Artist Babs Tarr and writer Brenden Fletcher visited the world famous CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego to sit down with CBR’s Kiel Phegley and discuss their upcoming run on DC Comics’ “Batgirl.” When the new team was first announced in early July along with co-writer Cameron Stewart, fan reaction wasn’t mixed — it was overwhelmingly positive — with much of the comments centered around how much they liked the new costume design for Barbara Gordon’s alter ego. Tarr, a newcomer to drawing comics, and Fletcher, who will also be co-writing “Gotham Academy” starting in October, discuss the reaction from fandom, how quickly people have started creating their own cosplay outfits of the costume and the book’s connection to “Academy.”
On the surprising positive reaction to the “Batgirl” announcement and Tarr’s costume design: “Cameron [Stewart] and I were fully aware that we were making choices that were different from the norm, just outside of the norms, and we knew that there would be a lot of discussion about it,” said Fletcher. “But we had no expectation of the reaction that we got.”
“This is completely new to me so whenever they make comic book announcements, I was either expecting like a lot of angry people to like no, really, commotion, and it just went the exact opposite,” said Tarr. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is getting kind of crazy. It’s trending on twitter. This is kinda neat.’ And my friends were like, ‘No, Babs. It’s not like this usually.’ [Laughs] This is absurd and it’s so different than how it usually goes down.”
“I’ve never seen — we’re not tooting our own horns here, this is just — I was just amazed to see that a comic book title was trending on twitter for over twelve hours, consistently on that day. I’ve never seen that before,” Fletcher added. “A lot of it is thanks to, we’ve worked hard on the story, characterization, finding a way to bring new life into the characters, but I think a lot of that excitement just came down to the work Cameron and Babs did redesigning Batgirl’s outfit and bringing some of that flavor that we’re giving to the story into the actual drawings of Batgirl.”
On how they plan to bring a unique tone and sensibility to the book while playing within the confines of the Broader DC Universe: “This is the same Barbara Gordon. She’s not younger, we haven’t de-aged her,” said Fletcher. “What we’ve done is provide the character a new set of circumstances. There’s a new part of the city that we haven’t really seen before in the Batman universe. It’s a younger part of town, I daresay it’s a gentrified part of town, and that — it’s a part of what we’re doing. We’re doing this with full knowledge of where we’re putting Barbara and what this means for the character and her past as a social activist and someone who’s very conscious of things like that. But where she is in her life right now, having gone through so many hardships, to provide her a moment where she feels like she can sit back and maybe breathe and feel like she can be young, feel like she can have a good time. She’s 21. She’s only 21.”
On “Batgirl’s” unique connection to “Gotham Academy” and whether they’ll be crossing over any time soon: “These books in a lot of ways are sister books, not just because I’m co-writing both of them, but because they both tell a part of kind of the same story, just as different ages,” Fletcher explained. “One of the characters in ‘Gotham Academy’ — coming of age, yeah — but some of the coming of age story happens to be like a high school year, or years in high school, and the other is like a grad student.
“I don’t want to give everything away. There aren’t going to be crossovers right now,” Fletcher continued. “You’re not going to see Barbara Gordon filling in, teaching a class at Gotham Academy. You’re not going to see any of the kids visiting Burnside immediately, which is the borough that Barbara has moved to. But what you will see is elements that we’re building up in the world, things like — without being specific — there are kind of images, brands maybe… There are thing from one of the books that will turn up in the other book. You’ll see a sort of cross-pollination there.”
On Tarr’s connection to the character and what it’s like to draw her first ongoing comic book series: “I haven’t read the ‘Batgirl’ story that’s out right now yet, but when I was little I watched the animated series,” said Tarr. “My Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, it’s not Steph or Cassandra. I’m kind of excited to get to portray the one that I know, and she’s so sassy and fun. It’s gonna be good.
“I’m having a blast,” Tarr continued. “Cameron’s giving me such great stuff to work with. He’s doing the layouts and then I’m going over and doing the pencils and the inks. They’re writing such a fun story I could not be happier. With like every page it’s making me laugh, or making me — it’s just all the way fun all-around. I’m having a really good time.”
On who else and what else readers can expect to see in this new approach to “Batgirl”: “Barbara is now in a place that we’re sort of considering for the time being to be sectioned off, and that’s to allow us to sort of build a life for her,” said Fletcher. “You’re gonna see some new supporting characters, and what you’re gonna see on the villains side is a whole new cast of very evil characters that Babs and Cameron are just killing it on the designs for. I can’t wait ’til we can show you guys what these villains look like! But we’re hoping to develop some iconic adversaries for “Batgirl.” Gail [Simone]’s done a great job building up a new set of adversaries for her over the last couple years and I think we wanna continue with that and really give Batgirl some characters that you can look back on as being her most wonderful [nemeses].”
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