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INTERVIEW: “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” Hunt Rebirth’s Oracle

by  in Comic News Comment
INTERVIEW: “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” Hunt Rebirth’s Oracle

This July sees the return of one of DC’s finest teams: The Birds of Prey. Headed by the trio of Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress, the team hasn’t been seen for a few years — and things have changed dramatically for each of the three heroes. Batgirl’s become the hero of Burnside, whilst Black Canary’s just finished up a blockbuster tour, and Huntress has changed most of all. Helena Bertinelli has been running with the Spyral organization for years now, resulting in a very different version of the character readers will see return for the team’s latest incarnation.

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Huntress isn’t the only unusual return that’ll feature in the team’s storyline, because the new series will also feature… Oracle? But this time, it’s not Barbara Gordon going by the name, meaning something incredibly mysterious and dangerous is about to kick off!

To learn more about the team’s return, CBR News spoke with writers Julie Benson & Shawna Benson (who opted to answer questions as a unit) and artist Claire Roe about what they have in store for the fan-favorite characters. Plus, we have the exclusive first look at Roe’s interior pages for the series!

CBR News: All three of the series’ main characters — Batgirl, Huntress and Black Canary — had recent redefining runs as part of DCYou.

Julie Benson and Shawna Benson: That’s what’s been fun about putting the band back together, so to speak. These women might have found themselves in different stories in the recent runs, but their core identities are very much the same. Batgirl is still a “by the book” justice-seeking vigilante, while Huntress is a “shoot first, ask questions later” hero. Black Canary, having come from her days in a rock band, was, is still an “in your face” fighter whose metahuman superpower is just the cherry on an already badass cake.

Although we’d love to expand the roster, right now these three are already a force to be reckoned with. Bringing the OG team back together has been a blast.

The Birds of Prey concept has been dormant for a few years now, waiting for the right way to relaunch. What do you think it is which has given the concept such longevity? What is it about the team which has helped it remain fresh and, crucially, contemporary?

The Bensons: The Birds of Prey are a family and even though they fight and squabble amongst themselves, when they face danger, they unite and have each other’s backs. The BoP have always looked to be diverse and represent many points of view, which not only has kept it fresh, but also on the leading edge of representation in comics. And all of the credit for that goes to those who came before us — to [Chuck] Dixon, [Gail] Simone, [Duayne] Swierczynski and all the others who have nurtured this team throughout the years.

There was a time, sadly not long ago, when female superhero teams were under-appreciated, and even the “Birds of Prey” TV show back in 2000 was considered ahead of its time. Now, women have more role models than at any other time in comics, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We strive to be true to these characters and yet bring our voice and our perspective to them to feed into their legacy. We’re honored to have that opportunity and hope we can live up to the expectations that come with this amazing story.

How do the three Birds of Prey flock back together?

The Bensons: Barbara gets wind of a hacker who’s stolen her “Oracle” moniker and is profiting off the information at hand. Obviously, Barbara identifies very closely with being Oracle, so this ticks her off big time. Having worked closely with Black Canary before, Babs turns to her for help in tracking down this new Oracle. And Dinah is more than happy to team up.

As for Huntress? She happens to be on her own mission to take down the mob families who killed her family. But their paths cross, and Batgirl and Black Canary have to recruit Huntress before she potentially takes out all their leads to Oracle. Huntress joins the Birds of Prey once she realizes stopping Oracle is also in her best interest.

Batgirl is in a central role, here. What’s her mindset as the series begins? What does she want for the team, and how does she find working with a group?

Claire Roe: I think finding out that someone else is using the Oracle name really throws Barbara. Someone has taken something so personal from her, such a part of herself, and is not only using it but using it to aid mob gangs. It’s distressing, and enraging, so she turns to someone she knows will have her back, someone she really trusts. As for the crossbow-wielding hot-head? Well — desperate times.

The Bensons: Barbara has just returned from her travels overseas (as in Hope Larson’s “Batgirl” run), so she’s in a good place. She’s looking to become harder, better, stronger, faster (Daft Punk, don’t sue us), and this Oracle news puts her laser focused on something more personal than “just” protecting Gotham from the usual baddies. She and Dinah get along like a house afire, but Batgirl and Huntress have trouble seeing eye-to-eye when both their personal missions come to a head.

Helena Bertinelli seems like a wildcard here, in the guise of Huntress. What does her presence on the team, the unknown element, mean for the others? It must be hard to work as a team when you have, essentially, a master-spy assassin-vigilante with a personal mission standing amongst your members.

The Bensons: We are huge fans of “Grayson,” so getting to pull Helena out of Spyral and into the BoP was a thrill. She’s focused and deadly, but with a heartbreaking backstory. In this run, she’s never worked with Batgirl or Black Canary, so she doesn’t have a vested (personal) interest in these two vigilantes who seem to be getting in her way. We get to build their relationship from the ground up.

The fun in that has been discovering that the only person they all know in common is Dick Grayson.

With Huntress and Batgirl fighting amongst themselves over the best course of action, how do you view Black Canary’s role within the group? Is she peacemaker, or does she enjoy throwing oil on the flames?

The Bensons: A little bit of both. Black Canary finds herself as the mediator between the oil and vinegar that is Batgirl and Huntress, and can be trusted to find the third way. She’s got something they don’t have — a metahuman superpower — but doesn’t act superior because of it. In fact, she’s a bit cooler, more rock and roll when it comes to the team dynamics. Dinah’s anger is directed at the bad guys they’re taking down and not at her teammates.

Roe: From what I’ve seen so far, Dinah might find some amusement in the conflict, but this is a serious situation for Barbara, and I don’t think she would be so cruel as to enjoy stirring the pot. Oracle has helped her so many times in the past, this is personal for her too. If keeping the peace is what it takes to catch this fraud, then that’s what she’ll do.

Do you find that one of you tends to write more for one of the characters, and vice versa? Do either of you align your own voice with any of the Birds of Prey in particular?

The Bensons: As we’ve learned writing for television, you have to be able to balance each character equally. Know their voices inside and out. Huntress has such a clear point of view, and is ruthless and badass in a way that contrasts well to Black Canary’s snarkier style. Batgirl is a challenge at times because this mission is so personal to her, so she could veer towards being a “stick in the mud” — which we try to avoid. What helped us was remembering that Barbara isn’t just Batgirl, she’s Oracle, too — the real Oracle.

As an artist, Claire, how do you differentiate between the three? Do they have different body language, expressions? What sets them apart from each other?

Roe: Different personalities, different body language and fashion. Barbara is thrown head-first into a life changing situation, so overall I draw her as more expressive and emotional. But she’s not brooding or mean, so I like keeping her lively. Dinah has more of a hands-on-hips, folded-arms confidence with the occasional cocked eyebrow and sarcastic smirk. Those two know each other so well, they might not be gossiping-over-cocktails best buds, but they are relaxed in each other’s presence.

Add the Huntress into the mix, though, and her guard goes up. She has more of a scowling, dark demeanor so far. Huntress is a woman on a mission and nothing will get in her way. Overall, they have an interesting dynamic that the Bensons have really brought to life, and I hope that comes across in my art.

Do you find yourself drawn to any of the characters in particular?

Roe: If I had to choose, I’d say Black Canary. She has a sweet leather jacket and was in a band. She just oozes cool, right? She brings a little light-heartedness, and also level-headedness, which Barbara really needs right now.

What kind of tone can we expect from the book? What do you want readers to get from the series?

The Bensons: We knew that, since this book is initially set in Gotham, the city would dictate a certain amount of tone, high stakes and dark vigilantes. And while these women have some dark history, they aren’t dark people. Even Huntress has some lightness to her, if she’d ever allow the others to see it. As we’ve been writing, we’ve found the comedy in their relationships with each other, and in some of the villains, too. We write to entertain ourselves, our editors, our artist and then ultimately our audience.

Our editors have encouraged us to experiment and play with the tone, which has helped us find a balance of the darker, more serious elements with the comedy and fun. We hope readers will see our love and respect for the past runs and stick with us as we take the Birds on a new adventure.

Roe: I think the issues brought up in the book are serious, but it’s delivered in an entertaining way. Lots of people will relate to this group of women and their struggles, especially in the age of the Internet and its ability to grant people anonymity. My favorite parts of the book are its little humorous moments, though, so don’t read if you’re an edgelord.

“Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” will launch with “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth” #1 in July, followed by issue #1 of the series in August.

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