They way they tell it, writing duo Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad (Wonder Woman) jumped at the chance to helm DC’s new Batgirls series — featuring not one, or two, but all three Batgirls of Gotham City — before they knew who the artist on the series would be. But when they were teamed up with Jorge Corona (Robin), it was serendipity.
“You want to write to the strengths of an artist,” Conrad told Polygon, “and with Jorge, that’s really easy.”
“Because he has no weaknesses,” Cloonan interrupted to say.
“We haven’t found it yet,” Conrad deadpanned. “We’re gonna try.”
Corona took their comments well in stride when Polygon sat down with the Batgirls team to discuss the vibrant look of the new series, with its first issue out this week. Batgirls follows classic Batgirl Barbara Gordon and her proteges, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, as they lay low in Gotham’s the Hill neighborhood, searching for a dangerous new villain who has been coopting Barbara’s old hacker identity, Oracle.
Barbara is taking a step back from the costumed life, with Cass and Stephanie stepping out as partner Batgirls — an odd couple who are also best friends. Cass is the scary-looking, taciturn, unstoppable fighter, and Steph is the quipping, cheerful brains of the operation. And if the visuals of a superhero book begins with the costumes, Jorge is working with some of the best in the business, with Cass in her classic all-black Batman-but-a-girl-is-wearing-it duds, and Steph in her beloved purple and black hooded costume, finally emblazoned with her own bat-symbol.
Tweaking the costumes was not something that Corona was interested in, in favor of taking on the challenge of converting the characters into his own dynamic style.
“I tried to stylize them in a way that they still they still felt that I was drawing them, that it wasn’t trying to copy someone else. The good thing is, was it was it was fairly easy just to adapt it. They’re they’re very iconic costumes and they’re really fun to draw. I got to play around with the shape language of both Batgirls, [...] the way they move, they fight, they react. Cass is fun to figure out, because she’s just two eyes and a shadow, just trying to express emotion with that. And Stephanie is way more extroverted in the way she expresses emotions.”
That attention to character naturally extends to the way the characters fight. This is a martial arts-based superhero book, after all.
“The way that they fight is completely different,” Cloonan told Polygon. “Cass is a trained assassin, Steph is like a wrecking ball [laughs]. So when we’re choreographing the fight scenes it’s fun to have them play against each other like that.”
Corona described the process of combat scenes on the book as inherently collaborative, where he takes the beats Cloonan and Conrad outline in the script, translates it to something that’s dynamic on the page, and then checks in with them for more. It “ends up being a combination of our three heads working together and trying to come up with a really cool fight,” he said.
“Honestly, I love getting that information from Becky and Michael, because there are some moves that I would have never thought about. Even if I’m smashing my face against the screen because I’m trying to figure out how to draw that, [laughs] it’s really cool because it comes out as a much more creative fight. [...] My wife is also a black belt, and she used to do competitive martial arts. Every now and then I have to go ‘So how would you do that? But also don’t hurt me right now.’”
The extra spice on the art of Batgirls is undoubtedly colorist Sarah Stern, who has equipped the book with a blazingly varied swath of color. The action sequences in the first issue pop with brilliant yellows, reds, and greens, turning up the dynamism of our black and purple heroines without ever obscuring them.
“I think Jorge has a style that that can work at DC but also doesn’t look and feel like a house style,” Conrad told Polygon. “Which is great because we don’t want Batgirls to look or feel like another DC book. We want it to behave by its own rules; to be a part of this greater world of Gotham, but to have its own language.”
“Between Jorge’s incredible linework; Sarah Stern creating this color palette that is unlike anything that you see in the Big Two; and then Becca Carey on lettering — which, man, she’s got her work cut out for every issue. She’s managed to create really powerful dynamic lettering that becomes part of the art on the page.”
Batgirls #1 is available in comic shops, Comixology, and other retailers now, with more issues hitting every month, as Barbara, Cass, and Steph hunt down the mysterious villain “Seer.”