** Spoiler Alert **
Ever since DC announced that Batgirl was back with a new #1 issue, the big mystery has been, "Who is Batgirl?"
Now that question has been answered, and finally series writer Bryan Q. Miller can talk about what plans he has in store for the new cast of the Batgirl title, including the young heroine in the title role …
** Last Warning **
Miller, who came to comic books through his job as a writer for TV's Smallville, started at DC with a fill-in arc on Teen Titans before being announced as the writer on the new Batgirl series. Part of this summer's relaunch of all the "Bat" titles after the death of Bruce Wayne, Batgirl sets up former "Spoiler" Stephanie as the girl in the costume, but also include a supporting cast that includes former Batgirls Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain.
Newsarama talked to Miller about writing Stephanie in the lead role and what's coming next for Batgirl.
Newsarama: Does it feel good that you can finally talk about Batgirl?
Bryan Q. Miller: Yes! It was difficult. I know the interwebs got a little frustrated with us, but we really wanted to stick with the "Who is Batgirl?" mystery. And the voice of the book is so tied into who she is, and into Stephanie's personality. So we didn't want to say anything about the book because that might give a hint. It was the snake eating itself, basically, but hopefully it worked.
Nrama: How did you get this job, Bryan? And why was Batgirl in particular the thing that attracted you to writing another comic?
Miller: It came up in several conversations in different ways. At one point, when I was working on Teen Titans, Dan DiDio was working his way across the West Coast and meeting the writers who were doing things for the country that he hadn't had a chance to meet. So we were having dinner one night and he was talking about different projects that were coming down the pike, and they had been happy with my Teen Titans stuff, so he wanted to know if anything caught my interest.
One of the things that was floated was Batgirl. I thought it sounded really cool, but there wasn't much form to it yet, just that they were planning to relaunch Batgirl. So time passed, and I did the Teen Titans job, and I got a call from Michael Siglain and asked if I'd like to talk to them about Batgirl.
I like coming in on the ground floor. Even though it's an established character, it's a #1 issue. So it was exciting to come in and start a new story from the very beginning. That was most appealing, not having to pick up threads, like with the Teen Titans where I had to make sure that McKeever's stuff could flow into Felicia's story. It was nice to step in and not discount things that had happened before, but to make a jumping on point.
Nrama: When you were first talking about Batgirl, did you know it was going to be Stephanie? And were you already familiar with the character?
Miller: I knew they were thinking about doing Stephanie, and then it was confirmed when we started having discussions, and I was totally familiar with her through the Robin books. I knew who Stephanie was, throughout Batman stuff with War Crimes, War Games and War Drums. I knew how tragic and baggage-laden a character she could be. So I was excited for the change to not only redeem her, but also to breathe some life and direction and purpose back into her. She has messed up a few things in her very short, young life. So to help her do some positive with that was very appealing.
Nrama: It's interesting that you use the word baggage-laden, because in the first issue of the comic, it didn't feel that way at all, even though her past was referred to. Was this an attempt to kind of start her on a new road?
Miller: The goal isn't to ignore anything with Stephanie that's come before. But one of the goals Mike and I had talked about when we were cobbling this together was to get Stephanie to a place where, if you're a new reader who's coming in, and hopefully there are new readers who come in from time to time, there's not so much heavy up-front information that you have to digest to get into a character.
So this is her first day of college. It's her first day of a new life. It's her first time out in this suit doing something she knows she shouldn't be doing but she can't help because she is who she is. And so, in trying to do that, we just wanted folks to get the chance to meet her, not her history. The goal is to touch upon that eventually, but we wanted to get the show up and running. Get people to meet Stephanie before we started delving into some of the mistakes we've made in the past.
Nrama: OK, under that header, "meet Stephanie," how would you describe her to a new reader? What's your take on who she is?
Miller: Stephanie is a fiery young woman who is very spirited. That zeal will often get her into trouble as she has this tendency to leap before she looks and will hopefully, through the course of, especially these first three, she'll learn the value of at least looking while you leap, if you don't have the foresight to look before you leap. At least know what you're getting yourself into. And our goal is to take her to a place where it's this young woman learning through the bat family, under the symbol of the bat, through Barbara Gordon's experience and tutelage to step into adulthood, and to take on more responsibility in her life. And to not let herself be defined by the mistakes she's made, but to use those mistakes as fuel to help others not make mistakes and make the world a better place.
Nrama: One of the scenes was Cassandra handing over the Batgirl costume. What does that scene mean?
Miller: We'll get into what Cassandra has been doing at a later point. But we also didn't want to immediately start with the very muddy waters of several Batgirls right away in the first issue. But we'll get into what Cassandra did when she left.
But you've got Cassandra who, in the previous Batgirl run, it's her redemption. By the end of the run, she was on the slate to be adopted by Bruce Wayne. So finally, she's put her issues with her bad dad to bed and she's on the road to recovery through Bruce Wayne. And what happens when that rug comes out from under her? What happens when you've finally found your place and your perfect father figure, and you're accepted, and then the person responsible for that is gone? That's obviously going to send you into a little bit of a tailspin. It's a curve ball.
So that's kind of what we're getting at in this scene. We'll get into the details of it later. But the nugget of why Cassandra walks away is she's not sure why she's fighting the fight anymore as she tries to come to terms with the loss of Bruce Wayne.
In the passing of the torch sense, I don't know that Cassandra was intending for Steph to do anything, but there's this thing where Steph takes the suit home and it's like the Telltale Heart where she's like, "Well, I promised everyone I wouldn't do anymore vigilante stuff, but there's this awesome thing with a bat on it in the closet. What would it feel like to wear that? What's it feel like to run across rooftops under the bat signal?"
Nrama: You mentioned the tutelage of Barbara Gordon. Does she have a recurring role as part of the supporting cast?
Miller: Absolutely. Barbara Gordon is still performing Oracle duties as she always has, but at first Barbara will not be happy with the idea of Steph running around in the Batgirl costume. And as you see in issue #1, it creates some conflict between the two. Eventually, Barbara and Stephanie will come to an understanding about how things are going to work.
Coming off the Oracle: The Cure mini-series, in her quest around the world when she was chasing Calculator, she got a little edgier. She got a little darker. And she may start to recognize that about herself. And what's to happen when you've got this darker thing going on with one person and this lighter spirit in Stephanie. They can't help but rub off on one another in different ways.
Nrama: Are Dr. Leslie Thompkins and Wendy Harris going to continue to play a role?
Miller: Leslie is Barbara's way to meeting Wendy Harris, the son of Calculator who was in Teen Titans. Her brother Marvin was murdered by an evil, mystical dog, and Wendy was attacked as well, so she lost the use of her legs in that attack. So part of the Cure mini was Calculator trying to cure his daughter and to fix her, and Oracle stopped that from happening.
So you've got the character of Wendy, who Oracle is curious about and may feel somewhat beholden to in that they had at least a tangential interaction in the Cure mini. And it's also someone with a disability very similar to Babs', so she's going to check in on her and look after her, and they'll forge a relationship as well. And that's fostered through Leslie and her clinic in Gotham, which is where Wendy has landed for treatment.
Nrama: And we meet a new detective. Will we be seeing more of him?
Miller: Yes, Detective Nick Gage, or St. Nick as the uniforms call him, because he's the best Christmas present Gordon's ever gotten. In the short time he's been in Gotham, he has a shocking number of convictions and arrests, and he's usually right on the money. There are a lot of parallels with mentors and protégés in the book, and so Nick will kind of fall under Gordon's wing as the series continues. And he'll glance off the other players in the rest of the book. But he's definitely here to stay.
Nrama: Batman and Robin made an appearance in this first issue. Will we be seeing them around?
Miller: They are going to play a very big part in Issues #5-#7. We've got Issues #1-#3, which is our first small arc, then we have #4 standing on its own legs as a breather and another jumping on point. And then in Issues #5-#7, Batman and Robin are going to come into Steph and Babs' little operation in a very big way. And Dick in particular may not be happy with how they're doing business. So there'll be some nice conflict between a former Batgirl and a former Robin, and a current Batgirl and a current Robin.
Nrama: Obviously, Stephanie has quite a history with Tim Drake. Is there a possibility they'll meet again soon?
Miller: I would think before the course of the first 12 issues have run, they'll cross paths again in a big way.
Nrama: Are there any villains coming up that we might recognize?
Miller: What can I say without spoiling anything? And now it's so hard to say I don't want to give spoilers because she used to be Spoiler, so there's that awful, "Ha! No pun intended!"
But coming up, there will be some new villains that Batman and Robin and Batgirl will face in Issues #5-#7. We'll have a villain from the Superman universe in Issue #4. A Metropolis rogue. And we got a rough sketch of where we're going beyond Issue #7, so I don't want to say too much. But since Stephanie has fallen under Oracle's purview, there's certainly a very, very good chance that Calculator will not be happy about that. And there could be some very nasty consequences.
Nrama: There's been these strange hints that Stephanie has technology that lets her become invisible. Is that coming into play here at all?
Miller: I know that existed, but we will not be using that technology/ability. That seems to have been intrinsic to the Spoiler identity, so we'll be leaving that with the Spoiler identity. And we'll be moving forward with some new and fun gadgets and accoutrement coming out of the Oracle and Batgirl relationship. There will be nice, fun element of James Bond's Q to Barbara and Batgirl.
Nrama: Are you going to be working with Lee Garbett for awhile?
Miller: As far as I know, yeah. Lee's art is great. It's this balance of detail and clean. It's not very cluttered work. It's easy to see what's going on and the action that's going on. Lee and I had an email exchange last week just about how so much of Steph, like what she's saying and she's thinking, is in her face. And Lee does a fantastic job with facial expressions in the book. So we had a very nice talk last week about how great his work has been and how we're on the same page. And he really gets Stephanie and her world. It's really fun to look at, which is important in a comic. Looking at it should be as entertaining as reading it, so you can fully engage everybody.
Nrama: Will we be seeing more comics from you besides Batgirl?
Miller: Who knows? My arc finishes on Teen Titans next week, and right now, Batgirl is the only thing on my plate at DC. But also, I've got Smallville on a much bigger plate in my life too. So if I can squeeze something else in and it works out, fantastic. But I'm just thrilled to have as many toys in the sandbox at my disposal as I do. It's all I could have hoped for. Everybody on the TV side and the DC side have just been fantastic.
Nrama: Is there anything you can tell Smallville fans about the season coming up?
Miller: As a lot of the spoilers online can attest to right now, we're definitely taking advantage of having access to pieces of the DC Universe, and we'll have a fair amount of DC folks pop up throughout the year. We've got Geoff Johns writing an episode coming up with the Justice Society. And I think by and large, having seen the first few episodes, because shooting-wise, we're a handful of episodes in now, we have a great look to the show this year. We've always been a very "cinematic-to-look-at" show. It looks like you're watching a movie. But this year, especially the first couple, are definitely the most cinematic we've done.
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