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In the wake of the Fear State event, Gotham City has undergone a few changes. Thanks to new Batman writer Joshua Williamson, the Dark Knight himself is headed for adventures outside the city, which leaves it in the hands of other key vigilantes. That means a new team of heroes is primed to rise, which makes it a perfect time for Batgirls, the much-anticipated new DC Comics series from writers Michael Conrad and Becky Cloonan and artist Jorge Corona.
Teased and set up through a series of back-up stories in recent issues of Batman, Batgirls follows Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown as they team up to battle new and old threats alike in Gotham City, including the new, anti-Oracle villain known as Seer. Along the way in those Batman backups, they faced new challenges included the destruction of Barbara's beloved Oracle clock tower, and made plans to move into together at what will become a new Batgirls headquarters. Now, the first issue of the book is finally here, and the creative team has an ambitious set of stories and emotional challenges for their trio of heroes.
As Batgirls begins, Steph and Cass are very much working beneath Barbara Gordon's watchful eye, using her years of crimefighting experience and Gotham City connections as the linchpin of their operation. For Conrad and Cloonan, that's a key foundational element, but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way.
"We've created a scenario in the backups in Batman, where Steph and Cass are being, to an extent, protected by Babs, who has a little bit more experience, and a couple more years on them, in terms of maturity," Conrad said in a press roundtable to promote the series, attended by SYFY WIRE. "I don't think that's going to be something that is ongoing throughout the entire series. I think the girls very much are all competent and capable independently. But, at least initially, that mentor role is going to be really important."
Cloonan added, "Yeah, Babs, in the beginning, is definitely the linchpin, and the catalyst for the whole thing. And then, we're going to see that dynamic evolve and change as the series goes on."
Visually, as readers of those Batman backup stories know, Batgirls benefits greatly from Corona's dynamic style, incorporate everything from elaborate fight sequences to elements of horror and comedy along the way. For the artist, it's all about taking characters longtime Gotham fans known, and giving them a fresh perspective while retaining something of their classic appeal.
"The whole team is trying to make this book feel unique and very distinctive," Corona said. "And, visually I've been trying to mix a little bit of that, of the tradition and the heritage of these characters, with how we will approach them, and how, on my end of the deal, how physically they react to each other, they react to fights, how they react in conversations, and stuff like that, and building that body language. We're obviously accentuating [that] in this new book, but, there is a weight, dealing with characters that everyone definitely has been waiting for to have their own moment in the spotlight."
But the Batgirls will have to fight for the spotlight, because there's a new villain in town, rising out of Fear State to take their own brand of control of the city. Not much is known yet about the tech wizard known as Seer, but we do know that they seem to be a dark reflection of everything Barbara is as Oracle, something we'll learn more about as the book progresses.
"The name Seer obviously, is just another word for an oracle, so you have these two characters who have similar powers, but go about it in a very different away," Cloonan said. "And, we don't want to reveal too much about her motivations yet, or what's going to happen between them, but it's definitely been cool to throw this wrench in at Barbara, and seeing how it's going to change things moving forward."
Conrad added, "It's been an important piece. Barbara is one of those characters who threatens to be so powerful that she can shut down almost any storyline. She could shut down Gotham. She could do so much. So, we wanted a way to dial that back a little bit. We, by no means, want to take any power away from Babs. We want to keep her a major threat, on a number of different levels. So, Seer was a good opportunity for us to reestablish the language of how Babs is going to be part of the story, and how she's such a critical member of the team, for reasons that extend beyond her computer terminal."
As the book begins, the threat of Seer is so large that the Batgirls are largely operating off the grid, looking for a new place to hide out and regroup. It's that setup that offers a different, more slice-of-life driven angle to the book: Barbara, Steph, and Cass as roommates. It might be a smaller element at first, but it's something both Conrad and Cloonan are especially passionate about.
"I loved, back in the day, when you would see the X-Men play baseball, or basketball, but these are things you have to earn," Conrad said. "You have to show, 'Oh yeah, they're out there, they're fighting, they're kicking and punching, and doing stuff like that.' When you earn that trust with the readership, then they might allow you to explore quieter moments more often.
"And, that's something that I think we're all hoping for, is that as the book comes out, I would really love it if readers enjoyed those quieter moments. Make a lot of noise about that. The companies are listening, and we would love to provide the types of stories that allow room where, you don't necessarily need a slobber knocker every page. And, you can just have these moments where it's a slice of life, and it's fun, and it's good."
In the coming months, readers can expect to find some of those quieter moments in the pages of Batgirls alongside the larger battles, as well as the potential for both old and new characters to make an impact on the team. Steph, Cass, and Barbara might be the current lineup of the Batgirls, but they might not be the only lineup.
"Let's go for a little ride," Conrad teased. "Let's see who we meet along the way, there will be plenty of familiar faces, and a couple new ones. It's going to be great."
But whoever might join in the adventures further down the line, for the entire creative team Batgirls also comes back to an essential choice each of these characters made, something that sets them apart from the heroes who serve as Robin to Bruce Wayne's Batman. For Cloonan, it's simple: They just decided to do this their way, and that gives them power.
"I love that they didn't get Bruce's permission to do any of this stuff," she said. "They're like, 'Well, we're Batgirls.' And, Barbara the same way, where I think a lot of the Robins and everything, was like you're being mentored by Batman himself. And, these Batgirls just have the wherewithal, to just put on the suit, and do what they need to do. To me, that's really cool."
Batgirls #1 is in stores today.