As Villains Month approaches for DC Comics, fans are getting more and more eager to see issues featuring their favorite villains in the DCU. Writer Derek Fridolfs has had a vast array of experience in crafting villains in comics, most notably in his “Arkham Unhinged” series taking place in the “Batman: Arkham City” universe, which focused on the villains of the game. For Villains Month, Fridolfs takes on “Detective Comics” #23.1 and sets his sights on one of Batman’s most formidable femme fatales: Poison Ivy.
Fridolfs spoke with CBR News about taking on the mistress of all plant life, what he plans to do with Ivy’s powers, putting his own spin on the New 52 version of the character and teases her appearance in an upcoming “Batman: Li’l Gotham” storyline.
CBR News: Derek, you’re taking on Poison Ivy, arguably one of the most heroically ambiguous characters in the New 52 relaunch. Where does your issue pick up when the story begins?
Derek Fridolfs: On a pleasant evening stroll through Gotham. It just happens that the city is going through a bit of madness around her — perhaps even directly caused by her — and she’s relishing every moment of it.
How does your issue explore the use of Ivy’s powers, which have great potential for destruction?
That idea was an original note given to me for working on this issue. Ivy is a very visual character, both sensual in her appearance as well as the extent of her plant-based powers. This story is a chance to unleash a full array of what she’s capable of, without fear of being stopped.
What other familiar faces from Ivy’s past can readers expect to see in the issue?
It’s very much a character study on Ivy herself — she doesn’t have a chance to interact with many recognizable characters. Someone she does encounter was responsible for giving Pamela her first job out of college, which might’ve been my favorite moment to write. I won’t spoil it here.
Why do you think Ivy’s a compelling character for a Villains Month issue? How does she carry a story on her own?
She’s definitely a femme fatale and one of Batman’s most recognizable villains. The story is about Ivy confronting the demons that helped shape her life. One of the main themes of the story is control — controlling those around you and controlling your fate. Unhindered, Ivy has the ability to do and obtain anything she wants. She’s a very liberating character in that regard, even if she skews to her own selfish desires. So what is her goal when no one can stop her?
This is one of the few opportunities you’ve had to write Poison Ivy, and definitely one of the first major focuses readers will get on the character in the New 52. How did you strike a balance of the character’s history while also adding your own spin?
The surprise to me was finding a way to incorporate her New 52 origin into the story. That wasn’t even my intent when thinking of the character, but as the story was forming, it gave me a huge opportunity to create Ivy’s back story — her early years growing up, her time at the university, all leading into the person she would become. Poison Ivy has always been seen as the tree hugging, mother nature loving, eco-terrorist that she’s been portrayed as in comics, animation and film. That is still a part of her, but I peel back the layers before all that, during her formative years. How does one go from an innocent child into the Poison Ivy we all know?
Quick bit of thanks to my editors on this: I had worked with Joey Cavalieri before on an issue of “Zatanna” that turned into a very fun experience. One of those where the idea formed so naturally and was implemented so easily, that I was a bit stunned afterwards what a blessing that can be as a storyteller. I always kept in touch and hoped I’d get the chance to work with Joey again, so when I got the call, it brought back those feelings of excitement. This is the first time I’ve gotten to work with Kyle Andrukiewicz, and it was great to springboard ideas and concerns back and forth. Lastly, thanks to Michael Marts overseeing all the Bat titles. There are a few years of history working with him during runs on “Detective Comics” and “Streets of Gotham.” I’ve been away from the New York side of the company for a while, so it was fun to come back for this one.
Batman books have arguably skewed to a darker, more “Arkham City”-ish tone since the debut of the New 52. Did you find your experience working on a series like “Arkham Unhinged” helped you to jump into that tone?
Batman comics always skew to the dark nature of the character and the city he lives in and protects. Of course, I also have the pleasure of working on a version with a much lighter take as well in “Batman: Li’l Gotham.”
During my run on “Arkham Unhinged,” two things helped set me up for working on this Ivy story. My approach on “Unhinged” was villain-focused, character based stories. They were also done-in-one, rather than multiple parts. When I was growing up reading comics in the ’70s and ’80s, one-issue stories were more the norm — you’d have continuity as the title continued, but you’d get a full story in one issue. I miss that more comics don’t do that anymore, but I understand why this is the case. Villains Month is a nice way to do those types of stories again, even if it is only for a month.
What do you think makes Javier Pina’s art a good match for the story you have planned?
Javier has done some great work on “Birds Of Prey,” whether it’s on pencils, inks or finishes. His women exude beauty and power — both terms that describe Poison Ivy very well. He’s a natural fit for this story, with a range of ways to depict Ivy.
Also a quick thanks to Jason Fabok for drawing such a visually arresting cover to our story! Can’t wait to hold it in print.
Any chance readers will see an Ivy-only “Batman: Li’l Gotham” counterpart to your issue?
Dustin Nguyen and I do have a more Ivy focused story planned, but have a few more stories to burn through before we get to it. Since most of the “Li’l Gotham” stories have been based around holidays or events related to months on the calendar, you can expect to see Ivy’s story sometime in autumn — most likely with her pal Harley Quinn in tow.
Derek Fridolfs & Javier Pina’s “Detective Comics” #23.1 featuring Poison Ivy goes on sale September 4 from DC Comics