An Interview Wherein I Try to Prove That I Will Not Someday be Played by Kathy Bates

April 5th, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

The trick with interviewing comics creators is not coming off like that kind of fan.  You know the one: the fan that takes things personally, gets overly involved in every story arc and character moment, and generally makes life miserable for anyone unlucky enough to get their attention. 

This is particularly hard when you most definitely are that kind of fan, especially when it comes to – oh, I don’t know, let me pick a character out of a hat – Batgirl.  I admit, when I came up to Bryan Q Miller, the current writer of Batgirl, I was bouncing on my heels a little.  Despite everything, though, he agreed to an interview.

The first thing I wanted to know was when he knew exactly which Batgirl he was going to be writing.  It would have been pretty funny if he had had to write the scripts first, then use the search and replace function to put in the right Batgirl’s name.

However, Miller was clear that “certain pieces were in place” when he started writing.  Among those were Stephanie and Barbara.  Since they came with extensive backstories, he had to do a lot of clearing the rubble of the past. 

“I tried to deal with continuity without bogging down issue number one,” he said.  He wanted to make it a book that anyone could pick up and read, about a rookie hero who was starting out.

Why then, I asked, would he put in Wendy, Calculator’s daughter?  I don’t even know much about Calculator’s daughter.

“We wanted Wendy to be a part of it,” he said.  So she was one of the pieces that were in place from the start of the book.  “We’ll see more of her in the Return of Calculator.”  [Interviewer’s Note:  I may be adding the capitalization here.  He made it sound important, though.] “By the time issue twelve comes out, Wendy will be part of Stephanie’s life. ”

That’s good, because due to her commitment to Birds of Prey, the character of Barbara might be backing off a little bit.  That one I can’t really support.  Look how many books Batman is still in, and the dude is dead.  Babs can spread her influence around, I think.  Still, Barbara Gordon will be in two books, and that I like.

One thing I didn’t like that much about the Batgirl series, was Stephanie’s physical incompetence.  Although she screwed up a lot in the past, most of her problems were failures of understanding, not of physical talent.  I may have used the word ‘pratfalls,’ during the interview.  I also said that Stephanie was a second-string hero in the Batworld.

“Some would say third-string,” Miller replied.  “Other would say that she was outside the restaurant watching the others eat.”

Hey.  He said it.  Not me.

I went on to say that really, there’s not much shame in coming in third, forth, or fifth to the other characters in the Batverse.  Bruce Wayne had the best of everything from the moment he was born.  Dick Grayson was born on a trapeze.  Tim Drake was trained by Batman and went to private school.  Barbara Gordon was basically a prodigy.  Miller agreed. 

It was here when I think the interview took a turn for the awkward.  I launched into an impassioned defense of Stephanie, mentioning her drug addicted mother, her second-rate criminal father, and  – here’s the kicker – a secret files and origins story which shows that she really looked up to her gymnastics coach in high school and he turned out to be a drug dealer.  What did people expect from a character who hadn’t had the advantages that anyone else had had, and anyway, in past continuity she was a better fighter than she was in her series.

Miller kept his cool.  Admirably, even.  It’s just, at this time, I think he saw that he was now dealing with more a fan-fan and less of an interviewer.  Perhaps in his mind’s eye, he pictured me with a two-by-four and a sledge hammer.

He kept going, though, saying that, yes, Stephanie at first made a lot of mistakes in Batgirl.  This was, in part, because he was writing the “archetypal” story about the rookie who steps up and trains to be a hero.  It was the first issue of the series, and if someone decided to pick it up, it would make more sense if she were uncoordinated.

He also wanted to stress that Batgirl is not Superman.  “She has human imperfection.  She’s max 100 lbs, and has to use her environment to her advantage.  I’m just acknowledging that these problems would exist.  She is capable of some bad-ass stuff, but she’s also vulnerable to getting knocked over.”

My last question, was about Nick Gage, Barbara’s new love interest.  It turns out that the name was a combination of two of his friends names.  So ladies, if you like what you see in Batgirl, there are two halves of a Nick Gage somewhere out there in the world.  In the last issue we learned that Gage has a deep dark secret.  I asked for hints.

“There’s a reason he transferred to Gotham.  It has to do with an old case.  If we make it past issue twenty-five, we’ll get into it.”

People; let us find out that mystery, keep Batgirl in the shelves, and reward Mister Miller for actually going with a deranged fan to a second location.  Make sure this book makes it to issue twenty-five.

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9 comments to “An Interview Wherein I Try to Prove That I Will Not Someday be Played by Kathy Bates”

  1. BQM was a cool dude in person, too bad he was a late addition or else I’d have gotten stuff signed.

  2. Haha, I am also that kind of fan, so you have my sympathies! Awesome interview, though.

    I gotta nitpick something: “She’s max 100 lbs

    What?! I’ll never understand why people assign female superheroes such arbitrarily low weights that don’t make sense for their heights at all. Steph has pretty much always been around the same height as Tim Drake. I’ve no idea what Tim’s weight’s supposed to be, but I’d wager it’s quite a bit higher than 100 lbs, and Steph should realistically fall somewhere in between. Cassandra Cain might weigh a hundred pounds, but she’s tiny and was a homeless drifter from ages 8 to 17 and so grew up malnourished. Muscle = weight, people.

  3. @Nathan: We was, indeed, very cool. He even thanked *me* for the interview at the end of it all.

    @Maddy: Thank you!

    Yes, I was going to pick that, too, but I’d already gone into a detailed history of the Batverse – so I decided to skip it.

    When I talk with my fan friends about Stephanie Brown we tend to stick to the early Stephanie, as she first appeared in Robin. There are several panels that show her as bigger than Tim, both in height and – ah – girth. I’ve always thought of her as more power-girl muscly to Tim little, slender guy.

    But discussing superhero build is a little like discussing superhero age. It never makes sense. It also follows certain conventions.

    As Tim got to be an Adult Superhero, he got about six inches taller and gained a lot of shoulder and chest muscle. As Stephanie got to be an Adult Superhero she lost the tomboy-big-girl look and turned into a cute little slip of a thing. Oh well.

  4. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: Well you ARE his most vocal supporter, plus you’ve gotten at least one person (yo) to spend money on his book.

  5. Yeah, I wondered briefly if he didn’t mean something like she can lift 100lbs max.

  6. @Maddy: Muscle does not equate to weight, as muscle tissue is actually much heavier than bodyfat.

    I took Steph’s pratfalls as a rookie Batgirl to be because there was nothing else to do with the character. I don’t think anyone could ever convince me she’s the current cowl-occupant for any reason other than everyone else had already been Batgirl and the alternative was creating another teenage girl who’d only end up padding the bodycount three years from now.

  7. I just want to say that your enthusiasm has convinced me to try out the new Batgirl.

  8. @Lugh: Score!

  9. @Esther Inglis-Arkell:

    It’s true, though I am happy that Marcus To does draw Tim as being leaner than your standard cookie-cutter superhero.

    @Al Loggins:

    Well, yes. By “muscle = weight”, I meant that a muscular person carries more weight than someone who is small or slender and not muscular. (I am also assuming that any non-powered superhero is fit and muscular, unless their superhero-ing doesn’t require physical exertion.)