Recently graduated writer Marguerite Bennett has been quickly establishing herself as a player in DC Comics New 52, with stories in “Batgirl,” the “Batman Annual” #2 and further out in space with “Justice League: Lobo.” Now, Bennett adds two more characters to her growing resume when she tackles both the oldest and newest members of the DC Universe: Lois Lane and Joker’s Daughter.
Bennett, a former student of current DC powerhouse writer Scott Snyder, is working with artist Emanuela Lupacchino on the “Superman: Lois Lane” one-shot, which ties into the events taking place in the main “Superman” title. Switching gears, Bennett flips from an established icon to a brand new villain with “Batman: Joker’s Daughter.” The character made her New 52 debut during September’s Villains Month event, and Bennett and artist Meghan Hetrick are delving deeper into her origins and plans for the DC underworld.
Speaking with CBR, Bennett discussed the details of her one-shots, including where in the New 52 DC Universe timeline both stories fit, the way comic books portray madness versus the realities of mental illness and the daunting task of writing an American icon.
CBR News: Looking at your stories, I can’t imagine two DC characters more different than Joker’s Daughter and Lois Lane. What interested you in writing both of them for the February one-shots?
Marguerite Bennett: I could never say no to Lois Lane. If she crooked her little finger, I’d come running. Lois is the human soul of Superman’s increasingly superhuman world. In a universe that only widens, only becomes more extraterrestrial, metahuman, parahuman, superhuman, she is the “merely” human center of conviction, compassion and resolve that anchors our world — but what a wonderful thing humanity seems to be, through her.
Joker’s Daughter is no anchor, and, more importantly, has no anchor. She is a lost, broken creature seeking meaning, seeking a direction — a blade looking to be told which flesh to pierce, without needing to know why. She wants the hand to wield her, the one to give her purpose, make her feel chosen.
To be writing these two polar characters, and to be writing them simultaneously, has been a rare privilege. I can only hope y’all will also enjoy them.
Looking at your Lois Lane story, the solicits promise that members of her family will come into play, and we know over on Scott Snyder’s “Superman Unchained,” he’s got some big plans for Lois. You worked with Scott Snyder on the “Batman Annual” and a little bit with “Zero Year” — did you discuss with him his thoughts on Lois or how you saw the character?
I was actually on the phone with Scott about this last night! Scott is the most wonderful and wonderfully supportive teacher and friend I could hope for. There hasn’t been any kind of orchestration, though — he never tried to direct or prevent me in any way; he’s so encouraging and I know he’s honest with me when I ask his opinion on story and characterization. We share a love and an enthusiasm for Lois and all that she is.
Where does this story fit into the current Superman continuity? Is there a specific book or story arc the issue ties into?
The book comes alongside the events of “Superman” #28, and Lois will feature prominently, I’m told, in the Superman arc directly before it. However, even if someone hasn’t read Superman in years (or ever), I’ve done my best to make Lois accessible to all readers, new or old. There are threads of fallout from the arc that precedes this publication, but I’ve done my best to present them tidily and exigently for a reader, without relying on bare exposition.
Set the scene for us — we know Lois’ family is involved, but what can you tell us about your story and the characters coming into play?
The scene takes place in two separate places and times — one in Metropolis, and one (albeit much more briefly) on one of the military bases where Lois and Lucy spent their childhood. Both are deeply entrenched in alienation, depaysement, and the navigation between the identity one presents to the world and one’s true and deep sense of self. It’s a story about wounds that do not leave scars and the price of passing for something else.
Lois Lane is such a huge part of the Superman mythos and is a character many fans have long wanted to see more of in her own series. For you, as a writer and a fan, what is the appeal of Lois Lane, and how do you put your own spin on a character who is so seared into American culture?
Well, there was a lot of panic and hiding under blankets after the scale of the matter had sunk in, if you must know the truth.
I saw headlines, asking, “Is This the Lois Lane Story We’ve Been Waiting For???” and my answer is — probably not. This is not the be-all, end-all Lois Lane story where she wins another three Pulitzers for work in a war-torn country, filled with nuclear weapons while she rescues and then marries Superman, right before she punches Darkseid in the throat and scissor-kicks him into the sun.
I’m not saying I wouldn’t write stories like that (mostly), but I don’t want Lois buried beneath the pressure to perform as a superhero and for her human identity to be found wanting. Everyone has a personal idea of who and what Lois is; everyone came to her in different ways, from the old comics to the new, from the various animated series, from “Smallville” to “Lois and Clark,” “Superman” to “Man of Steel,” from Margot Kidder to Teri Hatcher to Amy Adams.
This is the first of what I hope to be many independent stories about Lois. I tried to bring out my love and admiration for all that she is, but for the course of the story, I don’t want Lois to be everything. I wanted an intimate, honest moment for her, beyond Superman. I hope it moves you.
Turning to your second one-shot, writer Ann Nocenti tackled Joker’s Daughter for Villains Month, introducing her to the current DCU. How much does your one-shot have to do with that story?
You won’t need to have read the “Joker’s Daughter” #1 from Villains Month. I’ve tried to make this a good entrance point for readers, though having read the “Death of the Family” arc on Batman will help. Chronologically, the story takes place after Villains Month and after the events of “Catwoman” in the Underground, but these events aren’t the focus of our story. If you have read “Joker’s Daughter” #1, you’ve seen the bones beneath JD, but this is a story about blood and flesh, far more than bones. Our interpretation is original, and coming to this story as though it is the first you’ve seen or heard of the character might benefit readers the most.
Unlike the possessed and refined Lois Lane, from what we’ve seen thus far the Joker’s Daughter is pretty much out of her mind from the moment she finds Joker’s face onwards. As a writer, how do you interest readers in a villain whose defining characteristic is insanity?
I don’t believe JD is insane, actually. There are those who suffer from mental illness, diagnosed or undiagnosable, but I don’t count her among them. This is a matter for philosophers, but I really and truly do believe in evil. That, I think, is closer to her vein.
I think JD is weak, and I think she is cruel. I think she is needy, and acts out in her weakness and her cruelty — a way to feel powerful, to feel righteous, to achieve that sense of meaning and completeness that I believe everyone seeks. She’s found a satisfaction in pain, a superiority in her own newfound abilities, a way to feel important. She reminds me of Poe’s imp of the perverse — that sudden shock of impulse that urges you to shove the person next to you down the stairs, or drive a knife through your own hand. These are natural thoughts that occur to everyone from one time or another, but we possess the restraint to recognize the thought as destructive and dismiss it. A person who is ill, perhaps, would be plagued by those thoughts, or unable to control them, or even compelled to act on them. JD, however, seeks them out. She provokes them, cackles, calls it sickness, acts upon them and dances over the spilling blood.
I think she is an imp, in a way, and sick because of what she has chosen to do, not on account of any mental illness. I feel she chooses the faÃ§ade of insanity because she believes that it induces fear (out of the stereotypical ways in which the mentally ill are portrayed and feared), excuses responsibility (permitting her to “plead” sickness, to the offense of those who do actually suffer), or evokes pity (which she would enjoy betraying).
That all being said, she is sick in the way a person who does not treat an open wound becomes sick. She wants to be sick — to be rare, more or less than human, so long as she is different, is special. She reminds me a bit of the girls at the Salem Witch Trials, the fever pitch, of wanting to believe to the extent of hallucination — but there is nothing inherently afflicted in her. She sickens herself. She invites the Joker in. All the choices are hers.
At this moment the only connection between Joker and Joker’s Daughter is the face — should readers expect to see him or any of Batman’s Rogues gallery appearing?
Batman does indeed appear, in a place I am honored to revisit. And you will see a few of his newer rogues before the night is through.
Finally, you’re working with artist Meghan Hetrick on “Joker’s Daughter,” and Emanuela Lupacchino on “Lois Lane.” What do these artists bring to the table when it comes to depicting these characters? Has what they’ve drawn or influenced the way you told your stories?
I met Meghan Hetrick in a bar at NYCC this past October while rocking out with a bunch of drunk, awesome nerds. Whenever Meghan’s there, I want to whip around real fast and throw glitter and flick my hands out in her direction so that everybody stops and cheers about her marvelous art.
Meghan has been such an amazing and inspired collaborator — I send her these ghastly pages, full of violence and detail, and she turns around something even more phenomenal, adds this terrific, nightmarish quality to the story that coalesces around the characters. I hope to God I don’t frighten her off with a book this big and dark and demanding, and I hope y’all will give her some love on Twitter — @MeghanHetrick.
Emanuela was actually a really intimidating announcement, because I had not met her in a bar at NYCC while rocking out with a bunch of drunk, awesome nerds. I’ve actually got a few prints of hers in my room, and it was an alarming and thrilling moment to see her name in an email. From the very beginning, I begged my editors to have art that is not the clean, crisp, bright, idealized world of superheroes — I didn’t want darkness, but I wanted depth. Lois’ lens is not Superman’s lens, and she needed an artist who reflected the sturdiness, strength and humanity of our world. Emanuela’s art comes with such richness and vibrancy — she’s just ideal.
“Batman: Joker’s Daughter” is out February 5; “Superman: Lois Lane” hits shelves February 26.