At The Mary Sue, we try and keep tabs on women comic book writers and get excited when someone new enters the fray. Take Marguerite Bennett, for instance. The newly graduated writer is getting the introduction of a lifetime by writing the Big B at DC Comics. No, not Batman (though she’s got him under her belt already) – we’re talking about Batgirl. Hit the jump and find out what Bennett had to say about her start in comics, writing a Zero Year tie-in, pop-culture favorites, and eating waffles at midnight.
The Mary Sue: Now that your first issue at DC Comics has been released, has the pressure of this being your first comics gig lessened any?
Marguerite Bennett: I’ll be honest—the week the Batman Annual #2 debuted, I was a right bundle of nerves. Everything I’d been responsible for had gotten turned in ages ago—there was nothing to be done on my part but wait. I felt like a sitcom dad, fretting and pacing outside the delivery room—I’d done my work, and now I was just waiting for the kid to come out.
My friends were the kindest—took me to our local diner at 11pm on Tuesday night for milkshakes and waffles until the clock struck midnight and it was officially Wednesday, July 31st. The Batman Annual arrived with a blue hat and booties at 0lbs, 9oz, all staples and pages accounted for. In lieu of cigars, there were further milkshakes.
Now, if you haven’t yet scowled and closed your browser with a “This chick is crazy and extends her metaphors much too far,” let me say that I don’t expect that the pressure will ever be any less, though I should like to anticipate that I’ll become the better at managing it. (If nothing else, having waffles and milkshakes at midnight that often can’t be good for me.)
I’m sure I’ll be a ball of nerves when Lobo #1 drops, and I’m sure I’ll be hiding under the covers when Batgirl #25 appears, but I’ve been told by other DC writers (my lovely pack of older brothers) that you get into a rhythm and a confidence that what you wrote was a story you believe in, that that knowledge takes the edge off of any hate that comes your way.
TMS: You have a Twitter account so I assume you’ve gotten some fan reaction to the issue. What’s been the best reaction?
MB: Twitter has been shockingly and exceptionally kind. I’m normally married to my phone, but on July 31st—the day the Batman Annual came out—I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the thing. I didn’t want to know what people were texting me or e-mailing me or Tweeting to me. I wanted to curl up on the couch in my fox blanket and marathon Breaking Bad. (Yeah, science!)
I finally broke sometime after noon, sitting with my friend Amanda before we went off to the comic store for our Wednesday haul. I could’ve cried at how positive and complimentary everyone was. One, which made me laugh at loud, was simply, “DAMN GIRL, you can write!!!” Others were from people who told how heartened they were to pursue their dreams in comics, some of them girls not even out of high school. The ones that warmed me the most were from friends in the industry, like Tom Taylor, the writer of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comics, and Sterling Gates, the author of Vibe. And Scott [Snyder], being much too kind, much too generous—which is how Scott always is—telling folk that “everything good” in the Annual was all my doing—that brought tears to my eyes.
Ultimately, y’all are who I’m writing for. I try to respond to every kind word I get from Twitter, but a message isn’t enough to express my gratitude and appreciation for the fans’ love and dedication. I really hope to make everyone proud.
TMS: A lot of aspiring writers are always trying to find out how to break into comics. You have a somewhat unique place in that you’ve been brought into the fold after Scott Snyder got to see your writing work first-hand in his graphic novel course at Sarah Lawrence College. Can you tell us your first reaction at being approached and then what the experience was like working with Snyder on the Batman Annual?
MB: Oh, Lord, how am I ever going to forget it?! :D It was a raw evening in January, already pitch dark, and the first Monday of classes in my final semester at graduate school at Sarah Lawrence. Class had just let out and my friends were all leaving for the night, and Scott caught me and asked if I had a minute to talk. We caught up briefly before he pulled me aside and told me about the projects he had coming through 2013, before lighting on the Batman Annual and saying he could use some help with it.
(“Help” was actually the word he used, like I was doing him a favor. Drop him off at the airport, grab his kid from soccer practice, write Batman with him—all basically the same, right?)
I’m shocked he didn’t rescind the offer after seeing the crazy person smile on my face, but I bless him that he didn’t. After I’d said yes (and please imagine correctly the overwhelmed, shocked, delighted, terrified expression on my face), honest to God, he followed it up with a “Really? That sounds like something you’d be interested in?” as if I might counter with, “Actually, you know, my schedule is really filling up and I just don’t love Batman with the fiery passion of a thousand suns and I’ve been really looking for a way to let you down.”
Working with Scott has been a dream. He has been so kind, encouraging, supportive, and dedicated. He’s one of my favorite people, hands down, and I trust him entirely. Some days I can’t believe all of this has happened, and I have to laugh at how much has changed since a raw night in January. I could not be happier or more grateful, working with him and having worked with him. I’ll always be on his team.
TMS: And you have a few other projects coming up at DC as well, a Justice League issue featuring Lobo, and Batgirl #25, a Zero Year tie-in. Was it an open dialogue within DC as to what else you’d like to try or did they approach you after seeing your initial work?
MB: Back in May, when I was at the DC Headquarters for a meeting with my lovely editors, Mike Marts and Katie Kubert, I was told that Bob Harras wanted to speak with me. (Please envision my knees turning to jam. Please imagine me in my swishy coral sundress, wishing I’d had the sense to show up in business casual.) Mr. Harras invited me into his office and offered me Lobo, whereupon I was taken to see Dan Didio (my knees are now double-jam—I’m not sure if that’s a thing but that’s what my knees were). They both spoke of the horror elements that color my writing, expressed their approval for the fresh perspectives my youth allowed, gave me a series of directives (including “No dark is too dark” and “Scare me”), and took me to Rickey Purdin (my new editor, also a professional sweetheart). And I was writing freaking Lobo.
Batgirl was less sensational, though there were still knees being turned to jam (different flavor, this time). I was in the midst of building an IKEA bookcase when I got a call from Katie Kubert (the editor of Batgirl), who talked to me about the concept of the Zero Year tie-ins throughout the Batverse. I’d previously done an inventory script for Batgirl, and Katie spoke of the timing of the project, the radical changes in Gotham, Scott’s vision of Zero Year (about which Scott had talked at length while we worked on the Annual), and what DC saw as my suitability for the dire, chaotic one-shot adventure. After hanging up, there was a great deal of jubilant swearing (much more cheerful than the previous IKEA swearing, where you swear every time you mush your fingers against Swedish particleboard).
TMS: As to your Batgirl issue, did you get to speak with Gail Simone about how you were going to approach Barbara at all or was it more of a Snyder thing since it’s a tie-in to his larger story?
MB: I poured over Gail’s Batgirl issues (behaving equal parts “meticulous” and “madwoman”) until I felt I had a solid grasp on Barbara’s nature in the New 52. (Seriously, my comics and trades—yes, I’m one of those people who buy both—are studded all over with Post-It notes and scribbled observations.) Zero Year predates everything on Gail’s run, including the #0 issue, but I wanted to make sure that this story began the formation of the person that grew up to be Gail’s Batgirl, the character I adore above almost any other in the DCU. Beyond that, Zero Year has allowed a lot of freedom in the molten chaos of Gotham before the coming of Batman, and all I can say is that I hope you enjoy it. :)
TMS: Did you have any input on Batgirl’s, presumably, first costume?
MB: I’m really delighted with how Barbara’s first battlegear came out. (I feel like I should be a doting mother, snapping pictures of her in her first kickass costume.) Katie and I had discussed how Barbara might look during the course of the Zero Year, how her youth and circumstances might’ve influenced her physicality and appearance from her clothing to her haircut to her build. I incorporated those concepts into the narrative, including the scene in which Barbara acquires and dons her first costume out of…things I’m…probably not supposed to reveal yet. (Sorry. :/)
Katie sent the scene to Alex Garner (@AlexGarnerArt, by the way—go follow him, as he has far fewer followers than he deserves), who drew us a series of tremendous renderings of Babs à la guerre. Together we selected the final design, which I hope you think is just as freaking cool as I do. :D
TMS: As a comic fan, what’s your personal take on Barbara Gordon as a character?
MB: As Batman is about justice and obsession, as Batwoman is about service as soldiers serve, to me, Barbara Gordon is about recovery—recovery in the sense of healing from traumas both mental and physical, recovery in the sense of rescuing what was once lost, recovery in the sense of redeeming what had been considered worthless or unworthy. My love for her stems both from her compassion and her ferocity, her willingness to admit her uncertainty as well as her anchored convictions. Her duality—encompassing the loss and the rescue, the fighter and the healer—draws me as much as it delights me. I hope I can bring that to the page for you.
TMS: Lightning round time, ready? Favorite DC character other than Batman?
MB: Batwoman/Kate Kane in the New 52!
TMS: Favorite literary character?
MB: Quasimodo from Notre Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame/The Title of Your Choice
TMS: Favorite Disney character?
MB: Belle from Beauty and the Beast (Stockholm syndrome and all). Fun Fact: “Primeval” was one of my favorite playground insults.
TMS: Favorite movie?
MB: Tarsem Singh’s The Fall. I ask three things of all the art that I love—beauty, creativity, and brutality. That movie brought them all and thrilled me to the core.
TMS: Website you visit daily that’s not social media?
MB: Cracked.com (Don’t laugh at me! Go and read and laugh in general.)
TMS: Now what could be a long or short answer depending on your point of view; we all have our personal reasons, why do you love Batman?
MB: I love damaged things. Before I come off as any more of sociopath (cue the BBC Sherlock fans), I love his obsession, which drives him, which compels him, even as it destroys him and all that he loves. I love and despair that when given the choice between his sense of justice and his sense of compassion, he sacrifices his own chances at peace and happiness for what he believes must be done. I love how at once he is so close and so far from the villains he combats, how many times he plunges into the abyss and claws his way back up, not broken but redoubled with ferocity and conviction. He is the great unstoppable force, the modern god of justice. Some mornings I lie awake in bed and can’t believe I ever had the gall and presumption to write him. I hope you either love him or forgive me for doing so.
TMS: Thank you so much for your time, Marguerite. We look forward to reading more from you.
MB: It’s been a pleasure! Thank you so kindly for your interest. For further absurdity, I’m @EvilMarguerite on Twitter. I really, sincerely hope you love what we’ve got coming.
(Click image to view large.)
Written by MARGUERITE BENNETT
Art by FERNANDO PASARIN and JONATHAN GLAPION
Cover by ALEX GARNER
On sale NOVEMBER 13 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
A BATMAN: ZERO YEAR tie-in! Barbara Gordon is forced to protect her brother and her homestead in anticipation of the upcoming storm—but it’s here that she learns the true meaning of “home” and “hero.”