THE OWL SIGNAL continues to shine on DC Comics’ “Night of the Owls” event, this time speaking with Judd Winick, the “Catwoman” and “Batwing” writer who’s helming a surprise third book for the crossover, “Batman: The Dark Knight!”
For one issue during the May crossover, Winick will join artist David Finch for “The Dark Knight” #9, tying the book into the Bat-centric event and adding Red Robin into the mix.
Winick’s two regular series are also involved in “Night of the Owls.” On “Batwing,” “Huntress” miniseries artist Marcus To steps in to illustrate David Zamvimbi in Gotham as the African hero attempts to take a break after his drag-out fight with the villain Massacre. Meanwhile, series artist Guillem March and Winick introduce a brand new character into Selina Kyle’s life in “Catwoman,” a thief named Spark, in preparation for the “Night of the Owls” and a new direction for the comely burglar.
Three books on his plate means three times the Talons, Winick explained to THE OWL SIGNAL, detailing how he came to write the “Batman: The Dark Knight” crossover issue and why the “Night of the Owls” represents a turning point for both Catwoman and Batwing.
CBR News: You’re a busy man!
Judd Winick: Yeah, it kind of worked out that way! [Laughs] At first, I was coming out of the gate with two titles that actually could have had a hard time being involved, but I dug what Scott [Snyder] was doing so much that I really, really thought it’d be fun to figure out how to get both “Batwing” and “Catwoman” in there, “Catwoman” being an especially hard gig to get in there. And then “Dark Knight” came up; Scott had half an idea in his pocket, something he wanted to explore, we kicked it around a bunch and that one came out as well. So I inadvertently ended up with the lion’s share of books coming out of the event, which I didn’t see really happening. But I’m happy, it’s fun to be doing this much!
While you are already the series writer for both “Catwoman” and “Batwing,” the surprising title is, of course, “The Dark Knight.” How did you end up coming in to write that series’ “Night of the Owls” issue?
Well, like I said, Scott had this idea, something that had not been touched upon. I can’t go into it too much; it becomes a massive spoiler to discuss what’s at the heart of it! But it comes out to be one of the only stories that is told from the perspective of the Talons. It is told from one of the assassins from the Court of Owls, totally from his point of view. What makes it interesting, and I think what’s fun about “The Dark Knight” and what it should be, is the “Dark Knight” stuff should feel a little bit off the beaten path. It should be different Batman stories, not just another one; “Detective” goes one avenue, “Batman” goes another avenue and “Dark Knight” should take another one. I think in this case, this is all about Batman, but [in “Dark Knight”] we’re learning something about the Talons themselves. Particularly this [Talon].
The solicits have promised Red Robin coming in as well. Since Scott Snyder is helming this and Batman is obviously at the center of his book, are we going to see a lot of Red Robin and Batman through this Talon’s eyes? Or is this pretty much the Talon story, with a little bit of action with Red Robin?
It is entirely action-packed. It takes place over a couple of decades and everybody’s in it! But it’s from the Talon’s perspective; it’s from where he sits and his journey through this and what he has to do.
From talking to some of the other writers, we’ve learned many of the books are getting to play with their own Talons and their own historical era or time period in Gotham. Your Talon story is spanning across decades — is there a specific era you’re focusing on?
This is a Talon from, in comic book times, the late ’60s and ’70s. This would basically come out to be one of the last Talons, the last one before recent times. We get to see him in the past, but it’s a recent past, which in some ways might overlap with Batman a little bit back to when Batman had not faced the Talons before — or maybe he has! [Laughs] That’s what we are sort of getting into. So it’s very recent history, which is fun and is the idea Scott had, that this small little overlap where Batman had started and where the Talons had ended, and then we’re caught up to today.
Flipping over to your other books, as you mentioned “Catwoman” and “Batwing” are two titles readers might not think to include in the event, especially “Catwoman” given Selina’s new status quo as a criminal. That being the case, why is she protecting Penguin from the Talons? What’s in it for her?
She, to be honest, has absolutely nothing to do with Batman on it. That was the fun part. We were never going to have it that Batman was going to reach out to Catwoman and say, “Hey, I need help with this!” She is not part of the Bat family, she’s not part of the clique, the crew; she is not a go-to person at all. So it is through happenstance, which we set up prior to “Night of the Owls” — instead of a one-shot this is actually something that we built in. Simply said, as people will come to learn, she has a new running buddy, this thief called Spark, and they’re pulling a heist and that heist actually involves Penguin in a fashion. The Penguin’s a target and one thing will lead to another and she’ll get sucked into this. It’s probably the first time in our run that we see Catwoman do something for the sake of good completely. It is her dipping her toe in the water of doing the right thing inherently, which will be kind of interesting.
How does Spark factor into this? Is this a character you are introducing just for “Night of the Owls,” or does she or he have legs and will continue in the series?
[Spark’s] a he, which makes it complicated already! No, he shows up in [“Catwoman”] #7 and he will stick around to almost issue #13 or so — he’s around a while. He’s an ongoing character, so he’s not a fly-by-night cat. That was something across the board a lot of us tried to do in this crossover. In the past some of us have worked on crossovers: some are brand new, some have done a lot, good and bad! I mean, I’ve done the ones that are complete drive-bys where you find out in the eleventh hour to do this crossover and you pretty much just bump the issue you’re working on. If you’re working on issue #57 suddenly that becomes #58 and #57 becomes something that serves the crossover which barely had anything to do with the arc you were in the middle of and you sandwich it in. Other times it’s been great, like this, where we go about our business and make sure that these are stories that feel inherent to the story we’re telling anyway. In the case of all my books we were far enough ahead that I could sort of see it and say, “Oh, you know what? To get Catwoman in I have to do this thing, so let me start planning for it here!” So a couple of issues out we are planning for this thing that leads to “Night of the Owls” and some of the stuff that comes after it, which is fun.
Along those same lines do you feel this event is a turning point for the character and the book; that you can go in a new direction with this idea of her doing good?
Yeah, it’s the first step. It’s the first time Selina has the option of walking away and letting something happen to someone who, I don’t know, maybe had it coming! [Laughs] But she decides to do the right thing with nothing to gain, a couple of times actually in the course of this story. She has the opportunity to do the right thing and she chooses to do that rather than walk away. This is the first step, the first major step — small but major.
Because Selina isn’t really part of the Bat family and this isn’t Batman reaching out to her, are you still incorporating a Talon and exploring a historical period in Gotham in “Catwoman?” Or is this a separate nook connected to “Night of the Owls?”
A little bit of both. With the Talons I’ve done, in this case there’s a little more insight into this Talon, which is, to be blunt, that Selina feels a little something for him. Things come about because of that. I’m sure people will run away and take the wrong idea when I say feel something for him! [Laughs] There’s no romance. She has to fight with Talon but there’s all these kind of emotional undercurrents which carry through. Again, it’s a little bit of a turning point, we actually see her flat-out do the right thing right here.
The third and final book you’re writing is “Batwing,” and you’re bringing David Zamvimbi back to Gotham for this event. While everyone else in the event, even if they aren’t part of the Bat family like Selina, have connections to Gotham and Gotham’s history, David is the outsider in all this. What does he bring to the event why did you want to tell it from his perspective?
Well, it’s also a turning point! For one we worked it out that he’s in Gotham; we finish issue #7 and #8 of “Batwing” and Batwing’s in Gotham City so it’s not a very big leap to keep his ass there! [Laughs] Again, that was part of the plan that we were looking towards wrapping up this major first arc, if you can call it an arc, this major first story, movement we have in Batwing. Then he and Matu Ba, who is his handler, stay in on Batman Incorporated business. He is a soldier in Batman Incorporated [and] with that this will take place in Gotham; we’ll be opening the door to this larger upcoming story and in general taking a major step towards Batwing becoming a larger part of the Bat family. We’ve established who Batwing is, how he operates, him and Africa. We spent a lot of time in Africa developing the story, the environment, his character, what he feels like. I don’t want to give anything away but now we’re going to start to see a lot more of Batwing and a lot more of the Bat family, and it’ll have a more international feel. So, another one that has a big turning point — this is where it starts.
Along those lines, how does the Talon factor in?
He’s facing off with a Talon; there’s a problem that presents itself that he happens to be close enough to handle. So we get to have him duke it out a bit in, around and on the streets of Gotham, which I thought was a lot of fun. And it’s [artist] Marcus To’s first issue, which is amazing. I’ve seen the first pages come in and it’s nothing short of the best work he’s ever done! [Laughs] That’s a fact!
Going into this, was the appeal for you not just making this David’s turning point but also exploring Gotham history and the “Night of the Owls” from the point of view of someone not from the city and not even from America?
No, it’s not quite like that. It’s a battle! It is David plucked out of his element and dropped down here and how he’s going to work and behave his way through. It is a little bit of a meeting of two worlds. He’s in Gotham and he’s not a person of affluence at all from his past or even now, the way he chooses to live. Despite the fact that he might be funded by Batman he does not live among great affluence, and now he’s surrounded by it, suddenly, in this “Night of the Owls.” A little bit of it is pointing that out, and who he is as a person, what he finds to be important to him and what he finds to be somewhat appalling. And then, oh by the way, there’s this assassin here to kill somebody and he’s going to have to take care of it right now! [Laughs]
Finally, as you said “The Dark Knight” and “Catwoman” give a little more insight into the Talons. For “Batwing” and the other books, when you got a chance to write these Talons were you thinking in terms of what villain would be best to pit against Selina or pit against David, Batman and the others? Or did you think of them as real characters outside of the event that you just happen to be bringing into your worlds?
I think it’s a little bit of everything. These are three very, very different stories. “Catwoman” is one that is very much a part of the ongoing arc and part of her story. Again, it’s not exactly a tipping point but this first moment where she dips her toe in the water of maybe doing some good. She’s still a thief, still doing what she does, and she’s in the middle of doing some thieving when this crap comes up! But it is a very non-self serving moment; it is a selfless act all the way around and we continue with the ramifications of that afterwards. That idea appealed to me, but what would get her there also appealed to me. I wanted to portray her as someone who’s not just a sympathetic character but someone who feels sympathy and empathy. We do totally sense that from her in a lot of ways but she doesn’t necessarily show it. A lot of what she does seems, as we present it thus far, reckless and selfish, but seems damaged. So I’m giving her a moment where she can really focus and see it, know what she wanted to do. We set it up before and then it carries on after.
With “Batwing,” he just comes off this unbelievable battle with Massacre and that wraps up in issue #8. And then into #9 he’s in Gotham where he’s supposed to catch his breath! It’s done, he’s here, we’re coming in for repairs — get his suit tuned up for Batman Incorporated, get some intel over here — and this insanity occurs where he’s got to leap back into action. With that, it springboards tonally into Batwing playing with some bigger toys and some bigger boys and girls, really getting in there and getting out there.
With “Dark Knight” it’s this sort of untold chapter and this untold perspective. It’s the only one that’s really being told from in the head and the heart of one of the Talons. And how this one is actually tied to Batman in a way, unbeknownst to Batman, which I think really makes for a good “Dark Knight” story, one that’s kind of an untold tale. That one as well when we’re done there, it’s not a one-shot, it opens doors for a few others.
That’s the fun of this entire crossover that it’s a really big, terrific, ramshackle story just full of action, lots of emotion, and digs around in canon in a way that I think is really, really interesting. Scott definitely figured out a way to dig around the Bat family canon without actually shaking things up in a way that someone would go, “Ah man, it’s changed! Change is done! 80 years of Batman has been altered!” [Laughs] You don’t even feel that at all, it’s not even a wisp, it’s just like the wind passing over you. But it’s really cool, I have to give it to Scott. He came up with many, many amazing ideas and also things that will carry on afterwards, which is what we want to do with these crossovers. We don’t want, forgive the crassness, wham, bam, thank you ma’am, and then we move on. We’d like to have a crossover that some sort of fundamental change occurs that gives birth to new stories, new characters, new dynamics and that was the approach for many of us, myself included in all three books. These are not one-shots; these are things that will carry, story and elements that continue onto more story to come and possibly characters and things for years to come.
“Batwing” #9 releases May 2, “Catwoman” #9 on May 16, and “Batman: The Dark Knight” #9 on May 23.