The newly-plural Batgirls - Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and their mentor Barbara Gordon AKA Oracle AKA the original Batgirl trademark holder - finally get their own new ongoing series in December after months of teasing by DC.
But the series creative team of co-writers Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad and artist Jorge Corona are getting together for a dress rehearsal in October 19's Batman #15 for the start of a three-part Batgirls backup story laying the groundwork for the new series.
Newsarama's got your first preview of pages from part one, and since we were thinking about the Batgirls anyway, the writing team of Cloonan and Conrad took a few of our questions about the story and the upcoming new series.
Cloonan and Conrad talk about Babara's role in the series, how what they're going for is the "most beautiful chaos," and hey, guess what, Batgirls isn't just for "young readers"... it's about young characters for a wide audience.
Newsarama: Becky Michael, first off, let's establish something of a baseline here.
Batman #115 obviously begins to set up Batgirls #1 in December and the solicitation for the issue refers to Barbara as Oracle and a mentor to the Batgirls. Is 'Batgirls' referring to Steph and Cassandra with the mantle formally passed down to them or should readers still consider Barbara a third Batgirl?
And as Oracle, Batgirl, or both … do you consider Barbara as a third lead character of this new title, or does she play more of a supporting role?
Becky Cloonan: Babs does embody an Oracle role on this team, but that doesn’t make her any less of a Batgirl. She’s the oldest of the three, and has been through a hell of a lot - but I don’t know if that's something you can ever retire from - I've always thought of it as once a Batgirl, always a Batgirl! You can take other codenames, new costumes, but putting on a mantle that heavy is something that stays with you.
Michael Conrad: Yeah, I've seen folks present it like Oracle and Batgirl are mutually exclusive and that both cannot exist at the same time. Maybe people will see things differently when we explore that dynamic a bit.
Nrama: Speaking of monikers, there has been the Birds of Prey, there has been the Gotham Sirens, there is always the option of just a 'Spoiler & Orphan" (ala Batman & Robin) or a new team name - so why Batgirls?
Is that purely a marketing decision given the value of the name? How do you view why Stephanie and Cassandra are adopting her name like they are?
Cloonan: Being a Batgirl is what connects these characters! It’s a stronger bond than just donning a cowl, or being on the same team - they're family. Spoiler and Orphan will always be a part of who Stephanie and Cassandra are, just as how a part of Babs will always be Oracle. But calling the book Spoiler, Orphan and Oracle is kind of a mouthful, right? I mean, not to knock your idea - but Batgirls is a way better title. And at their core, it's who these characters are. Each of them was a Batgirl before they were anything else.
Conrad: Batgirls also represents a unity. Part of this book is about exploring friendship, and how individuals exist within a group. Each of the girls has their own way of navigating life and vigilantism (you know, normal growing up stuff [laughs]). Together the girls are balanced, in this way they need each other's support to become the best versions of themselves.
Nrama: On that note let's talk about them as individuals first.
While in comic book terms young characters, neither Steph nor Cass is a new character. They have established histories and have gone through a lot of changes since their introductions.
Can you give readers your take on what makes each character special/unique? What draws you to them/what stands out for you as writers?
Let's start with Cassandra...
Conrad: Cass was raised on a steady diet of violence, by violence. Everything about her character is defined by neglecting other parts of her. She is a tiny weapon, but she’s learning that she’s far more than what was intended for her.
Nrama: And now about Stephanie...
Conrad: Steph is a seemingly well-adjusted and kind person. In many ways, she's the inverse of Cass. Steph's wounds are less visible because she has coped with a troubled early life by overcompensating, presenting as something she's not… While Cass is almost incapable of emotional deception, Steph is defined by it.
Nrama: I've been doing this for some time now and I don't think even a couple of years ago DC would have put out a series description that read "sings with the energy of the Linda Lindas rocking out to 'Claudia Kishi.'"
Now I don't mind admitting I had to Google that when I first read it, which speaks to the fact DC is trying to reach out to demos they might not have just a few years ago. I assume you don't want to put a limit on the audience you're trying to appeal to, but can you talk about trying to reach an audience that mainstream publishers didn't try to appeal to that directly just a few years ago?
Cloonan: So much of the energy is what Jorge Corona and colorist Sarah Stern are bringing to the book. It's wild, bright, loud, and like, the most beautiful chaos you've ever seen. Also, if you haven't heard the Linda Lindas' song, Claudia Kishi, do yourself a favor and cue it up!
Nrama: Well, I have now...
Conrad: We hope to capture the days when sleep was optional, and adventure was not something we would see as a problem. Making bad choices, taking a shot at the impossible, dreaming. There's energy in youth that lends itself well to superheroes..
Nrama: Speaking of creative energy, do you approach the storytelling in a way that's different than you might for the main Wonder Woman title or your Midnighter stories?
Conrad: Our style of collaboration is consistent across the variety of characters we have been responsible for. First comes a ton of research and discussion. During this time we further fall in love with the characters and empathize with them. Then we just collect the ideas and formulate them into something we hope is worth reading. We try not to make rules, or parameters, we just focus on what we believe the characters need, and if we can fill those needs we will give it our best effort.
Nrama: Well, without getting into rules or parameters, how is Batgirls going to distinguish itself from what is now a very large family of Batman and Batman-related titles?
Conrad: We don’t really consider how to be different, because we know that inevitably it will be. Becky and I often feel like outsiders… we'll write stuff that we think is "normal" and realize quickly that our "normal" is often, quite odd.
That said, our book will focus on three women who have all the pieces needed to allow any of them to shoulder a solo book. Together, there's a ton that we can give that won't look or feel like what is being offered by the other lovely Gotham books.
Nrama: On the flip side, how integrated will Batgirls be with Batman and the rest of the Bat-family titles? The girls will be in Gotham, so can readers expect when big Gotham City storylines like 'Fear State' come around Batgirls will be involved?
Will Bat-stalwarts like Dick, Tim, Damian, Bruce, etc. be regular presences in the book?
Cloonan: If Dick, Tim, Damian, or Bruce ever want to be a Batgirl, we will be more than happy to write them into the book as main characters!
Nrama: I'd read that!
Conrad: When it makes sense, really. In writing characters people love there are always fans of other characters that hope this will be an opportunity to get some content featuring their favorites. Our central concern is making sure Babs, Cass, and Steph have room to do their thing… But we're fans too! We want to bring in a ton of characters, with enough time we have stories for them all! Gotham is a "small town."
Nrama: Before I let you go, I've got to ask you about Seer, the 'Anti-Oracle,' who it seems is being set up as something of Barbara/the Batgirls arch-foe. Is that a fair assumption? What can you tell readers about Seer, who in Batman #115 identifies herself as a "she?"
Cloonan: Why is it that the scariest characters are the most fun to write?
Conrad: There are many reasons to be wary of technology. We all love our devices, interconnectivity, easy access to the people we love, etc. Early on we learn that it's also a place of cyberbullying, data mining, trolling, and a battery of other avenues of abuse and disinformation. Seer is the embodiment of these real concerns…
What's worse, Seer is just one among many issues that the Batgirls will be up against when we really get cooking. So yeah… preheat the oven, we've got some tasty treats on the way.
Nrama: So then finally, how about I just to turn the floor over to you guys. Is there anything you want readers to know about the Batgirls in Batman #115 and/or the upcoming new ongoing series I didn't think to ask?
Conrad: I've seen speculation that this book targets young readers… to that I say… sure? We'll take 'em! But really, this book is about young characters, but it's written for a wide audience.
Also, we mentioned our amazing art collaborators, I just wanna make sure we also give some love to our long-suffering editors, Jessica Chen and Jessica Berbey, and our outstanding letterer Becca Carey.
Check out a gallery of Batman #115 covers below and check out why Babara Gordon is the heart of the Batman family.