One of the big surprises of "Rebirth" has been the reintroduction in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey of the character known as Oracle - only this time around it's a man whose integrity is unknown and status on the team is still questionable.
Written by sisters Julie and Shawna Benson, who're also writers on the CW series The 100, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey has featured a lot of humor as the team of Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress have also taken on some dead serious challenges and battles.
In this week's Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11, the series starts a new storyline titled, "Source Code," answering many of the questions about Gus Yale, the new Oracle. At the same time, Julie and Shawna will be bringing Catwoman and Poison Ivy into the book for a while, but the Birds will have to decide if they want to defend Gus against this threat.
Newsarama talked to Shawna and Julie about writing the Birds, what it's been like working with artist Roge Antonio, and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: Julie and Shawna, the name Oracle had so much meaning behind it for fans of these characters. What were your thoughts behind coming up with this new Oracle, one who's had to really earn trust - and hasn't really even earned it yet, because his background is questionable?
Julie Benson: For us, we wanted to show that Oracle is something that Barbara was and is still. So bringing on a new character was always going to be a little tricky to take on that mantle. The way we crossed that rubicon was that Gus was like us - a true fan of the Birds of Prey, and a real fanboy in that sense.
So that took a little bit of the heat off of "who does this guy think he is?"
Then adding the extra dilemmas of, gee, who might he be working for, or what's his ulterior motive, added another layer of "maybe we were right to not like him," so the reader did feel like their instincts are correct. You should be a little worried about just bringing in fresh blood, just like that.
And you know, one of the things that Gus has helped us do is show how the women react to him. The last few issues have shown how they're working with him as a team member.
But all the questions about Gus - everything gets resolved in issue #11, everything comes to light. We're excited about the way that turned out, giving him a real motivation and a real reason for why he's been flipping back and forth.
Nrama: This week's issue begins the "Source Code" story-arc. Does this storyline mostly focus on Gus and the ramifications of some of his actions as he became the new Oracle?
Shawna Benson: It has a couple of purposes. The "Source Code" arc, and #11 in particular, answers a lot of the questions that have been lingering about Gus and him taking over as Oracle, since the "Rebirth" issue.
It is primarily him.
But it does introduce other characters who are going to be primary in this three-issue arc.
The whole story is rooted in the actions that Gus has taken since the beginning, and what the fall-out and consequences of those actions have been.
Nrama: You mentioned other characters taking part in this arc. We've seen the covers with fan-favorite characters Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Can you talk about their role in this? They've got a beef with Gus, right? And the Birds have to decide if they're going to defend him?
Julie: One of the things we talked to DC about from the very beginning is, "Who are the Birds of Prey, and are we allowed to bring in more characters?" One way for us to do that is to take characters who have been on the team before and show them in a little bit of a new light here, back to their origins of being essentially the antagonists.
Catwoman plays both sides of that story, right? She's either an antagonist, or she can help the Birds, as long as there's something in it for her.
Ivy has a very clear point of view that she is pro-Earth and anti-anybody who gets in the way of that. If you call that an antagonist for the Birds, then so be it.
It's been a fun couple of issues. We just turned in issue #13 today, and getting to play in that sandbox with the two of them and showing how they relate to the team has been really fun. We're hoping we can keep them around for a little bit longer for sure.
Nrama: You mentioned their history with the team - are you two fans of the characters?
Julie: Oh yeah, having read Birds of Prey from the Chuck Dixon run and on through Gail and everyone else, and the "New 52" - seeing their dynamics and just seeing how Ivy and Catwoman play in the regular Bat-family has always been interesting to us.
They're such distinct characters. I love them because they are given layers and are rounded, and they're not just the sexy vine lady and the pussy cat baddie. They actually have backstory and emotional drive and a moral compass, whether or not it aligns with our Birds.
Nrama: You've mentioned that you're already looking beyond #13. Can you tell fans anything about what's coming down the road? Does the team make-up change?
Julie: One of the surprises might be who is a part of the team and who isn't. And that could include some people maybe falling out of the team.
The major question of the "Rebirth" first arc of "Who is Oracle?" That's something that we're still playing with.
I can't give much more away than that, but there are still some things to be said about that story.
Shawna: There will be a new question at the end of this arc that will sort of propel the story forward. So after #13, there will be a new question for the Birds of Prey to answer and come to some conclusions on. So that's super vague, but we'll be opening up, I think, a new chapter in their story.
This arc, though, is sort of the culmination of everything that's come before, but does set the table for the next evolution of their adventures together.
Nrama: And going forward, you've got the same art team, right?
Shawna: Yeah, we still have Roge Antonio doing the art, and it's been a great experience working with him and seeing his evolution on the book with us. We now have a really great relationship with him. We've now met him a couple of times. We've had conversations about these characters and how we want them to be portrayed, and how he thinks about them on the page.
And then we still have Allen Passalaqua doing the colors. And the colors go hand-in-hand with Roge's art. It's just incredible. We've been so very lucky to have these great guys working with us on this book. They get the tone and they get what we're trying to do. And that's incredibly gratifying.
Julie: I think the book walks a fine line because it has really serious undertones, but we're considered one of the funnier books. So it's interesting to see how we keep playing in that wheelhouse, and seeing Roge's art just enhances that ten-fold above whatever we could write, the way he'll portray character and portray expression. It's pretty remarkable. We're very fortunate.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans to finish up?
Shawna: There will answers about all those questions you've been asking about Oracle after #11.
Julie: And we've got Catwoman and Ivy around and it's super awesome! Stay tuned!