C2E2: Young Gotham With Fletcher, Tarr, Seeley & Valentine

As the publisher has been fond of pointing out lately, DC Comics incoming creative reinvention this June started in the Batman line. Forward-looking books like "Batgirl" and "Gotham Academy" helped make the world of Gotham City feel younger and more diverse than ever. So as the last bit of DC activity at this years Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (better known as C2E2), it's no surprise the company talked up the future of the expanding Bat Family at their Young Gotham panel.

Taking the stage to talk about where their books would go in June were "Batgirl," "Gotham Academy" and incoming "Black Canary" writer Brendan Fletcher, "Batgirl" artist Babs Tarr, "Grayson" co-writer Tim Seeley, "Catwoman" writer Genevieve Valentine and "Robin, Son of Batman" writer/artist Pat Gleason. As he did often over the weekend, incoming "Bizarro" writer Heath Corson played MC.

Things got rolling as Fletcher and Tarr talking about "Batgirl" #41 -- their first June issue which ties to the incoming revision of the Dark Knight in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Batman."

"Obviously, robo-Batman is in it, and he might eliminate Batgirl," Tarr joked of the cover. Fletcher said that after the past six months spent in the book rebuilding Barbara Gordon's life, now "She's ready to have some fun." But the new Batman is going to complicate her fun, and the writer said that "It might not be just the two of them appearing in this story."

Ahead of the June arrival of the first trade of "Batgirl" by the team, the creators will tell a stand alone eight-page story which -- like all the June eight-page teases -- will be released online after appearing in a second issue of a "Convergence" book. Tarr said that the short allowed her to draw some "TRON" inspired imagery, which she's been requesting along with other ideas like a Batgirl luchador issue.

That theme kept running into issue #42 where "Superman: The Animated Series" character Live Wire makes her way into Barbara's path. Tarr said she enjoyed tweaking the classic design, saying, "I wanted to keep the similar silouette...and then I had several outfits where she was wearing a shiny electric things...I kind of combined it with sexy TRON outfits and some cyberpunk things."

The last piece of big "Batgirl" news coming is that the character's Annual #3 will be a story that ties together many pieces of the Young Gotham mythology as Babs comes into conflict with Helena Bertinelli as Dick Grayson lurks around the edges of the adventure. Fletcher is writing a story that brings Batgirl into contact with Gotham Academy and other places in a very different story structure for "Batgirl: Endgame" artist Bengal.

Spinning off of "Batgirl" comes the unexpected "Black Canary" series with artst Annie Wu. The series sees the longtime DC hero team up with a touring indie rock band. "It was a joke at first," Fletcher said of the series pitch. He and "Batgirl" co-writer Cameron Stewart were creating a tone and style for the Burnside neighborhood of Gotham including fake bands that would be popular in the area. In one of the early covers for "Batgirl," there was a sticker for a joke band included on the character's mirror called Ashes on Sunday, and that idea morphed into this new book. Fletcher said the band should sound like "Siouxsie and the Banshees meets the Yeah Yeah Yeahs."

"Gotham Academy" welcomes guest artist Hellen Chen -- an animator and director who worked on Disney's "Big Hero Six" -- for issue #7. Fletcher called it, "20 pages of Damian and Maps going head to head, and it gets ugly. I'll say that." The writer said that after that, issue #8 will bring the action back to Olive as she confronts her big brother Kyle. "Issue #8 is all about what's going on with the rest of the family -- Kyle in particular -- and how that all relates to Olive."

Seeley said that "Grayson" will hit the ground running after the April/May break as new Spyral leader Helena sends Dick Grayson on a mission that will bring him into direct contact with Lex Luthor -- the man who killed him in "Forever Evil." Seeley talked about the collaborative process between himself and co-writer Tom King, saying that the reason they were put together on the book was that two different DC editors offered each of them the job independently. When the mistake was realized, the writers were paired up. Since then, the two have worked together to challenge each other while keeping a consistent tone across issues.

Discussing the origin of the series as rooted in the work of Grant Morrison, Seeley and Fletcher agreed that the reason they're all working on Batman comics now is because Cameron Stewart drew the issue of "Batman Incorporated" focusing on Stephanie Brown undercover at an assassins school. His work there put him on the radar of Bat Editor Mark Doyle to reinvent Barbara Gordon.

Gleason spoke about "Robin, Son of Batman," saying that the unexpected nature of the character has made him the perfect outlet for his first full writing gig. The new take on Damian Wayne pairs him with a massive monster called Goliath who may or may not be a Man-Bat. "You're going to see Damian. There's going to be swords. And there's going to be...stuff," he said cryptically teasing Damian's May eight-pager.

Valentine compared her first arc of "Catwoman" to Fletcher's thoughts on "Batgirl" -- it was a story meant to firmly put this character in her new status quo. With that done, Selina Kyle will pick back up the mantle of Catwoman for a fresh new start within her mob boss trappings. "I loved the idea of her as a mob boss. She's been such an independent character for so long that even putting her in that situation is interesting for her," she said. "She's trying to rebuild Gotham from some of the events of 'Batman Eternal' -- and she's doing very well, but the question is how much of herself she's leaving behind."

Coming up in issue #42 is a rematch between Catwoman and Spoiler which promises to complicate the already harsh dynamic between the pair after they met in "Batman Eternal."

As the floor opened up to fan questions, and the first was about whether Killer Croc would keep his role as Catwoman's body guard as he was in "Eternal." Valentine played coy on the issue -- hinting that there are plans to address that character in her book eventually.

Fletcher spoke to Black Canary's return to her fish-nets look. He said that it made sense in a book like "Birds of Prey" that was all about secret missions for her to wear armor. But now that the Canary is on stage in a band, her original look makes sense. However, "Because she's a stage performer, things won't remain static. We'll keep the base of the fish-nets, but there will be different looks from issue to issue," he said.

A fan asked whether the Canary book would draw inspiration from the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" story "Hard Traveling Heroes," and Fletcher said, "This is the first time somebody has asked me about this, but that was in the pitch. It said, 'This is the female version of Hard Traveling Heroes.'"

The panel wrapped by discussing the relationships between the characters in their books, and the panel generally agreed that the scene everyone wants to write is the reconnection between Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson, but for now that relationship is far from making it to the page. The "Batgirl" Annual will "not be the story people want on that front" said Fletcher.

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