Since 1996, the Birds of Prey have remained DC’s premier female-led superhero team. Reinventing itself as needs and modern-day sensibilities have required, it’s always been something of a fluid and evolving team, featuring some of the greatest heroes of the DC Universe, like Batgirl, Black Canary and Vixen along with the occasional villain (we see you, Poison Ivy!).
This year sees a new iteration of the group in a brand-new Birds of Prey series written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Leonardo Romero that’s now led by Black Canary, someone who knows a thing or two about the team, but very little about leading it. With the first issue now in stores and generating plenty of buzz, we sat down with writer Kelly Thompson to discuss assembling these new Birds and what to expect from such an eclectic collection of crimefighters.
When the decision came to start a new Birds of Prey series, how was it decided to begin with an entirely new roster?
Well, I think the origin is DC Executive Editor Ben Abernathy asking me if I’d like to pitch a Birds of Prey book, and me yelling YES, and when I discovered they were very open and didn’t have a lot of prerequisites, I just began digging into what I would want to write. I felt like, “What if I only get one shot at writing for DC?” So, I shot for the moon. I asked for everyone I wanted and they just kept saying yes. That almost never happens. So, I just kept going and hoping I wasn’t dreaming it.
As a card-carrying Cassandra Cain fan, I was thrilled to learn she would be included in the BOP at long last. What’s Cassandra’s role on the team, and can you speak to what her relationship is like with Dinah?
This is a great question, but I sort of hate to answer it, because I feel like the book sums this up very specifically.
In the book, Cassandra is quite literally the answer to all of Dinah’s problems when she’s trying to build this team and struggling to do it without Barbara. Cass obviously fills a different role for Dinah than Barbara does, but it’s still someone incredibly talented and reliable at this kind of thing, who’s also imminently trustworthy and good. Which isn’t always something that comes easy when you’re building a team this dangerous. I’ve been waiting my whole life to write Cassandra Cain, so the stakes were high, and I hope I’m nailing it! (laughs)
Harley Quinn is definitely the wildcard of this new team. Can we expect to see Harley as more of a hero in Birds of Prey, or will she serve as a foil to challenge the more traditionally heroic Birds?
Harley is on her best behavior in Birds of Prey. She’s of course still Harley, but she and Dinah have some conversations in the first two issues that make it clear how high the stakes are. And at the end of the day, Harley’s there because she believes in the mission and she wouldn’t do anything to risk that. She’s always going to be a bit of oil to other characters’ water—that’s part of her great charm and flexibility. But she’s about being additive here, not destructive. She’ll still find ways to make her own fun though, don’t worry!
In terms of strength, this is by far the most stacked BOP team ever! Was it difficult to write missions that would challenge the likes of Zealot, Big Barda and Cassandra issue-by-issue?
Definitely not. But that’s simply because I built the team backwards. I knew what our basic plot structure was—who they’d be going up against and what they’d need to fight it/them—and then I built the team out as organically as possible to fit that plot. I certainly put my finger on the scale to get the team I wanted, but I did that by devising a plot that fit them very well.
I think the only real challenge with this awesome team is that they’re all so good and cool to play with that you have to be very careful that everyone gets their moments.
The formation of this team specifically invokes the theme of family, regarding how some of the members join and Dinah’s reasons specifically. Will the Birds of Prey be more of a family unit, or are the five members too different to ever become that close?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I hope by the end of this arc NOBODY will want me to change the team. They’re absolutely going to the mat for each other here, facing incredible odds with someone they basically all respect (and fear), and you don’t do that for people if you don’t like them—it bonds you in a powerful way. So, I think they’ll be very close by the time we get to issue #6.
The cast will likely change a bit after that, but my greatest hope is that by the time we get to #6, nobody wants anything to change. Well, everyone will still want Barbara, but other than that. (laughs)
Birds of Prey #1 by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire is now available in print and as a digital comic book.