DC Comics announced today via its blog, that J.H. Williams III – fresh off the two Eisners nominations he garnered last week as best penciler/inker and best cover artist for his work on “Detective Comics” – will serve as the artist for its long-rumored, highly anticipated “Batwoman” ongoing series.
The series, which begins in July, will feature Kate Kane, the character Williams and fan favorite writer Greg Rucka lit up with the Bat Signal during their critically acclaimed run on the title.
The other big news is that Williams will co-write the new title with W. Haden Blackman, who is known primarily for his work in the Star Wars universe, including the “Star Wars: Galaxies” massively multiplayer online (MMO) game and “The Force Unleashed” video game.
Williams’ last major writing assignment was his co-plotting duties on “Chase” with Dan Curtis Johnson for DC Comics. In an effort to keep the book fresh – and perhaps, more importantly, on schedule – Williams will be writing the first arc and then handing off art duties to Amy Reeder (“Madame Xanadu”) for the second arc. While a set rotation has yet to be determined, Williams does plan to draw the book again, quite possibly as soon as the third arc.
After her debut in the pages of “52” in 2006, Batwoman became a media sensation due to the reveal that she was a lesbian, making her one of the first openly-gay characters in the DC Universe. Williams discussed the impact of that revelation on the character with CBR News and also shared his thoughts on what’s ahead for Batwoman in her first ongoing series and what the return of Bruce Wayne will mean to Kate Kane.
CBR News: The big news is that not only is Batwoman finally getting her long-awaited ongoing series, but you’ll be drawing and writing the title. Congratulations!
JH Williams: I think it’s really exciting, if not a little bit unexpected at the same time.
Just the fact that I’m going to be handling the writing duties, which was not something that I considered until the proposition was put before me and I just kind of felt like, “OK, if anyone can do the character any justice, it would be me.”
Now, this is your first writing assignment in some time, correct?
Yes. I did a lot of writing for the “Chase” series, and I did a lot of work writing for other artists for short stories. I also did “Batman: Snow” with Dan Curtis Johnson, which Seth Fisher drew.
And W. Haden Blackman, my co-writing partner on this project, and I wrote a “Hellboy: Weird Tales” feature that came out quite a few years ago when they were doing short stories showing other people’s interpretations of the character and that’s how he got involved.
When Batwoman first appeared in “Detective Comics,” drawn by you and written by Greg Rucka, the book received instant critical praise and also achieved great success, sales-wise. Were you surprised by the popularity of the book or did you and Greg have an idea that you were onto something pretty cool?
I think so. I knew that the title would do well. I just didn’t think the response would be so overwhelmingly positive like it was, and for it to have that kind of momentum. At the same time, I was quite confident in the work that Greg and I were doing – we knew it was good stuff – but you never know what’s going to resonate with fans.
What do you think it was about Kate Kane that initially drew readers to the character? I mean, obviously the look and feel of “Detective Comics” was something pretty special.
Being the artist, I hope the look and feel had something to do with it [Laughs]. But I also feel that the character herself, once they got past the initial couple of issues, people could see how much thought had been put into Kate Kane.
And the way Greg and I would talk about the character was more like talking about a person that we know. And I think that somehow maybe translated into the writing and the way we approached the character. We presented her to the public as even though she has this wild, fantastical vigilante life, she still comes across as somebody you can believe in.
Are you going to find it difficult pushing on with the character without Greg?
Yes, it will be. Greg brought a definite sense of direction to the character and he knew where he wanted to take things, so, with his departure, it forces things to be reevaluated in terms of continuing the character without necessarily trampling on any ideas that he had for her future and still make stories that are relevant and matter in the bigger scheme of the character for generations to come. So, yes, there is definitely a bit of trepidation involved – at the same time, I feel, it’s a challenge worth trying to meet.
So much was made of Kate’s sexuality when she first arrived on the scene, which certainly raised her profile and the profile of the title, but was it equally important to get beyond that and start telling great stories and really developing her character?
It was a weird way to introduce a character in a lot of ways, and it did slap a bit of, not salaciousness, but maybe the priorities weren’t necessarily straight in bringing out a new character and making a new character relevant. It seemed like a bit of a trick in a way. So, I’m glad that we were able to break through that end. I don’t think many people view the character that way anymore based on the little bit of work that we’ve done. I think we’ve gone a long way to establish that she is a legitimate character and not just a publicity ploy.
A “Batwoman” ongoing series has been rumored for years, but then, when Kate Kane’s adventures first started, they occurred in the pages of “Detective Comics.” Now she’s transitioning from that title to her own book. Can you take us through the timeline from the project’s early beginnings to where we are today, specifically your involvement with the character?
The character was definitely supposed to have her own series – or that was at least the plan. But for whatever reason, it didn’t start that way, and I’m not sure what the behind the scene discussions were that led DC to start Batwoman’s story off in “Detective Comics.” I still don’t really understand that decision fully, but it certainly proved a great way to generate some more press about the character because of the fact that it was “Detective Comics” and Batman wasn’t going to be in it and she was.
As far as her having her own series, that was definitely something that was in the works, but not necessarily with me being the lead writer for it. That ended up happening very quickly once Greg decided to move on for whatever reasons he had. DC wanted me to step in, but only after Haden and I had pitched another project to them, which they liked a great deal. And we were working on the deal to move forward on that, but then the situation with the “Batwoman” series developed where Greg wasn’t going to be staying on and so they turned it around and offered it to me based on what they saw in the pitch. They knew that I had wanted to get back into writing for while in discussing stuff with them. So that’s how that all got set up.
For folks who don’t follow the Star Wars Universe, what do we need to know about W. Haden Blackman?
If anybody out there is big into video games and pay attention to the creators involved in the video game market, they should definitely know who he is. He’s a pretty important story guy for Lucasarts and is one of the main generators of “The Force Unleashed,” amongst many other things from Lucasarts. He’s been doing stuff like that for a very long time and he’s a super, super talented guy with lots of very fascinating and interesting ideas. As far as comics are concerned, he has been writing a long time now, mainly at Dark Horse and primarily “Star Wars” related comics. He’s done a little bit of stuff that wasn’t “Star Wars” stuff over there, one of them being that “Hellboy: Weird Tales” story that we did. He’s a very talented guy, so we’re pretty pleased to pull him along on this venture.
You’re co-writing and drawing the first arc, but you’re handing off drawing duties to Amy Reeder for the second arc. Is it your plan to rotate in and out as artist or are you sticking to writing after this first arc?
Yes, that’s the basic plan to trade off here and there, particularly in order to make sure we keep this clear momentum, a consistency of production and being able to keep some sort of sense of schedule. There is just no way that I could write and draw continuously for a full year without some sort of a break happening. So, I think it was a really good idea to bring somebody in like Amy, who is extremely talented. She’s just a tremendous artist. I’ve known her for a couple of years now and have been following her work very closely. So when DC mentioned her, I knew she was the perfect choice. I can’t wait to start writing stories for her. The cool thing about it is, while I’m working on the first arc, she’ll actually be starting the second, and production schedule-wise, we’ll be able to keep things moving very, very forward. And then we’ll try to treat the next set of stories the same way. I’ll do one while she does the one that follows that.
Will the events playing out in “Batwoman” roll right out from Kate Kane’s adventures in “Detective Comics,” or is this the start of a brand new storyline?
One of the tricks with writing “Batwoman” #1 is picking up where we left off, but not necessarily moving in the direction that Greg had originally intended, because some of those plot lines that he wanted to address, I think he should be the one to address them if he decides to do that at a later date. I don’t want to trample on his toes with that.
On the surface, I want to tell an action adventure story that has a lot of heart and drama, but I still want to focus on what is going on with Kate, addressing the fact that she’s estranged from her father and to the events that happened in Greg’s part of the story. And where does that place her? Honestly, these characters tend to always have someone that’s there to help them in their efforts, but the way that Greg ended her first chapter, in a way, she’s almost left completely on her own. So we want to see what that means for someone to try and learn this life when you have no one to fall back on, if she needs help or whatever. That’s the one direction that we want to take with it.
We also want to address her cousin, Bette Kane, who is Flamebird. We have some interesting ideas for her and that story beat. We also have ideas to reintroduce an old fan favorite character that I don’t want to give away right now – I’m going to let that be a surprise for people.
We are going to be dealing with myths and legends and government agency intrigue and some other things like that. There are going to be lots of rich, little plot pieces that build into a bigger whole. I think we’ll surprise some people when we get to that point.
I know I’m being a little vague about my description of what people can expect, but I don’t want to give away too much. I want it to be fresh for people when they read it and some of these details will become clearer as we talk about them in the public eye, as we move along.
Can you tease which villain or villains we might see Kate facing in this first arc?
Again, it’s too early to discuss that, but we definitely want to develop a true rogues gallery for Batwoman. All the great heroes in the DC pantheon have their own set of rogues and villains that they have to contend with, and right now, Batwoman really only has the two – Alice and this new character that Greg created, Cutter, who was in his last storyline that he did with Jock. So I really want to look at expanding that a great deal, but not in a random way. We want it to be done in a way that means something to the bigger picture of her storyline that’s ahead in the months to come. People will see that these are all puzzle pieces that will build to a bigger whole.
One final question for you: how will the return of Bruce Wayne play into Kate Kane’s world?
At this point, we’re not really sure. DC has talked to me about the fact that we will need to address her having to deal with running into Batman at some point because it is Gotham City and it’s going to be unavoidable. To what degree, we’re not quite sure yet. We know that we want his presence to have a pivotal impact, but we don’t want it to upstage Batwoman in any way either – so it’s going to be a tricky balance there. But you can definitely expect the two to interact with one another at some point.