As DC Comics prepares its move out West with the DC Universe-spanning event "Convergence," former Vertigo Editor Alisa Kwitney is planning her own move into a freelance writing life. A longtime fixture at the mature readers imprint going back to her work on Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman," Kwitney will complete a transformation into mainstream superhero writer over the next several months with the two-issue miniseries "Convergence: Batgirl" launching in April followed by a brand-new ongoing series "Mystic U" in June.
"I had a dream last night that I was back at Vertigo, talking to [Executive Editor] Shelly Bond, and I wasn't sure if we were in NYC or Burbank," the writer told CBR News. "Then I went into a room with a false wall and pressed on a hidden panel and it opened into my house in Rhinebeck, with ice and snow everywhere, and my cat and my dog waiting for me. And that's kind of what it's like right now, at least for me."
But even as the changes at DC swirl around her, Kwitney is working to establish her style with some fan-favorite characters lost after the publisher's 2011 New 52 reboot: Batgirls Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, aided by Red Robin Tim Drake. The story features the trio of young adult heroes facing down the invading forces of Grodd and Catman from the "Flashpoint" world with Stephanie front and center.
"I'm a big believer in different kinds of intelligence, and I wanted to show what it is about Stephanie that makes her a uniquely effective Batgirl," the writer explained, noting that meant the story would put Steph into conflict with Cass. "I think, in general, Stephanie's a pretty confident character. But there's no getting around the fact that Cassandra is a better fighter, and I wanted to address that issue head on."
But just because there's some conflict in the offing, it doesn't mean the core of the story isn't about the connection these characters share. Kwitney explained that her dynamic for the trio is inspired in some ways by Terry Moore's classic indie comic "Strangers In Paradise." "I think Tim and Cass are integral to Steph's story. And I like triangles. One of the things that 'SIP' does so well is set up a triangle where friendship causes as much tension as romance. I think people are used to seeing bromance in comics and films, but there isn't even a word for the female equivalent. Sismance? Womance?"
In the end, the story will hinge on Stephanie Brown's journey, showing the final version of a character who went from Spoiler to Robin to Batgirl over her years as a DCU fixture. "For me, this was a story about someone who started out with more chutzpah than ability, and then she became aware of the competition and she trained and she got better, but she also lost some of her mojo. That emotional thread was my through line," Kwitney said.
This story isn't the first time the writer has set foot in Gotham or into the lives of these particular characters. Kwitney previously wrote a story during the "No Man's Land" era of Bat Family comics that introduced Cassandra Cain. However, that experienced didn't exactly factor into the writer landing on "Convergence: Batgirl." At least she doesn't think so. "I wrote 'The Message' with artist Michael Zulli. It's collected in volume three [of 'No Man's Land'], and it's about an ordinary guy called Jason who loved Gotham too much to leave right after the earthquake, only to find himself trapped in a nightmare city that's started to talk inside his head," she explained. "While this plot might resonate with DC editors as they prepare to leave Manhattan for good, that's not the real reason I was hired for 'Convergence.' The real reason is that Marie Javins and I worked together on some Marvel Prose novels, and she called me up. Of course, Gotham might have been whispering to her..."
Whatever the path, Kwitney doesn't seem phased by the fact that she's been tapped to write a pair of characters that are amongst the most requested for a return by DC Comics fans. "To be honest, I spent most of my time worrying about the logistics of the big fight," she said. "I began plotting my storyline while the big storyline was still being put together, and I wasn't sure about the timing of things. I chose to have Cassandra and Tim in my story because it felt meaty and interesting and right, and I enjoy writing character-driven scenes. So [fan response] didn't worry me at all...at least, not while I was writing it!"
Alongside Kwitney for the ride is veteran superhero artist Rick Leonardi, and the writer is thankful for it. "Rick isn't just a brilliant artist, he's an incredible storyteller. He does fantastic big action scenes, but he also knows how to convey the nuances of small emotional moments. And last but not least, he made a couple of suggestions to the end of issue one that made the book work better. I would love to work with him again."
And looking at Kwitney's future, she may have her chance. "Convergence: Batgirl" represents just the first step in her life as a freelance comics writer, and she's working to bring her years of experience behind the scenes to the job as she moves forward into DC's new line of books. "As an editor, I tried to recognize and nurture talent without imposing too much of my own sensibility. As a writer, I get to tell stories, and I have a fondness for human stories with inhuman elements, and a touch of wryness," she said.
For readers wondering what kind of comics she'll make next, Kwitney points them toward the kinds of books she absorbed as a young comics reader as well as the ones she edited. "Growing up, I read all kinds of comics, but my favorites were horror titles like 'The House of Mystery' and weird genre hybrids like 'PLOP' and the original 'Outsiders,'" she explained. "Working on 'The Sandman' and 'Books of Magic' certainly influenced me, but so did Peter Milligan's brilliant 'Shade the Changing Man.' I've never worked with Terry Moore, but 'Strangers in Paradise' is a huge influence."
"Convergence: Batgirl" #1 ships on April 8 from DC Comics.