Does Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ Have Its Roots In A Seemingly Defunct Comic Book Project?

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Back in March, Joss Whedon announced he was teaming up with DC Comics and Warner Bros. to bring Batgirl to the big screen. At the time, I pondered if Whedon’s trademark dialogue and directing style could save the DC live-action slate from its current dour tone. What I didn’t mention was how surprised I was to hear Whedon was on board to both write and direct another huge tentpole superhero film. It’s pretty well known that making The Avengers: Age of Ultron just about broke Whedon. So much so that since Age of Ultron was released in May of 2015, Whedon’s IMDb page has been a wasteland.

What could make Whedon take the plunge again? Is directing a superhero film like childbirth, where eventually you forget the pain and your brain engulfs you in hormones that make another round seem not only tolerable, but like a great idea? Or is this Batgirl film at least partly the outcropping of another project Whedon announced in 2015? One that failed to materialize. A comic called Twist.

The internet has the memory of a goldfish, so most have probably forgotten that at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, Joss Whedon received the Icon Award after an hour long, one-man panel. Topics throughout ranged from Buffy and Firefly to Whedon’s relationship with Dark Horse Comics. He even announced his first post-Age of Ultron project would be a new comic with the publishing house. Twist was supposed to be a six-issue comic due out in 2016 that would revolved around “Victorian female Batman.” The comic even had cover art.

A source close to the announcement at the time told me the comic was in the nascent stages, with nothing nailed down except the the cover and the concept. But even with such a flimsy premise, Dark Horse was surely excited to partner with Whedon again. Then? Nothing. Crickets. 2016 came and went with nary a peep about the state of Twist. Entertainment projects of all stripes die in development or are bogged down by competing schedules, so it’s possible Twist is still in the works*. But with Whedon moving on to Batgirl, it seems likely the film will take up his life for the foreseeable future. But if Twist died so Batgirl could live, perhaps Whedon’s seemingly discarded comic can give fans insight into what kind of story he might tell with Barbara Gordon.

*I reached out to Dark Horse for any official word on the state of Twist, but by the time of publication I had not heard back.

From an interview with EW after SDCC 2015:

“It’s a story I had stuck in my head for the last couple of years that I was finally like, ‘I guess I have time to get this out now’, out of my head and onto a page,” Whedon said when asked how the idea came about. “It’s called Twist, and it’s a Victorian thriller superhero story about a young chambermaid who, bad things happen to her. Needless to say, because it’s something I’m writing, she becomes very powerful because of it,” shared Whedon, who, in addition to calling his protagonist a “Victorian, female Batman” also teased during his panel that her personality might resemble that of Dark Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Whedon also said Twist would feature a protagonist who was “fed to a dark horror — but instead of dying, she returns, with knowledge, power, and rage she can neither deny nor control.” So, if it does share aspects with Twist, any hope that Batgirl might borrow a lighthearted page from the recent Batgirl of Burnside run instead of Gail Simone’s amazing but darker series should probably temper expectations. If the germ of Twist is indeed the inception of Whedon’s take on Batgirl, Barbara Gordon will be dealing with some serious demons. This makes sense as it’s more in line with the general aesthetic Warner Bros. is cultivating for their DC live-action films. But just because Babs probably won’t be a plucky college student dealing with sentient A.I. and hackers, doesn’t mean Whedon won’t infuse the film with his Whedon-isms. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had plenty of dark episodes. Firefly literally had insane space cannibals and shadow governments experimenting on children. The key is balancing the horror with humanity, a trick at which Whedon excels.

Of course, it’s entirely possible Twist has no bearing at all on Batgirl. But if I were a betting gal — and I am — I’d put good money on some of the seemingly defunct comic series making it into the Batgirl script.