This morning's announcement by DC that Batwoman will get a new ongoing title soon has the word "opportunity" written all over it.
Not only does a female Bat-character get the rare opportunity to carry a new solo title, but artist J.H. Williams III gets the opportunity to try his hand at drawing writing the character, launching the title with co-writer W. Haden Blackman.
And then there are the fans of Kate Kane, who get the opportunity to continue reading about a character whose Eisner-nominated run in defined the book during Bruce Wayne's absence.
It all comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month by Greg Rucka that instead had "disappointment" written all over it. The writer, who first helmed the character's stories while on and later on , revealed that he would no longer be working on Batwoman stories for DC, but would instead be focusing on his creator-owned projects for awhile.
That announcement left Williams and fans of the characters reeling, with the artist even posting on his blog as recently as April 3rd that he didn't know what would happen with Batwoman now that Rucka was leaving the character behind. Despite having just won a GLAAD award for featuring a lesbian character in the lead, and getting two Eisner nods for Williams as cover and interior artist, the character's run in had ended, and she seemed destined to fade into the DC background.
Two weeks later, and it's all changed, as Batwoman is in the spotlight again. We called up Williams to get the scoop on how the whole thing went down, and what comes next.
Newsarama: Jim, we're all aware of your artwork on award-winning comics with writers like Warren Ellis, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. But is this your first writing gig? Or have you dabbled in writing before?
J.H. Williams III: I did some stuff awhile ago, well before my work on . I was co-writer for a series for DC called . And then I also co-wrote , that Seth Fisher drew. And some various short stories here and there, one of them with my current writing partner, which was for , the anthology series that Mike Mignola produced for a short while. So yeah, I've done a little bit of dabbling with it.
Nrama: You've written with Haden before?
Williams III: Yeah, we did that short story. And ever since then, we've been collaborating a lot. We've actually been working together for quite a few years since then on material the public really hasn't seen. Primarily creator-owned things.
Nrama: So while you were collaborating with Haden behind the scenes, he was writing in the universe? Did you guys just work on creator-owned stuff on the side?
Williams III: Yeah. I was doing my artwork and he was working on comics for Dark Horse. But his primary gig is working as a head writer for Lucas Arts on the video game stuff. So he's done lots and lots of writing on that. He was the lead guy on and made that quite successful thanks to his efforts. He won a Writers Guild award last year for his work on that game. So he's got quite a bit of background in writing.
Nrama: Was launching a series an idea that the two of you talked to DC about it? Or did they come up with this idea?
Williams III: What happened was Haden and I turned in a pitch for a completely different project that they really liked and had actually greenlighted, and that was probably what I was going to be doing next. But then Greg and DC parted ways, and so they wanted to figure out how to approach Batwoman. So they actually came to me and Haden to see if we'd like to take a crack at that instead for awhile.
Nrama: DC seems like they're open, at least in the Batman office, to giving artists a chance to write, since Tony Daniel is now the regular writer on and now you're on . I'm sure it's still a struggle for artists to break into writing, though, isn't it?
Williams III: Yeah. I'm glad they're taking a chance on Haden and I and letting us see what we can do with it. I've been trying to get back into writing for awhile, but I think the company really had a lot of vested interest in my visuals. So I had a hard time getting them to look at me in that way.
But I've been in discussions with them about stepping back into the writing role for awhile now. And they seem to have been really receptive to it, and that's why Haden and I turned in that pitch. Everyone seemed to think it was a really good idea, so I think they see that we have some ideas that can be of value.
Nrama: We recently spoke to Neal Adams about his upcoming writing work on , and he pointed out that even when he's "just" an artist, he's still a very big part of the storytelling. I think a lot of people don't realize how much thought has to go into the story you're creating with those pretty pictures you draw. Do you feel like the muscles you have to use the story are already being used anyway in the way you approach the art?
Williams III: Definitely. The artist has a huge impact on the way a story comes across. I think a testament to that can be seen if people go back and look at some of the work I did prior to with Batwoman, that they can see these connecting threads and visual techniques and pacing elements and so forth, and they can see what you're talking about there.
Nrama: You mentioned that other idea you pitched to DC with Haden had gotten the go-ahead, but will it happen now?
Williams III: There's a chance, but it depends on how things move forward on , I guess.
Nrama: As recently as April 3rd, you had said you had no idea what would happen with Batwoman, so this has all happened in the last couple weeks, right?
Williams III: Yes, it's all been very, very rapid. Things are flying rather quickly, as far as communication and figuring things out. We're still working on plot details. We have a rough idea of where we want to take it and what characters we want to use. But it's a matter of making sure all the points connect up at this point.
Nrama: Let's talk about what you've got in mind for , since there were a few loose ends at the end of Greg's run as writer on . For example, Greg mentioned Alice's origin was something he still wanted to tell. Are you going to pick up some of the things that were left open-ended, or are you going in a different direction with your ongoing?
Williams III: It's both, really. There are some things we're going to pick up on, and other things we will not. Alice's origin is one that we're not going to touch. I just feel like Greg should write that story, so if he decides he wants to come back and handle Alice's origin, it would be the best thing for that character.
But there are some other things we'll explore more, like the fallout between Batwoman and her father. That's going to play a major role in the direction we take. So we'll be picking up on little things here and there, but also bringing a bunch of new stuff to the table.
Nrama: Is some of that new stuff going to be new rogues? Or is your hope for her rogues gallery based on existing Bat-villains?
Williams III: We think she really should have an established rogues gallery that she can call her own. Any great DCU hero character tends to have this cache of villains that they have to go up against, and that shows the weight of them being a hero. And I think Batwoman really needs to have that to solidify her position as a major DCU hero.
We certainly are open to her facing off with other known Gothamites at some point. It's just a matter of figuring out where things are going to fit.
Nrama: There was some indication she might work with Flamebird at the end of her last story. Will Bette be involved with the new series, and is there anything you can tell us about other people who might be in her supporting cast?
Williams III: We're really hoping we'll be able to use a character like Flamebird because where Greg left that, at the end of his "Cutter" storyline, we really can't ignore that. [laughs] So we really need to figure out how to address that, and we'd like to use that.
We've made quite a list of characters that definitely would play a role at some point, so her supporting cast is a good one. I think there's a lot of B-plot material that we can play with that might intersect with A-plot material.
Nrama: I know it's fairly early in the process, but do you have any other ideas about the comic that you can share, as far as the tone or what other elements you might be introducing?
Williams III: The only other thing I can really add, as far as the bigger picture of the story we want to tell, is that we're going to be dealing with a lot of myths and legends, and some really creepy stuff, which I think will give an added texture to what's already there. All that is going to relate to what kind of villains she's going to be fighting, and the antagonists of the story.
Nrama: When you say myths, are they things she's already been dealing with? Or new things you'll be introducing?
Williams III: There will be both. We want to deal with some urban legend ideas in conjunction with the Batman mythology behind all the Bat-universe characters and see where that takes us.
Nrama: Greg also said he was planning to still collaborate with you on a creator-owned project. Is that still part of your plan?
Williams III: He and I discussed working on a creator-owned project at some point. I just don't know when I'm going to be free to be able to do that, so I'm not sure where that's going to lie for awhile. I certainly would enjoy working with him again, and the concept he was talking to me about was an one. I just don't know when I'm going to be able to make that happen.
Nrama: You had mentioned DC liking your visual work so much that they were a little reluctant to view you as a writer. I think fans probably feel the same way. Do you feel pretty confident about your ability to both write and draw?
Williams III: Yeah, I feel really confident about it, because I primarily think of myself as a storytelle. When I'm drawing and working on other people's scripts, I tend to bring a lot to the table in the way that script is transformed into a comic page. I have a lot to do with the pacing of the scenes and that kind of thing. I view myself as a storyteller, so I'm pretty confident in what we can do. There's some trepidation, of course, because it's such a high-profile project. But we're going to give it our best shot.
Nrama: Well, you are going to get a bit of a break pretty soon when Amy Reeder of comes on board, right?
Williams III: Yeah, the plan is for Amy to do the second arc. I don't really know how much of a "break" I'll get though, because the production plan is for Haden and I to simultaneously write two arcs -- one I'll be working ahead on and one Amy will be working on. So in essence, the second arc of the comic will fall into the same arena of when I'll be working on the third arc's art, just so we can keep stuff moving along.
Nrama: It seems like such a huge time commitment, and you're having to sacrifice the other projects you had originally wanted to do both with Haden and Greg. Is this one of those situations where your love of the character took precedence?
Williams III: Yeah, I do definitely feel like the character needs to have a good shepherd behind her. And I feel like the work I did with Greg put me in a position to understand her really, really well in comparison to someone else stepping in at this time. What I hope is that Haden and I will be able to bring so much additional material to what's already there that when we leave, there's going to be this huge, giant playground for other characters to come in.
But I don't really view it as a sacrifice, in terms of what I'm doing, but more as an opportunity. I hope people will give it a shot, and I hope they like it.