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INTERVIEW: Marguerite Bennett Explores Batwoman’s Lost Years in New Solo Series

by  in Comic News Comment
INTERVIEW: Marguerite Bennett Explores Batwoman’s Lost Years in New Solo Series

Marguerite Bennett has amassed an impressive collection of credits in just three years as a published comic book writer. She’s written extensively for both DC Comics and Marvel, along with creator-owned series with “InSEXts” at AfterShock Comics. But DC’s recently announced “Batwoman” series is something special for her: “a literal dream come true.”

DC first introduced the Kate Kane version of Batwoman in 2006, as part of the year-long weekly miniseries “52,” gaining attention in the process given the character’s status as a prominent lesbian superhero. The character went on to star in a critically acclaimed run of “Detective Comics” written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, the latter of whom co-wrote and drew the first “Batwoman” solo series, as part of the New 52 launch in 2011. As Bennett shared, she was in high school when Batwoman was first introduced, and the character has been an incredibly influential character for her, due to her sexual orientation and the fact that she was allowed to be imperfect.

Now Bennett gets to write Batwoman in a new ongoing series launching in February with a “Batwoman: Rebith” one-shot. Bennett will co-write the first arc with James Tynion IV, who currently writes Batgirl as part of the ensemble cast of “Detective Comics.” Bennett and Tynion’s collaboration will actually start in “Detective Comics,” during the upcoming two-part arc “Batwoman Begins,” which leads into the solo series. Superstar creator Steve Epting — the veteran illustrator best known in recent years for his high-profile collaborations with Ed Brubaker on “Captain America” and “Velvet” — is on board as artist of the series, marking his return to superhero comics after recent years devoted to creator-owned projects.

CBR News spoke with Bennett earlier this month at New York Comic Con about “Batwoman,” the personal significance of the character to her, her plans for Kate Kane as a solo hero and the experience of writing for DC Comics in the “Rebirth” era.

CBR News: Marguerite, it was clear just from the “Batwoman” press release how much this character means to you. Certainly Batwoman occupies a unique and important space in the Batman world, DC and comics in general. What’s been your experience with this character, and why is she so significant to you?

Marguerite Bennett: I still remember where I was when Batwoman was announced. I was still in high school when it was announced that DC was going to have a lesbian heroine. I’ve known I was queer since I was a little kid, so that was just an overwhelmingly significant moment.

“Batman: The Animated Series” was my gateway drug. I was five years old when it came out, and I totally misunderstood — I thought it was a cartoon for adults because it was so dark and so noir. People have asked me in other interviews over the years, “Who was your favorite heroine growing up? Was it Batgirl, was it Supergirl?” I didn’t have an answer. So much of the media that we give to children, especially to little girls, is this very scrubbed, sanitized, hyper-saturated, nice-nice, aspirational material. All the heroines within those series are aspirational. Everyone’s good and kind and sweet and never screws up, or if they screw up, they feel contrite and rightly terrible about it. You just feel like a failure! How could you ever live up to that standard?

The thing that really appealed to me, in “Batman: The Animated Series” especially, was Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. They didn’t have to be good, they just got to be themselves. I imprinted really hard with those villains. It was so striking, later on with Batwoman — one of the major things that appealed to me was the fact that she was so flawed. The fact that she screws up, and she has a temper, and she botches missions. It’s never a sense of, “We will fix you. We will make you the correct version of aspirational.” She got to be a fully realized person, as opposed to a collection of virtues. That was enormously important to me, and it’s just been so exciting.

I know it sounds so cheesy, but this is a literal dream come true that I get to right this book. She is my favorite heroine, bar none.

It’s likely too early to divulge too many details, but curious about the direction for the series. Bat woman’s already a part of the “Detective Comics” team, but you wouldn’t be writing a solo book if you didn’t have plans for her on her own. Where do you want to take Kate Kane on her own adventures?

We’re going to be essentially exploding her out of Gotham. What she’s going to be doing is heading on this globe-crossing mission, where she is tracking down people who escaped the Bat-family’s jurisdiction. She’s going to be using military and black-ops, with a supporting cast of her own, hunting those people down.

In “Detective,” she’ll still be a part of the cast. You’re not going to lose her there. I’m so happy to have James on the series with me — you’re still going to see who she is within the Bat-family, the role that she plays in the Bat-family, and you’re also going to see her more isolated. On her own, in these new situations, with these new people. Really see her strain her limits. She goes to these new environments and tracks down, in some cases, villains who are not new — people you have seen before — and also characters who are going to be coming out of her own past. For everyone who’s a fan of the [Greg] Rucka series, after Batwoman was kicked out of the military and before she assumed the mantle of Batwoman, she had these lost years — this period where she went dark, and something happened there that kicked her butt into rejoining the world of the living. We’re going to go into those lost years, and see the people she met that she thought she was done with, the things she was getting up to that are going to come back as consequences, and really explore her past, present, future.

batwoman-cover-epting

You’re co-writing an arc in “Detective Comics” that’s going to lead to this series — does that arc function as something of a “backdoor pilot”? And what’s it like co-writing with James Tynion? You both came on the scene around the same time at DC Comics.

It’s fantastic. James is my comics brother. He has been looking out for me since before Day 1. I’m so grateful. He’s one of my best friends in the entire world. I’d take a bullet for that guy.

It’s such a delight to be working with him, because Batwoman is in such amazing hands with him on “Detective.” We’re going to be working together to bring this complete vision to life. Again, you are not going to be losing Batwoman’s dynamic in “Detective.” She will still be there. James is still going to be writing her in that series, also. You will have her cake and eat it too. Because she’s going to be mobile, you’ll see these adventures that take her elsewhere, but then also permit her to return to Gotham as needed. It’s going to be really crazy.

Working with him is fantastic, because we just go to different, fun restaurants and spitball. “Oh my god, that’s exactly what we should do!”

Steve Epting is obviously a huge component of this series. What does it mean to you to have an artist like him on this? What excites you about working with him?

Just how gorgeous his characters are, especially his women. The sense of strength that’s in his characters. As much as I love them, there are some artists who draw everyone with the same face or same body. [With Epting] there’s a genuine sense of uniqueness with each of his characters. That’s something that’s just very appealing, and I’m really excited to see.

His work is just so incredible. He’s such a big player. To be able to write for him is very intimidating. [Laughs] I’m very excited. The cover to our #1 — it’s all gorgeous. So good.

You’ve been at DC for a few years now, but this is your first DC Universe series in the “Rebirth” era. What’s appealing to you about this current direction for DC’s superhero line?

The ability to appeal to long-term readers and to new fans, to be accessible enough to bring in new eyes and new voices. To deliver on the things that people love. I know that sounds like a line, but I really think DC is doing something really incredible and really special, and it’s a chance to define Batwoman’s role in this emerging universe.

Batwoman has only been around a decade, and despite having a significant role within the Bat-mythos, is still a character primarily known to comic book fans. Where do you want to bring this character with this series?

There’s not a mark in mind. It’s honestly just being able to sincerely write from a place of joy. How much I love working on this character — being able to show everything she can do, showcase her strengths, define these parts of her history that have before now been so in the dark. Really tell something that I hope is so powerful and so real and emotionally resonant. If we can make people care about Batwoman the way James and I do, that’s our goal.

The “Batwoman: Rebirth” one-shot is scheduled for release in February, followed by “Batwoman” #1 in March.

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