The current take on DC Comics' "Batgirl" -- a fresher, hipper, more youthful approach from the creative team of co-writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr -- created a sensation from the first costume designs released online, and the goodwill has continued now that the book has actually been coming out for a few months.
It's success and appeal to a non-traditional fanbase has helped fuel DC's multiple new launches coming in June, some indirectly, and one very directly: "Black Canary," which spins out of the first arc of "Batgirl" and features the creative team of Fletcher and artist Annie Wu recently of Marvel's "Hawkeye."
Here's the solicitation text for "Black Canary" #1:
BLACK CANARY #1
Written by BRENDEN FLETCHER
Art and cover by ANNIE WU
1:25 Variant cover by BABS TARR
On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
Dinah Lance hits the road! After years as a soldier and vigilante, the LAST place Dinah saw herself is on stage...but she's quickly learning she'd die to protect the gang of misfits she's fallen into. And she just might have to - for some reason, the newly rechristened band Black Canary seems to be a magnet for trouble...and Dinah's not gonna believe it when she finds out the reason why! Martial arts, super-spies, and rock 'n' roll combine, from Brenden Fletcher (BATGIRL) and Annie Wu (Hawkeye)!
And the solicitation text for June's "Batgirl" #41, which ties into upcoming status quo changes in "Batman":
Written by CAMERON STEWART and BRENDEN FLETCHER
Art by BABS TARR
Cover by CAMERON STEWART
THE JOKER Variant cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE
On sale JUNE 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
There's a new Batman in town...and that spells bad news for Barbara Gordon! She's already got enough upheaval in her life, with her roommate Frankie in on her biggest secret...and now she's looking to get even more involved in Batgirl's business!
CBR News spoke with Fletcher, Wu, Stewart and Tarr in a joint interview during a press event last month at DC's Burbank headquarters, to talk the cultural impact of "Batgirl," the musical butt-kicking of "Black Canary" and the shifting readership of mainstream comic books.
CBR News: The success of "Batgirl" really seems to have propelled many of the new titles that DC is launching in June -- how gratifying of a feeling is that, to have sparked something of a movement with this book?
Babs Tarr: It's pretty cool!
Cameron Stewart: It kind of hearkens back to even when we debuted the costume design, we had this huge tidal wave of support for it. We've always known it was the right thing, we've always been confident that this is the right thing to do, but then to see it be received so well, and to see now, not only did we have success with this one book, but kind of making the company as a whole examine it and go, "Maybe there's something to this, and maybe we can spread it elsewhere," it's incredibly validating and gratifying.
Brenden Fletcher: Too Canadian and humble to speak to it. [Laughs] Really, I just got very embarrassed and sort of blush-y when I think about it, because we kind of started something with "Batgirl" and "Gotham Academy." Like I've said to these guys, it's really Mark allowing us to do it. We don't know how many years people were pitching exactly the same Batgirl we did. It could have been twenty years. But it was [Batman group editor] Mark [Doyle] who had the vision to say, "Guys, this is what we're going to do with our line of Bat-books now. We're going to do this YA, kind of Hogwarts thing. We're going to do this take on Batgirl in a Williamsburg-y neighborhood." We may have had the vision for the actual book, but Mark had the strength and the vision for the line to actually make all of this a reality. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity.
It's rare to see a publisher divert from a successful formula.
Stewart: It's like a giant ship. It's got to turn, and it turns really slowly, but at least it's turning.
Let's talk "Black Canary" -- we don't know much about the series yet beyond the initial imagery, and the fact that she's in a band. How much more can you share?
Fletcher: Let me just tell you that a significant amount of butts will be kicked.
Annie Wu: All the butts.
Stewart: Your daily recommended dosage.
Fletcher: There will be a lot of people with bandages and bruises, and there may be some touring in a bus and some gigs happening. But mostly a lot of butt-kicking and a lot of fun, fish-out-of-water stories.
How much does the music aspect play a role -- is it a major component, or more in the background?
Fletcher: It informs the situation, but the situation, of course, involves a woman who is ex-military, and potentially the best martial artist on the planet. Trouble kind of follows her around. While they're trying to go on this tour, while they're trying to make the most of this unique opportunity that they've been given to have a record deal, and play all these shows, really they just end up in fights all the time, and people end up hurt. That's maybe a problem. It fuels the story.
Wu: What I have in mind, stylistically, music plays a big part in that. I look at a lot of gig posters and music videos; the theatrical aspect of being on stage, all that fun stuff. Hopefully our final product will have that feeling of a rock tour. Halftones and bold colors. That, plus, al the kung fu action and all that kind of stuff. Hopefully it'll be a really fun, vibrant, energetic final product.
Fletcher: This set-up has allowed us to put her back into fishnets, because now it makes practical sense. It's her stage outfit! It's not her action outfit. But of course she ends up in the middle of action scenes wearing her stage outfit.
Annie, what are some of the specific things that you got inspiration from? It a specific type of aesthetic?
Wu: All the bands, from every genre, and every era. The way that I've been mentally approaching it is, this is an era in an artist's career. Like Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, he has a very distinct look, and then when he moved on to Thin White Duke, this is a distinct look, so I'm trying to approach it like that.
I'm a big musical theater nerd, too, so I've been watching a lot of musical movies, as well. Everything that's exciting about being a performer, and music, being in a band -- all the theatrical stuff, I'm trying to have that directly inform the style and the energy of the book.
Fletcher: This was one of our first conversations when I was trying to get Annie on board the book, one of the first things we were talking about was Bowie. We share this Bowie passion.
So does that wide range of inspiration reflect in the band itself? It's not like, this is exactly what they sound like, but you're pulling from a lot of different places?
Fletcher: It's something that we're still talking about. We're still trying to nail down the exact sound. We want to know the exact sound of the band, but it's not entirely derivative of anything that's out there. You see, even in the promo shot, you can get an idea of what the make-up of the band is, and it's not your average bass, guitar and drums lineup. It's different. So it's going to sound a bit different.
Will we see the two books intermingling, between "Batgirl" and "Black Canary"?
Fletcher: Where "Batgirl" #40 ends, is where "Black Canary" #1 begins.
Stewart: I'm sure that at some point, after Dinah goes off on her own, we'll have a reason to draw them back together again.
Tarr: Maybe during her tour, she has a concert at Burnside.
Fletcher: I have a feeling that something might happen around September or October where we might have a good opportunity for Black Canary to return.
Interesting! What kind of threats or enemies can we expect in "Black Canary"?
Fletcher: Nasty ones.
This is a book that features a character that was born in the New 52. So she has a past. She's been in several books before. If you look to the books that she's appeared in, there's some information already there about what she might end up facing while on the road with her band.
But then there's a lot more. And it's fairly fantastical, and maybe outside of the realms of what you're expecting. But you can rest assured, that whatever it is, it's butt will be firmly kicked.
Wu: He's really pushing that point.
Fletcher: People are wondering if this is just going to be a music book. It's Black Canary. She kicks people's butts.
Wu: She's deadly. She's one of the top martial artists in the entire universe. We're going to be addressing that in the book.
Fletcher: You can put her on Apokolips, and there's probably no better martial artist than Black Canary.
There's been a lot of talk about the comic book audience changing, and now it seems like that's actually being recognized by publishers -- how gratifying is that part? Are you getting a lot of feedback from people who may not be traditional comic book readers?
Tarr: We get told weekly, "I wasn't into comics before 'Batgirl,' and now I read it, it's so fun." It's awesome.
Stewart: "I've never read a DC book before."
Fletcher: I've been getting a lot of, either, my first two comics, or my first two DC comics, are "Gotham Academy" and "Batgirl" -- "I'm adding 'Black Canary' to my list already." Which is amazing.
It's a Brenden Fletcher monopoly. It's also reflective of a diversity of art style -- something that DC had gotten some criticism for at one point, with the notion that a lot of the books were looking kind of the same. Have you gotten a lot of freedom thus far on "Black Canary?"
Wu: They're letting us get away with murder. [Laughs] Until they tell us to rein it in, I'm just going to keep doing what I do.
Tarr: Don't listen. [Laughs]
Fletcher: We've been given great freedom across the board. Right before we came over here, we were pretty much story meeting with our editor, Chris Conroy, and group editor Mark Doyle. We were actually hashing stuff out and making decisions out there. They're so open to talking about everything. It's incredible.
I feel like we're spoiled. We have the best editorial team in comics. It's incredible. It's the best feeling. I don't know if I could go to work anywhere else after this.
And "Black Canary" is a little different for you, Brenden, because you're writing it solo -- that's your first solo monthly, right?
Fletcher: For big, monthly ongoing series, yes, it's my first.
Stewart: Brenden is the co-writer of "Batgirl" and "Gotham Academy," but he does a lot more than I think he's often credited for, or is acknowledged. "Black Canary" is going to give him an opportunity to show that he's got the chops.
Anything coming up on "Batgirl" you can tease?
Stewart: In the first storyline, we invented a bunch of new villains for her. In the second storyline, we're going to bring back a classic Batgirl villain who has not been seen in the New 52 yet. That's all I'm going to tell you.
Fletcher: Members of our supporting cast will play new and very significant roles -- very significant roles.
"Black Canary" #1 is scheduled for release on June 17; "Batgirl" #41 is scheduled for release on June 24.