Exclusive Interview: Bryan Q. Miller Part Two – Batgirl

And we’re back for more! Following the first part of our interview, and its focus on writer Bryan Q. Miller’s career working with Smallville, today we begin to tackle his comic book work. Namely the current Batgirl ongoing series that launched last year during the Batman: Reborn movement that also brought us Dick Grayson as Batman.

Comics Nexus: How familiar were you with Stephanie Brown when you wrote your pitch for Batgirl? What about Cassandra Cain?

Bryan Q. Miller: I knew who Cassandra was and what she was about, but hadn’t read much of her solo series. Stephanie I was much more familiar with through the pages of Robin. To catch up on Cassandra, I started with the 2008 Batgirl mini-series, then began working my way backwards.

Nexus: What were your thoughts on Stephanie as a character as you pitched the book? What was your goal with her?

Miller: The goal was (and continues to be) to not only get Stephanie more exposure in the world of the Reader, but to also give her more facetime in the DCU. We’ve begun, but I think we still have a long way to go. Though, it does feel nice when I Google “Batgirl” that, occasionally, an image of Steph’s Batgirl pops up in the cluster of pictures on the results page. It’s a start. Steph was a character who’d been neglected and passed around for a little while. The character quite literally needed some TLC and some guidance. Hopefully, Babs and I have that covered.

Nexus: I’d say that you do, War Games has become a passing memory and her ‘death’ is something I actually regret bringing up here, such a low point for the character. How important would you say the approval of Bruce and Tim (Drake) is to her as a character?

Miller: The Tim approval was dealt with tangentially in the Batgirl issue of the Red Robin: Collision cross-over. It was less about getting Tim’s approval in that issue, and more about letting Tim know that she wouldn’t (as tempted as she was) be falling back on old habits, re: their relationship. The comfort and familiarity Tim provides Steph with are something she sees as a detriment to her development right now. And she’ll be sticking to her guns on that one. It’s strictly a working relationship for the time being. Tim can respect that.

Regarding Bruce, Steph wasn’t really worried about it so much until she came face to face with him in the Road Home tie-in. And even then, she just as quickly realized that what she thought would be the case, that she would want/need Bruce’s approval, was very much not. A big part of her self-awareness now is acknowledging that many of the things she’s been labeled as being at fault for were either a) not her fault or b) not her doing. And she’s made it very clear to Bruce that she’ll no longer be a pawn in any of his games. Bruce can respect that.

Stephanie’s hitting that wonderful point where she’s realizing the only person whose approval she wants is her own.

Nexus: Man, I think this is why the book is so awesome. You’ve been doing a great job crafting her into her own character, and she really has grown up. Not to mention the supporting cast; what’s it like to write Babs? How much does Gail Simone using her in Birds of Prey play into what you can and cant’ do with her?

Miller: Writing Babs is great, especially now that she’s moved on from her “grumpy” period. I know I took a lot of flack for having angsty Babs at the beginning of the run, but I was just picking her up in the place that The Cure left her. Now that they’ve moved on from their pre-series baggage, the Babs/Steph dynamic is a really fun one to write — Babs has literally “been there, done that.” She’s got the experience. She’s done her time. And she knows personally just how dangerous the world can get. But she also really gets what makes Stephanie tick, maybe even knows Stephanie a little better than Steph does — she calls her out on some stuff in #16 that proves that. She and Steph really do serve as a system of checks and balances for each other.

Regarding Gail and me time-sharing Babs, it’s more continuity logistics now than anything else. And timing between where each of us is in our respective arcs for the year as things develop — for example, even though the Death of Oracle storyline is ramping up over in Birds next month, it won’t be dealt with head-on in Batgirl an issue or two into the new year. What helps is that, timeline wise, different arcs happen over different lengths of in-world time. Babs was CERTAINLY busy over in BoP during the recent arc with Penguin, but in reality, that story was pretty much just the events of a single night. That said, Babs will still be a part of Batgirl, but in a smaller capacity — which leaves some more room for the Proxy/Batgirl dynamic to breathe and grow.

Nexus: Speaking of Proxy, was she a part of your initial plans, or was she more of the pre-series baggage who just happened to stand strong enough on her own to warrant a place in the book? What do you have in store for her?

Miller: Wendy was one of the ingredients already waiting when I stepped up to play Iron Chef. It was essentially “Stephanie is Batgirl, and Barbara is involved, as is Wendy Harris. Go.” Using her in the capacity that I’ve started to and giving her the hero handle “Proxy” is unique to me coming on board. It’s very important the only similarities between she and Barbara are wheelchairs and computer skills. It’s going to become very clear in 15 and 16 that Proxy is not simply Oracle Jr. Though she serves a similar function to Oracle, Proxy goes about doing things very differently. She’s a bit of a hot head, and has some issues with impatience. The dynamic that’s developing between Wendy and Stephanie is going to have shades of commonality with the Batgirl/Oracle one, but will at its core be very different. And if it doesn’t seem that way at first, both Oracle and Batgirl will catch on quickly.

Nexus: One of the things I’ve like about Wendy is that, despite her creation echoing Superfriends, she’s been able to spread her wings, primarily under you, and be something more than part of “Wendy and Marvin”. Do you think the fact that both Wendy and Steph have villainous fathers is a key bonding point for them?

Miller: She’s steal grieving her brother, pretty hardcore, so Marvin’s never very far from her thoughts. And she and Stephanie definitely have some daddy issues to bond over, but that isn’t going to be what defines their relationship. They’re in the trenches together — that’s the source of their bond as it forms.

Nexus: Are there any other characters that will be joining the regular stable as Stephanie goes into her second year as Batgirl? Or do you stick with the tighter focus on Steph, Wendy, and Babs?

Miller: I’ll actually be primarily Stephanie/Batgirl and Wendy/Proxy. Babs/Oracle will still be in the mix. Steph’s mom, Crystal, will have a larger presence moving forward. Det. Gage will also get a larger presence, as his reasons for transferring to Gotham coalesce with Steph’s investigation into the group that’s causing her problems throughout the run. And we’ll (more than likely) be adding Ace the Bathound in sometime in the Spring. And there’s someone new who’ll have a very bad habit of showing up when Batgirl least needs him — the mad bomber from the train in Issue #9 will be back, though not in a form anyone’s expecting.

The Mad Bomber?

Nexus: Do you have any plans for former Batgirl Cassandra Cain? In the Road Home issue it was mentioned that she was following Bruce’s orders, and I know I’m hardly the only person itching to find out what they might be.

Miller: I have no immediate plans for Cassandra, though I’d like for her to cross paths with Stephanie at some point. Definitely look for her over in this month’s Red Robin. There’s a very natural time and way for her to come back into Stephanie’s life that I’ve been putting together, but some events have to play out before that can happen.

Nexus: What would you say the name and title of “Batgirl” means to Stephanie? And is it the same as when she first put on Cassandra’s old costume at the beginning of the book?

Miller: When she put on the costume, it was almost out of a need to stay constantly in motion. Almost like Stephanie was addicted to hero-work. She really couldn’t help herself. But as that first arc completed, she self-actualized a little bit, realizing what was driving it al wasn’t the thrill of the hunt, as it were, but her want and need for a second chance at life in general. For a fresh start, both in continuity and in the eyes of the Reader. “Batgirl” is all about second chances. For Stephanie, being Batgirl’s now more abot making sure everyone else gets the same opportunities she has.

Nexus: Is there anything else we can hope to expect going into 2011?

Miller: Batgirl gets a sidekick she neither wants nor needs; a new car and a revamped HQ (thanks for the money, Bruce!); Ace. The . Bat. Hound; a team-up w/ Klarion the Witchboy; an extended team-up with Blue Beetle; and rogues, rogues, ROGUES!

Nexus: Any you want to tease, or would that ruin the big surprise?

Miller: What I CAN say about the rogues, a.k.a. the “Order of the Scythe” as they’d like to be called (even though Batgirl refuses to refer to them as anything but “Reapers”) is that they walk among Steph’s classmates. She could be in class with one, and not even know it. It should make for some interesting predicaments as she starts to flush them out. Technology-based villains, they are.

Nexus: That sounds ridiculously awesome.

With Smallville getting ready to wrap up at the end of the season, do you have any other projects on the horizon, or are you going to focus solely on Batgirl?

Miller: There’s always something in the mix, but I won’t know more about the post-Smallville situation until we get past the New Year.

Regarding comics, I’m always looking for more opportunities to get my words on a page, so we’ll see what happens!

As far as confirmed stuff goes, I wrote a chapter of the forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Six Sea Chanties graphic novel that’s going to be released in April during the ramp up to the next Pirates tale. Tom Mandrake will be drawing our chapter — it’s a Barbosa/Black Pearl story set before the events of the first film that nods its head toward the events of the next film.

Nexus: What would your dream project be?

Miller: I’ve got a team book in mind for DC (it would be a new team, not an existing one), and something else that I’ve been sitting on for quite a while that needs to find a good home and the right artist.

But, as it stands, I’m writing stories in both Metropolis and Gotham, so there’s not much more you could ask for in that mix!

Nexus: As a life long DC Comics fan, I completely agree with you. That is such the perfect combo!

And having just finished Batgirl #15 I just want to give you tons of credit for bringing the moniker of the Gray Ghost into the DC Universe, as I am quite amazed that nobody had done that yet! By far one of my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes.

But before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to say to all of our readers?

Miller: To everyone who’s been with the book so far, THANK YOU! To everyone who’s just now starting, THANK YOU! And to anyone who hasn’t started yet, skip a latte one day and give Batgirl a shot — you might just like what you find.

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