Earlier this month at Special Edition: NYC 2015 I had the chance to speak with writer Brenden Fletcher, who co-writes BATGIRL and GOTHAM ACADEMY and is the sole writer for the just launched BLACK CANARY solo series at DC Comics.

So Brenden, how are you enjoying your con so far?

Fletcher: By Con, do you mean this bag of delicious bag of Peanut M&Ms that I’m enjoying?

Obviously.

Fletcher: (Laughs) The Con is wearing me out Brian.  I don’t know man, it took me more than an hour and a half to get over here from Brooklyn today, which was a New York City Fail. It’s been a bit exhausting, but it’s been pretty wicked. I met a ton of fans, did three killer panels, lots going on.

I enjoyed your panel MC skills by the way.

Fletcher: Oh. thank you.

Let’s dive right in. I actually, and no disrespect to any one else who works on the books obviously, but I’ve actually started throwing around the term Fletcherverse on the site as shorthand for  this little corner of the DC Universe that you’ve been involved in for the last year.

Fletcher: It’s been more than a year actually. Eight or nine months since it came out. And thank you, I’m very flattered (laughs). Of course there’s so many more people involved in all this. I would love to take credit for it all, but I can’t.

Well, we can just put Fletcherverse up in giant letters. (Laughs)

Fletcher: Can we make it a hashtag? (laughs)

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I can hashtag this interview with it. Alright, let’s start with BATGIRL. It’s been recounted plenty of places before where the impetus for this new version of Batgirl came from. But I was just wondering, both BATGIRL and GOTHAM ACADEMY seem to bring in large numbers of people who’ve never read comics before, or maybe lapsed from comics. It’s certainly a different feel for a superhero book, certainly DC superhero books. Was that your idea, to appeal to those people by doing a book that didn’t feel like “everything else”?

Fletcher: Well first of all, we were just trying to do a book to please ourselves. Like what kind of Batgirl book did we always want to read. So that was the initial thought, to figure out what we like. But of course we did consider the audience. We considered that these characters have a massive appeal, and it’s a shame that the titles aren’t reaching the people who could potentially love them. So we tried to just harken back to the iconic nature of who Barbara Gordon was, and what made her appealing in the first place. So yeah, along with that came a sense of trying to make comics fun again. The sort of grimmer, darker tone that had been prevailing in DC’s titles through the New 52 is something that is appealing to a part of the fanbase, but it seemed to be a smaller slice than say the people who were coming out to these cons. Hundreds of thousands of people are coming out to these shows every year and very few are actually investing in the comics. But they keep dressing up as the characters, they draw the characters, they love the characters, they want to read about them. Our take was we just wanted to see some joy, which was different that what DC was doing. So doing something that we wanted, finding an iconic version of the character, and bringing joy to it all felt like something we could wrap up in a tight little narrative bow in the Batgirl story, so we just made Barbara Gordon need to find joy in her life. I think it made sense for us, and I think it made sense for a portion of the audience. It seems to be catching on.

The first arc ended with issue 40, then came the CONVERGENCE break. So coming back with Issue 41 in June, and judging by the cover Barbara is going to be confronted by her dad, whose Batman now. I know you spoke about this briefly at the Batman panel yesterday, but the idea of Barbara confronting her father as Batman is very interesting. I don’t know where you guys where in the DC sphere of knowledge, but when your first found out from Scott Snyder that the plan going forward was for Jim Gordon to take on the roll of Batman, was that something that instantaneously knew that you were going to do something with, as far as Barbara and her dad?

Fletcher: Yeah, it was pretty immediate. It was going to be in our best interests, and the character’s best interest to reflect the changes in the Batman title. I just feel like it would be a huge missed opportunity if we didn’t address it. So yeah, we’re hitting it hard. It’s an important thing not just in Barbara’s life, but in Jim Gordon’s life, and that’s something that they didn’t really have time and space to address in the main Batman title. It works out for all the Batman group that we’re addressing it within BATGIRL. It was a great opportunity for us to take.

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Beyond that, what else can we expect heading into the one year anniversary of the series?

Fletcher: What you can expect is Barbara re-integrating with the Bat-family, some interesting plot-lines with the supporting cast we’ve had so far. We’re also bringing in supporting characters from other Bat-Books who you’ll recognize. Barbara’s also got a new love interest, a character that you all know. There’s also a big even issue, 45, coming up in October. That’s really a fun issue that’s gonna be written in a really different style. It’s full of a lot of characters that you know, and it brings to a head a subplot that we’ll be playing with for the Alysia Yeoh character.

Speaking of big event issues, I just wanted to ask you about the BATGIRL: ENDGAME issue. For those who haven’t read it, it’s an almost completely silent issue. I was just curious where that idea came from. Obviously when you’re writing a bat-book, no matter how connected or disconnected they are from Batman himself, usually they’ll involve some major crossover.

Fletcher: I think that was Cameron (Stewart, co-writer of BATGIRL). Chris Conroy, our editor threw out to us the concept of an Endgame tie-in where Joker Zombies are trying to get across to Burnside and Batgirl has to stop them. I talked to Cameron, and as we talked about it he pitched the silent idea. So I laid out the issue, and it really worked. We put the script together, and (artist) Bengal just knocked it out of the park. Bengal’s doing our BATGIRL ANNUAL as well, and really I’m getting pages in that do not need script. He is juts such a fantastic visual storyteller. That ENDGAME issue only works as well as it does because of him.

Speaking of the ENDGAME issues, yesterday I spoke with Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl, the rest of your creative team on GOTHAM ACADEMY (Which you can read HERE) and I brought up the ENDGAME tie-in for that title, because I thought the urban legends concept was fascinating. Within seconds of me bringing it up, that both said that that was your concept from the get-go.

Fletcher: No. I think that was Becky’s concept if I remember. I don’t remember. (Laughs) We all did it together. That was a really fun issue, and for us it was an opportunity to bring in some other creators to work with us. We’ve got Vera Brosgol, Joy Ang, and Clio Chang, and they drew and wrote their own stories, with Becky and I just doing the bookends. It worked out really well, and I hope that we get to do more fun one-shots like that.

Speaking of GOTHAM ACADEMY, another book launched the same month as BATGIRL, is a really interesting book within one of the Big 2 universes. There are almost no costumed characters, none of the core-cast are costumed characters. As far as we know, Olive doesn’t have a Batsuit in a wall somewhere. Where did that concept come from?

Fletcher: That was Becky. Mark (Doyle, DC editor) called up Becky and said “I’m the editor of Batman now, do you want to do a Batman book?” and she said “Sure” and she basically pitched Hogwarts in Gotham and it was a go. From there, we just took to developing it.

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When I spoke with them yesterday, we spoke about the creative process that you guys have, and how you share a studio. I wanted to get your take on working with them.

Fletcher: Karl and I have been best friends for thirty years, we grew up together. Becky says all the time that the three of us have a hive mind, and it’s kind of true. We all want the same thing out of this book. Karl and I especially when we work together don’t even need words really. It’s so easy to work with them, it’s a great team.

One last GOTHAM ACADEMY question, I know that on today’s DC panel you said that in BATGIRL ANNUAL #3 Olive and Maps are going to be appearing.

Fletcher: That’s right.

I was wondering what, if anything, you can say about that? Are they going to be meeting Batgirl or Barbara Gordon?

Fletcher: They’re meeting Batgirl in fact. It’s going to be a momentous occasion for one, and a not-so momentous occasion for the other.

So, field trip to Burnside?

Fletcher: Uh, no. Not a field trip to Burnside at all, the other way around. Batgirl needs to go to Gotham Academy for a reason.

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I guess I lied, one final GOTHAM ACADEMY question. I know Damien Wayne is heavily featured in issue 7. Is he going to be an on-going presence in the book?

Fletcher: I think Damien leaves his mark wherever he goes, and his presence at Gotham Academy will be felt henceforth.

On to BLACK CANARY. Dinah was a supporting character in the first BATGIRL arc. Was her transitioning to her own solo book something that you had in mind from the launch of BATGIRL?

Fletcher: She was always going to be a supporting character in BATGIRL, but we couldn’t have her play the superhero Black Canary without turning the book into BIRDS OF PREY, so we needed to find something else to do with her. It just seemed a natural transition for her to become a rock star, given that she has such a powerful voice and that she’d been portrayed that way in material such as the Bombshells stuff or Cliff Chiang’s Runaways artwork. It just felt like the right thing to do. A couple of months in, before even the launch of BATGIRL, Mark came to me and asked for me to pitch other stories, and BLACK CANARY was on top of the list. We started jamming on that in September, before BATGIRL #35 even came out. I had a meeting with Annie (Wu, Black CANARY artist) in October, only a few days after the first BATGIRL book came out. So we were talking about it really soon, but it wasn’t the initial plan.

Obviously in the book, Dinah’s fronting the band Black Canary and the first arc follows the band tour.

Fletcher: That’s right.

From a collaborative standpoint, this is the first of these books in this little Fletcherverse pocket where you’re not co-writing with anybody. How does that change your creative process?

Fletcher: It’s a lot quicker to get the books out. I love working with Becky and Cameron, but it’s coordinating schedules, time, who’s doing what, it elongates the process which sometimes adds unnecessary challenges to getting the books out the door. That’s not a problem with BLACK CANARY, however that means there are fewer editors involved. Even if I’m writing something for BATGIRL, Cameron is editing it so it goes through another layer of “quality” control. Basically if I write something, Cameron will make it better, and I’ll do the same for something he writes. I don’t have that for BLACK CANARY, so it’s a scarier book for me. Fewer of my buddies together. Like we’re all pals; me, Cameron, Becky, Karl, Babs. Like we’ve been a little team that self-edits things, which isn’t happening with BLACK CANARY. I’m passing along the scripts to Becky, Cameron, and Karl but everyone is so busy they’re just kind of reading them and going “yeah, mostly it’s good. I didn’t like that scene so much.” It’s not that kind of micro level of control.

And how did Annie Wu get on the project?

Fletcher: I begged her. I took her out for coffee in October and threw it out to her. She was excited about it, and eventually agreed.

So what can we expect out of the BLACK CANARY book beyond what we know so far?

Fletcher: Martial arts action, new team dynamic, secrets revealed, the origin of her Canary Cry and it’s not what you think.

Right now adaptations in other media are a driving force in the comics industry. Obviously Black Canary is heavily featured on ARROW, so I’m curious if that affects how you write the character at all, knowing you may have readers who only know her from that show.

Fletcher: When I pitched the series, I brought that up as a point of concern and editorial said not to worry about it. They said we’re the ones paving the way, and the tv stuff follows us. I don’t think we’ll ever see Laurel Lance in a rock band, but maybe they’ll do a one-off episode where she does killer karaoke.

They did have karaoke on THE FLASH, so it could happen.

Fletcher: I will say that this is something that I watch, and I have my eye on it. I’ll do what I can to make the book accessible to people who watch the TV show. But when I say that, it’s not going to be obvious how I’m doing it straight-off, but I think by the end of the first arc you’ll see that there’s a way… I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s a way that the two things are very similar.

I know you guys have been asked this a million times, but let’s talk about the fishnets. From my understanding, she’s not going to have a costume in the traditional sense, it’s her stage outfit.

Fletcher: That’s right. She wears fishnets and various other accouterments on stage, or when she’s getting ready to go on stage.

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And I’m sure nothing ever goes wrong while she’s wearing them. (Laughs)

Fletcher: No, no no no. Nothing ever goes wrong. When she puts those fishnets on, it’s just a performers dream. No problems at all. (Laughs)

We at Comicsverse always like to throw out some philosophical questions before we end our interviews. I asked a similar question to Becky and Karl, but even more so to you because you’re writing Batgirl, you’re writing books with teenage/early twenties characters. Do you tap into your own youth to write those characters? I personally, and I know many others find these books very realistic in their treatment of youthful characters, which is something that’s not often executed well in comics.

Fletcher: I don’t feel like I have a really good memory, but I guess I can throw myself back to feeling like that a bit. And I guess when I start doubting myself, I look at the people in my own family. I’ve got a young lady in my family whose just 20 and has a life that’s not too dissimilar from Barbara Gordon. I look at her friends who are 21 and see the way they live. It’s a touchstone for BATGIRL. I come from the music world, so the BLACK CANARY stuff is really playing off what I went through in my past. As for GOTHAM ACADEMY, my sister has very young kids. A nine year old and a fifteen year old, so I look at what they’re going through to inform GOTHAM ACADEMY I also just look at what we’re writing and imagine if they’ll respond to the book, and if they’ll like it.

Last question; Since music is such a big part of the BLACK CANARY book, I was curious if we’re actually going to see any of her full songs, even if just lyrically. If not, are we going to get an idea of what kind of music Dinah plays?

Fletcher: Well it sounds like something between Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s kind of like a poppy goth that’s a bit danceable. And maybe it’s being recorded somewhere right now that I can’t talk about.

Well I’d listen to it just based on that description alone.

Fletcher: Awesome.

Thank you so much for your time.

Fletcher: No problem. Thank you Brian.

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