings or whatever, but, the sheer force of having a brainy woman kicking ass in the comics and on television can't be overstated. And of course, Kim Yale and John Ostrander turned lemons into the best lemonade ever by giving Barbara a purpose and glory after the Killing Joke.

I didn't want to do the book if that element, that inspiring quality, wasn't part of the mix. I get that not everyone agrees, but we have had endless lines of people who have experienced some massive trauma who found something to believe in with Barbara's story.

In the end, it's supposed to be entertaining, first. That's still the primary goal. But heroes who struggle are so much more meaningful to me. Most of us have struggled, but we don't often see that portrayed as comics move more towards big stories and spectacle.

Death of the Family promo

Nrama: Her emotions over the events of The Killing Joke still don't feel completely resolved, because she hasn't had to deal with the Joker again. Since we've heard about the return of Joker in "Death of the Family" in the Batman title, and DC has implied it will touch other members of the Batman family, will Barbara be confronted more directly by the villain in your title?

Simone: "Resolved" is kind of a tough word, here. There's definitely a feeling out there regarding this stuff that someone is fixed or not fixed, like an on/off switch. It's not that binary, but she is facing this stuff head on. And I am pretty sure a Joker/Batgirl story is inevitable, but I can't say more than that. Think of two trains on the same track facing towards each other...there's nowhere for either of them to go but towards collision.

Nrama: And that collision occurs in your "Death of the Family" tie-in to Scott's Batman story?

Simone: Yes. It is the once-and-for-all confrontation between the Batgirl and the man who shot and paralyzed her. It does not go as he expected.

This story starts in issue #14, and I have to say, it's pretty shocking. That's all I'll say right now, however.

Nrama: In the current storyline that continues in this week's Batgirl #11, readers will get to read more about Knightfall, the villain you've described as a possible archenemy for Barbara. What type of story does she give you the chance to tell about Barbara?

Simone: Knightfall is something new, Gotham's first princess, really. She's experienced something so horrific that it can never be undone, and she has the kind of resources that make Bruce Wayne so dangerous and effective. And the worst thing is,

her motivations are closer to the bat-family's than any of them would like to admit. It's her methods that are so creepily awful. In the first issue, her lieutenants, the Disgraced, set a bear trap for car thieves...they actually amputate one of the thieves' leg.

That is not something Barbara is mentally prepared for. Gotham's been a pretty male-dominated place, even with Batgirl and Catwoman and the Huntress. Knightfall changes that dynamic.


Nrama: How long is the Knightfall storyline, and can we expect from the experience for Barbara?

Simone: The first Knightfall story is four issues, and it is extremely focused and intense. People who have read, say, the "Cats In the Cradle" arc in Secret Six will get some idea of the primal tone of this story. It doesn't let up at all, and it ends in a new place.

Nrama: What can you tell us about Charise Carnes? What inspired your creation of her and her minions, and what's the theme behind their portrayal?

Simone: Actually, the notion of what is acceptable for a moral government to do seems to have eroded in some ways since 9-11. Not to get too political here, but countries, including our own, seem to have accepted what was once almost unimaginable, condoning torture, for example, and even criminalizing peaceful protest. It doesn't matter where you are on the political spectrum, these are choices not to be taken lightly, they represent a shift in our thinking. Knightfall and her army represent the next stage in that domino effect.

People feel afraid and powerless and angry in the real world, imagine how that is amplified in Gotham. Knightfall seems like a savior to those people.

Nrama: You know, I was recently wondering what the "occupying 99 percent" would think of Bruce Wayne, so I loved that you brought in that bit of real-world response from Alysia. But it's also been revealed that Alysia is dating James Jr. Is his history (from last year's Detective story) still in the New 52 continuity, and can you give any information on the character's importance to what's coming up for Barbara?

Simone: If all of this works out as planned (and it will!), Alysia is going to be hugely important. Hugely.

Really hugely.

Batgirl #12

Nrama: Batwoman appears in August's issue #12. What has it been like writing these two redheads, and how do they react to each other?

Simone: It was redhead heaven, actually. Like everyone else with any sense at all, I'm a huge fan of the character, and everything J.H. [Williams] and Greg [Rucka] have accomplished. And they were both incredibly generous and supportive to let us borrow her.

I've heard a few times that the two characters are similar, because they're both bat-females with red hair. I'm telling you, two panels in, you know they are completely different.

And man, I have to give props to the art team because Ardian does an astonishing Batwoman. She looks like she stepped out of the pages of her own book. I just got the colored pages this morning and I've been staring at them slack-jawed like a complete doofus. They are gorgeous. People are going to be surprised...Kate and Barbara! I love that.

Nrama: How are Batgirl and Batwoman similar, and what are the biggest differences?

Simone: I'm going to leave that for the book, mostly, but there is an age difference and an experience difference. It's a little tense, actually. Seriously, it's Kate and Barbara. Who doesn't want to see that? I'd pay to see them eat popcorn together.

Nrama: The theme of family has played a big role in the title so far. Why do you think it's a theme that is central to this character's story? And will it continue to be a big part of the book?

Simone: Some of this came from ideas that came up when talking with the great Scott Snyder about Gotham. We kind of see the families as almost clans of nobility, the Waynes and the Gordons being the big ones, and I think the Gordons are nearly as important to Gotham as the Waynes in all ways. We're going to see that concept in both books over the next year...bless you, Scott Snyder!

Also, to me, it's absolutely Wagnerian, it's opera...Jim and Barbara, Sr. had two kids, one is the best child of Gotham, and the other is the worst. That's Kirby, New Gods type stuff, it's what makes legends. And at the same time, it's deeply personal and meaningful.

It's one of the most heartrending parts of the book, good and bad. It's the stuff writers dream of.

Nrama: Batgirl was also confronted by the Court of Owls during the "Night of the Owls" event. Will that organization continue to be a threat in the book in the short-term, or is it something that could be picked up later? Or is the Bat-world moving on from that event?

Simone: Oh, man. My Talon, Mary, became an instant favorite with the bat-offices, they begged me not to kill her, because she really stood out, and Scott loves her. We're not done with at least one Talon.

Batgirl Annual #1

Nrama: We've seen Mary show up on the cover of the Batgirl Annual, and it looks like you're also writing Catwoman. What can you tell us about the issue?

Simone: I doubt I'll get away with it, but I've been calling it the "Birds of Dismay." It's just one of those situations where you put three kinds of dynamite in a container way too small to contain them.

When I created Mary for the Batgirl issue of "Night of the Owls," there was a lot of excitement at DC, Scott Snyder in particular was a champion for the character, bless him. It's definitely a flipped version of the Birds of Prey, in my mind, a funhouse, distorted vision. Why do these three, who have nothing in common, end up in the same story?

That's really the kind of thing that makes me love writing comics, that kind of extremism of character.

I have never really gotten to write Catwoman, she's one of the few iconic females at DC, along with Supergirl, that I haven't really gotten to take out for a spin. I'm excited about it, I see a very perverse (and I mean that non-sexually) side to her personality. It's her perception that interests me. And of course, she contrasts with Barbara in every way.

It's a barnburner of a story, just very incendiary from the first page on.

Nrama: We've seen the solicitation for Batgirl #0, and it appears that you'll be revealing more about Batgirl's time between her attack by Joker and her surgery. Can you describe the issue and what we'll learn about Batgirl?

Simone: Batgirl #0 is actually not about that, it's about before that...a story that hasn't yet been told. I'm excited about it, and it looks amazing, with art by Ed Benes, doing some of his most emotional work ever. I'm loathe to give too much away, but this is about Barbara's choice to become Batgirl.

Nrama: Your long-time fans are pretty excited to see you reuniting with Ed Benes on Batgirl #0. What's it like to work with him again?

Simone: I've said this a hundred times, but Ed gets my work, he just does. When you get an artist like Nicola Scott or Ed Benes, you have a wider range of emotions you can put in the script, because he gets it. Ed's English is only fair and I don't speak his language at all, we rarely communicate, but every time, he gets what the subtext and the acting of the scene is. It's remarkable.

He draws hot women and men, his Savant is luscious and his Black Canary burns up the page. There's no denying that. But I love what he does with his acting. I can ask for a character to show three emotions at once, and he just draws it, just puts it on the page. I'm telling you, that's a rare, rare skill. There are definitely fireworks when we work together, I can't explain it more than that.

Batgirl #13

Ardian has been a trooper as well, he draws Batgirl with joyful abandon. A wonderful, wonderful man and a brilliant artist. Batgirl, and I, have been ridiculously fortunate in the art department.

Nrama: We've been told that many of the #0 issues are important for the storylines that follow. How will the events of Batgirl #0 play into what's coming up in Batgirl?

Simone: It's a must to know her history, it's essential, it really is. I don't say this lightly, it will play out forever in her story.

Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to add about Batgirl?

Simone: Just thank you to the many readers who gave us a chance and have been supporting the book so steadfastly. There were a lot of new books out over the past year, and for Batgirl to be so successful. I get a bit choked up, here. I have been lucky enough to write the character that made me a comics' fan for a number of years. I didn't seek the job, I actually turned it down a couple times. But when I wrote Birds of Prey, it did have the weird feeling of destiny, somehow.

And now I get to write Barbara's first ongoing solo book. Every issue feels like a direct connection to that time when I was just a little kid on a backwoods farm seeing reruns of the Batman syndicated show for the first time. When I saw Barbara Gordon, my mind was blown, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

And now I get to write that for others. You just don't get any more fortunate than that. Thank you everyone, for giving me this opportunity.

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