It’s been a while since the Birds of Prey have taken flight. The informal, usually all-female team has been a staple of the DC Universe since it was first introduced in 1996, but it hasn’t had an ongoing comic since The New 52’s take on the team ended in 2014. But now, nearly two years later, the Birds are primed to return with a new book that takes the concept back to its roots while boasting an exciting new all-female creative team.
BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY debuts next month with a “Rebirth” one-shot that restores the team’s core members of Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress, and even manages to pay homage to Barbara Gordon’s past identity, Oracle. Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson, a longtime writing team who have recently made their names scripting the hit sci-fi series The 100, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is a story about a crime fighting sisterhood that, fittingly, is written by two sisters. We recently spoke with both of the Bensons about what we can expect from this new Birds of Prey comic, how it fits into the quickly growing family of Bat books and how writing for comics compares to writing TV.
So what can you tell us about Batgirl and the Birds of Prey?
Julie Benson: I think they added the “Batgirl” to the title because the main arc is “Who is Oracle?” which is obviously very personal to Barbara since she used to be Oracle. The story revolves around them finding this nefarious person who’s using Oracle’s name for terrible and profitable means, so she’s really the driving force and the leader of the group even though Huntress really has a mind of her own.
You both come from the world of TV, but I know you’re both big comic fans. How did you find yourself joining Rebirth?
Julie: I don’t know! It’s been so crazy. We sat down with Geoff and within five minutes of talking with him about CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and all the nerd stuff that I could deep dive into, he was just like, “You guys need to be writing a book for us. Come on in.”
We met, we talked about a lot of stuff, they pitched us Birds of Prey, we pitched them our take on it and they loved it. So we’re going from there.
Has moving from TV scripting to comic writing been a difficult transition for you?
Shawna Benson: Not really. We broke the story very similarly with Geoff and our editors Mark Doyle and Chris Conroy on a huge whiteboard. We take that and we go to script and we break up our writing duties very similarly to how we do it with television scripts. It felt very similar to what we’ve already been doing.
Julie: Yeah, instead of breaking it up by acts, here we’re breaking it up by issue. “You take the first five pages, I’ll take the next five.”
Shawna: We’re dividing it by sequences and scenes, and then we swap and rewrite each other until we’re happy with it.
You have a couple of really cool artists on this book.
Julie: We’re really excited. We have Yannick Paquette doing covers, and we have a pretty new artist on interiors. Her name’s Claire Roe and she’s based out of Scotland. We’ve seen her work and she’s amazing.
Shawna: It’s great. We’ve got a girl team working on a girl book.
Julie: Three girls working on three girls.
Is that pretty exciting for you?
Julie: It is!
Shawna: I think it’s rare and it’s fun. We’ve already been writing strong female characters on The 100. It’s a natural thing for us. We’re just writing characters that we wanted to see growing up. They have a lot in common. These women, as different as they are, they’re very similar. They have some messed up histories.
Julie: I can’t wait to see what Claire does. It’s got me so excited.
How has it been working within a bigger, shared universe? Have you found that fun? Has it limited you in any way?
Julie: It’s been super fun. We were already reading GRAYSON, BLACK CANARY and BATGIRL, so it felt natural to come in and talk about those characters, but in a slightly grittier way. You take them and put them all on a pile and it’s not going to be the kind of cute, anime Batgirl style. It’s going to be a little darker, it’s going to be grittier. There’s real stakes. Helena Bertinelli is coming fresh off of Spyral and she’s got a new agenda. She wants to take out the mafia families that killed her family. Batgirl’s coming off of Hope’s run where she’s had her walkabout in Asia. We’re picking up her story after that in continuity.
Shawna: Hope’s book is like a flashback, essentially. It’s like a telling of what happened over her summer vacation and we pick her up in the fall when she’s back in Gotham.
Julie: Black Canary is coming off of her tour. They all exist in this continuity and time period. We’re just moving the story forward.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Helena Bertinelli as Huntress. What can we expect from it?
Julie: By the end of Grayson, you’ll have seen the new outfit. They’re teeing us up very nicely. She’s going to have her crossbow. She’s going to have her hit list. She is, for lack of a better word, the Punisher of this story. She’s going after people to kill, and that’s going to create a problem with Batgirl who is very by the book and doesn’t kill.
Shawna: Dinah’s going to wind up standing between them and mediate between the two extremes. Sometimes she’ll pick a side and sometimes she’ll come up with a third way. She’ll find the way that’s agreeable to everyone. Something within moral boundaries, but satisfying in getting the job done.
This book is very much within the Batman family of comics, which is a pretty big family. Will Batgirl and the Birds of Prey be really closely connected to the other books, or can we expect it to be more of its own thing?
Julie: It’s all in that Bat family. They’re going to be in Gotham. We’re not going international in this first story, so it’s back home. It should feel like a Bat book. We should see the streets of Gotham. We should see the mob families.
Shawna: I think because they get on this trail of trying to discover who Oracle is, it’s sort of something that is running under the radar of Batman or anybody else who’s working the streets of Gotham because it’s personal for Barbara. Of course that also leads her to other mysteries and other antagonists that they’re going to have to fight over the course of this arc.
Julie: That’s the fun part. We get to create some new villains. We have a metahuman snake gang that’s been hired by this new, power driven mob boss in Gotham. So we’re bringing back Copperhead and Lady Viper, while creating new characters like this one we have named Asp. So it’s a snake gang, and you know snakes and birds—they don’t usually get along very well in nature.
The Birds of Prey are back on July 20, 2016 in BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY: REBIRTH #1 by Shawna Benson, Julie Benson and Claire Roe. Their story then continues in BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #1 by Benson, Benson and Roe on August 17, 2016.
This is the latest in a series of interviews looking at the many DC comic books that will be spinning out of this summer’s "Rebirth." Keep an eye on DCComics.com for more!