In October, Catwoman becomes a Gotham City crime boss, and new writer Genevieve Valentine says that gives the book a new mood — with "pulpy" and "noir" elements, while still highlighting Selina's "dry sense of humor."
But Selina's new gig as crime boss doesn't mean there's no Catwoman in Gotham. As the cover for Catwoman #36 (above) insinuated, there's still someone wearing a cat suit come November.
But is it Selina… or someone new?
Valentine isn't clarifying that cover just yet, and even her cryptic answers to our questions could be interpreted either way. As we talked to the writer, we found out that Catwoman is her own biggest enemy during Valentine's kick-off story, but whether the cover symbolizes that internal struggle or whether it's a brand new Catwoman (Holly Robinson, perhaps)? Valentine isn't saying.
On the writer's blog, she posted about the cover, "Though it’s definitely a stark image, and I can’t talk about specifics because of spoilers, I’m hypothetically invested in the symbolic Doppelganger aspect of Selina facing off against Catwoman…and possibly losing."
Valentine, who's already an award-winning writer of sci-fi and fantasy books, will be working with artist Garry Brown on the comic. It takes place in the aftermath of the current story in the weekly series Batman Eternal (which doesn't actually end until March 2015).
Newsarama talked to Valentine to find out more about what she's bringing to Catwoman.
Newsarama: Genevieve, how did the gig on Catwoman come about? Was this something DC approached you to do, or did you pitch?
Genevieve Valentine: Both, actually! I got a call from Mark Doyle asking if I wanted to pitch, and as soon as he mentioned Catwoman, I jumped on it. I wrote up a pitch based on what the new status quo was going to be, and here we are!
Nrama: For our readers who might not be familiar with your background, how did you get started in writing, and what took you down the path to becoming a sci-fi/fantasy novelist?
Valentine: I’ve been writing for publication for about seven years (I’ve been writing since childhood, but nobody needs to ever see that). I’ve always written across genres – my latest novel is a historical with not a lick of anything supernatural it – but I definitely keep returning to fiction that has elements of sci-fi and fantasy: sci-fi to explore the wonder of the universe, and fantasy to draw out the uncanny in it.
Nrama: Have you always been a comics fan? What type of comics have you read/enjoyed?
Valentine: I’m something of a lapsed fan, who read sporadically; I followed the X-Men and Catwoman as a young teen, but have been out of the race for a long time. Obviously, I’m in the middle of building a reading list; I’m sure I’ll be having opinions all over the place soon!
Nrama: You said that Mark Doyle's mention of Catwoman made you want to write the book, and it sounds like you've known the character for awhile. What draws you to Catwoman as a character in particular?
Valentine: An embarrassing amount of things. I love her intelligence, her resourcefulness, her determination, her independence, and the moral gray area she lives in that’s just big enough for her to reinvent herself as necessary and small enough that she’s often bumping up against its edges.
Nrama: Do you think fans are attracted to her for the same reasons?
Valentine: I like to think Catwoman fans like her for all those reasons; there’s always something interesting in a character who’s constantly determining her own limits, but who’s independent enough that there’s always the option to bolt.
Nrama: As you begin your story, a lot has changed for Selina after the events of Batman Eternal. What's her status as we pick up your first issue?
Valentine: My first issue opens with Selina having taken up as head of a crime family, running a syndicate in the hopes that she can help rebuild Gotham as the lesser of two evils. Of course, things get complicated and that gray area starts closing in.
Nrama: With the "New 52" relaunch of the title, Catwoman became a "sexy" and "fun" book. But now that she's a crime boss, it seems like that will change. How would you describe the genre or style of the comic now that you're taking over and Selina's in a new role?
Valentine: I think there’s going to be some unavoidable noir elements, but there’s quite a bit going on: her dry sense of humor, the pulpy politics of the Gotham underworld, and, of course, the Bat.
Nrama: Will she still be going out in the cat suit and stealing things? Or is the just-revealed cover of Catwoman #36 literally a different person in the Catwoman suit?
Valentine: There’s definitely a Cat-suited malcontent racing across the Gotham rooftops for reasons of her own. The question is whether it’s Selina.
Nrama: That would certainly throw a wrench in her plans. But being a crime boss is quite a change in roles for Catwoman — and one we haven't seen take place yet in the weekly Batman Eternal. How tough is it to tell a story that takes place after a story that still hasn't finished?
Valentine: At the end of the day, the collaborative beast that is comics means you have to treat it as something of an agreed-upon fade-out; we’ll fade out on her in Batman Eternal and fade back in with Catwoman at a later point in time, saving the in-betweens for when the story needs them. The nice thing about Catwoman is that she’s clever and determined enough that the interim is a How, not an If.
Nrama: The solicitations indicate this is the "family" business. Can you say what family inspired her to do this? And/or how much does the "family" come into play during your story?
Valentine: I don’t think I can, yet! Though obviously she’s dealt with enough Gotham crime families over the years that she’s probably taken inspiration from every dirty deed she came across.
Nrama: How does her new role as a "boss" suit her skills and personality, and how is it a challenge for her?
Valentine: For an ambitious, intelligent person who wants to wield influence, crime boss is a fantastic job. For someone who treasures her independence, it’s decidedly not. The tension between them are one of Selina’s major challenges in this arc.
Nrama: Who is around her now that she's a crime boss — anyone from her former life as a thief? Can you reveal anything about the cast of characters that will be showing up in the comic?
Valentine: Alas, spoilers all, though a couple of old friends might drop by for some unwelcome visits.
Nrama: Is there a major threat in your first story? Is there a looming disaster or villain who's threatening Catwoman?
Valentine: There are definitely antagonists who will be facing off against her, but in this arc, Catwoman’s her own biggest enemy.
Nrama: Catwoman has often been an ally for Batman. What's her relationship like with him now both personally and professionally?
Valentine: They are at one hell of an impasse at the start of my arc, both because of events in Batman Eternal and because their occupations have taken a decisive split. Their connection is still there – they know it will keep – but it’s rarely smooth going.
Nrama: How's it been working with the artist on the book? What does Garry Brown bring to the style of the book?
Valentine: Garry is fantastic; I’m so happy to be working with him. It’s my first comic, and it’s been quite an amazing experience watching the book come to life in his art. He’s a very generous artist in terms of working to get the scene the best it can be, which has helped me get over any beginner nerves about scripting layouts, etcetera, I love the way he moves through a scene on the page, and I love the way his women are as powerful and intense as the men – they’re subjects rather than objects, and I couldn’t ask for more. (Plus he’s very patient when I send him dozens of clothing references for specific outfits, which I deeply appreciate!)
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Catwoman?
Valentine: I’m thrilled to have a chance to spend time with one of my favorite characters in the superhero canon; I can’t wait to share this story.