Just after the conclusion of 'The Joker War' event across DC's Batman line, the long-running Batgirl series will come to a conclusion with this week's Batgirl #50.
Writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Emanuela Lupacchino lead an over-sized series finale that aims to leave Barbara Gordon in a good place as this chapter of her life ends.
Before Batgirl #50 hits comic books stands on October 27, Newsarama had the chance to chat with Castellucci about the series' finale. We discuss how Barbara's pivotal relationships will be affected, Barbara's connection to the political side of Gotham, and the first comic book appearance of The CW's Ryan Wilder.
Newsarama: Cecil, how long in the plotting process did you know Batgirl #50 would be the last of the series?
Cecil Castellucci: I knew that the end for Batgirl was coming for a long time because I knew that there was going to be a new thing that was coming at the end of this year. But, of course, there have been a lot of changes and upheavals recently, so the end came an issue or two earlier than I thought.
I think it's great that we got to go to issue 50 and to get Batgirl/Barbara to a good place for the baton to be passed down the line. The goal for me here was to set up a lot of threads that could be pulled on.
And, of course, even though she won't have her own title for now, it's not like Batgirl is going away! I'm going to wager that we'll see her in other Bat-stories. And, when she's ready to take the spotlight again, she'll be ready to do it with sass and style.
Nrama: This arc, in particular, has really focused on the Gordon family. How will Jim and Babs deal with the ramifications of James' death?
Castellucci: In the end, I felt like I couldn't end a Batgirl run and have her and Commissioner Gordon apart and on the outs. Especially because throughout her run, and throughout her history, Jim Gordon is the most important man in her life—beating out Batman and Dick Grayson (although those guys are obviously very important).
James Jr. is such a complicated character with a dark history. His narrative path has always been very complex. James has been trying to make changes in his life, but is still being used as a pawn. I think his demise is very tragic and heartbreaking and that it brings a lot of grief and tension to Babs and her father. But, Babs definitely has taken in what happened and has learned from her relationship with her brother especially in regard to mental illness. I think since she is a character full of empathy and capacity for growth, she'll take that forward with her.
Nrama: What was it like tying into a big event like 'The Joker War' while still balancing these very personal narratives for Babs?
Castellucci: It's no easy feat! But that's the gig! My hope for Babs after 'The Year of the Villain' and her encounter with Oracle Robot was for her to really look at the patterns that she had in herself and to try change things up a little bit; say yes to things that she would say no to.
I think that's why she is able at this recent encounter with the Joker to say "No, not today. You don't get to dictate how this goes." And that's why she has allowed for a little bit of room for Jason in her life.
But ultimately, all these personal stories tie into the bigger stories. How she feels about her trauma, how she feels about her legacy, how she feels about her family (blood and bat) and how she feels about Gotham. (You can read about my thoughts on Joker and Batgirl encounter here).
Nrama: One thread that has been seen throughout your run is the relationship between Babs and Jason Bard. What can we expect from them here?
Castellucci: If you know Batgirl's history, from the get-go, in the Bronze Age, Jason Bard was Batgirl's best boyfriend. He was a total stand-up guy, a Vietnam vet, who respected both Babs and Batgirl. Jason was already set up when I came to the book and I saw him as a real opportunity for growth in Barbara.
In this 'Rebirth' era, she and him have a very fraught beginning and they have both really harmed each other. You want to have some personal stuff going on with characters, and for me (for us! I include my editors Brittany Holzherr and Jessica Chen in this!) it was a good chance to have Babs really dig into her own darkness and her own light. Allowing Jason in was a natural way to do something radically different in her life. It also ties into how Babs/Batgirl must consider what growth and redemption and amends looks like.
I think the world is wide open for Barbara, and I think that you'll see she's trying to make a great life for herself on her own terms.
Nrama: Babs' secret identity has been putting a strain on both her relationships with Jason and her father. Does this continue to affect Babs in the finale?
Castellucci: 100% yes. Babs has a lot to think about, especially as she contemplates how she can really be of service to Gotham in an authentic fashion. And what the cost of not telling those she loves. This is another way that I think James Jr.'s death really affected her.
Nrama: What made you want to bring a political element into Barbara Gordon's life?
Castellucci: Once again, this goes back to her own history as a character.
In the Bronze Age, Barbara Gordon becomes the youngest congresswoman (and one of the only ones). She was like the AOC of her time. So having her work for a congresswoman now and thinking more about politics was a very natural move for her as a character.
I think one of the strongest elements of Babs/Batgirl as a character is that she is always looking for ways to be a hero: librarian, Batgirl, Oracle, civil servant; they are all ways to be of service to the community.
I also think that right now, in this world, at this time, we have politics on our minds a lot. And I do think that the arts reflect the world. I really wanted to leave Batgirl with many different options of how she could be a hero moving forward. Who knows! Maybe she'll be Mayor of Gotham when she's older! That'd be rad.
Regardless of what she does, she's heroic. And she lives in Gotham and no matter where you live, politics affect how you can help those in need.
P.S. Everybody please go vote.
Nrama: You have a couple of back-up stories in Batgirl #50. Tell us about those - what made you want to include these stories into your finale?
Castellucci: I am very excited about the back-up stories 'Stay Centered' drawn by Marguerite Sauvage and 'Games Night' drawn by Aneke. It was a way to have Batgirl's main story end, but to add other elements of things that are of concern to her. How she moves forward as a person in the DC Universe. They are about the importance of remembering that you are the star of your own story and how you can build your team and think to the future. For me, these two stories are key to Batgirl's new future, whatever that may be.
Nrama: The new CW Batwoman lead makes her first appearance in this comic, what made you want to include Ryan Wilder in Batgirl #50? Any more plans for Ryan?
Castellucci: Oh I wish! If I had more issues then I would have loved to have had Ryan Wilder stitched in there. Batgirl has a history of helping other Bats, and I think DC Comics felt that introducing her in Batgirl was a natural fit.
I just love the idea of Batgirl having a slight connection with Ryan as a wild kid she knew. And I hope that leaves room for them to connect in the future in whatever medium. It was a real honor to be asked if I thought I could fit Ryan in: I was totally game. And I can't wait to see how Ryan Wilder/Batwoman blooms.
Nrama: As a whole, what did you enjoy the most about working on Batgirl?
Castellucci: What I love about Batgirl is how resilient she is. Her capacity for care is huge and so many characters in the DC Universe rely on her. She's steady, loyal, smart, capable, and no-nonsense. She also is willing to change. She's just amazing.
I also loved all the artists that I worked with: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Cian Tormey, Robert Rodriguez, Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage, and Aneke. The great thing about Batgirl is that she is beloved, and all the artists brought their love of the character to the page.
Nrama: Would you like to work on Batgirl again when/if the title returns?
Castellucci: I will always write Batgirl again. Anytime. I think she's wonderful.