The life of DC Comics’ Batwoman has not been an easy one, whether in the comic’s stories, where Kate grapples with bad guys and relationship woes, or in the character’s publishing history. Part of the 2011 relaunch, “Batwoman” was written by W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III, and drawn by Williams. However, when the duo departed the book last year amidst, DC declined to run their next two issues, leaving “Batwoman” issue #24 on the stands with a cliffhanger ending.
It was at this point that “Manhunter” writer Marc Andreyko stepped up to the plate, taking over as the book’s permanent writer. Joined by artist Jeremy Haun, the two began their run with issue #25, a tie-in to “Zero Year,” before launching into the title’s current murder/mystery arc, following Kate as she deals with an art thief named Wolf Spider. Once this arc wraps, fans who have been waiting for a resolution to issue #24 will find their patience rewarded in April as Andreyko uses “Batwoman Annual” #1 to wrap up that story, putting a definite end to the D.E.O./Alice sotryline.
As he steers his Wolf Spider story to a close, Andreyko stepped away from the wheel to speak with CBR about Kate Kane’s superhero PTSD, bringing the supernatural back to the comic and concluding the previous creative team’s tale six months after Williams and Blackman’s departure.
CBR News: Marc, you came on to the book in the middle of a creative whirlwind — now that you’ve been on the book a little under half a year, and your first arc is nearly done, what is it like being on “Batwoman?” What are the challenges facing you moving forward on the book now that you have one story firmly under your belt?
Marc Andreyko: Well, you know, the character is just great. I love her, I love her supporting cast, I love her point of view, I love the world that she’s in, the corner of the Bat universe she occupies. And now that we’ve got the one arc under our belt as kind of a palate cleanser for the shift in creative teams, there’s going to be a lot happening to her. It’s going to be interesting to see fan reaction because there’s going to be some seismic changes in her adventures.
One of the things you’ve dealt with a little in this arc is Batwoman’s changing relationship, as Maggie demanded Kate go to therapy and Kate frightening Jaime, Maggie’s daughter. You’ve talked before about how much you love Maggie as a character and the two of them together, but is Maggie just now realizing what life with a superhero means and maybe reconsidering a life with Kate?
Relationships are challenging; even the most “perfect” relationships have challenges. In this case, it’s not Maggie demanding or giving her an ultimatum or anything, but as Maggie says in one of the issues, every time a police person fires their gun, they go see a psychiatrist. Unless you’re a sociopath, committing acts of violence, even if they’re for the greater good, has a cost on your soul. So she’s suggesting to Kate, “I love you and this has happened to me and I don’t have half the trauma in my life you’ve had. You’ve been carrying this burden, whether it’s the guilt over your mother or your sister or West Point or any of that. You’re carrying this by yourself, and there’s nobility in asking for help. There’s nothing weak about saying, ‘I need some guidance, I need someone to talk to.'” And Maggie is right! She’s like, “You can talk to me, but I can’t help you, I’m too close, I want you to be happy.”
And her daughter does play a part in it. Maggie has animosity with her ex-husband for a long time — he’s really, really not the most gay-friendly man in the world. So in addition to that, the only bond stronger than soul mates is the bond of parent and child, and Maggie has to think about Jaime and that sort of thing. She wants Kate to get better so Kate can be a good co-parent to Jaime, and with all this baggage, it’s something that needs to be dealt with. PTSD is something that really hasn’t been dealt with in superheroes, and you’ve got to imagine having to fight all these horrific people and seeing their crimes makes what the cops on “Law And Order: SVU” see a birthday party in comparison. So it’s a journey that feels valid and real and honest for Kate. Once again, Maggie is there because she wants the best for Kate because she loves her, not to force her into something that she doesn’t want to do.
It’s interesting you brought up PTSD as relates to superheroes, because Kate’s back story was with the military and that’s a huge issue we’re seeing now in the real world, with returning soldiers. Is this something that you’re going to focus on moving forward, Kate needing to work on her darker side?
The darker side of Kate is always going to be a part of her, the same way the darker side of Batman is part of him. A lot of superheroes come from the place of tragedy and try to find a way to have what happened make sense and turn it into something good. But that being said, Kate Kane is also very proactive. She’s not going to be a passive participant in this; she’s going to be really active in her own journey.
Let’s talk about that journey, then. The Wolf Spider arc ends in issue #31, and then in #32 we have a new arc, with Nocturna showing up, and a former girlfriend.
I grew up reading the Doug Moench stuff on “Detective” and I always thought Nocturna and Night-Thief were really interesting — and the whole idea of Nocturna having this weird, creepy relationship was echoed in reality a dozen or so years ago! There was this woman who would marry rich men, and she had so broken her son that her son would kill them for her, and they both got convicted. It was a made for TV movie with Mary Tyler Moore, so there is a basis in reality for that sort of relationship and that sort of manipulation, [which] is a good counterpoint to the relationship between Maggie and Kate.
Bringing Josie [the girlfriend] back is really interesting, because she was from a point in Kate’s life where [Kate] was an entirely different person than who she is now. To have your past meet your future in a way that has evolved substantially from the last time you were in that world is really interesting. Josie was her first love, so there’s all that confusing emotional baggage and sense memory that brings things up — and we are writing serialized fiction, we want to complicate our protagonists lives as much as possible, that’s where the drama comes from. I want to balance the human drama with the super hero drama.
Every time you say Josie, it throws me off and I go, “But I’m not in a relationship with Kate!” [Laughter] Josie coming in raises an interesting origin question. This version of Batwoman was created when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was being enforced, right before the New 52 launched. But in the solicits, Josie is identified as Kate’s girlfriend from West Point. So, is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell still part of Kate’s past? Was this girlfriend with her under the radar, or is she being re-imagined for the more recent times when that policy has been eliminated?
The whole Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell thing was a really important part of the Batwoman origin, but now that it’s gone, referencing that as the point of drama is like referencing that Flash Thompson fought in the Vietnam War. It dates things. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell isn’t the issue — the issue is the Road Not Traveled, where Kate sees in Josie where Josie has gone in her military career, where she could have gone, and it’s more about a specific interpersonal journey than a political issue. That’s always going to be implied, but this is not what the issue is about. I don’t like writing didactic or ultra-timely stuff; I like stuff to be timeless so the flavor of that will be there and it’ll be more of an unspoken thing. This is about the unresolved relationship between these two women rather than anything political.
With Josie, you’ve got a character from the past, and with Nocturna, you’ve got a past character you’re reimagining for “Batwoman.” What do you want to be the thematic thrust of the foes Batwoman fights? Are you trying to build up a rogues gallery similar to Batman’s, or will some of the supernatural forces that Williams and Blackman dealt with be part of your run going to be the driving force behind the villains Kate fights?
Yes! It will! [Laughs] There’s never been a dearth of crazy people in Gotham, and not all of them get showcased. There are so many that are so rich, they’re like diamonds in the rough. So I definitely want to explore that and give Kate a set of villains that when you see them you go, “Oh, that’s a ‘Batwoman’ villain.” The supernatural will always be a part of the book; the reason there wasn’t any supernatural stuff in this first arc was that, like I said, it was a palate cleanser. I wanted to do a more straightforward murder mystery supervillain adventure just to delineate a new team on the book. The supernatural will always be part of it; once again, that’s a corner of Gotham that’s become Kate’s purview, whether she wants it to be or not. It’ll be a mix of both.
Then let’s turn to the “Batwoman Annual,” which has Kate dealing with the D.E.O. The last time we saw the D.E.O. was in issue #24 —
The annual is wrapping the D.E.O./Bones/Alice arc.
Where do we pick up? Does the Annual start immediately after the last pages of issue #24?
Yup! It’s picking right up from there. We reference it earlier in one of the issues of “Batwoman.” Betty mentions something that refers to a moment in the Annual, so the arc that’s taking place now is post-Annual; the Annual took place in between issues #24 and #26.
As the person who is wrapping up what happened in the book before you came on, how did you go about jumping back in time to finish issue #24? Was the Annual something you began working on as soon as you came onto the book?
We wanted to finish the story. As both a reader and a writer I get frustrated with dangling plot threads, and the readers deserve to have a conclusion to the story. So it was something we had talked about, and when they said they wanted to do a “Batwoman” annual, I asked, can we wrap it up in there? They agreed and we worked up a story that feels — while it’s definitely not what J.H. and Haden was going to do, it’s very respectful of the plot points they put down and wraps things up in a way that will be really satisfying for the readers. And it’s beautiful! We have Trevor McCarthy and Moritat on it and, woof, it’s pretty!
Trevor McCarthy also worked in on the book before you took over. What is it like working with both of them, but especially Trevor, who has been steeped in the “Batwoman” universe?
Oh, it’s a huge thrill and it’s intimidating. It’s like getting hired onto a movie and getting to do your first scene with Robert De Niro! I mean, these guys take the words I write and bring them to such vivid life that I could never I do myself. It’s really an amazing collaboration. I do have to give one shout out to [colorist] Guy Major. Guy’s talent on this book has been very important in bringing consistency, because there was such a big creative change. The palette that Guy brings is super wide and he is an amazing colorist. He’s just such an insightful and talented artist, I wanted to make sure I gave him a shout out because this is a book created by a bunch of people. It’s by no means just me. It’s a really great team, from the artists to the colorists and letterers, the editorial staff — it really feels like college theatre to me, a bunch of people working together to put out the best product possible.
While the Annual is concluding the events from issue #24, will it also have threads that will cross into the main comic or springboard into events in “Batwoman?” Is this all self-contained?
No, no, stuff happens in it that will have an impact in the regular book, absolutely. Of course, I’m not telling you what! [Laughs]
Hey, I’m just waiting for another Josie reference. She’s my favorite character right now!
Of course she is! [Laughter]
Then to end, as the writer is there anything you’d like to say to the fans who have stuck with “Batwoman” through the creative change and your first arc, and anything readers should be paying attention to in either the Annual or the next issues coming out?
You know, I’m proud of all of it and hopefully the Annual will be a big satisfying conclusion to that dangling story, and the next arc plants a lot of seeds for stuff that’s going to happen. I’ve got to say that ninety-nine percent of the reaction of the fans of this has been great, and a lot of people who initially said, “What’s going to happen with this book? I’m not going to read it!” have begun to warm up to it.
I realize change is difficult, so I’m glad people stuck with it because I really do have a big place in my heart for these characters. I was a fan of “Batwoman” before I wrote “Batwoman,” so I really want to do right by these characters, and I think we’re doing a book that we will be able look back on, years down the line, and go, “You know what? We did a pretty good job there.” That’s really gratifying, and like I said, the fans have been great. I understand their trepidation, initially, but the fact that they’re so devoted to this character only inspires me and challenges me to try and tell stories that will resonate with them.
“Batwoman” #30 is out April 16; the “Batwoman Annual” #1 hits shelves April 30.