Interview: BATWOMAN BEGINS Again with Bennett and Tynion

The wait is over. Batwoman is finally returning to her own ongoing series in February.

But before she does, writers James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett are giving her a launch through a prelude in the character’s other home, Detective Comics with this week’s issue #948. Both Bennett and Tynion sat down with Comicosity to give an overview on what it’s like to relaunch Kate Kane’s solo career, how things are going without her father as a partner, and some of the characters we can expect to see coming up in Kate’s life.

Matt Santori: So, how has it been with the two of you writing together in putting together Batwoman’s story?

James Tynion IV: Oh, it’s been TERRIBLE. So terrible. [laughs]

Marguerite Bennett: Yeah, so terrible to be writing with my literal oldest friend in comics, and going to restaurants, and ordering drinks, and talking about the many adventures of Kate Kane.

Cover by Ben Oliver

JTIV: No, you know, the way the series came into existence was that DC had wanted a new Batwoman series for so long, and Marguerite had been interested in doing a Batwoman series for a long time. And I was guiding the character through Detective Comics.

There’s always a worry when someone says, “We’re going to take one of your characters and give them a spin-off book.” Will that cause a power imbalance or conflict with different people trying to tell different stories about the same character? But with us, when DC asked if it was something we’d be ok with, we were both like, yes, this is going to be great. [laughs]

We just talk about what we want to do with Kate Kane regardless…

MB: Right. Before either of us even got a book with the characters. [laughs]

JTIV: This is something we are tremendously excited about.

We broke it down pretty cleanly, really starting with what we were going to do in the Batwoman series itself, and then see how we wanted to thematically set it up in the pages of Detective Comics. I then took point on writing the Detective Comics issues, and Marguerite is taking point on the Batwoman series. And then we hand it off to our incredible artists to make it much more beautiful than either of us could ever imagine.

MS: James, you’re not the only one pulling double duty with Kate Kane, because Marguerite, you’ve been writing her prominently in DC Comics Bombshells as well. How do you find taking on the character with two very different interpretations?

MB: Honestly, I am so fricking spoiled.

I might feel differently if it was a different heroine, but I have so loved Kate since her inception. I honestly thought I was going to have more trouble and difficulty with the separate stories, but they’re both so rich and defined — and undefined in the best possible way in each canon.

In starting with Bombshells in 2014, I had to imagine this world where there were only female versions of the characters. And a lot of their back stories are very modern or hinged on particular events or political situations that wouldn’t have existed in World War II. So, I had to strip them down to their personalities and sort of ask, is it nature or nurture that made them who they are? Is it their basic personalities or what has happened to them to define them as a person?

So, now, getting double Kate duty in my life is not something you’re going to hear me complain about.

MS: Batwoman has always had this really close partnership with her father, which has gone KABOOM, to put it mildly.

JTIV: Ha ha. Yeah.

MS: And now we’re seeing her develop this somewhat uneasy partnership with Batman. Can you talk a little about the vacuum that Jacob has left behind in her life and how that’s working narratively for you?

JTIV: Honestly, that vacuum is one of the first things that drew me to the character. Going back to the original Rucka run on Detective, you get the final twist and turn: Alice (her sister) has been alive the whole time, and Jacob knew. Jacob knew and he kept it from Kate in an attempt to protect her. It was him trying to take control of her path in a way that kind of took her agency away.

Then you have them finally reconnecting over the previous Batwoman series, and then here, you have them back together. But once again he’s been keeping something massive from her that he felt her destiny was tied into. Because he wanted her to take control of this thing he built.

He built the Colony into what it is in order to fulfill the same mission that Batwoman is trying to fulfill every night. Where she is trying to prevent what happened to her from happening to anyone else. How he did it was to create an army. But Kate wanted to become a singular soldier. These are different things. They could be complementary, but they clearly aren’t here.

His absence is her life is hard, and we see her right now that Batman is the driving emotional force in her life. Now that they are open with each other about the fact that they’re cousins and that they’re more actively participating in each other’s lives, the worry is much more about whether the crime-fighting path that Batman is laying out is what Kate’s is supposed to be.

Ultimately, what is that role? Is it closer to what her father envisioned? Is it closer to what Batman envisioned? What is the end goal? That’s the starting point. The question at the start of it.

That’s also where we started in developing one of the key characters in the Batwoman series, which I can’t get too into yet. The figure from her lost years that defined her: the other part of the trinity that defined Kate’s path. We’re going to be meeting the third.

Interior art by Ben Oliver

MS: There is this question that comes up in the Detective prelude about what Batwoman can do that Batman can’t. This seems to figure into that idea.

MB: Oh goodness. That’s a big question. I don’t want to do a disservice to it with a short answer, but part of it is that she can cheer up. She has fallibility, in a way that Batman doesn’t have as an icon. She has passions and prejudices that she’s just starting to deal with. And there are places she needs to go back to in order to make amends because she’s screwed up.

It’s sort of funny, that with Batman being so huge and so iconic, his focus has mostly been small in Gotham City alone. With Kate, she has this global scale having been trained internationally with these black ops combat teams, but her scale has to date been really intimate. That’s going to be something brutal and I hope morally fascinating as the series goes on.

JTIV: Brutal and fascinating. That’s going to be the catchphrase if we do our job right.

Interior art by Ben Oliver

MS: And looking at the artists you two are working with on both books, Ben Oliver and Steve Epting seem to really capture that. How has it been working with each of them?

MB: Delightful. During convention season, we were hanging out with Ben and he is such a charming person. He is fantastic. It’s just so so great to be able to work with him again.

And with Steve, it’s just astonishing. There are moments where I get so squirmy when I’m writing. I mean, Steve Epting hasn’t worked for DC Comics in what, 20 years? Don’t screw this up, Marguerite!

The pages are just ravishing. We’re so spoiled, James!

JTIV: I remember getting the first cover in. It all happened very quickly. We’d been crossing our fingers that Steve would be available to do the book, and once it was official, three days later we had that cover in our inboxes. And it just blew me away. This was already a definitive Batwoman image, and no one had even seen it yet!

The fact that we also get to work with Steve in building a new chapter in Kate’s life and an entire island nation of characters, there is no better person we could be working with on this job. I have been a fan of his for years. I am literally standing across from a shelf looking at his books. This is going to be something special.

It’s just Marguerite’s and my job not to screw it up.

Interior art by Ben Oliver

MS: I have a few names of characters I want to get some hot takes from the two of you on that are appearing in upcoming stories. I want to start off with this week’s introduction of Dr. Victoria October. Immediately charming in this issue, and I’m presuming transgender as well?

JTIV: Yes! As a writer you hit these moments of blunt force utilitarian thinking: we need a character that can explain stuff to the reader. Like, “this is the biology of the monsters!” And in thinking about who this character would be, you have the option of bringing back a classic character or you can create a character. And if you’re going to create a character, the onus is on us to make the character distinct and fascinating.

Like, once upon a time, Lucius Fox just showed up in a panel. You want to create a character that has the potential to last. With Victoria October, I remember texting Marguerite saying, “I need a monster scientist and have a name.” It just all started coming together as we were texting. And I’m already thinking about where I want to use her next, especially with Monster Town as an established area of Gotham that’s not going to disappear overnight.

Victoria October is the key person who is in Monster Town, overseeing that whole experiment, so I would not be surprised if we see more of her in the future.

The introduction of Dr. Victoria October by Ben Oliver

MS: I imagine too that there’s a real effort in creating new characters to make it clear they have an extensive back story, to make them stronger immediately. Victoria October seems to have that alluded to here right away.

JTIV: Yeah, and that was the thing we wanted to do from the start. It’s happened a lot with Batman, but I think of them as “classic Wolverine moments” where the X-Men would run into a general on a small island and clearly that general has known Wolverine for 30 years. We don’t know those stories, but they’re hinted at.

That’s deeply fascinating and it makes me want to know more. Now, if I was telling the story of how Batman first came up against Etrigan, maybe Dr. October would be involved. Now those doors are open to us. And it’s fun!

MS: And Marguerite, in the previous ongoing series, we’ve had quite a bit of focus on Kate and her love life. And you cover that in Bombshells as well. Can we expect the same in the new series to come?

MB: Oh absolutely! I cannot say specifically, but the many loves and losses and massive screw-ups in Kate’s love life will be rich and present.

Cover art by Steve Epting

MS: One more character I want to ask about, who’s had a pretty big presence in the Batman universe the last couple of years, is Julia Pennyworth.

MB: YEAH!

MS: What can we expect to see about her role in the new ongoing series?

JTIV: Part of it was just the simple realization that Kate needs a number two. If she’s going to be working internationally, she needs the person on the comms who’s going to be talking to her. If Batman gets a Pennyworth, then Batwoman should get one too!

In the beginning, it was us joking about Julia having to wear the Alfred Pennyworth tuxedo and hating it, with Kate and her poking fun at each other. It’s the kind of dynamic we’re looking for, with both of them having troubled relationships with their fathers and then fascinating relationships with their mothers.

They have a lot in common, but are really different characters. I think they’re going to play off each other really well.

 

The prelude to the ongoing Batwoman series, entitled “Batwoman Begins,” starts this Wednesday with Detective Comics #948. Don’t miss it!

 

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