Interview

Interview of JH Williams 3 (Batwoman, Promethea, Batman...) ENGLISH VERSION

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Le 05 Aou par
Sullivan
Interview of JH Williams 3 (Batwoman, Promethea, Batman...) ENGLISH VERSION
    

This one is especially for our few American and English-speakers readers ! Please excuse us for every mistake with your language, we did our best !

How were you brought to work on Batwoman Elegy, or in other words, episodes 854 to 860 of Detective comics ?

It was simple, I was supposed to return to Detective Comics when Paul Dini was working on it, but commitments to 7 Soldiers number 1 were already underway. So by the time that was finished it was much too late to return to working with Paul Dini.  So at that time Batwoman was being talked about and presented to me but wasn't ready to start work yet.  It sounded like a great project, getting to really set the ground work a new Batverse character was intriguing to me, because that presented new challenges than working on something so long established like Batman himself.  And getting the opportunity to work with Greg Rucka was an exciting one.  But the main problem was that it wasn't fully ready, so I jumped on board to do Batman with Grant for a few issues, while Batwoman was being prepped to start.  Which turned out great as I was able to be free to draw one of my favorite Batman stories from Grant's run.

You collaborated with two of the most eminent script-writers of industry. What differenciates more, according to you, Greg Rucka and Alan Moore ?

Hmmm… this is a difficult question to answer properly.  They both have strengths that I admire. My experience with them, the working relationships I had with them, were more similar to each other than different.  The thing I enjoyed was that they both were very open to a true collaborations, having conversations about the project, and wanting my feedback.  I know they valued what I had to say and applied it to the stories they intended to tell.  I don't think what I said to them really changed what they wanted to tell but more in how it was told.  My best work comes from establishing a rapport with others involved in the project.  Where the two of them differ the most to me is in structure, in how they move a plot along.  But honestly, I don't feel like I identify with one style over the other, they're both tremendously talented people.

 

You brought some changes to Batwoman’s costume compared to the one she wears in the  52 series. These details are very judicious and make change this character from just a sexy heroin  into a genuine vigilante of the ground. Was it obvious for you to illustrate a character less glamor and less seductive for the male readers than she was before ?

For my own personal tastes, I have to say yes.  I've always handled female characters, dating back to my time as co-creator on Chase, then Promethea, and then Desolation Jones, to show how strong they are.  I'm not interested in drawing sexy vixens, but rather realistic women.  I find this much more attractive and beautiful.  This allows them to be fully formed characters, and not just fantasy objects.  It allows you to get involved with them.

With Greg Rucka, you contributed (and you still do now by your side) to give visibility to a character from the LGBT community. What do you precisely think about the lack of visibility with gay characters in comics, and the frilosity regarding  mainstream editors to broach this kind of subject ?

Actually Alan Moore and I touch on this a lot in Promethea as well, we even touched upon transgender issues somewhat.  In Batwoman we touch on transgender aspects at some point too. But I really think this subject about gay characters is becoming much less of a taboo for entertainment.  We're seeing the subject more openly discussed and will continue to see this.  We are living in a state of progressive flux for the gay community as a whole, sure it's slow, but it is happening. Proof of this is the fact that a major publisher like DC Comics is putting a lesbian hero into her own series.  And there has been almost zero negative comments from the public, further proof.  Gay comics characters have already been enjoying some longevity in comics, just not directly superhero comics. but look at books like Strangers In Paradise as an example too. The fact that Terry Moore's book ran for so long, with such high acclaim is significant to our times, and a personal all time favorite of mine. We live in a time when even Archie Comics now has a gay character and is getting prominently featured in titles.  I do believe one day, because of our actions on this subject, and the actions of other creators being unafraid to write these types of characters with real conviction, we'll see a point where this subject won't even be questioned anymore.

Batwoman Elegy is extremely rich graphically, with several and different visual approaches throughout the story. Which were your principal influences ?

I can't pinpoint exact influences for things in Batwoman, other than in a couple places.  One is less an influence and more of a psychological subliminal aspect.  And the other is directly harkening back to a key comics story from Batman's history.  The first one I'll talk about, is being what the art looks like when Kate Kane is trying to live her normal life, the moments between her nightly adventures with danger.  When she is Kate Kane, we approach her wihtout her having any ambiguity of knowing who she is as a person, she has deep questions or emotional struggles knowing that she is gay, she fully accepts herself.  So I felt it very import on a psychological level to remove all of the dark shadows from the art for those scenes, creating a subliminal effect in the reader that she clearly knows who she is, she does not question it.  The art having open clarity symbolizes this very effectively, and functions as a counter balance to her Batwoman scenes.  Its these Batwoman scenes where she is still finding her way, and therefore appropriately moodier, darker. The second one to talk about is the style chosen for her origin story, of her growing up and finding herself.  When Greg and I talked about this part of the story, we couldn't help but refer to as her origin as a Year One story, even though it covers her childhood a lot.  The fact that we discussed it in this way immediately draws correlation in my mind to Batman Year One, the most significant Batman origin story in my view.  And one of the most revered.  So I felt by purposefully homaging the art from that in to our origin for Batwoman did a number of things symbolically and psychologically, especially to those readers nostalgically familiar with Batman Year One.  Our use of this homage sort of works as a spell on those readers.  It subliminally places the reader into a mindset of Batwoman's existence as a character and her origins into the context of important works through reminding of that work without being a copy.  When looking at Batman Year One, you can't help but getting this feeling of nostalgia, it grips in that primal way.  So by having the art in Batwoman's origin homage this very directly, causes the brain to trigger this same nostalgic feeling. By metaphysically connecting our work to one of the most acclaimed origins stories, gives Batwoman power, symbolizing her importance.  And I do think it works on this level very much so.  And for the reader's who may not have read Batman Year One before, they will view it as a nice stylistic approach calling out older times of the past.

And about Alice and Kate Kane’s look, what were your sources of inspiration ?

Alice really needed to have a sort of story book feel to her, and I wanted her look as if she stepped out that type of reality, it gives her an ethereal quality as well.  Which was exactly right since she was also the leader of a religion, a cult.  A twisted victorian story-book religious fantasy.  Kate Kane's loll really is amalgam of all kinds of things. I wanted it to seem as if her look is a mash-up of the various things that she'd been exposed to through her life up to now.  You know, like real people do.  We all, as we are right now, are culminations of all of things we're exposed to as we grow, and the things we like tend to stick with us, sometimes overtly, or sometimes subtly.  This is why we always change in appearance.  We redefine ourselves in appearance as we move through our lives, and more so with women.  So Kate's various visual qualities come from all of her experiences, and the things she had interests in or still does.

We all expect the regular series of Batwoman very impatiently, how goes your collaboration with Amy Reeder and how far your work is going on ?

So far so good.  I'm going to be starting the art to issue 5 this month, and Amy has finished issue 6.  Beyond the zero issue which came a while ago, that Amy and I shared space in, I'm drawing all of the first arc (issues 1-5), and Amy's doing the art for the second arc (issues 6-11). Then I return on art for the third arc, being another 5 issues planned.  And scripts are done up to issue 10 so far.  So the split on art duties falls to each arc, but each arc carries into each other in the plot.  It's a bit tricky because we want the first 3 arcs to form a greater whole, a bigger story, though each arc separately has it's own voice and themes, but still interconnect them directly.  This is vitally important to building a character to have a legacy these days.

Don't you fear that its false start will affect the series, wearying readers for having waited too long ?

Not at all.  At first this was a concern, but fans have shown to be still very excited for it.  You have to take into consideration that good quality material takes time, if you want it good it'll take awhile.  And I think a lot of fans realize this and are willing to wait, if they're getting something that they value long term. This make sense, the waiting between volumes of Alejandro Jodorowsky books for example, doesn't stop readers from following his work at all, because they know his works are good, they are worth the wait, and therefore valued.

Can you tell us a little more about the character of Bette Kane, Kate’s cousin ?

Sure, but I don't want to give away too much, other than she will find her relationship with Kate strained.  Bette Kane's life is about to become a rollercoaster!

And about this first story arc villain, “The weeping woman”, how were you brought to interest yourself in a character who came from the Mexican folklore? Did Grant Morrison involved himself in it (because he just did a Mexican story arc in Batman INC…)

I really wouldn't want to involve Grant in what I want to write about, then it's his idea, and we no longer have control over the story we want to tell.  I love Grant and his talent, but I'm more interested in developing my own ideas, not his. Mexican folklore is something I've had an interest in. And urban legends is something that my writing partner Haden Blackman has as well.  He's got a lot of knowledge on it, that has fed into the stories we're telling, and we both have a love of monsters, or esoteric subjects.  So we went for this Weeping Woman idea as the first of a pantheon of villains for Batwoman, because we felt it was important that she develop her own rogue's gallery to contend with if she is going to have staying power and a legacy. But we decided to find ways to make the introduction of several villain ideas that will appear in the first year or so, have a connective quality to them thematically.  This all develops from a lot of brainstorming of ideas, then we build on them as we go.

After Alice, the second adversary of Batwoman is also a woman, are you setting up a bestiary of enemies comparable with those of Batman, with whom Batwoman will be regularly confronted?

Yes, it's important to have a strong set of villains for her.  We're not interested in having her face Batman rogues right now, because that will weaken her strength as a character, and she loses her own story, becoming part of someone else's instead.  Hopefully we do a good enough job with these villains that they can return.  But I don't want to rely on that too much, we have to keep inventing new stuff for her, but have some key players have recurring roles.  This is important, because not all villains can work long term if you are going to say or do anything important with them as characters.  They have to have character arc to them, so you start at one place for their story but end at a different place, on who they become.  And sometimes that will lead to a character forever changed enough that nothing else can be done with them.  Only time will tell.


Will you work on another series than Batwoman in a more or less near future? I Mean, is there something else than Batwoman for you in the famous “DC the new 52”? Any Covers for example ? 

No I'm afraid not,  I won't be doing any covers, my focus needs to be on Batwoman until I feel I'm done it, or DC is done with me on it.  At some point though, I've plans to develop my own characters, which are waiting for their moment.  The only other things to look out for anytime soon is I contributed a piece for the Star Wars Art: Comics book release later this year, it features a character I made up, so that was lot of fun.  I've also contributed a dense 2 page story for CBLDF Liberty Comics this year, it came out pretty cool.  And finally, I've written a 20 page Scarecrow story for the Bat office, but not sure when that'll come out, and the plan is for it to be drawn by the talented Alex Sheikman (Robotika).

As you are next to her day after day, what do you like most with this character?

Batwoman/Kate Kane is tough, sympathetic, unique, easy to care about.  It would be easy to fall in love with her ;-)  But I also like that she has flaws, she is far from perfect, and that makes her extremely interesting to write about.

Thanks a thousand times to JH Williams 3 who is certainly one of the most beautiful meeting we've done this year. We sincerely wish him the best on Batwoman and we're sure that the European Public will follow him and the title as much as he deserves it !