By Jorge Solis (email@example.com) | Jun 12, 2015 03:00 PM EDT
With a revamped style and a new creative team in the New 52, DC Entertainment brings readers Batgirl Vol.1: The Batgirl of Burnside. In an exclusive interview with MStars News, artist Babs Tarr, co-writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher dish on Barbara Gordon’s new look and how she became Gotham’ City’s first viral vigilante.
As we previously mentioned, in her first volume, Barbara Gordon, the daughter of police commissioner Jim Gordon, is ready for a fresh start. With college just around the corner, Barbara packs her bags, crosses the bridge, and heads out to Gotham’s trendiest neighborhood, Burnside. But what will people think of Batgirl when she becomes a social media phenomenon?
With The Batgirl of Burnside out in comic book shops, the Batgirl creative team discusses how the project came together, Black Canary’s guest appearance, and how personal the first volume means to them.
MStars News: Tell me about reinventing Batgirl with her own entourage, her own look, and new villains.
Cameron Stewart: I was approached a couple years ago by the editor of Batgirl at the time who wanted to really shake it up and do something a lot different. The book had been pretty dark for a few years since the relaunch. I wanted to go really fun, pop, light with it. And that’s kind of appropriate for the character I felt like.
Batgirl is at her best when she is more of a contrast to Batman, then kind of just like another version of Batman. One of my first questions when it was offered to me, “Is it okay if I basically change things about it; and change the costume, change the tone, and change everything?”
And eventually ,because of some other commitments, I wasn’t able to work on it full time. But what I realized was I needed find an artist to work, with so that I could still be involved and kind of showrun it a bit, but have some collaborators on it.
Is that how Babs Tarr and Brendan Fletcher became involved?
CS: I found Babs online and her work had exactly the fun, pop, vibrant look that I wanted. I thought would be really appealing to a younger female audience, which is what I really wanted to direct the book towards. And the new approach was just making it more youthful, making it more relevant to a mid teenage/early 20s female audience, and that was instrumental in the book.
When Brendan came on as my co-writer, we were most like our test market. She was the person who we figured would be our ideal reader. We were kind of writing for her and people like her.
MS: What I really liked was that Burnside feels like another character, especially with the social media component. Was that to update her to modern times and make her relatable to a younger demographic?
Brenden Fletcher: I don’t think it was a consideration about relatability. First of all, it was a way of communicating information. It was a stylistic choice to not have a voiceover narration. Voiceover narration in comics is quite often a tool for relaying expository information to the reader and we didn’t want to go that route.
We wanted to build around characters, friendships, and conflicts. The expository information that we needed to get out, which is just sort of a mechanical necessity of storytelling, would be given to the reader through the means of social media.
And it just really makes sense because Barbara Gordon, as we’re writing her as she was introduced in the New 52, is a 21 year old young woman. I don’t know about you, but every 20 year old I know is on social media, through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter.
Babs Tarr: But not even 20 year olds though, it’s like everybody is on it. It’s relatable to everybody, not even just young people.
MS: Tell me about the message behind social media in society.
BF: It is how we live now. it’s what the culture is. So we’re just honestly reflecting modern culture. And that I think gives Burnside a slightly different feel and that wasn’t really our intention necessarily but I think it might be a possible side effect and good one. But we did spend a lot of time developing aspects of this brighter girl of Gotham to give it its own unique feel. We developed brands, we developed locations, and this is something we’re continuing to do. We’re pretty excited about getting a chance to expand the world of Gotham City.
MS: I liked how the volume contains illustrations that show the readers the creative process. Tell me about collecting all the artwork for the first volume.
BT: That’s a lot of my early sketches and concept art for characters; the girls and the guys I really wanted to build. I feel like so much about a person is how they present themselves. You can really read somebody that way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in comics before where you could look at a character and be like, “That’s their personality!”
I really wanted to bring that to the book. It was really important to me I feel like it always jarred me when someone was wearing something that was silly and I was trying to get to the moment. You get out of it when you see this weird outfit that wouldn’t match that character’s personality; so I built on all these boards.
The boys, Brendan and Cameron, would always tell me what the characters’ personalities were. I would build their style based on that. I had boards for each of the girls and even for Burnside. I had boards for interesting-looking people and characters that operate the background. Burnside itself had its own personality, from the style of buildings and stuff that’d you see. We really tried to world build more than I think you would see in an average comic.
MS: What I also liked about the comic was your action sequences; how they’re very visual and there wasn’t a lot of dialogue. Tell me about these silent scenes?
BT: In the action scenes, that was very collaborative. Cameron was doing the layouts for this volume. So any fancy action stuff that you loved, that’s all credit to Cameron.
BF: Cameron’s a friend and he’s my collaborator, but I will say this outside of that, he is legitimately one of the best action choreographers working in comics today.
Seriously, I really feel like I’m honestly in awe of these action layouts that Cameron would send in. I stopped even trying to write for them afterwards. I can’t even offer anything compared to what he brings to the table it’s incredible. He does such a great job on those.
MS: Tell me about the relationship between Barbara and Black Canary. At first, their relationship is a bit rocky.
BF: Well they’re like sisters, Barbara and Dinah. They almost have a sibling relationship. They’re very close. What you’re seeing there is Dinah’s disappointment in her little sister.
And siblings don’t always communicate in a very straightforward way. That was Dinah’s attempt to try to get through to Barbara.
It might have been a little snarkier than she would communicate with people that she didn’t feel that close to. But it was definitely the push and pull of a sibling relationship. It was one we thought was kind of fun to toy with and one that we knew that we were going to move to resolution at the end of the arc.
Spoiler alert! It gives you a great feeling when you see the two ladies rekindling their friendship and joining forces to battle the bad guy at the end.
This is your first work together as a creative team. What does this volume mean to each of you?
BF: It means everything to m! I’ve worked in comics before but this kind of kicked my career, the modern portion of my career, in a big way! It’s also the marker of a great bond of friendship. We’re now this tea!, I feel like me, Cameron, Babs forever will be a team. We’ll always do comics together.
BT: I’m so excited for this! I’ve never done anything like this ever before! To have become a name that people can say in a comic shop! They know what I do and who I am is pretty surreal I’m so glad to be a part of this and to continue for this really cool thing that I think makes the world a better place.
I was so under the radar and now I’m getting to write stills, make cool things, and help bring more ladies to comics.I’m really proud of it! I’m really excited for it! I hope everyone reads it!
CS: That was a big thing for me too! I’ve been friends with Brendan for a really long time. I was able to work with my friend and I was able to find Babs. She wasn’t not doing anything. She was already quite well known as an illustrator, but she’s never done comics before.
For me, it’s a great feeling to introduce her to the comics world. She’s become a superstar now. And I’m really proud of that! I’m proud of being able to have helped out in that way and bring her to a bigger audience!
And I’m also really proud of how this book seems to have been instrumental in a philosophical shift at DC to look at doing other kinds of books, exploring other genres and other styles. And I can’t help but feel like we’re partly responsible for that. That’s an exciting thing to know that the work that we’re doing is having an effect in that way as well!
MS: Tell me about topping yourselves in the second volume.
BF: I think that the second volume is going to be a great shift from what we were doing. It’s sort of a natural outgrowth of what we’ve done with the first arc. The first arc was really clarifying a new direction for Barbara Gordon’s life and for Batgirl. The second volume is about her really being able to enjoy being Batgirl again. And maybe exploring some major arcs for her supporting cast. It’s going to be a very different feel.
MS: What other projects are you working on now?
BT: I’m still on Batgirl.
BF: I’m continuing to co-write Gotham Academy with Becky Cloonan and my new series Black Canary illustrated by Annie Wu debuts on June 17. That series actually springboards straight out of the conclusion of this collected Batgirl volume 1
CS: And I am illustrating Fight Club 2.
In comic shops now, Batgirl Vol.1: The Batgirl of Burnside arrives in book stores, through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, on June 17, 2015.