Bryan Q. Miller Answers Nevermore999's (creator of this Wiki)'s Letter.
Letter can be read at Caitlin's LiveJournal Here!
Caitlin's Initial Letter:
First of all, thank you very much for giving me your email. That was incredibly kind of you.
Another thing I’d like to thank you for is your work on Batgirl. Stephanie Brown as a character is incredibly important to me, and a lot of other people, so you have no idea what it means to me to have someone write her with respect and care, two things she’s had little of in the past years. Honestly, you get Steph so well and have her voice so perfect, I wonder if you live in my head. I love that you didn’t dismiss Steph as a dumb blonde or a screwup, but saw that she was actually incredibly creative and intelligent in a “thinks on her feet” sort of way. That you got that what has always driven her is hope, and not fear or vengeance. That you recognized that she had never truly been accepted and often used, and true support was all she needed. That you have not ignored her history as Robin, or the class issues she faces, or the injustices done to her and the mistakes she has made. I love the moments when you call back to the early eras of Steph’s history, it shows you have really done your research to understand her, something all too few writers do. And I love how you seem to have respect for the fans in what you write, for the people who find Stephanie so important, because she really is important to us.
Mostly, I love that you’ve crafted an enjoyable, fun title that isn’t full of the unnecessary grimness and gore and rapemurderdeathfridging that plagues a lot of comics today. You’ve also crafted a title with a strong female protagonists, and one that teenage girls can really read. It is my favorite title right now, and I look forward to it every month.
I could go on forever about what I love about the title- I love how you’ve gotten Steph’s voice and ironic sense of humor, I love her strong relationship with Barbara, I love seeing her carry on and learn from her mistakes, and I absolutely adore her little fangirl, Nell, and can’t wait to see her again. I love seeing Steph get real support and respect both in comic and out, and I love seeing her thrive now that she’s gotten it. I can never thank you enough for what you’ve done for my favorite character, and can never thank you enough. Write Batgirl forever!
I run a Stephanie Brown website- http://stephaniebrown.wikia.com/wiki/Mai'n_Page- where I have sort of obsessively cataloged every facet of Steph’s history with my own crazy thoughts occasionally thrown in. People have asked me on several occasions if I think you have visited. I don’t know if you have, but it doesn’t matter because I feel like you have because of your great writing of Steph- and once again, that means so much to me.
Now to end the epic gushing- I’m sure you’ve heard it before- and move on to some questions/concerns I have that you are under no obligation to respond to.
Regarding Cass- I know you’re probably tired of hearing about her. But I want you to understand, I don’t want more presence of Cass in the title just as a Cass fan (though I am a huge one- she is my fave after Steph- actually, I just love every Batgirl unconditionally) but because I feel it does a disservice to Steph’s character to ignore this friendship. Cass has been a huge influence on Steph’s life, and she really is Steph’s first supporter. What’s more, their friendship is one of the strongest in comics- female friendships in comics are rare, and you’ve established some great ones with Babs, Kara and Wendy, but Cass and Steph were the original and honestly, my favorite friendship in comics period. To have Steph ignore such a huge part of her life, to not miss Cass or look for her or talk about her- it just feels incredibly wrong for the character. It feels wrong that Cass is ignored because she is so important to the Batgirl legacy as well.
I have often gone over in my head why Cass is not being mentioned- I figure that Cass leaving might have been incredibly painful for her in an “everyone leaves me” sort of way, and she’s been deliberately trying not to think or talk about her. Steph can ignore things that are painful for her and cover them up with good cheer (this is why I assumed she ignored Cass and her time as Robin in her truly awesome and hilarious “Bat History” for #15 I just saw on the DC blog!) That’s the only thing that makes sense to me for her character. I hope that Babs at least has been in contact with her and still thinking of her, the relationship between Babs and Cass is another important one that should not be ignored.
Basically, the reason I want to see a presence of Cass in the title is not just out of my love of her, but love of Steph. I am aware that Cass is turning up in Red Robin and probably Birds of Prey, but what’s the most important to me is seeing Steph and Cass’s relationship addressed again so it does a service to both the characters. I love those two as friends, as a team, and would love to see them reunite. People howled when Steph “BFF’d” it up with Kara- I didn’t mind it, it’s not like Steph swore eternal loyalty to her and her only- but it did make me miss the friendship with Cass.
And to a thing tangentially related to Cass-Bruce actually being the one to order her to pass Batgirl over to Steph. I liked it on one level because it made more sense than Cass throwing a tantrum and leaving- but on the other hand, it felt like it was removing Cassandra and Stephanie’s autonomy there. Batgirl is a legacy of it’s own, and I always felt it should be a legacy shaped by the choices of the women themselves, not because the Big Bad Batman had power over them. Having HIM make the choice of who gets to be Batgirl feels incredibly wrong to me and antithetical to the idea of choice and female empowerment that the legacy represents.
I have decided in my head that this was ultimately Cass’s choice- she might have been tired of being Batgirl already (she’s quit before) and decided she wanted to remake herself anew. She could have easily defied anything Batman suggested if she didn’t feel it was right- she’s defied and disobeyed him for those reasons before- so it was ultimately her decision. And I feel she would have wanted her best friend to has a second chance even moreso than Bruce. She might have taken Bruce’s suggestion- and I feel it might have even been her idea to give it to Steph and Bruce just went with it and claimed it as his own (he can be weird like that sometimes). That’s really the only way I can accept the idea of “Batman pulling the strings on the Batgirl legacy that is not really his decision”- Bruce may THINK he’s pulling the strings, but it was really ultimately Cass’s choice and feelings about her position and Steph that caused her to pass it on. And it was really ultimately Steph’s decision to accept it, and Babs’ decision to accept her. However, that’s a lot of rationalizing for me to do, so I hope this is addressed fully in the future.
One last thing that has bothered me- and so sorry for rambling so long! Occasionally Steph has characterized herself as just “chasing after a boy” as Spoiler. Now, it’s perfectly in character for Steph to think this way, insecure as she is, but I hope it’s not something the readers are supposed to believe. Steph became Spoiler to stop her Dad after all- she STAYED Spoiler partly because of interest in Tim, but I think it’s pretty clear in the Dixon issues she also just really enjoyed the thrill of kicking ass and being a superhero. She also occasionally gave guilt over her father as a reason. But I think by Cataclysm, when she changed into Spoiler solely because she saw people suffering from an earthquake, that she was in it to help people, especially people like her. And I think a part of her realized this. I just hope this insecurity over her past is addressed, and she learns to give both her past and current self credit.
Just one last last thing to mention- people have howled a blue streak over Steph saying to Bruce “War Games” was his fault because they were his plans. I don’t think that’s what she was trying to say, just pointing out that it was sick and careless of him to come up with such plans and leave them exposed and that he does have some responsibility (because look at Brother Eye and Tower of Babel- he doesn’t learn from his mistakes) and actually just pointing out that she was inadvertantly his pawn there too, a pattern she wants to break out of. I feel the more pertinent thing to point out was that Bruce never gave her an iota of trust despite making her Robin and manipulated her so much- that’s why she was hurt and screwed up enough to put that plan effect, and didn’t realize the Matches Malone thing, so therein lies Bruce’s responsibility. He was the adult after all. Just something you might want to address in the future to stop the whining, but are under no obligation to- who cares if people whine? You’re awesome! I would rather War Games be retconned out of existence and never mentioned again, personally.
I’m sorry for being sooo longwinded! You’re a champ if you read all this! Obviously I’m just SUPER passionate about Steph and Batgirls and your great work! I would jut like to thank you again, from the bottom ‘of my heart for all you’ve done for Steph and your excellent title and for communicating with your fans and letting me have my say! You are truly a great guy. Please write Steph forever, and have an illustrious and happy career and life besides!
Yours sincerely and thankfully,
I did it - I read the whole thing!
It’s funny - when I was down at the Long Beach Con last weekend at the DC Nation panel, I mentioned something about stepping on board with Steph, and how it takes a little getting used to, writing a character that some readers have had a relationship with for quite a long time. A guy in the audience snickered when I said “relationship.”
I think he just didn’t get it. You do. So do tons of other fans of Steph, Cassandra, Babs, etc. We spend a lot of time and money and time and time and time with these characters. And as a result, people can get very passionate about things. So long as I try to maintain at least 48% of the passion you have for the young Miss Brown, I think our girl will do just fine. So…
Cassandra and the Bat-history from #15? The reason she didn’t make the white-board history lesson for Wendy was simply that I didn’t feel it appropriate to poke fun at her. Steph has a smirky little good natured time editorializing the Bat family tree. To suddenly have a serious/tribute panel in the mix would have gotten in the way of the tone of the opening. Now, that’s from the writing standpoint. From a character standpoint, Steph drew for Wendy what she deemed to be the pertinent players on the Gotham board and their connections/histories, given her role as Proxy. You’ll note, she also didn’t mention her own role as Spoiler (though she just couldn’t RESIST drawing that adorable little Spoiler with the broken hearts over in the Tim/Robin section).
DVD Bonus Feature note: The ‘Lil Gotham open was originally intended to be the first several pages of Issue #15, but Bruce’s return was only going to be an appearance at the end of #15 (at which point he was going to “fire” Batgirl). Naturally, Steph wasn’t going to take that lying down, and the events in #16 were going to play out much as they did in Road Home: Batgirl, save Bruce himself was the target of an assassination plot (as opposed to the “Which Wayne is the target piece). It all still wound up being a test. When (former) Batgirl Editor Mike Siglain said we were doing the October event issue, what 15 and 16 were to be, changed. Which brings us to… Bruce! When all is said and done, all Bruce instructed Cassandra to do was leave the suit with Stephanie. That’s it. Through free will, Stephanie and Barbara found each other, worked their issues out, and a new Batgirl was born. Bruce’s bat-intuition led him to believe the scenario might play out that way, but Steph/Babs were ultimately still in control over the passing of the mantle.
Thanks for all your kind words, re: my work - it’s very much appreciated. And your friend is right — I HAVE been to the website. It’s a very good resource. Nice work!
All the Best,
Caitlin's Response Back:
Thank you for reading the whole thing! That’s impressive! ;) I know I can get rambly sometimes, I just had a lot to say.
Thank you for understanding the passion fans have- honestly, stories and characters in them have always meant a lot to me. I want to be a writer, so it would be silly if they didn’t. I discovered Steph when I was still a teenager and first discovering comics/superheroes, and I guess something about the character really clicked with me. The idea of having heroes- fictional, in real life etc- just inspiring concepts and people and ways you can escape the crappiness of the world sometimes- has always been very important to me.
I actually figured what you were saying about the Bat-History was true when I saw it! Steph was only introducing people Wendy would be likely to run into. To make it clear, I absolutely adored the “history lesson”, it was hilarious and had me laughing and reblogging on Tumblr for a long time. Dustin is a master, of course.
Thank you for the inside info! It’s really interesting!
Regarding Bruce-see, but it’s equally important to me that Cass has a say in the Batgirl legacy. It was her mantle, after all, and I don’t think she’d give it over just because Bruce said so. Like I said, I think the Batgirl legacy should be the choices of the women involved- ALL of them. I would like to think she had her own reasons for giving it to Steph (she wants her best friend to grow and be happy- she wanted to be her own hero etc) and setting out. If she has a problem with Bruce’s orders, she’s disobeyed them in the past, anyway. Ideally, I would like to think that the passing it on to Steph was ultimately her suggestion and Bruce went with it because he agreed with the reasoning, but that might be too much wishful thinking. I just hope it’s clarified in the future, because “Batgirl” and Cass mean a lot to me, and I wouldn’t like to think they were being manipulated.
Thank you so much again for reading and responding! You really are a class act! If you don’t mind, I’m going to put some of the relevant bits on the wiki (well, I’ll update it eventually…writing intensive college courses blurgh…)
There. That was slightly less long winded ;-)
Bryan Q. Miller tells The Source his thoughts on writing Stephanie
"Bruce Wayne travelled through time, a living, temporal bomb – teeming with highly dangerous Omega energy. He was a caveman, a pirate, a pilgrim, a cowboy, a gumshoe… something with computer tentacles from the far future… And when he finally got home, when Bruce Wayne finally beat death, beat fate, conquered time itself, what happened?
BATGIRL SLAPPED HIM IN THE FACE.
Right across that beautiful, battle-scarred, chiseled chin of his. It was a gut reaction. He put her through a test she knew she didn’t need, after a year of Stephanie proving to the entire world that she deserved a second chance. She was offended. Disgusted. And in that moment… she had a natural, human reaction. And then what happened after that?
Because Stephanie Brown is a person. Who is also a hero. And a girl. But first and foremost, she’s a person… who watches Futurama reruns on basic cable (but that’s beside the point). Knowing that is key to writing Batgirl (not the Zoidberg part; the person part.)
She’s a human being. Free to make her own mistakes, to have her own triumphs. Sure, she has limitations… but Stephanie knows what they are. And she isn’t going to let anything hold her back. Batgirl’s becoming more self-aware, as we all do when we’re her age. She’s growing.
Have I ever been a nineteen year old girl who moonlights as a costumed vigilante?
The short answer is “No.” But I have been nineteen – just like Stephanie. Right at the edge of undeniable, honest-to-goodness adulthood. She’s finding herself, and in the pages of Batgirl, we’re right there beside her, along for the ride.
And much like everyone’s first year of college, Stephanie’s is going to be a bumpy one. Filled with Reapers and Witch Boys. Beetles and Bathounds. Deadlines and finals. Even though extraordinary things come her way, there’s always the “normal” thrown into the mix.
Batgirl by her very nature should be immediately relatable to the reader. That’s why we gave her a costume where you can see her eyes and, more importantly, her smile. She’s a hero with emotion, which is both her biggest vulnerability… and her greatest asset. And in that space in between, that’s where Batgirl’s sense of hope comes from.
Hope for a brighter tomorrow. Hope for a safer Gotham. Hope for a second chance at… everything. Batgirl not only wants the world to be a better place, but she believes that it’s possible. Which means that (hopefully) Stephanie Brown is just like you and me. Except that she knows some karate.
I do not know karate. Kudos to you if you do."
Newsarama Interviews Bryan Q. Miller about Batgirl
NR:When you were first talking about Batgirl, did you know it was going to be Stephanie? And were you already familiar with the character?
Miller: I knew they were thinking about doing Stephanie, and then it was confirmed when we started having discussions, and I was totally familiar with her through the Robin books. I knew who Stephanie was, throughout Batman stuff with War Crimes, War Games and War Drums. I knew how tragic and baggage-laden a character she could be. So I was excited for the chance to not only redeem her, but also to breathe some life and direction and purpose back into her. She has messed up a few things in her very short, young life. So to help her do some positive with that was very appealing
NR: It's interesting that you use the word baggage-laden, because in the first issue of the comic, it didn't feel that way at all, even though her past was referred to. Was this an attempt to kind of start her on a new road?
Miller: The goal isn't to ignore anything with Stephanie that's come before. But one of the goals Mike and I had talked about when we were cobbling this together was to get Stephanie to a place where, if you're a new reader who's coming in, and hopefully there are new readers who come in from time to time, there's not so much heavy up-front information that you have to digest to get into a character.
So this is her first day of college. It's her first day of a new life. It's her first time out in this suit doing something she knows she shouldn't be doing but she can't help because she is who she is. And so, in trying to do that, we just wanted folks to get the chance to meet her, not her history. The goal is to touch upon that eventually, but we wanted to get the show up and running. Get people to meet Stephanie before we started delving into some of the mistakes we've made in the past.
Nrama: OK, under that header, "meet Stephanie," how would you describe her to a new reader? What's your take on who she is?
Miller: Stephanie is a fiery young woman who is very spirited. That zeal will often get her into trouble as she has this tendency to leap before she looks and will hopefully, through the course of, especially these first three issues, she'll learn the value of at least looking while you leap, if you don't have the foresight to look before you leap. At least know what you're getting yourself into. And our goal is to take her to a place where it's this young woman learning through the Bat family, under the symbol of the bat, through Barbara Gordon's experience and tutelage, to step into adulthood, and to take on more responsibility in her life. And to not let herself be defined by the mistakes she's made, but to use those mistakes as fuel to help others not make mistakes and make the world a better place.
In the passing of the torch sense, I don't know that Cassandra was intending for Steph to do anything, but there's this thing where Steph takes the suit home and it's like the Telltale Heart where she's like, "Well, I promised everyone I wouldn't do anymore vigilante stuff, but there's this awesome thing with a bat on it in the closet. What would it feel like to wear that? What's it feel like to run across rooftops under the bat signal?"
Nrama: You mentioned the tutelage of Barbara Gordon. Does she have a recurring role as part of the supporting cast?
Miller: Absolutely. Barbara Gordon is still performing Oracle duties as she always has, but at first, Barbara will not be happy with the idea of Steph running around in the Batgirl costume. And as you see in issue # 1, it creates some conflict between the two. Eventually, Barbara and Stephanie will come to an understanding about how things are going to work.
Coming off the Oracle: The Cure mini-series, in her quest around the world when she was chasing Calculator, she got a little edgier. She got a little darker. And she may start to recognize that about herself. And what's to happen when you've got this darker thing going on with one person and this lighter spirit in Stephanie? They can't help but rub off on one another in different ways.
Nrama: Batman and Robin made an appearance in this first issue. Will we be seeing them around?
Miller: They are going to play a very big part in Issues #s 5-7. We've got Issue #s1-3, which is our first small arc, then we have # 4 standing on its own legs as a breather and another jumping on point. And then in Issue #s 5-7, Batman and Robin are going to come into Steph and Babs' little operation in a very big way. And Dick in particular may not be happy with how they're doing business. So there'll be some nice conflict between a former Batgirl and a former Robin, and a current Batgirl and a current Robin.
Nrama: Obviously, Stephanie has quite a history with Tim Drake. Is there a possibility they'll meet again soon?
Miller: I would think before the course of the first 12 issues have run, they'll cross paths again in a big way.
Nrama: Are there any villains coming up that we might recognize?
Miller: What can I say without spoiling anything? And now it's so hard to say I don't want to give spoilers because she used to be Spoiler, so there's that awful, "Ha! No pun intended!"
But coming up, there will be some new villains that Batman and Robin and Batgirl will face in Issue #s 5-7. We'll have a villain from the Superman universe in Issue # 4, a Metropolis rogue. And we got a rough sketch of where we're going beyond Issue # 7, so I don't want to say too much. But since Stephanie has fallen under Oracle's purview, there's certainly a very, very good chance that Calculator will not be happy about that. And there could be some very nasty consequences.
Nrama: There's been these strange hints that Stephanie has technology that lets her become invisible. Is that coming into play here at all?
Miller: I know that existed, but we will not be using that technology/ability. That seems to have been intrinsic to the Spoiler identity, so we'll be leaving that with the Spoiler identity. And we'll be moving forward with some new and fun gadgets and accoutrement coming out of the Oracle and Batgirl relationship. There will be nice, fun element of James Bond's Q to Barbara and Batgirl.
Nrama: Are you going to be working with Lee Garbett for awhile?
Miller: As far as I know, yeah. Lee's art is great. It's this balance of detail and clean. It's not very cluttered work. It's easy to see what's going on and the action that's going on. Lee and I had an email exchange last week just about how so much of Steph, like what she's saying and she's thinking, is in her face. And Lee does a fantastic job with facial expressions in the book. So we had a very nice talk last week about how great his work has been and how we're on the same page. And he really gets Stephanie and her world. It's really fun to look at, which is important in a comic. Looking at it should be as entertaining as reading it, so you can fully engage everybody.
Comic Book Resources Interview with Bryan Q. Miller on October 16th, 2009.
In the wake of the transition of the Bat-mantle to Dick Grayson, a lot of changes have been made to the Bat-Family corner of the DC Universe. One of the biggest surprises during this turbulent transition was the reveal of Stephanie Brown – formerly Spoiler, Robin's girlfriend, who had until recently been thought deceased – as the newest Batgirl. With writer Bryan Q. Miller's first story arc wrapping this week, CBR News took some time to speak with him about Steph's first go at becoming a Gotham icon.
CBR: How did you get involved in writing Batgirl?
Miller: Technically, it all goes back to Geoff Johns suggesting that I go to New York for Comic Con to meet Ian Sattler and Dan DiDio. Then some "Teen Titans" came my way. My "Teen Titans" # 72 script was apparently fairly well-received around the DC offices. Once my arc wrapped, I got a call from the always wonderful Michael Siglain from the Bat group, who let me know they were vetting "takes" on Stephanie's adventure under the cowl. He generally laid out the players they wanted involved, and asked if I was interested in throwing together a pitch. They liked it. Some small elements changed, but most stayed intact. And here we are!
CBR: Have you had any interesting fan reactions to the reveal?
Miller: People were already divided into camps before the reveal – some people love Steph. Some love Cassandra. All I can hope to do is help Cassandra fans to get to know and love Stephanie Brown. From a dramatic standpoint, there aren't many places left to go with Cassandra. Steph's a work in progress.
CBR: One of the things that has impressed readers the most about the series thus far is the obvious parallel between the Batman-Robin mentor/student relationship and the relationship between Barbara Gordon and Stephanie. Is this something that will be a cornerstone for the series, and how do you intend to expand on it?
Miller: It is absolutely the cornerstone of the series, and you'll read a version of a mission statement at the very end of the first arc. What you'll find moving forward is that Steph learns as much from Babs as Babs does from Steph. The relationship both women begin to form with Wendy. who will become very important to the book moving forward in the spring. You'll also see some shades of mentor/student between Jim Gordon and Detective Nick, too.
CBR: Stephanie Brown has had one of the most controversial character histories in the DCU. Now that she's the new Batgirl, what kinds of challenges do you face taking on the character?
Miller: Stephanie's checkered past within the DCU plays a big part in her headspace during these first three issues, and is pivotal to the outcome of Point of New Origin. The biggest challenge is finding a balance between who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. You certainly don't want to ignore any of her history, but you don't have to dwell on all of it all the time, either. She's messed up – a lot – and she gets that. "You are who you choose to be" is the big mantra for Steph coming out of the next issue. We'll certainly revisit pockets of her past (specifically Black Mask and her relationship with Tim), but this book is more about her adventure moving forward. She's finally going to start growing up.
CBR: Stephanie Brown is the fifth in-continuity Batgirl, but not the only female Batperson currently based in Gotham. Are there any plans to bring over Batwoman or any of the previous Batgirls other than Barbara Gordon to help Steph in her journey to become the newest Batgirl?
Miller: Babs and Steph are the core of this title, no doubt about it. While we'll have another passing reference/flashback to Cassandra soon, I'm leaving the rest of Cassandra's story to whichever lucky duck gets to write her elsewhere in 2010. As for Batwoman, I'm leaving Kate in Rucka's capable hands for the time being.
Regarding helping Steph on her journey to becoming not just a better Batgirl, but a better hero in general, she's going to make lots of new "team-up" friends starting next spring. If this year is about her trying to find her place in Gotham, then next year is all about Batgirl's orientation within the larger DCU.
CBR: Although Barbara has come into her own as Oracle, it's obvious that she misses the mantle of Batgirl - and to a point, it seems like this book is just as much about Barbara as it is about Stephanie. Do you plan to explore more of Barbara, or is this a solely Stephanie outing?
Miller: Much like Stephanie is trying to balance her double-life, Babs is going to make an attempt to rejoin the world at large. Her journey is going to be seen through her interactions not only with Steph, but with Wendy, as well.
CBR: In the past, most of Batgirl's rogues gallery ran parallel to Batman's, mostly because she traditionally works side by side with the Caped Crusader. First, do you have plans to build up a new and unique rogue's gallery for Stephanie, and second, will we be seeing her work as closely with Batman as previous Batgirls?
Miller: Steph's going to have a pretty heavy cross-over with Batman (and Robin) in the "Core Requirements" arc, but beyond that, we're doing our best to let Babs and Steph run their little operation on their own. Steph definitely has some rogues on the way, some small, some big. Her biggest "rogue" this year is her past, and the way the hero community views her. Once she overcomes that, it's "game-on" with the rogue building.
CBR: What is most exciting for you taking on these characters and crafting this new chapter in the Batgirl mythos?
Miller: Blue sky. Don't get me wrong – I love Gotham. I love the dark. The grime. The gravity of it all. But given the number of Gotham books, what's missing is the "fresh air" component. That's why we've built in the double-life for Stephanie. It lets Stephanie be a more grounded person at the end of the day – she's been through so much, it's just as important for her to redefine who Stephanie Brown is as it is for her to become a better Batgirl. When she's lost herself to her causes and devotions (slash-obsessions), things have gone… poorly for her.
Along those lines, what's most exciting is taking a character who understandably gets very little respect (and varying amounts of love) from both readers and the Bat-universe, and building her up into (hopefully) a hero who'll be seen and remembered as just that. A hero. Now, it won't be quick. There will still be a healthy amount of well-intentioned screw-ups from our girl along the way. But she'll get there. "Rome wasn't built in a day."
MTV Splash Page Interviews Miller about Batgirl on November 9th, 2009
Comic book fans who have a passing familiarity with current events in DC Comics already know that Bruce Wayne is dead—or, more accurately, trapped in prehistoric times—and Dick Grayson, the first Robin, has assumed the cape and cowl to become the new Batman.
What those casual fans might not be aware of is that there's also a new Batgirl running around. "Smallville" writer Bryan Q. Miller is the author of the new "Batgirl" comic book series, which thrusts former vigilante Spoiler into the role of Gotham City's latest Bat-clad hero.
In an interview with MTV News, Miller said that Batgirl's alter ego, Stephanie Brown, has had several mishaps in her vigilante past, including familial ties to a super-villain, inadvertantly setting off a gang war in Gotham and also, well... dying... for a short period of time.
"Before Stephanie became Batgirl, she definitely had a checkered past and not the highest success rate of being a hero," said Miller. "The whole world before this comic is saying, 'Stop doing what you're doing. We don't want you doing it.' But Stephanie didn't listen, because she's stubborn in the best kind of way."
The apparent demise of Bruce Wayne has caused Cassandra Cain—the most recent Batgirl before Stephanie—to hang up her uniform, paving the way for Stephanie to try the costume on for herself.
"She can't help but see what it feels like with the Bat on her chest," said the writer. "During the course of the first three issues of this 'Batgirl' run, she comes to appreciate what it really means to wear that symbol."
Even without Bruce Wayne in Gotham City, the new Batgirl isn't alone. Stephanie's greatest asset comes in the form of Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl that was crippled at the hands of the Joker in Alan Moore's "Batman: The Killing Joke." Barbara—who now goes by Oracle, Gotham's premiere source of surveillance and intelligence gathering—has decided to teach Stephanie the ways of the Bat.
"They've made a bond with one another to go forward in [Stephanie's] vigilantism in a mentor-student relationship," explained Miller. "[Brown] will have the guidance of Barbara, who herself as Batgirl didn't have someone to show her how everything worked. She sees a little bit of her brash youth in young Stephanie Brown."
Readers that haven't kept up to speed on DC's current comic book output shouldn't have trouble following "Batgirl," according to Miller. The writer said that the comic book—while tangentially connected to other titles in the Batman universe—is intended to stand on its own merits as an independent read.
"It's a little more female-oriented because you have two heroines in the book, so it's certainly something that your girlfriend or daughter might like," added Miller. "It's a little more open in readership, I hope — that's the goal, at least."
Esther Inglis-Arkell interviews Bryan Q. Miller about Batgirl at Wondercon on April 6th 2010
The trick with interviewing comics creators is not coming off like that kind of fan. You know the one: the fan that takes things personally, gets overly involved in every story arc and character moment, and generally makes life miserable for anyone unlucky enough to get their attention.
This is particularly hard when you most definitely are that kind of fan, especially when it comes to – oh, I don’t know, let me pick a character out of a hat – Batgirl. I admit, when I came up to Bryan Q Miller, the current writer of Batgirl, I was bouncing on my heels a little. Despite everything, though, he agreed to an interview.
The first thing I wanted to know was when he knew exactly which Batgirl he was going to be writing. It would have been pretty funny if he had had to write the scripts first, then use the search and replace function to put in the right Batgirl’s name.
However, Miller was clear that “certain pieces were in place” when he started writing. Among those were Stephanie and Barbara. Since they came with extensive backstories, he had to do a lot of clearing the rubble of the past.
“I tried to deal with continuity without bogging down issue number one,” he said. He wanted to make it a book that anyone could pick up and read, about a rookie hero who was starting out.
Why then, I asked, would he put in Wendy, Calculator’s daughter? I don’t even know much about Calculator’s daughter.
“We wanted Wendy to be a part of it,” he said. So she was one of the pieces that were in place from the start of the book. “We’ll see more of her in the Return of Calculator.” [Interviewer's Note: I may be adding the capitalization here. He made it sound important, though.] “By the time issue twelve comes out, Wendy will be part of Stephanie’s life. ”
That’s good, because due to her commitment to Birds of Prey, the character of Barbara might be backing off a little bit. That one I can’t really support. Look how many books Batman is still in, and the dude is dead. Babs can spread her influence around, I think. Still, Barbara Gordon will be in two books, and that I like.
One thing I didn’t like that much about the Batgirl series, was Stephanie’s physical incompetence. Although she screwed up a lot in the past, most of her problems were failures of understanding, not of physical talent. I may have used the word ‘pratfalls,’ during the interview. I also said that Stephanie was a second-string hero in the Batworld.
“Some would say third-string,” Miller replied. “Other would say that she was outside the restaurant watching the others eat.”
Hey. He said it. Not me.
I went on to say that really, there’s not much shame in coming in third, forth, or fifth to the other characters in the Batverse. Bruce Wayne had the best of everything from the moment he was born. Dick Grayson was born on a trapeze. Tim Drake was trained by Batman and went to private school. Barbara Gordon was basically a prodigy. Miller agreed.
It was here when I think the interview took a turn for the awkward. I launched into an impassioned defense of Stephanie, mentioning her drug addicted mother, her second-rate criminal father, and – here’s the kicker – a secret files and origins story which shows that she really looked up to her gymnastics coach in high school and he turned out to be a drug dealer. What did people expect from a character who hadn’t had the advantages that anyone else had had, and anyway, in past continuity she was a better fighter than she was in her series.
Miller kept his cool. Admirably, even. It’s just, at this time, I think he saw that he was now dealing with more a fan-fan and less of an interviewer. Perhaps in his mind’s eye, he pictured me with a two-by-four and a sledge hammer.
He kept going, though, saying that, yes, Stephanie at first made a lot of mistakes in Batgirl. This was, in part, because he was writing the “archetypal” story about the rookie who steps up and trains to be a hero. It was the first issue of the series, and if someone decided to pick it up, it would make more sense if she were uncoordinated.
He also wanted to stress that Batgirl is not Superman. “She has human imperfection. She’s max 100 lbs, and has to use her environment to her advantage. I’m just acknowledging that these problems would exist. She is capable of some bad-ass stuff, but she’s also vulnerable to getting knocked over.”
My last question, was about Nick Gage, Barbara’s new love interest. It turns out that the name was a combination of two of his friends names. So ladies, if you like what you see in Batgirl, there are two halves of a Nick Gage somewhere out there in the world. In the last issue we learned that Gage has a deep dark secret. I asked for hints.
“There’s a reason he transferred to Gotham. It has to do with an old case. If we make it past issue twenty-five, we’ll get into it.”
People; let us find out that mystery, keep Batgirl in the shelves, and reward Mister Miller for actually going with a deranged fan to a second location. Make sure this book makes it to issue twenty-five.
Broken Frontier interviews Bryan Q. Miller on June 8th 2010
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.
Some of the issues collected in the upcoming Batgirl Rising trade paperback available for pre-order now
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.
Cover art on upcoming issues of Batgirl
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.
CBR Interviews Bryan Q. Miller about Batgirl Year 2 July 15, 2010
With her first year in the iconic cape and cowl at a close, writer Miller spoke with CBR News about his initial thoughts upon taking over the title, his hopes of ingraining the character as part of the Batgirl legacy and his plans for Batgirl year two.
"I think we had a bit of a rocky start, but once we found our footing and got going, I'd like to think that it really took off, and people seem to be responding really well to it," Miller told CBR about Stephanie taking over the role of Batgirl. "Our girl Steph definitely was someone desperately in need of, not just more attention, but also a second chance with readers and with the people of Gotham internally in the story. Hopefully we've started that ball rolling with the first year of the book."
Of course, launching the title proved a bit unnerving for the "Smallville" writer, not only because of the character's already hardcore fanbase, but also because of that of the previous Batgirl, Cassandra Cain. "As many people as are happy that Stephanie is Batgirl, there's going to be just as many people angry that Cassandra was not Batgirl," said Miller. "I'd say I was little more nervous going in about losing Cassandra fans as opposed to not doing Stephanie fans justice. That said, there was definitely some pressure to it. I think, naturally, anybody stepping into a character that already had a lot of history and people have already written a lot about, you definitely don't want to be untrue to that. But at the same time, what's handy about approaching Steph's taking over Batgirl as a clean state, not being held back by the mistakes of the past and trying to forge a new future for herself helped in the narrative, because we didn't have to focus Steph constantly on, 'Oh God. I did this and I did this and this,' and more on, 'I'm trying to be who I want to be now,' and moving forward. And all of the other Gotham heroes who she has come across in the first year have been more than happy to remind her that she was a screw up in the past, giving her someone to prove herself to."
When he originally started writing the series, Miller said he definitely looked forward to establishing Stephanie as her own character, one free from the external forces he felt directed and controlled her life for a long time. "She was a young lady who was often characterized, as part of the Spoiler identity, as someone who was nipping at Robin's heels, who was always chasing after a boy, who usually got herself into trouble in those regards," explained the writer. "So, coming into [the series], there was a lot of opportunity to have her realize that and then take that step into adulthood of 'That's not who I want to be anymore. I'm going to consciously try and be someone else.' We were able to have her acknowledge whose she's been in the past and then consciously try and move forward from that."
Helping Stephanie make that transition became a conscious effort for Miller as he began writing the series, which led to him purposely making Stephanie more insecure when the title first started. "I think, over the course of the year, she's started to stand on her own, especially as she gets validation from your Batmans and your Robins, starting with Barbara saying that they were going to work together to get both of their lives back on track," he said. "So, she's definitely in a place where she's been validated more, and because of that, she's not going to be questioning her actions as much. So, in approaching story and character interaction, she's definitely more confident than when she started. That isn't to say she still isn't going to be getting herself into trouble, but she's going to be a little better at getting herself out of trouble than when the book started."
The character most recently got herself - and all of Gotham - out of trouble by clearing up a nanite infection plaguing the people of the city caused by Barbara Gordon's nemesis, the Calculator. The arc not only introduced the villain's daughter Wendy Harris as a new series regular, but provided a "bigger, event-type feel for the first-year finale." However, before heading into year two, the writer pens two done-in-one issues with August's issue #13 and September's issue #14. The former sees Batgirl chasing down the amorphous Bat-villain, Clayface, while the latter sees Stephanie teaming up with the Girl of Steel to battle a horde of black-and-white undead blood-suckers.
"It's just one of those weird things where I was sitting down and working out what characters I'd like to cross, and, naturally, Supergirl was just a fit, especially coming off of the 'World's Finest.' They have a pre-existing relationship. Then, [it was a matter of] just thinking of fun stories for them to be involved with," said Miller of planning the issue. "Stephanie coming off of this year, it's been a good year, but a little bumpy for her, and with Kara and everything that's going on over in her book, it's a nice girl's night out between the two, and then wackiness ensues. So, that wackiness is in the form of Draculas. And I will hardily credit 'Venture Bros.' for having the word Draculas in my vocabulary."
Along with Supergirl, Miller said he plans for a number of other guest stars in the coming months from outside the Bat-family. "Year two is all about getting her facing her own rogues and some larger, broader DCU guest stars coming into the book to open her world up a little more to where it's beyond just the Bat-folk," he said. "Supergirl is one instance of that. There'd be someone else around Valentine's Day from the broader DCU, and probably one more two-parter with another DCU character in the middle of next year sometime.
"If year one is, 'Who am I,' then year two is, 'Who do I want to be,'" the writer added. "Just when Steph thinks she has a handle on everything, it's the next semester of college and it's very easy for people with responsibilities - whether it's work, study or…while most students don't have a vigilante side job, but if you do - you're putting all these different hats on and you're trying to figure out what's your future. So year two is Steph trying to, despite all those odds, maintain all the things that she likes while being pulled in all these different directions. It's more of the concreting of the Stephanie Brown identity, whereas the first year was being seen by the world as Batgirl."
One aspect from the previous year Miller said he would like to retain is continuing to tell tales from across all genres of storytelling - just as long as the fans still enjoy it. "If you like the tone shifts, then, yes, absolutely I'd like to do more tone shifts," laughed Miller. "Having her not just work the same kind of case every week. If you can drop her into different types of situations, like rampaging Draculas or a bank heist or a zombie movie, it's a widget that's very universal for people to understand. It's fun to write when you shift gears like that. I know it's fun for Lee to draw when you shift gears like that - he's very excited to draw Draculas. We've had many conversations about that."
Beyond the expertly drawn Draculas and semi-zombie Man-Bats, Miller said he also loves working with artist Lee Garbett because of the penciler's ability to perfectly convey the emotions the writer incorporates into his scripts. "I will say that, in two words, what I like most about Lee is 'facial expressions,'" said Miller. "There's a ton of times in the book where lines live and die on Lee being able to pull off what we talked about in the script on how Steph is supposed to be delivering the line, reacting to a line, reacting to something she sees off panel. That's where it shines. Lee is specifically invaluable in that regard. His style is fantastic, but it all comes down to faces, which is why I'm also extra super glad that you can see Steph's face in the new costume design. It would be a waste of Lee's talent if Steph was still covered up in a full face mask."
Of course, one the biggest questions about the coming year involves the return of a certain Caped Crusader and his reaction to the new Batgirl. However, Miller remains extremely tightlipped about the Dark Knight's return. "There is definitely, probably a sense that should anything like that happen, Steph would be waiting for the other shoe to drop," he teased. "And I would say, hypothetically, if that would come to pass, Steph's reaction to Bruce's return might not be what people expect."
But with or without Bruce's approval, the new Batgirl has undoubtedly left her mark on the Bat-family legacy, both inside of comics and out. Miller said that as the series continues into the future, he hopes to not only honor the legacy of Batgirl as part of the Batman crew but also as a character in her own right. "The great thing about legacy characters is that everyone has their favorite, depending on when they first started reading comics or when they were first introduced to a character. For example: Green Lantern. There are people who grew up with Hal Jordan. There are people who came into it with Kyle Rayner. There are people who saw John Stewart on the 'Justice League' cartoon. To everyone, that's going to be their Green Lantern," said Miller. "With Batgirl, you've got the Babs folks, you've got the Cassandra folks and hopefully, now, there's a growing number of Steph folks. Legacy-wise, it helps keep Batgirl alive, but moving forward, it helps give readers coming in now a face for their Batgirl. I would never say that people who love Babs and people who love Cassandra should not think of them as their Batgirl, but in an age where Tim is Red Robin, I'd like Steph to at least remain, awareness-wise, in people's minds just as much as Tim. And as much as Lee and I can do to get Steph standing on her own as a character in the DCU proper as not just Batgirl as part of the Bat-family, but also Batgirl as a general DCU character. That would be my biggest wish for Steph."