Marc Andreyko on taking over the reins of ‘Batwoman’

(CBR) Marc Andreyko was revealed to be the incoming “Batwoman” writer practically overnight. Following a joint statement by current “Batwoman” creative team J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman saying that they planned to depart the book after the conclusion of their current story arc. A few days later, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio told assembled fans at Baltimore Comic-Con that Andreyko would take over from the duo starting with “Batwoman” #25. DC later confirmed Andreyko would be joined on his run by artist Jeremy Haun.

Andreyko, a veteran comics writer and co-creator of DC’s “Manhunter,” spoke with CBR News about the responsibility of taking on Kate Kane in the New 52, including his first issue — a “Zero Year” tie-in, evolving the series’ theme and character relationships, his view of online criticism, the challenges inherent in taking over the series and more.

CBR News: Marc, tell us a bit about where your run of “Batwoman” picks up in issue #25? What’s the current status of Kate Kane and company when your first issue opens?

Marc Andreyko begins his run on DC Comics’ “Batwoman” #25 with artist Jeremy Haun following the exit of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

Marc Andreyko: Issue #25 is actually a “Zero Year” tie-in issue, so it deals with Kate returning home to Gotham due to an event that happens in Scott [Snyder’s] book that I can’t be more specific about. [The issue covers] her interaction and a shape of things to come look at Kate and seeing how the threads of her becoming Batwoman go back very, very far.

Dan DiDio said during Baltimore Comic-Con that Batwoman is going to become an integral part of Batman’s universe. As a writer, how do you approach taking a character that’s operated somewhat on the periphery of the Bat-family and organically integrate her into that integral role?

I think the organic part is inherent in the concept of the book; she’s named “Batwoman,” she lives in Gotham City, so I don’t think there’s going to be any sort of struggle to integrate her more fully in the Batman world. It’s such a rich mine of storytelling gold to be able to interact with those characters and expand Batwoman’s universe a little. From a writing standpoint, getting to write Bat-characters is like the actor’s equivalent of getting to act with De Niro or Dustin Hoffman. These are the characters that have shaped the industry, so getting to play in that sandbox is going to be super fun.

One of the major themes of the New 52 “Batwoman” series has been family. How does that element carry through into your run and how do you plan to evolve it as you continue to get comfortable with the title and characters?

As people who read my run on “Manhunter” know, I really like big supporting casts. As a film fan and a writer, I’m a huge fan of the Robert Altman cast of thousands, because a fully-formed supporting cast only informs who your lead character really is. I like having big casts, and luckily, so far they’ve already established a nice-sized cast in “Batwoman” with Bette and Kate’s dad and Maggie Sawyer and all the characters. Plus, the fact that she’s related to Bruce Wayne opens that up even more, so it’s going to be a lot of fun and I want to make this a very rich book where every character when they take the stage is interesting and compelling.

That said, has it been a challenge for you to jump into these characters in such a large cast?

The challenge is trying to maintain a consistency of character to who she’s been established [as] by great creators — J.H. and Haden and Greg [Rucka] did such a vivid job of painting this character and bringing her to life that I want to keep a constancy of character but also up some stakes and open up her world a little more and have her interact more with the people around her — whether they’re superheroes or normal human beings.

One of the great elements that J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman introduced in the New 52 run of “Batwoman” was the DEO. How, if at all, are you hoping to take on those characters and integrate them into the story you have planned.

Well, I’ve written the DEO before. Cameron Chase and Director Bones were big parts of “Manhunter” during the run, so I do have a real strong affection for those characters. The DEO will be playing a part in the book, but probably not as in the forefront as it is now. I kind of want to start fresh for me, in a sense — start with some new story lines and eventually deal with some of the leftover stuff. I want to make the book consistent, but also make the book feel new so that new readers can pick it up and feel like they’re jumping on to a new chapter in an adventure.

It’s tough to talk about you writing “Batwoman” without thinking about your fantastic run on “Manhunter,” which went for 38 issues. How would you compare your experience with Kate Spencer and your current fledgling experience writing Kate Kane — two Kates that seem to be cut a bit from the same cloth?

They’re cut from the same cloth in that they’re very strong-willed and very focused, driven women, but the name, the gender and the strong personalities are where they depart. They’re both utterly different and have utterly different motivations and things that drive them and propel them through the DC Universe. I think what’s so fun and challenging about writing Kate Kane is that the character has been so vividly created that picking up threads that weren’t necessarily looked at in previous runs and running with them and remaining organic to the character are a lot of fun. As a writer, you want to be faithful to what has been done before, but you also want to bring some of what you bring to the table and bring that to the character. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge.

You’ve mentioned that you’re a fan of both the work in the New 52 by Williams and Blackman, but also of the original run by Greg Rucka. Those are two difficult acts to follow. What’s your approach to the title not just when it comes to staying true to the character that previous creators have had such a large hand in creating, but also in making sure it has your own spin and voice?

I’d like to see a bit more lightness in the book. I think the book has been a very heavy, very serious book almost since its inception. I don’t want any “Bwa-ha-ha” “Justice League International” comedy in it, but I would certainly like to see some moments where people crack a smile and people are having moments of fun or moments of enjoyment. I think you run the risk of — Gotham City is such a dark place to begin with that if there aren’t moments of lightness, the darkness can be really overwhelming. The perfect example of that is Batcow. Batcow is amazingly funny and ridiculous and great, but doesn’t take away from the serious of Batman and provides a great release of stress and pressure that I think is necessary. If you don’t have moments of lightness, the moments of darkness become white noise. Vice-versa, great tragedy also has great moments of comedy in it. There’s a counterpoint to make you appreciate the extremes.

Staying on the topic of darkness and light, a big light aspect of Kate’s life in the book has been Maggie. There’s been some concern about her future in the book from online discussion, and I was wondering if you could speak specifically about the relationship between Kate and Maggie and where you’re hoping to take it.

Well, the relationship is going to be like any relationship — it’s going to be one filled with elements of great love and affection, moments of great conflict and great challenges. As human beings, I always say we’re the only species that purposefully overcomplicates things, and there are definitely going to be complications. It’s going to be like any relationship. There’s going to be the good times and the bad times, and those are going to be heightened by the fact that a superhero vigilante is dating a police person, the fact that they’re a very public gay couple and the fact that Maggie has a daughter from her previous marriage. There’s all sorts of rich, rich drama to be explored there and it’s going to be a roller coaster ride, like any relationship is.

Relationships have played a huge role in this book since its inception — not just familial relationships, but friendships, romantic relationships and more. Which relationship most excites you to explore as you start your run?

I think the Kate and Maggie relationship is going to be really, really fascinating because having your main character in a committed relationship is something I’ve not written on a regular basis. In “Manhunter,” Kate was pretty aggressively single for most of the whole run. Making the relationship that’s day-in-and-day-out compelling and interesting and real is going to be a lot of fun and a great challenge. I’m really looking forward to writing Bette, because I think Bette organically brings a lot of the lightness into the book where Kate, her donning the mantle of Batwoman seems to be one of responsibility and destiny and seriousness, Bette enjoys being a superhero. For good or for bad, sometimes it gets her into a lot of trouble as we’ve seen earlier in this run, but I think that she’s a really, really fun, fresh voice that brings a needed aspect to the book.

I wanted to touch on something you mentioned while you were speaking with Jonah Weiland this past Saturday at the CBR Speakeasy — that you had been called a “gay Uncle Tom” by a few websites. How do you respond to comments like that? Does it affect your work in any way or how you view fandom?

The internet is the internet. I’m convinced there’s not actually 3 million people on the internet, that it’s four guys who have 350,000 screen names apiece. You take the good and you take the bad. When you’re doing work, when you’re a public figure — to whatever extent I am a public figure — people are passionate about things and the anonymity of the internet allows people to say things they normally wouldn’t say to your face. My rule of thumb of things I post on the internet is I try to only post things I would say to the person if they were sitting across the table from me. But you take it with a grain of salt. There’s always going to be people complaining, I always believe that when you read a really great review on the internet, you gotta find a bad review, because they’re all the same level of things. It doesn’t really affect me at all, and it’s been so minimal in comparison to so many other people that get announcements on the internet that 99.9% of the reaction has been so overwhelmingly positive and supportive and excited that it’s made me even more want to make sure this is the best possible Batwoman book that it can be, rise to the occasion and challenge myself and grow as a writer to hopefully live up to what has been done before and the great legacy this character already has in her short time of existence.

Wrapping up, what’s been the biggest challenge for you in crafting new adventures for Batwoman so far?

The speed with which it’s happened. The speed with which I got the gig has really been a from-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire. The momentum of it has been insane. Things in comics happen like things in Hollywood. You either are an overnight sensation or things take years and years and years and years, and with this, this happened so quickly and with such momentum that I’m still getting my bearings and reeling and plotting out what I’m going to do for my first big arc after the “Zero Year” issue. Luckily, I’ve got a great, great, great team who couldn’t be more supportive. [Editors] Mike Marts and Rachel Gluckstern I worked with before back on the “Manhunter” backups in “Streets of Gotham.” Working with Mike is something I’ve wanted to do again. We’ve become really good friends and I think he’s probably one of the best editors working in comics. The fact that the Bat-universe is so cohesive, so well handled and so accessible at the same time is a testament to the talent that Mike has and the talent Mike surrounds himself with.

Even though this came super, super fast, and I’m certainly jumping in to the deep end of the pool, I’m jumping in with really great water wings and the water’s really warm. It’s scary and fun and hopefully I won’t sink.

Marc Andreyko’s run on “Batwoman” begins in November with issue #25.