What do Lady Shiva, Dick Grayson and writer Tom DeFalco have in common?
All three collide in issues #13 and #14 of DC Comics' "Nightwing" as DeFalco and artist Andres Guinaldo introduce the assassin-for-hire to Gotham City in a tale involving mystery, mayhem and a potential murder!
On the eve of introducing the New 52 version of Lady Shiva, DeFalco flagged down THE BAT SIGNAL from the darkest corners of Gotham to speak about his issues, including his contributions in plotting "Nightwing" #0's story and why he choose to explore the deadly martial arts master in his two-parter.
CBR News: So you're hopping into "Nightwing" for some fill-in issues after the #0 issue!
Tom DeFalco: On "Nightwing" I'm a temporary guy, just helping out.
So you're just coming on to tell a two-issue story.
Yeah, issues #13 and #14 are a two-issue story. It picks up from the #0, where I pitched in to help with the plot. In that issue we deal with the original origin of Nightwing, and in the course of that we bring in the New 52 version of a familiar character to be the villain, who he then faces in #13 and #14! Since the issues are already advertised, I guess I can tell you that the villain is Lady Shiva.
In pitching in to help with the #0 issue, did you have any conversations with the series' regular writer Kyle Higgins about the character and his approach?
I mainly dealt with editor Brian Cunningham, but I read every issue of "Nightwing" Kyle has done for the New 52. So I did my research and spoke to Brian and dealt with him -- I thought I was just helping out on that one plot and then I was just going to disappear from "Nightwing," but I guess Kyle needed some time, so I jumped in!
How did you end up being the writer to bring Lady Shiva into the New 52 in these three issues rather than tackling a story involving a different foe from Nightwing's past or an all-new one?
You know, I'm not really sure. I think we had a big discussion -- the people I was talking with were Brian Cunningham and Katie Kubert, and the three of us sat around and tossed out all sorts of possibilities and discussed different characters, what would be interesting, which character should we use, this or that. I remembered Brian said at one point, "You know, the character I always loved was Lady Shiva." And then Katie talked of a different character with a ponytailed weapon. She described it to me and I said, "Wow, that is a really cool weapon!" [Laughs] So Brian made the call to give Shiva that other character's weapon to make her more a visual threat. Then, I guess Brian discussed it with Mike Marts and the other Bat people and we decided to go with Lady Shiva.
Up until now, you've been focusing on writing a big chunk of the teen side of the DCU. This is your first time writing a Bat character in Gotham...
Yeah, this is the first time I've ever dealt with a Bat or Bat-family thing! I think I get to do the teen books because I'm probably, at least in spirit, the most immature guy who works for DC right now. [Laughs] I fit right in with the teens because I'm very petulant and unappreciative and have all the personality traits of a teenager! That's why I deal with the teen books! I think this is the first time I've ever actually had the ability to work with a Bat character. This is all new for me!
It must be a fun change to get to write someone who's the opposite of a petulant teen, then!
Yes! He's the most adult [DC Comics] character I've had to deal with thus far.
What's going on in your issues and the origin #0 issue of "Nightwing?" Why is Lady Shiva involved in Dick's world?
That's what Nightwing wants to find out! When Lady Shiva shows up, it always means someone is going to die because she's one of the deadliest and most expensive assassins in the world. Nightwing has to figure out who's going to die and "How do I stop it?" Therein lies the crux of both issues.
How is this Lady Shiva different from the pre-New 52 versions?
I think you got to wait until the #0 issue first to see why, but this Lady Shiva is very different, but has the same traits in this completely new version of the character.
The Bat group of books are soon going to be involved in Scott Snyder's big Joker storyline. Will your issues segue into "Death Of The Family?"
My two issues reflect what is going on in the Batman books. I think that's the easiest way I can say it. They are aware of what's going on, and they reflect it. If you are reading the other books, you'll see how "Nightwing" fits in. If you are not reading the other books, you will know something else is going on in the other books, but it won't lessen your understanding of this book. It dances on a delicate tightrope!
My basic philosophy is, if you're going by one issue of a comic book, that issue should tell you everything you need to know about that issue. It may have intriguing tidbits that may try to lure you into other books, but that issue itself should give you all the information you need to enjoy that issue, like the way novels work.
With these two issues, you're working with artist Andres Guinaldo -- what do you see Andres bringing to the table in terms of depicting Dick Grayson and the new Lady Shiva?
It's my first time working with him, but I hope it's not my last. He did a fabulous job. Andres understands visual storytelling and I can see that he's an artist who's got all the illustrative techniques and also the ability to translate words into pictures -- exciting pictures! That's -- especially in comics, that sounds very cliche, but you'd be surprised how many artists don't understand that as an artist, you're a visual storyteller and you have to tell the story in the most exciting way you can. It's always a pleasure to deal with someone who does understand the basic concept.
Now that you've got a taste of "Nightwing," would you want to come in to do more fill-in issues or take on different parts of Gotham?
Oh, yes! There's a lot of fun stuff! [Laughs] You know, every writer in the industry -- well, many writers in the industry would all say the same thing. It's a great playground to jump into!
Did you find yourself having a favorite part of Gotham or favorite character?
I'm an incurable flirt. I have a tendency to fall in love with characters. I can already see as I was working on this, I could see why, wow, Nightwing is such a really cool character and is so different from Batman! [Laughs] I can just see why he's been so popular for so many years. I love the relationship between him and Lady Shiva. I already threw a couple of ideas to Brian that maybe they'll use, maybe they won't use, in the future that could deal with Nightwing and Lady Shiva and maybe would be a fun thing for all the Bat books to get involved in!
So you're already planting seeds for your return to Gotham!
I'm just throwing out the seeds! This is Kyle's book, let Kyle take those seeds and have fun with them if he wants to. [Laughs] I'm very happy to come up with ideas and throw them out there, and if people want to use them, fine, and if they don't, fine. I love creative challenges!
"Nightwing" #0 goes on sale September 19; DeFalco's issue #13 releases October 17.