Hope Larson, Chris Wildgoose, and some truths about Batgirl’s “Summer of Lies”

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Batman News was granted the opportunity to connect with writer Hope “Sun Hat” Larson and artist Chris “Top Hat” Wildgoose to find out a little more about their work together on the Batgirl series. We’re now 15 issues into this latest run and we’ve seen Barbara Gordon face some new challenges, but nothing like her new nemesis in the Red Queen.  Batgirl definitely took a dark turn in issue no. 14 as a shadow from Babs’ past has begun toying with people’s lives in a mysterious game of vengeance. In this past week’s issue no. 15, things have turned darker still. If you’re a fan of grim plots, you probably want to pick this one up!  As an added bonus, Dick Grayson (once Robin, now Nightwing) is also along for the ride–and possibly likewise embroiled in it just as deep as Babs. The two were kids together, but it’s clear from this storyline that their past was anything but child’s play.

We’re not going to spoil anything about the story here, but we did want to touch on aspects of the creative process, characterization, and other curiosities.

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Questions for Hope Larson

Readers are very excited by the return of Dick Grayson to this book.  Dick and Babs have a natural chemistry and share a lot of history. Do you find that makes it easier or harder to write them together?

HOPE: It’s definitely easier for me to write characters who have a shared history. The two of them have such clearly-defined voices, it felt natural to write them, and writing them together was fun. There’s a playfulness to them; they’re always sparring and testing each other.

Do you approach their relationship as crime-fighting colleagues, a flirtatious friendship, or genuine true love?

I approach their relationship as all of the above: colleagues, flirtatious friends, and true love. They have too much history for what’s between them to be less than love. Does true love mean they’re destined to end up together and have babies? Not necessarily. But they absolutely love each other.

While we’re on the subject, Babs has had quite the revolving door of flirtations throughout this run! Is that going to continue to be a trend for her or will she spend more time independent of male encumbrance?

HOPE: I definitely see her taking a break from dating and spending some more time with her friends in the next little bit. There’s so much packed into this run that she hasn’t seen her girlfriends at all, and I miss them!

Some of Babs’ most intense moments have been when she didn’t see eye to eye with Bruce—particularly with his propensity to shut people out. Any plans to make Bruce a stronger—even if physically absent—presence in the book?

HOPE: Nothing planned at the moment! My whole run on the book has been about Babs doing her own thing, figuring out who she is. I’m not sure where Bruce fits into that. There have been a couple of times when we wrote him in briefly, but it didn’t feel right and we took him out. Who knows, though. We’ll see!

In Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Babs has embraced her identity as Oracle again. Should we expect to see ripples of that in Batgirl? You do an amazing job of balancing Batgirl’s many gifts: her keen mind, her tech, and her fighting skills: which part of her is your favorite to dig into?

HOPE: I like writing fight scenes the most. I like the tech aspects of it (or, er, the pseudo-tech aspects of it), but they are so difficult to think up!

Jim Gordon is one my personal favorite characters in the Gotham universe and I am always excited to see him. I especially enjoy his relationship with his headstrong daughter. How much more of Babs’ past will involve interactions with Dad and will we be getting actual father-daughter storylines in the future? How do you feel about Gordon being a presence in Babs’ life in this book?

HOPE: Honestly, I wish I’d written more of him into this arc, but there was so little space left over after cramming two intertwined plotlines into each issue. I would love to write more of him soon.

I’m also a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Now that we’ve met the Red Queen, are there other Looking Glass characters or concepts on the horizon? What kind of influence, if any, are you drawing from that classic story?

HOPE: It’s pretty loose. Part of the challenge is that the Red Queen is all mixed up with the Queen of Hearts in popular culture, and if you take out the Queen of Hearts elements you aren’t left with a whole lot. She’s a combative and unstable character in both the original version and my own, but I’m mainly going off the chess-set theme.

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Questions for Christian Wildgoose

People are always curious about artists’ processes. So for you, digital or physical media? Which do you use for Batgirl and why the choice?

CHRIS: With Batgirl, other than my very first issue, I’ve just been on pencil duties and had the pleasure on this arc to work with Jose Marzan on Ink duties. I Pencil on good old fashioned cartridge paper using a blue line pencil to rough it out and then neaten it up with a HB pencil. I’ve started shifting over to digital for my own inks recently, but I like to mix it up. I like being able to fine tune my inks digitally, but I have to say I really love inking with an ink pot and brush so I don’t think I’ll ever only use one medium.

Does knowing Batgirl is distributed digitally as well as physically have any impact on how you decide lay out your pages (for example, double page spreads can be problematic depending on the reading device being used). Do you find digital considerations limiting or liberating?

CHRIS: I honestly don’t consider it as much as I probably should. At the moment, I only really read comics in print. I guess that’s what I’m subconsciously planning for. This is the first book that I’ve worked on that has had an equal distribution digitally, so it’s something I should look into more.

Who gets to design new characters? Is this something you work on collaboratively?

CHRIS: I try to work out character designs with the team as much as I can before we start. I usually work out the first rough ideas based on the script by myself and then give a batch of designs to Hope and our editor Brittany, we usually exchange feedback on what they both like and what they don’t, if need be, I’ll go away and rework a design based on what they like. This is pretty standard for the big characters, but for smaller part characters, and if time is tight, I’ll sometimes work out those quickly in a sketch and then see if the guys have any objections when they see them on the page.

How did The Red Queen evolve in terms of her look?

The Red Queen was very important so she got our full attention. Hope was fairly loose with her description for her as she wanted to let me run with it and see what I came up with first. Some of the variations I drew had her wearing a red sort of cat suit and different types of wraps of clot, but the red lace veil and the red crown was there for all of the designs. Hope and I really liked the idea of being able to see her mouth while still covering the rest of her face as I find that super creepy with a wicked sharp smile. Overall, we went with a slightly more regal, yet modern look.  Some of the costumes pieces from an unused design were reused for the twin ‘Pawn’ characters we met in issue 14. I really liked some things I came up with.

Mat Lopes’ latest palette for Batgirl is consistent with the palette for the book overall this run including the heavy use of colors in the realm of ocher and magenta. How much input or influence do you have (if any) on the coloring or effects that make the final pages? And do you think in color when you are drawing?

CHRIS: Mat is just so good at what he does, so I mostly sit back and watch him do his thing. He’s quite the genius of color so there is little need to add suggestions. The most I’ll add is requests for characters to follow how I designed them. I often add color to my design sheets, but mostly that is his arena and he rarely needs our feedback.

Including the Mad Hatter in this arc kicks off the book in a fun and exciting way with a familiar villain who introduces us to our new big bad. What other great Gotham villains would you love to draw in the Batgirl series? Or do you prefer to work on new creations?

CHRIS: I’ve been lucky so far as I’ve managed to work on the main one I would have picked. Penguin would have been a first choice, so I’ve already ticked that box. I would easily love to work on him more as the main villain. As for ones I haven’t tackled, I’d love to draw Poison Ivy or Solomon Grundy. They are right up my street. As equally as any of those on my list, I’d never turn down the chance to add to the universe.

I have to ask this as it’s the most common question we hear from fans: any plans for Babs to upgrade or make changes to her costume in the near future?

CHRIS: No changes just yet. I love the Burnside costume, but I’d never turn down the chance to help Babs evolve.

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Rapid Fire Round for both Chris and Hope

Favorite Bat-gadget?

HOPE: Batarang!

CHRIS: Grappling Run. Ugh The things I’d do to have my own grappling gun.

Best comic that’s not Batgirl?

HOPE: Diana’s Electric Tongue by Carolyn Novak.

CHRIS: Gotham Academy. I love those kids and that school to pieces.

If you were a Hatter Henchman, which type of hat would you be?

HOPE: A sun hat.

CHRIS: You can’t beat a good top hat!

Pancakes or waffles?

HOPE: Waffles

CHRIS: Waffles, waffles, waffles.

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There you have it!  A wee bit of insight into the creative minds behind our current successful run of Batgirl, and latest arc, “Summer of Lies” featuring steamy guest co-cowl, Dick Grayson!  If you haven’t picked up issue no. 15, it’s got several awesome covers (the gorgeous one attached to this interview is by Joshua Middleton), and be sure to check out our review!

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