Today, it gives me great pleasure to hand off this blog to Bryan Q. Miller, Executive Story Editor and staff writer on Smallville, and writer of DC’s Batgirl. As most of you know, the first volume of Bryan’s run, Batgirl Rising, was our January Book of the Month Club selection. In support of his book, Bryan has kindly agreed to swing by, answers your questions, and generally get raked over the coals. To those of you who didn’t get a chance to read Batgirl Rising – well, you should pick up a copy. As I’ve already said to various interested parties, it delivers a nice mix of action, intrigue, great character moments and humor in a series that, while built on established mythology, serves as a perfect jumping on point for new readers.
Over to Bryan…
GerryL writes: “1. How did you make the jump from writing for television to writing for comics? Do you prefer one over the other?”
BQM: Gerry – a very talented and affable gentleman by the name of Geoff Johns visited the Smallville offices for a week or two as we broke his first freelance episode (“Legion”). I bent his ear over lunch one afternoon, and asked for some advice on how to break into writing for DC Comics. He recommended I meet a few people in person. Shortly thereafter, during NYCC, I loitered after some panels and introduced myself to Ian Sattler and Dan Didio. Ian and I had some phone tag for a little while after. I took a swing and a miss at doing a short for a Superman anthology, but a few months later, Brian Cunningham (then editor of Teen Titans) contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in writing a few issues. I accepted. No two people get “in the door” in quite the same way – this was mine.
As for which format I prefer, I approach them both with the same level of dedication and focus. Thanks for asking!
“2. Were there any fellow comic book writers that helped you out when you first started? Who were they and how did they help? And what were the biggest challenges you faced?”
BQM: I would refer you Gerry’s above question for the former part. As for the latter, I think the biggest challenge was learning that, in comics, there is no set format. Television writing (generally) has a very standard, very strict set of practical guidelines. Comic book scripts very much do not.
“3. What are you plans for future projects in television and comics?
Thanks to Bryan Q. Miller for answering my questions.”
BQM: And thank YOU for asking them! As for future plans, there are a few things in the works that both contract and polite discourse prohibit me from speaking about in any detail whatsoever. 2011 was a quiet year for me so that 2012 can be substantially noisier. Will hopefully be able to share more VERY soon.
G-Man writes: “Hi, Bryan. Great book. I’d like to know why the change in Batgirl? Why was Stephanie chosen to replace Cassie and do you know if there are future plans for Cassandra with Batman’s return?”
BQM: G-Man! Stephanie was already in place when I came aboard the title… so I honestly have no idea why that direction was chosen. And as for future plans with Cassandra, given DC’s New 52 re-launch… again, I have no idea. I am no longer “in the know” in that department.
TTobias writes: “How did you break into the business, both comics and television? And what was it like working on Smallville? Did you get to go on set a lot?”
BQM: TTobias – Smallville was wonderful, start to finish. A lovely and talented group of people who heartily believed in apprenticeship and instruction. I couldn’t have landed in a more welcoming place for my first gig. As for travel to set – production was in Vancouver, and our writing offices were in Los Angeles… so we didn’t get up there all that much.
KellyK writes: “Hello Bryan! Have to say I loved Batgirl Rising and agree with all of Joe’s points especially about the humor of your writing. I have to admit to being kind of confused because, when the wheelchair-bound woman who Barbara befriends is first introduced, I thought she was Cassie the former Batgirl! Anyway, loved what I read and I have a few questions if you’d be so kind:
1. How long did the Batgirl series run and why, if you’re able to say, did it end? Do you miss writing for Stephanie?”
BQM: Looks like you snuck in a few questions between the question there, KellyK – I’ll do what I can to address them all! Sorry about the confusion on Proxy/Wendy and Cassandra. Was never the intent!
The series ran for 24 issues (technically, 25 if you count the Bruce Wayne: The Road Home event issue… which I count!) As for why it ended, Steph wasn’t invited to the New 52 re-launch. I miss writing for her terribly.
“2. Why Batgirl? When you made the move to writing comic books, why start with this character? Was there an opening? Was she a character you wanted to write for?”
BQM: Steph was a character that I was familiar with and had affection for, so when then-editor Mike Siglain gave me a call and asked if I wanted to put together a pitch for a Steph as Batgirl book, I jumped at the chance.
“3. Someone has already asked about future comic book work but I want to know who your dream character or title would be to write for?”
BQM: As for “dream” characters to write for, that’s a tough one. There’s plenty of books I’d love to take a stab at, on both sides of the Marvel/DC fence… it’s hard to say, really.
“4. Were you a comic book fan before writing for Batgirl? If yes, then which titles did you follow and which writers/artists did you enjoy?”
BQM: At the time I came aboard Batgirl, I was reading pretty much everything DC put out. My favorite titles at the time (and to this day) were the (then-concluded) weekly 52 series and DC’s New Frontier.
“5. Finally – if you could have one superpower what would it be and why?”
BQM: Flight. You know… cuz the flying.
Star77 writes: “1) What was the writing process like on Batgirl? How much direction were you given by the editors at DC and how free were you to create your own storylines? Were there specific dos and don’ts as you started work on the title?”
BQM: “Star77 – thanks for the questions! With very few “mandates”, I had a fairly free run over my little corner of Gotham for Issues 1-14. If I recall, the only “this has to happen” bit was Steph sharing an issue of her title with Red Robin for Yost’s “Collision” event in that title. Once we passed 14, however, more boundaries and guidelines started cropping up that (while constructive) made things a bit less “free-form.” It’s the nature of the beast.
“2) How would you describe your overall experience working for DC? How did you find it compared to working for television? What were the pros and cons?”
BQM: With DC as with any show you don’t create, you’re playing with other people’s toys. It’s an honor to get to spend any time in the sandbox.
“3) What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers looking to break into the business? Would you say its easier to get your foot in the door writing for an established character at a DC or Marvel or an original creator-owned character at somewhere like IDW or Image?”
BQM: Like I said in a question earlier, no two people get through the same door the same way. What would I recommend? Try as many ways as possible, if that’s something you truly want to do. Creator-owned projects can often get tricky, as different publishers have different rules about how money works, with regards to payment and production. Create a great character. Put them in an interesting situation. Find someone to draw it. The more ducks you can have in a row before you start looking for outlets to produce and distribute, the better!
AvidReader writes: “It’s been a while since I’ve read a comic book and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Batgirl Rising. A lot of thought went into the characters and they were all well-drawn and very believable. On the other hand, I thought that some of the story elements were given short shrift and I was left confused at various points where we seem to skip quickly over sections (ie. the whole attempt to drug the college street party) while Stephanie appears to make some big leaps in logic in arriving to her (albeit correct) conclusions. The whole kidnapping plot that concludes this volume, in the same way, felt like it could have used more time and detail in the telling. I wanted to learn more about Barbara and to see the writer explore more of the relationship between Stephanie and her mother, but I suppose that’s was volume 2′s are for!”
BQM: All fair points! Regarding “short shrifting”, keep in mind the drugging of the college party occurred in the second issue of an ongoing I had written ever (I’m not counting my fill in on Teen Titans in this category). Not an excuse, mind you, but I was still finding my sea legs. With the kidnapping plot in issues 5-7, my intent was to spend more time on the Steph/Damian relationship as opposed to the nitty-gritty of the procedural. Plus my whole goal with the book was to tell stories in as few issues as possible.
“How did your writing approach for Batgirl (comic book) differ from your writing approach on Smallville (t.v.)?”
BQM: Shockingly similar. Monetary budget concerns (with television) were replaced with “paper” budget concerns. You only had so much room to tell the story the way you want to tell it.
“Was there anything you wanted to do with the character that you weren’t allowed to (stories you wanted to write but couldn’t)?”
BQM: If you (hopefully) make it through the other 2 trades to issue 24, I think you’ll find the answer to that very question! J
“How much and what kind of research did you have to do prior to writing for Batgirl?”
BQM: I was already very familiar with Stephanie Brown heading in, so research wound up being more incidental, rather than necessary.
“What do you think of the New 52 relaunch? What are you reading?”
BQM: I think it’s a bold initiative, to be sure.
Darken Rahl writes: “I enjoyed Miller’s Batgirl. She reminded me of the Peter Parker with the struggle of balancing school, home life, and being a superhero by night. The person behind the mask was a lot realer for me than the previous ersion. And speaking of the previous version, I hated the old weird mouthless mask and preferred this costume that was a classic throwback to the original.
Bryan, thank you for Batgirl. I miss Stephanie. Any plans to revisit the character in some future book?”
BQM: Thank you, Darken Rahl! And I would love to write Stephanie again (but no one’s asked… WAH-WAH!)
“What was it that inspired you to write Batgirl? What did you draw from?”
BQM: I think, more than anything, the writing of Steph as Batgirl was inspired by my very real want for her character to not only be “redeemed” in the eyes of readers, but to get her due and some respect from the DC Universe itself. As for what I “drew from”, I just tried to write Steph as a person first, vigilante second.
“Going to Comic Con this year?”
BQM: Wonder-Con (probably); SDCC (yes); NYCC (project announcement-pending).
Anne writes: “Hi to Bryan Q. Millar and welcome to Joe’s blog.”
BQM: Thanks for having me, Anne!
“I’d like to know your list of top ten graphic novels/trade paperbacks.”
BQM: If you had asked me this six years ago when I was still working in a bookstore and was finishing off a trade from the GN section a week, I’d have had 20 for you. Now? Not sure. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I can narrow it down. New Frontier will always had a place in my heart.
“What’s it like being married to the awesome Erika Kennair? And where’s YOUR blog?”
BQM: Since I know she’ll read this, I’ll say being married to her is… fine. Seriously, it’s great. We’re very good for each other. And MY blog? Why… it’s here: http://bit.ly/wvi74V It’s brand new and about nothing of any relevance to anything that I do, professionally… though one can only assume I’ll sneak a writing-related post in from time to time.
StarStacey writes: “Hello, Brian. Thanks for taking our questions and great work on Batgirl. I wanted to know what it felt like taking over writing duties on one of DC’s most iconic characters. Did the fact that you were a male writer writing for a female character make you in any way nervous? How did you approach writing for Batgirl? What did you take away from the experience?”
BQM: Thank you taking to the time to participate in Joe’s book club, StarStacey! Starting a title from issue 1 with a marginally controversial character under the cowl was daunting, to say the least. Being a guy writing for a girl didn’t really factor into the process, though – as I’ve said earlier, I approached Stephanie as a person. Not as a guy, not as a girl. But as a 19 year old college student who just wants to do right by everyone… including herself. What I took away from the experience, more than anything, is being humbled at how amazing the passion that fans have for their characters truly is.
Sparrow_hawk writes: “Hi Bryan! I’m kind of a newbie to the whole comic book scene but I loved Batgirl:Rising. What was your inspiration for bringing out another incarnation of Batgirl?”
BQM: Welcome to the party, Sparrow_hawk! Regarding inspiration for doing another incarnation of Batgirl, Steph had already been decided upon to wear the mantle before I pitched my take and ultimately joined the title. My goal with her was to prove that hope can exist in Gotham.
Continuing our preview of Dark Matter #2 (via Comic Book Resources):
Lisa R. writes: “Have a good night, Joe. Hopefully, you can help Cookie Monster recover.”
Answer: I sent him a box of snickerdoodles with multi-colored valium bits baked right inside. I think he’ll be fine for Hero at Large. No promises for Superman II though.
Lewis writes: “Who do you think makes for a better Lex Luthor, Gene Hackman or Kevin Spacey?”
Answer: Cookie Monster has yet to see the Spacey version. Having said that, after watching Superman: The Movie, he’s going with Spacey.
Michelle writes: “An too-convenient plot device that has to be dispensed with asap, sort of like the Asgard beam and the sub-cutaneous transmitters.”
Answer: Ah, thank goodness for ionic atmospheric disturbances…
antisocialbutterflie writes: “Milano cookies battered in Oxycodone and deep fried may do the trick.”
Answer: Cookie Monster wants the recipe!
for the love of Beckett writes: “Have been scarce on the blog because I’m trying to change my sleep schedule. It’s not easy, but totally worth it. Am switching shifts at work, from going in at 6 p.m. to going in 6 a.m. This night owl has to become an early bird, fast! Any pointers?”
Answer: Have you tried melatonin? Just picked some up for my Tokyo trip.
DP writes: ““You’ll believe a man can fly”. Was that their poster?”
Answer: Yep. Their second choice was “You won’t believe we actually made this movie!”
Migzy writes: “Ever thought about setting up a get together of blog regulars in Vancouver? Maybe with some world famous SG stars on the side as a bonus?”
Answer: Had a blog regular get-together a couple of years back. I may make the effort to come out this year.
Migzy also writes: “Seeing as you keep talking about your home theatre system, any chance you might share some specs as I’m sure I’m not the only geek around here wondering what kind of system the Great Joe Mallozzi has installed…”
Answer: It was cool and new when I first installed it…six years ago. I’ll dig up those specs for you…
Deni writes: “Funny, I’ve been waking up at night (20 x a night) because of Elway, too! Thank you for your prayers, they are very much appreciated! He’s doing better, although he seems to be having a few partial seizures now.”
Answer: Hey, Deni, how old did you say he is?
dasndanger writes: “Yes, that is correct. Instead of ‘dasNdanger writes:’, you referred to me as…JOE.”
Answer: Shows how highly I think of you.
dasndanger also writes: “So, by saying you’re not a fan of sour, does that mean (as I have long suspected) that you don’t like limes, lemons, and things flavored with such?”
Answer: I don’t mind limes and lemons for flavor, but don’t like the overpowering citric kick of, say, a ceviche. Yech.
Michael Lutz writes: “Joe, have you seen Star Wars Uncut: Directors cut?”
Answer: Watching it now. It’s great.
Gina writes: “Will you be doing the weird food purchase of the day from Japan this year?”
Answer: I may. I suppose it’ll depend on what I come across. Once you’ve mistakenly eaten codsperm, it’s all downhill from there.
Gina also writes: “Will we get to meet Akemi’s mom?”
Answer: Yep. She’s a regular reader of this blog so I’m sure she’s very much looking forward to making an appearance.
Gina also writes: “What about Max while you are gone? I’m sure it is going to be hard to leave him behind.”
Answer: I’ve gone back and forth on Maximus. Although he drinks water and shows signs of his old self, he is generally lethargic and hasn’t eaten in a week. I’m faced with a tough decision and know that, no matter what I choose, there will be a certain amount of regret. If I leave him with the dog-sitter and he passes away while I’m in Tokyo, then I won’t have been there for him in his time of need. If, on the other hand, I make the decision to put him to sleep before I leave, I’ll forever wonder whether that decision was simply my taking the easy way out. Like I said, I went back and forth on this, leaning one way, then the other – then, tonight, he ate something. It wasn’t much, a half a golf ball-sized portion of raw dog food, but it was enough to restore some hope. I’m now leaning toward leaving him at home, hoping he’ll be here when I get back so I can put off the decision a little while longer.