June is fast approaching and DC Comics is giving fans a wide variety of titles — a wave of changes that began last October with the Batman universe. And no title was so dramatically changed like Catwoman, as writer Genevieve Valentine took Selina to a whole lot of new places: a new career, a new love, and an amazing new tone. At this year’s C2E2, we sat down with Valentine to get the low down on what’s next for our favorite femme fatale, now that she’s riding the line between mob boss and costumed villainess.
Matt Santori: So, Genevieve, you’ve gotten through the first arc on Catwoman and taken Selina to a particular place. What was your thought process about the entire 6 issues and what you wanted to accomplish with it?
Genevieve Valentine: When we first talked about what it would entail to have Selina as a mob boss, one of the questions was, “What would happen to Catwoman in her absence?” Eiko was partially an answer to that, but the other half of it was, in embracing something so wholeheartedly, Selina had left a soemthing of herself behind. In that sense, I wanted to explore what it is like to be estranged from yourself.
At the end of the arc, we realize Selina is coming back and feeling more wholly herself, but of course, she’s juggling so many things that she’s going to end up dropping some balls. The second arc [starting in June] is more about how she’s going to manage both things at the same time, when both positions are so precarious.
The answer is sort of reluctantly assembling a team that she never asked for and doesn’t know what to do with. Selina is so staunchly independent, that once you start assembling a team, her reaction is, “No! Wait. What? No.” So, it’s been really interesting exploring the push and pull of knowing that she needs people to help her and not necessarily wanting to rely on people. It’s not her usual M.O.
MSG: In terms of the cast, you’ve infused the title with a lot of new female characters, from her cousin Antonia to, of course, Eiko. How did you feel about developing this cast, focusing on more female relationships again?
GV: Right. She’s had one or two female friends over the years, but we wanted to take this opportunity to show her in a new setting where she was building up a support system — one that isn’t necessarily include the Batman. We felt that, naturally, she would gravitate toward women.
We have Antonia, who Selina has pulled from the backrooms of the Calabrese townhouse and realized her potential. And now Antonia is possibly a rival for head of the mob family, which Selina is both proud of and potentially wary of.
We have Eiko, who is a Yakuza heiress who really wasn’t taking anything seriously, but saw an opportunity and took it. Now, she’s realizing the level of responsibility she’s taken on herself and what can come out of that.
We’re also punching up Antonia’s relationship with Keyes, because we want that dichotomy of a mob daughter and a cop passing like ships in the night. They’ve encountered each other a few times and it’s sort of like, “I know what you’re doing and you know what I’m doing, and we’re not going to talk about it. Because it would be very strange to be honest about it.”
All of this I’m hoping to play with in this new arc, which is full of so many spoilers I can’t tell you about!
MSG: Speaking of spoilers, we did see Stephanie Brown on the cover of issue #42 for July. We know that she interacted with Selina in Batman Eternal, but what can you tell us about your take on the character?
GV: I think Stephanie Brown is a fantastic character — a scapper from the ground up. It’s something that Selina would instantly understand and probably quietly resent, both at the same time.
Their interaction in Batman Eternal was hilarious, and also incredibly aggravating to Stephanie, so by the time she shows up in Catwoman, she’s come to collect. It’s probably the perfect starting point for anybody in Selina’s life, because every good relationship should start with a huge fight. It’s like she wants to take everyone’s measure. Can you stand up against me? If you can, we will proceed.
When Stephanie shows up, she is looking for something very particular from Catwoman, and when Selina is not willing to provide it, Stephanie is undaunted. She is going to take it wherever she can find it. And one of the reasons that I’m so excited to have this larger cast of women is that when Stephanie starts looking around for someone to fill this role in her life, there’s a couple of takers.
MSG: You’re starting off the new arc with a new artist, David Messina. How is that relationship different than working with Garry Brown, and what is David bringing to the book that’s uniquely his?
GV: Garry was my first ever artist. I am always going to have a soft spot for him, because I would just turn in my scripts and he would return pages better than I could have imagined. We had a fantastic time making such a necessary and beautiful tone change to the book, going more noir with the scratchy inks and I really loved it. He drew such a powerful Selina. It was just perfect.
I am excited for David because we are expanding the world a little bit. We are assembling a slightly reluctant, ad hoc, super-hero team around her, as a dark mirror to the Justice League. We have all these underworld figures who are not quite the cardboard evil that you’ve come to expect.
We have the Penguin, who is going to play a bigger role in this arc. One of the things we want to do is humanize him, because he is such an iconic character that it’s super easy to have him show up, adjust his monocle, and peace out. But he’s been so powerful and untouchable for so long that you can throw him in prison and it does nothing. We’re trying to illuminate all of that.
There will be a lot more action, and a lot more of the fallout from the first arc. David is doing very well with that cleaner, tighter, slightly more action-oriented look. His Gotham looks exactly like Chicago in 1952.
MSG: Any last thoughts about Catwoman for the fans at Comicosity?
GV: I am really excited about the new arc! Gotham in the wake of Batman #40 is shaken to the ground. I am really excited to see what Selina can pull out of it and what gets burned to the ground.
The 8-page preview story for the next arc of Genevieve Valentine’s Catwoman is out now, printed in this week’s Convergence: Swamp Thing #1, and available for free online at Comixology.com!