Longtime DC Comics‘ editor and writer Mike W. Barr recalls that he and his editorial colleagues used to lovingly refer to the Outsider known as Katana as “62 inches of bad attitude” in the 1980s. And while it’s been over three decades since he co-created the hero with artist Jim Aparo, Barr tells CBR News that at the character’s core, not much has changed.
The co-writer of “Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot and Katana,” an anthology-style series that also features a Deadshot tale by Brian Buccellato and Viktor Bogdanovic, told CBR News that his new story with artist Diogenes Neves is about a militant uprising in Markovia led by the Jack Kirby-created King Kobra, and how the samurai superhero sees the conflict through the eyes and actions of a civilian resistance.
Barr also confirmed that members of the Suicide Squad will feature in the six-part miniseries, and shared his thoughts on Warner Bros.’ casting of Karen Fukuhara as Katana in the upcoming “Suicide Squad” film slicing its way into theaters August 5, 2016.
CBR News: When you created Katana in 1983 with artist Jim Aparo as an original member of the Outsiders, what was your initial idea for the character?
Mike W. Barr: For all of the Outsiders, I wanted to bring a number of varied and different characters to DC Comics. I didn’t want them to all be flying superheroes — although we had a couple of those in there too. [Laughs] I also wanted a wide range of characters so I could put them in any kind of situation.
For Katana, specifically, I’ve always been interested in samurai culture, so I thought it would be cool to make on of them a samurai — and a female samurai, to boot. Since the word “katana” also refers to a samurai sword, it became a perfect name for her.
Fast forward to 2016, and has Katana changed much in 33 years?
No, I don’t think that she has changed much. In the office, we used to refer to her, because she was five-foot-two, as 62 inches of bad attitude. [Laughs] And she still is that, to some extent, although I don’t think she’s become, nor do I want her to become, a berserker killer like a lot of other characters.
For those not familiar with the character or her weapon of choice, what makes the Soultaker, her sword, so powerful?
To the best of my knowledge, the only power that the sword really has is the power to imprison all of its victims, which is pretty impressive power. It may have other abilities, but I don’t think Katana or anyone else has learned about those abilities yet.
When Katana first meets up with Helga Jace, the royal scientist of Markovia, in this issue, they discuss Dr. Jace’s theory that there is no gap between mysticism and science. Is there room for mysticism and science in a superhero comic?
I don’t think it’s difficult to do, I just don’t think it’s done very often. When dealing with Katana, it occurred to me that a good way to get her into the story would be to deal with the overlap of the mystical and scientific elements of the character.
When Katana arrives in Markovia, she finds a militant uprising, a megalomaniac and civilian unrest and resistance. Sadly, this could actually be a newspaper story.
Yes, but we often don’t see the civilian side of a war story. Katana is basically a physical character, in the realm of Batman as a character, so I thought it would be interesting for her to view conflict through the eyes of civilians.
And the megalomaniac in question is the wildly underused and underappreciated Lord Kobra, who is a supervillain created by Jack Kirby, though he was never explored by the industry legend.
I’ve always like Kobra a great deal. He’s one of Jack Kirby’s great, and oddly underexploited, characters. He was one of the last things that he did for DC before he went back to Marvel in the 1970s. And although he’s been used a quite a bit over the years by other creators, I feel there is some unrealized potential there, which I hope we explore here.
Dr. Jace asks Katana if she is going to call the Justice League in to help with the situation. Katana says no, but does namedrop the Suicide Squad. Are we going to see members of the Suicide Squad later in the series?
Yes, the Suicide Squad will be showing up in the second issue, and they guest star for the rest of the series.
Were you surprised when it was announced that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment were going to make a “Suicide Squad” movie, and that Katana would be playing a role?
It surprises me a bit that it took 33 years — a third of a century — for the full potential of Katana to be realized. There are so few Asian female characters in the DC Universe, I thought one character that they should do was Katana. I am glad to see her realized on the big screen, but I am surprised that it’s a part of the Suicide Squad.
I got a call on May 3 of last year from Geoff Johns, right before news of the film broke, that Katana was going to be in the “Suicide Squad” movie, and I was just delighted to hear that. It’s an odd bit of placement for her, but I have to assume that David Ayer, who wrote and directed the movie, liked the character and figured she would be a good fit.
What do you think about the casting of Karen Fukuhara as Katana?
I’ve seen several pictures of Karen Fukuhara both as herself and Katana and she looks quite good. She’s also five-foot-two, the same height as Katana, so that works too.
“Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot and Katana” #1, written by Mike Barr and Brian Buccellato and drawn by Diogenes Neves, Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend is on sale now.