SDCC 2015: 10 Minutes with Brenden Fletcher, writer of Gotham Academy and Black Canary (and co-writer of Batgirl)

This year I attended my first Comic Con, and I had a BLAST! I pride myself on my preparation skills, but you can’t really prepare for Comic Con until you’ve actually experienced it. Despite the learning curve, I greatly enjoyed my experience, and the highlights of my weekend were the interviews I was lucky to snag with some of DC’s top talent. Now I’m not going to lie, I had some butterflies going into the interview on Friday with Brenden Fletcher. It was my first Con. He was my first interview. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, every time I mentioned having an interview with Fletcher, all I heard was, “Oh my God, you’re going to love him! He’s amazing. “ or “He’s such a good guy! You’re going to enjoy it!” So that put me at ease.

I’m pretty prompt, so I showed up to the DC booth thirty minutes early, checked in with the publicity team, and decided to people watch until it was my turn. It was packed and loud, but there was a good energy of people scrambling through to look at costumes from films or movies, sample video games, get autographs, and just check out what DC had to tease. Then they called for me to begin my interview:


Publicist: You have your next contestant.

Fletcher: That sounds like fun!

McDonald: I know! It’s like I’m date number three!

Publicist: This is Josh McDonald from Batman News.

McDonald: I’m Josh from Batman News!

Fletcher: I know that site!

McDonald: You do!

Fletcher: I read it often.

McDonald: Awesome! You’ve commented before as well.

Fletcher: I think so. Yeah.

McDonald: By the way, it’s nice to meet you.

Fletcher: What was I commenting on? I do remember that.

McDonald: Ah, you know what? It was back before Gotham Academy came out-

Fletcher: Yeah, I think I was correcting somebody… I think it might have been about Bruce Wayne…

McDonald: We were… we were trying to guess on who the, I guess, guest appearances would be from a villain standpoint-

Fletcher: Right! Yes! Yeah!

McDonald: And you weighed in on one of our writer’s comments.

Fletcher: That’s right.

McDonald: We all had a fun little moment with that and were e-mailing back and forth. So, uh, you’re my first interview –

Fletcher: Oh wicked!

McDonald: – and this is my first Comic Con, so I’m absorbing.

Fletcher: Oh my God.

McDonald: I know. I know. Yeah, I’m just absorbing.

Fletcher: Dude.

McDonald: It’s a lot!

Fletcher: Dude!

McDonald: It’s a whole lot to take in.

Fletcher: This is nothing! Like, wait until tomorrow (Saturday).

McDonald: That’s what I keep hearing. I’m preparing…

Fletcher: You should’ve come yesterday. It was pretty light yesterday.

McDonald: I’ve been here, yeah, I’ve been here all week. So I’ve been taking it day by day.

Fletcher: Yeah, you have to.

McDonald: Uh, so, first I want to say congratulations on the past year.

Fletcher: Thanks, man.

McDonald: It’s been, pretty much a whirlwind. We interviewed you last year before Gotham Academy came out, and you’ve been tied to Gotham Academy, Batgirl, and now Black Canary within the past year. So I kind of want to take a moment, and touch on Gotham Academy for a briefly, then go into Black Canary since its newer. Uh, first off, I’ve described Gotham Academy as DC’s shining light.

Fletcher: (Laughs)

Gotham Academy 1

McDonald: It was a big surprise for me. I read the book, and going into it, I was a little timid. But when I read it, I was amazed at the barriers you were able to break down. It’s obviously marketed for more of a teen audience, potentially even a girl audience, but I think it goes beyond that, especially on an emotional level. How do you find that balance to work for so many audiences.

Fletcher: Uh… That’s a tough question man… I think that, um… We are, in a lot of ways, writing for ourselves. This is the book that I want to read. This is… This is the book of kids in a Gotham boarding school book that I fantasize about.

McDonald: Agreed.

Fletcher: It’s these dark mysteries. It’s a bit of a fun, Scooby Doo vibe, but it all leads to, you know, Bruce Wayne’s dark history, and the ugly secrets of the Arkhams, and this litany of super villains that have different agendas with our students and the school itself. It’s an alternate exploration of what Bob Kane started, back seventy-five years ago.

McDonald: Do you, uh… you mentioned that this was the book you want to read, and I feel like I agree. And the more people I get to read this book, I’ve noticed they seem to feel the same way. They comment on their surprise, and how much fun it is. Which shows you guys have fun writing it. Do you have more fun with the main characters, or kind of playing into the “special guests” that get to come into the book?

Fletcher: Well, I almost don’t know how to answer this, because there is no more fun on Gotham Academy than writing Maps Mizoguchi.

McDonald: She’s the best!

Fletcher: It is the most fun thing on the planet earth to write Maps. I’m sorry for all other writers of comics that don’t get to write Maps.

McDonald: I did write in one of my reviews, and I can’t remember which issue it was, it was early on, but I was like, “If I could meet Maps, and become her friend, I would. This is the coolest person ever.”

Fletcher: But honestly, man, we’re all Batman nerds, and we’re all just finding new ways to tie the Batman mythos into the school, and, you know, sneak villains in. And sneak in supporting characters. Being allowed to put in Aunt Harriet in the book. You know, the Bookworm. Simon Trent, the Grey Ghost from Batman the Animated Series… This is like a dream come true for us. We didn’t think we’d be allowed to do this.

McDonald: One more question on Gotham Academy before we move on to Black Canary. I’ve mentioned how this book breaks barriers, and for an audience that is potentially judging this book by its cover, and haven’t picked it up yet, how would you describe this book in three words to have them potentially check it out?

Fletcher: Hogwarts in Gotham.

McDonald: Nice! Awesome!… You, uh… You ready for Dinah?

Fletcher: Yes. Yeah, do it!

Black Canary 1

McDonald: So, umm… first of all, I was unsure about the band approach.

Fletcher: You’re unsure about everything I write!

McDonald: (Makes a terrified face!). I know… (Makes another face!) You know what, I… I just get cautious. I… But I’ve learned that I should just trust you. I think that’s the message here.

Fletcher: Thank you!

McDonald: Honest.

Fletcher: Thanks, man.

McDonald: I was unsure about the band approach because I thought it was going to be like a cliché or a gimmick, almost, but it’s not. It’s like more of a backdrop.  But it actually fits… Once I read the first issue, it fits Dinah really well.

Fletcher: I’ve been saying this. It’s her day job. This is her Daily Planet.

McDonald: Agreed.

Fletcher: She is still a super hero. She will never stop being a hero. But this is what she does to, you know, pay the rent. This is what she’s doing to make a living. Just like Clark Kent goes off to the Daily Planet every day. You can’t liken it to Bruce Wayne, of course, because he just has a massive stash of money… or had?… I don’t know. But you know what I mean. This is a job, and yeah, it provides a great, fun background for us. But ultimately these are super hero stories.

McDonald: Yes.

Fletcher: I think the first issue is probably one of the more music heavy issues that you’re going to see. From here on out, I think readers will be really surprised of where this series goes.

McDonald: Awesome! I’m looking forward to it!

Fletcher: Awesome! Issue two comes out next week! (Tomorrow)

Black Canary 2

McDonald: I know! It’s less than a week away! I’m desperately waiting… I do want to ask about… Dinah, has had a pretty extensive… I guess, background so far, since the New 52 launched. She was part of Team 7. She was part of Birds of Prey. There’s a lot of draws and connections… What are you hoping to do for Dinah as a character in Black Canary?

Fletcher: My main goal is to flesh out the New 52 version of Dinah Lance… to make her feel like she’s a little more close to the iconic Dinah Lance that we all know and love. Without retreading old ground. And really within that, I want to see her back in that place where she’s the top martial artist in the DC Universe.

McDonald: Agreed!

Fletcher: It is my number one goal! And it’s not something that you’re going to see in the first bunch of issues, but I think if you’re reading closely, you’ll see how it’s all leading to that. But, I mean, I’m going to be candid and say that, that’s the year goal.

McDonald: Cool! I’m willing to take time. Time is good. It builds that foundation.

Fletcher: Alright!

McDonald: You mentioned her past, specifically her team. Even Dinah mentions her team in issue one – referring to the Birds of Prey.  Are we going to see any potential development of a new team, or…

Fletcher: Isn’t she on a new team?

McDonald: Well, I guess so. I guess with the band, she’s on a new team. So is that going to be a new “Birds of Prey” or…

Fletcher: I think the Birds of Prey will, while they’re not active right now, the Birds of Prey will always be the Birds of Prey. It’s that group of characters. I’m not sure you can have Birds of Prey without Dinah and Babs. And Babs is not in the Black Canary book at the moment, so I would not say that this is a new Birds of Prey. I would say, this is a great new team. This is Dinah’s new co-workers. And that is what it is. But you know how story telling – serial storytelling – is a bit of a reciprocal business, and I’m sure, whether it happens in the years that I’m writing Dinah, or the years that follow. I’m sure that we’ll see another incarnation of the Birds of Prey.

McDonald: Definitely. Any plans – or I guess hopes, more so than plans – hopes of doing a crossover with another book, with Dinah?

Fletcher: You are going to see a crossover in October. And it may be announced this weekend.

McDonald: I’ll keep my ears open. Is this crossover potentially a Rock & Roll Band Camp at Gotham Academy?

Fletcher: (Laughs) I can’t say right now, but, that may be on my list of things to accomplish.

McDonald: Nice!

Fletcher: Gotham Academy: School of Rock!

McDonald: Yes! I would read it! Ok, final question. It’s more about the collaboration you go through. I feel like you’re a great writer. I love your writing because of the characters, and I feel like I’m… They feel like my friends. So that, to me, is a plus. But definitely, books are a team effort, and I feel like you’ve hit a perfect storm with your art partners. So can you say a little something about working with Kerschel and Annie Wu?

Fletcher: Karl Kerschel, my illustrator on Gotham Academy, refers to me, often, as his life partner. We’ve known each other for three decades, we went to elementary school together. We’ve been making comics together for what feels like our whole life. You guys haven’t seen them. We’ve been making them though. So working with Karl is like breathing. It’s so easy. We finish each other’s sentences. He knows what I’m looking for on the page before I even get it written down…
Annie is the only person that could’ve launched Black Canary. So much about the direction of this book and what I wanted to do with it, comes from how she brings characters and moments to life. I’ve talked about this publicly before, but the best thing I can do as a writer for Black Canary, is to get out of Annie’s way, and let her just be awesome on the page. And I think if you read it, you’ll see that, if you know that that’s my goal. Uh, she’s fantastic. She’s a great writer on her own, and doesn’t need me to, you know, tell her exactly what every beat should be. So I try to leave some things open for her to play. We have a constant back and forth, so if she feels a beat, or isn’t feeling what I’ve put in there, she’s allowed to – well, allowed to? We just talk about it. I mean, she asks how I feel about certain, new ideas, and most of the time, I love them. She’s brilliant. And uh, we just incorporate that. We have a great relationship. It’s a great back and forth. This book, to me, when I read it, feels like a true collaboration. It feels like Annie Wu on the page.

McDonald: I think in both instances, you get a good voice from both artists.

Fletcher: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Karl, like, re-writes our stuff. I’m not even kidding. Karl is an Eisner Award winning writer and artist. So he’s arguably more capable of writing Gotham Academy than I am.

McDonald: Well, I do want to thank you. This was short and sweet, and a pleasant experience. I’d heard nothing but good things, so it’s nice to meet.

Fletcher: Thanks! It was great to meet you, too!

McDonald: On to date number four now?

Fletcher: (Laughs) Yeah, apparently.  (Motions to the publicist.) I just do what she tells me to! Thanks again, dude!

McDonald: Thank you!

Brenden Fletcher

Brenden really was as nice and welcoming as I’d heard. It was also great to watch him during panels because he was so supportive of other writers at DC, praised the work they were doing, and brought a general excitement to the brand. You can feel his passion when he speaks, and it’s clear he loves these characters. As fans and readers, that’s what we want from writers! You can follow Brenden on twitter @brendenfletcher.

Also, Gotham Academy Vol. 1, Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, and Black Canary #1 are all available for purchase at your local comic shop, or on various online markets. And be sure to check out Black Canary #2 on sale Wednesday, July 15th.