Friday, June 11, 2010

Interview with Bryan Q. Miller

Thanks to Zaius, my foreign correspondent, for pointing me to this. Taken from Broken Frontier.

Debuting as the Spoiler as an antagonist for Tim Drake in Robin, Stephanie Brown's time in the DC Universe has been full of twists and turns. She was a short-lived Robin herself before her apparent death at the hands of the original Black Mask some years back. Since her return from the dead last year she has taken on the mantle of Batgirl, under the tutelage of Barbara Gordon, despite misgivings from much of the Batman Family. WIth a trade paperback collecting the first seven issues of her ongoing series coming out in July, Broken Frontier took some time out to chat with series writer Bryan Q. Miller about Stephanie's journey so far and what's coming up for her in the months ahead...

BROKEN FRONTIER: When Stephanie Brown first took over as Batgirl there was a certain degree of predictable discontent amongst the fans of Cassandra Cain, the previous incumbent in the role. Now that we are nearly a year into the Batgirl ongoing series how would you summarise where Steph is at as the new Batgirl and what she has achieved in that time? And do you feel you’re getting there in winning the old guard of Cassandra fans over?

BRYAN Q. MILLER: It all starts with Batgirl’s face – and that simply comes down to the costume. Cassandra kept it all covered up. What worked in Cassandra’s favor is that made her almost spectral, shadowy. Dangerous. But it also detracted from her humanity a little bit. Thanks to Lee Garbett and the host of art folk we’ve had giving him an assist here and there, Batgirl’s hopefully a little more street level, a little more human, and a little more relatable. Is she a bad-ass like Cassandra is? Not at that level, no. But that isn’t what the character of Stephanie Brown is about – she’s about hope in the face of self-inflicted and external adversity.

Do I hope that those who loved Cassandra can enjoy Stephanie’s adventure under the cowl? Absolutely! But I totally understand that, for them (just like for those that "grew up" with Babs), their Batgirl will always be their Batgirl. It’s the blessing and the curse of a legacy character. The reason we react and respond to the characters that we do has a lot to do with who we are when we’re first introduced to them. Just like there’s bound to be folk who will fall on their sword for Kyle Rayner over Hal Jordan, there’s always going to be a contingent who were raised on JLU on Cartoon Network and will forever see John Stewart as "their" Green Lantern.

BF: Throughout your run on Batgirl the book has seemed every bit as much Barbara Gordon’s title as Stephanie Brown’s. Will that dynamic change now with the return of Birds of Prey to the shelves? How much co-ordination will there be between yourself and Gail Simone in charting Barbara’s future? A crossover at some point would seem a natural event…

BQM: Gail is an immensely talented, and very busy lady. We had some interaction when she was getting the return of Birds off of the ground, and had discussions about Barbara. Barbara will definitely still be a regular in Batgirl. But, given that the cast is expanding a little bit (including some new villains), there may be an issue here or there where there simply isn’t enough room to fit Babs in. I never want to use Babs as a prop, so if there isn’t enough page space to give Babs a legit story/scenes (even if it’s just some soapy/emotional stuff), then she might be "away on Birds business." And if you’ve read Birds of Prey #1, you know the ladies over there most definitely have their hands full.

BF: Steph has often been portrayed in the past as a character whose recklessness and poor decisions would prove her undoing – starting the "War Games" gang war with all that entailed for the character, being fired as Robin by Batman or her manipulation of Tim Drake towards the end of the Robin run are all good examples. Do you see her eventually maturing beyond those occasional lapses into irresponsibility or do you think that unpredictability is an essential part of the character’s appeal?

BQM: Stephanie Brown is a human being. She’s flawed. What makes her more appealing than her unpredictability – I think – is that she just keeps chugging along, despite all the mistakes she’s made. She accepts the mistakes she’s made, and does her best to not make them again. She’s a survivor. Getting in over her head is also one of her ticks – that’s something that may never go away. But how she handles herself in those situations is where you’re going to start seeing her grow. She’s always been a little more reactive than proactive – the aim of the next big run is to turn that around.

BF: Many of the Bat-characters have made guest appearances in the first few months of Batgirl. Is it fair to say that establishing and defining Steph’s place in the Batman Family, and her relationship with that cast, was one of your main goals in the first year of the book? And is her relationship with Tim Drake/Wayne/Red Robin one that is doomed to forever end in recrimination?

BQM: It’s more than fair to say that Steph staking her claim and fighting for as clean a slate as possible was number one on my to-to list for the first twelve. If the first year of stories were about dealing with who everyone thought Stephanie Brown was, then the next run is about Stephanie/Batgirl planting her feet and working to stay who she is – despite the amount of resistance she’s going to be facing from all sides. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of who you want to be once you get your feet wet in college. It’s even harder if you have a secret identity on top of it.

And as for Tim, they may run into each other from time to time, but she won’t be seeing him that much. They’ve been through too much together to ignore, and she’ll always have a place in her heart for him. Much to her chagrin.

BF: Given that Cassandra Cain gave up the Batgirl identity due to Batman’s death, and with the "Return of Bruce Wayne" imminent, how likely is it that Cassandra will return to Gotham in the near future? And what will it mean for Stephanie if she does?

BQM: If at some point the story I’m telling feels like it can only be told with Cassandra as a part of it, then believe me, I’ll try to find a way to work her in. As it stands currently, however, Cassandra’s fate and future are not in my hands.

BF: If we could talk further about the relationship between Stephanie and Barbara for a moment - one of the strongest aspects of Batgirl has been the way you have developed the pairing of the two characters. Initially they were thrown together in a spirit of proprietorial antagonism over the Batgirl role. Over the months that gradually evolved into a respectful pupil/mentor dynamic and has now blossomed organically into friendship. Is that relationship at the very heart of the book for you and do you foresee the student outgrowing the teacher anytime soon?

BQM: It most certainly is the heart and soul of the book. But, with the return of the Birds into Babs’ world and a host of other things that are going to start happening over on Steph’s side of things, life may very well start getting in the way.

Moving into the next run of issues after #12 (and especially after #15), Batgirl’s going to start having to rely on herself, more than ever. Babs will definitely still be around, but the "training wheels" are going to start coming off, whether Steph and Babs like it or not.

BF: Moving on to the supporting cast, what hints can you give as to what the future holds for Batgirl’s ancillary players? Will Wendy Harris, the Calculator’s daughter, be sticking around after the current arc? Are we going to learn more about the past of Barbara’s love interest, the surely too-good-to-be-true Detective Gage? And will the presence in the book of Stephanie’s university classmates Francisco and Jordanna continue?

BQM: Wendy – absolutely. She’s not going anywhere.

Detective Gage – Why Nick transferred to Gotham and who he used to be are going to start bubbling to the surface. They’re tiny bubbles, but it’ll definitely reach a boil by the end of the next over-arching story.

Francisco and Jordanna – The next run has a much larger University component, so I’m definitely going to try and work them in, as needed.

BF: So far you’ve focused mainly on traditional Batman villains or established ne’er-do-wells from across the DCU as threats for Batgirl. Which of those characters have you most relished using and are there any plans to start building up a specific Rogues Gallery of new opponents for Stephanie in the future?

BQM: I know he doesn’t count as a villain, but as a foil, Damien Wayne is by far and away my absolute favorite. And I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series, so having the chance to work in Roxy Rocket and Clayface (issue #13) was a real treat. Clayface will more than likely be the last official "big" Bat villain Batgirl’s going to run up against for a while. Her second semester will see the rise of anywhere from five to eight rogues that she can call her very own.

BF: Speaking of villains, the one conspicuous by his absence so far is Stephanie’s father, the Cluemaster. When last we saw Arthur Brown he was intent on bringing down Batman for what he perceived as his part in Stephanie’s "death". With his daughter back in the land of the living can we expect to see the Cluemaster return in the pages of Batgirl any time soon?

BQM: We’re doing our best to keep Stephanie and Batgirl facing forward, so no – not in the foreseeable future. Never say never, though…

BF: Looking forward, are there any other teasers that you can give us for what’s coming up for Batgirl, Barbara and company in the months ahead?

BQM: It finally stops raining at some point. A new friend/confidante/ally for Batgirl. Clayface. A new class schedule. A visit from a very non-Gotham DC hero. The Return of Bruce Wayne. A new nuisance for Batgirl. Brand new foes. New toys. Lots of new toys. And maybe, just maybe, super-fingers-crossed-maybe, Ace.

BF: Finally, what other projects have you got in the pipeline both inside and outside the world of comics that you would like to share with the Broken Frontier readership?

BQM: We just wrapped Season Nine of Smallville, and I’m back on board for Season Ten, which CW just released will in fact be our final season. So definitely more Smallville. As for other projects, nothing I can talk about just yet.

It seems like an exciting time for Batgirl and Stephanie fans! I hope that the fact that Miller respects Cass and will not use her for random, unnecessary reasons puts Cass fans at ease. More college life makes me excited and I'm interested to see Nick Gage's 'past' and what Miller is planning on doing with Wendy. I do question Miller's love of Damian Wayne, however...

Fly on, Babs lovers!

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