In January, DC Entertainment is giving Mike W. Barr the chance to return to Katana, the character he co-created in 1983, just as the character is about to be featured in 2016's Suicide Squad film.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana is a double-sized miniseries that will feature two stories about characters in the upcoming movie. One story, titled "Cult of the Kobra," will be written by Barr with art by Diogenes Neves. The other half will be a Deadshot story by Brian Buccellato and Viktor Bogdanovic.
Barr co-created Katana back in 1983 with artist Jim Aparo as part of the Outsiders, a team that was introduced in The Brave and the Bold. Newsarama talked to the writer about the Most Wanted series.
Newsarama: Mike, even though there are two stories in each of these issues, they're double-sized, right? Making them each a full-size comic book story?
Mike Barr: Yeah, it's a double-sized book that will have two stories in it by two different creative teams.
Nrama: And your story is about Katana, a character you co-created her back in 1983 as part of the Outsiders. Was that why DC brought you onto this story, because of your background with her?
Barr: How it came about was that in May of this year, I got a call out of the clear blue sky from Geoff Johns at DC, who told me that in a couple hours news was going to drop that the character of Katana was going to be in the Suicide Squad movie, which was just about to begin filming at that point.
I was excited about that, and I contacted Dan Didio at DC and said if there was any kind of Katana publishing going on around this, I'd be delighted to be a part of it.
Dan replied, sure, let's talk about that. And they came up with the idea of this six-issue story, "Cult of the Kobra."
Nrama: Yeah, let's talk about the character. She's been utilized in the New 52 universe quite a bit. How would you describe the character you're writing in this series?
Barr: I would describe Katana as having a very stern exterior, and sometimes a very soft interior.
She presents an attitude to the world of almost always being pissed off, but she actually has a lot of concern to her fellow beings.
Nrama: And thus her role as a hero — a rather violent one, though.
Barr: Yes. That's the way the character has been depicted over the years.
Nrama: When you first created her with Jim, did you have any hopes or dreams that she might be featured in a movie someday?
Barr: Well you always hope, of course, that that kind of thing is going to happen. You hope there will be some life beyond comic books. That's the dream, to go into a story and see all the merchandising. But I didn't think it would take over 30 years to come true.
Nrama: Can you remember the genesis of her as a character and what you were trying to have her be when she first started? I know character ideas evolve.
Barr: Yeah, Katana pretty much showed up fully evolved. I don't know that she's changed that much over the years. I've always had an interest in Japanese culture, although I can't claim to have necessarily followed that up very much. I always liked stories of samurai. So I thought it would be interesting to have not only a samurai character, but a female samurai character, which are a little less common.
Nrama: But one of the things that makes her so unique is her sword, the Soultaker, and the mythology surrounding it. How is the Soultaker playing a role in the story you're telling in the upcoming mini-series?
Barr: Yeah, it's not only her weapon, but in a way, it's her confidante, in that the soul of her late husband is trapped inside the sword, so she talks to it all the time. Other people around her are not always aware of what she's doing or something think that she's a little off because if this, which adds an interesting layer to the character.
So the Soultaker is a very important part of the character. Whenever the sword is removed from her, which sometimes happens during the course of a story, she's always very anxious, of course, to get it back.
A part of samurai culture — the more supernatural part, of course — is that the sword and other entities sometimes take on a life of their own. And I thought it would be interesting to have this sort of haunted sword as a part of the character, that very few people would realize what was going on with that. Of course, she always would.
Nrama: In this upcoming story, are you telling the origin of the Soultaker sword?
Barr: The origin of the Soultaker sword is the impetus of the story, but it goes in a little different direction from there. Katana goes though a European country looking for, basically, an expert in meta-physical matters to talk to her to find out about the Soultaker's origin, and from there she gets catapulted into this whole other adventure with the DC villain Kobra.
Kobra himself is a fascinating character who was originally created by Jack Kirby in, I believe, the late '70s. He usually has other people doing his dirty work for him, although he's perfectly capable of doing it himself, if he has to.
So with Kobra, if you're fighting Kobra, you have to go through layers and layers of Kobra's forces to get to him, and that will be part of the story — Katana basically peeling away the onion to finally get to Kobra.
Nrama: I know we're pretty early in the process, but have you seen any of the artwork from Diogenes Neves? What do you think he'll bring to the story you're telling?
Barr: I haven't worked with him before, but I've admired his work for a long time. He's extremely talented. I'm looking forward to seeing his rendition of the character. He's done a couple of drawings of Katana which are very good. He understands the light nature of the character, so I'm looking forward to seeing him work on the story.
Nrama: She has a great visual, doesn't she?
Barr: She does. She's had a lot of different costumes over the year, but they all seem to work out very well. The current one is one of my favorites.
Nrama: Is there anything else you wanted to tell potential readers about this story?
Barr: Only that I wish that Katana's co-creator, Jim Aparo, could be here to read it. We lost him a few years ago. But I think he would have been delighted by the success of the character. I'm glad at least his family is able to benefit from this. Katana has also been receiving a lot of exposure lately from a lot of other DC franchises, so it's very gratifying to see how this is working out after all these years.