DCnU Take 2: J.H. Williams III Talks BATWOMAN [New Art!]

DCnU Take 2: J.H. Williams on BATWOMAN

exclusive art

from issue #2

One of the new titles DC is launching in September, Batwoman, was announced long before the other 51. But that doesn't mean its creator is taking the book's launch any less seriously.

J.H. Williams III, the critically acclaimed DC artist, makes his writing debut in the Bat-universe with Batwoman after having drawn the character during a recent Detective Comics run.

Now he's hoping to put his own mark on the character, strengthening her rogue’s gallery and supporting cast as she gets her own title in September.

The series was originally scheduled to launch early this year (see our original interview with Williams here), and DC even released a Batwoman #0 issue to promote it.

When the series was later delayed indefinitely, fans assumed there were art problems because of Williams' dual role as writer and artist -- even though artist Amy Reeder was slated to assist.

But when DC changed the new comic's release to September, it became apparent that the delay was intended to align Batwoman with the rest of the publisher's "New 52" initiative.

exclusive art from issue #2

Newsarama talked with Williams to verify some of the assumptions everyone is making about Batwoman and to find out more about his plans for the character.

Newsarama: I know we've talked about this series before, but that was a long time ago, because the comic was expected much sooner. Was the reason the series for the delay that DC wanted it to launch in September?

J.H. Williams III: Yeah, that's one of the reasons they decided to move it. Apparently we weren't the only title that faced that, from what I understand. When they first started talking to us about it, they indicated there were other titles they were going to try to launch that they decided to hold back for this revitalization plan.

Nrama: Did your plans for the comic change? Or was your first issue somewhat isolated from the rest of the DCU anyway?

Williams: It changed a couple things, in minor ways. There were things we had to go back and figure out in a new way. A little bit of the frustrating part was that some of it had been drawn already. So when we got this new plan from DC, they pointed out these particular newly developed continuity problems. But it was all pretty minor stuff, in comparison to our plan. Even though Batwoman was going to be plugged into the DCU with the Bat-universe, we tried to write scenes in a way where it wasn't going to rely completely on other things. We really wanted the story to be able to stand on its own and not rely on other components. So it wasn't that big of a change, really.

Nrama: We talked before about the opportunity to write Batwoman, and you spoke about how you're continuing some of the things you established about the character when you drew Greg Rucka's run on the character in Detective Comics. But now that you're launching a new #1, who is Batwoman in your book?

Williams: She's socialite Kate Kane, daughter of Colonel Jacob Kane, who went from being a West Point cadet to being ousted because of "don't ask don't tell" policies. Then she ended up going wayward for awhile, trying to figure out how she could best serve herself and the country, because that's what she had planned to do.


She ended up having an encounter with Batman. And she thought, "Hey, I could do that." Then she pursues the Batwoman role from that point forward, with the help of her father.

Her twin sister and mother had been killed in what appeared to be a terrorist incident, but she later finds out her sister had returned as this villain named Alice. And she has the impression her father knew that "dead" didn't really mean "dead."

So at the beginning of our series, which was what we reinforced with Batwoman #0, her relationship with her father is affected by these past lies. And that makes an interesting dynamic because he helped her become Batwoman.

That's where the character is at the beginning of the series.

Nrama: So you’re still acknowledging everything that took place in the "Elegy" storyline?

Williams: Yes. And her relationship with Alice and Bess and what that means to her psychology is going to play a role in our series, but in interesting ways. During the "Elegy" story, she thinks that she killed her sister, so she lost her for a second time. So we're tying into that, dealing with what that means in terms of survival guilt, going all the way back to childhood trauma. I think that presents some emotional dynamics for the character as we explore her roots.

Nrama: It sounds like she's going through some personal challenges. Is she also going to be challenged on the streets of Gotham?

Williams: Yeah, we have a plan to develop a rogues' gallery for her, because every good hero needs a set of strong villains to define them as a hero. And right now, as it stands, she really only has Alice and the Religion of Crime as any real adversaries that she can claim as her own, to define her as a heroic character.


So our main goal, over the first year, or even more than a year during the first three arcs of the series, is to really solidify her own little corner of the universe by developing several villains for her that will hopefully find recurring life in some degree and set the stage for her.

Nrama: Is she going to interact with the rest of the Batman universe in the first couple arcs, or is it more about establishing her world separately?

Williams: It's pretty much about establishing her. We don't ignore the other Bat-universe stuff and it has impact on her life, but not in a way that is extremely hands-on, I guess you could say. But events that take place with Batman in particular will have an impact on some of the decisions and direction she puts herself in.

And so yeah, we very much acknowledge her existence in the Batman universe, but I don't think it's a good idea to completely rely on the Batman universe for the strength of this character. If anything, that would weaken this character. For these characters to be fully defined, they need to work with or without acknowledgment from other arenas, like a Bat-character. So we're very focused on just building her up as much as possible.

Nrama: Last time we talked, you indicated you were planning to experiment quite a bit with the art. Is that still the case, or has that changed because of the relaunch?

Williams: No, that's still the case. By the time the first issue comes out, I'm hoping to be putting my touches on the artwork for Issue #5. So we're pretty far ahead of the game.


Our plan really didn't alter much, in terms of the story and how the arcs work.

As a matter of fact, we just turned in the outline for arc #3, and we have some ideas in there that are hopefully going to push the boundaries of comic storytelling in ways that people might not expect from a superhero book.

Nrama: Is Amy still doing the sixth issue? And the second story arc?

Williams: Yes. She's hard at work on that right now. The writing for her arc is at the halfway point. And she's well into the artwork at this point. So she's way ahead of the game too.

It's good that we got pushed back a little bit, because the work going into this first arc, and the amount of time I'm having to spend on some of these pages is pretty time-consuming. That just seems to be the name of the game for me, for some reason. It's not like I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs. I'm working every day. But delays happen because I have to set the pencil down sometimes to focus on writing, and that can make the schedule kind of bumpy.

So it's good that we're coming out in September now instead. I think we're not going to run into any problems for the first three arcs because we're now so far ahead.

Nrama: Usually, I'd ask what the art style is going to be. But we saw Issue #0, and I think people are familiar with your work. As a writer, it sounds like you're getting into the character in a very psychological way. Does the rogues’ gallery reflect that, as you design them?

Williams: Yeah, what was cool about the rogues gallery is that we wanted to come at it from a very particular point of view, with the idea behind the villains themselves. So we're basing a lot of it on known urban legends. But then we deviate from there and get into some other things where the urban legends stuff... you think it's one thing, then you think it's another, then you realize it's actually something else, which is pretty cool.


I like plots that can twist in ways that you might not expect, with the villains.

And the psychology of them... some of it's pretty interesting. Like the first one, the Weeping Woman, is a lot about sadness and loss. So the Weeping Woman story parallels or reflects the things that Batwoman and Kate Kane is going through from her own personal traumas.

But the next villains we introduce are much more, for lack of a better word, primal. And much more horrific, just very beastly. So yeah, it's going to be a good variety and mix of stuff.

Nrama: And she'll have a supporting cast?

Williams: Yeah, I think every good comic needs a supporting cast, because it just strengthens everything. It gives you a lot of meat to work with and develops possibilities.

Just as much as we focus on Batwoman's life as a crime-fighting individual, we're going to be putting just as much attention on who she is as Kate Kane, and how those two interact with each other.

I think some of my favorite stories are the ones where the superhero ego and the real-life ego kind of get mixed up. They can't help but have plot points that cross each other or have meaning to each other. And that's my favorite stuff.

And it kind of brings things back to Kate Kane's childhood traumas with the loss of her sister and her becoming this villain, and Kate thinking she's dead again. It all brings things up for her in a way you don't normally see with these heroes. You don't get to see these heroes go through something that would be considered post-traumatic stress disorder. How much self-blame is she carrying because of her sister, and how does that affect her decisions?


We've had a lot of fans ask us about Alice and whether we're going to tackle Alice, and we certainly wanted to do it, but we wanted to do it in ways that are unexpected. So even though the first storylines don't involve Alice in a real plot sense, her presence is felt in everything that's happening.

Nrama: It's interesting that you're getting questions from fans. To finish up, then, do you have anything else you want to tell fans, based on their response to the launch of this series?

Williams: Well, one of the fears is that we're going to completely disregard what came before. That's virtually impossible. Especially as far ahead as we were on the construction of the series.

And it just wouldn't be a good idea to ignore "Elegy." I don't think it would be a good thing to let it disappear because of a universe change. A character has to have a solid basis to move forward. And we're making sure Batwoman has that foundation, and that we only add to it and make her history and her story richer as we continue.

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