To say the recently reimagined Batgirl by writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr represents an important turning point in comics would be an understatement. Between Barbara’s practical new costume, modern new villains and challenges more reflective of those facing young adults today, it’s struck a chord with fans and has gotten more than a few new readers into their local comic book store.
It was only a matter of time before Batgirl’s influence spread to some of her fellow heroes. June 17th will see the release of BLACK CANARY #1, written by Batgirl co-writer Brenden Fletcher and drawn by DC Comics newcomer Annie Wu. A blend of music, drama and super heroics, this new series envisions Black Canary as the stylish front woman of a rock band. It’s a uniquely different take on Dinah that we haven’t seen before and that spins directly out of this week’s BATGIRL #40.
In light of that, we thought it was the perfect time to chat with the creators behind these two unique comics. We sat down with Cameron, Brenden, Babs and Annie for a lively conversation about bringing new blood to comics and what exactly we can expect from Dinah’s newfound rock stardom.
Black Canary by Annie Wu
It’s been awesome seeing the new Batgirl embraced by so many fans and readers. Were you at all worried about making so many changes to the character when you first introduced her?
Cameron Stewart: No, I don’t think so.
Brenden Fletcher: Cameron, Babs and I—we’re all really bold and very decisive. We know what we want to see, and we’re very excited about executing it.
Babs Tarr: I know being an outsider to comics, I was a little nervous. The fans have a reputation of getting really upset at change and we were making big changes to Batgirl, so I was kind of nervous, but I knew what we were doing was going to be cool. I knew that I was going to be proud of the product. Putting something out there that you’re proud of—that will ring true with lots of people.
Cameron Stewart: In the days leading up to when they released the costume image for the first time, I was pretty trepidatious. Then to see the huge explosion of positivity surrounding it was really great. I think that just emboldened us for everything else that we’ve done since then. “Yes, we’re on the right track!”
Now to see the rest of the line making similar changes, it’s just made us even more confident in what we were doing.
Brenden: I was totally feeling it and then when the Black Canary image dropped, it was like, YES!
Cover art for Batgirl #40 (Art by Cameron Stewart)
So let’s talk about Black Canary. How does the new Black Canary title compare to Batgirl? Would you say these are for similar audiences?
Brenden: I think they are definitely for similar audiences. Our Black Canary series rolls right out of issue #40 of Batgirl. They’re maybe even more sister books than Batgirl and Gotham Academy are.
What can you tell us about the new Black Canary series?
Brenden: It’s a kung fu rock-n-roll road trip!
All right! Yes, we see that all the time in mainstream super hero comics…
Annie Wu: That old cliché!
So what does that mean?
Brenden: It means that circumstances have allowed, or pushed Dinah into a certain direction. She’s ex-military, but for some reason, this is what makes sense for her right now. She’s on the road with this band and trouble is following her. All she wants to do is fulfill this contract and have a good time with these people that she’s getting to know, but there is trouble and she has to kick its butt. No one is better at kicking butts than Dinah Lance.
Would you still consider this a super hero book? Or is it more of a music book?
Annie: We’re going to find the “perfect balance” between both. Basically, we’re taking this character who’s very confident in a lot of ways and pushing her outside of her comfort zone. We’re going to be exploring that—her trying to be the front person of a band, without sacrificing who she is as a tough character and a fighter.
Brenden: She’s got a killer voice, but zero stage experience, other than the few gigs she’s done in Batgirl. She’s got an entire band of people who are passionate about nothing more than music, but when trouble hits, they’re completely useless. Dinah can take care of business.
It’s been great to see artists with such unique styles bring these worlds to life. Annie, how did you get involved with Black Canary? Did you ever see yourself drawing mainstream super heroes?
Annie: Brenden approached me with the idea and I was enamored with it immediately. I was just so excited to bring a new style to this universe because I’m really influenced by music, so I want to introduce some of those aspects into the design of the book. I’ve never worked on a character that’s been so well established before, so I’m trying to find ways to incorporate the iconic aspects of her with fresh, new things—her classic super hero look with being a rock star. That’s been really fun.
Interior from Batgirl #40 (Art by Babs Tarr)
With these new titles, do you feel like there are more opportunities for artists of varying styles to get into comics and maybe draw a super hero book if that’s something they wanted to do?
Babs: Yeah, I think so. I was excited to have gotten a chance and to have been at the forefront of that, and now to see people like Annie Wu getting put on Black Canary and Karl Kerschl doing different looks on Gotham Academy. I know they have other artists getting pulled in for other books that are going to be really badass and haven’t been announced yet.
I have an illustration background—Annie and I went to school together.
Annie: We graduated together! I studied illustration as well. Super hero comics never even crossed my mind. The fact that these mainstream comic companies are approaching people that don’t typically aspire to do super hero comics and introducing new styles is really exciting.
Cameron: The medium has been around for so long. Honestly, I want to see it pushed even further. There are people doing weird experimental indie art comics that I would love to see draw Batman stories. It’s what keeps it vital and exciting. It’s great to see characters that are established through different people’s eyes. I love seeing Batman drawn a hundred different ways by a hundred different artists, and I think it should be done across the board. It keeps it interesting to everybody.
Babs: I feel like art is much like a trend in its time. You need to keep changing it to keep it from looking stale and old, so I think it is fun to have all this new stuff come in and look fabulous.
Brenden: There’s no better way, I think, to speak to a newer audience than to have fresh visions.
BATGIRL #40 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr is in stores now. BLACK CANARY #1 by Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu will be available digitally and in print on June 17, 2015.