There was no comic book company more creative than DC back in the '80s. Touting books like The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, and Sandman, the company altered the perception that comics were simply for kids. Writers like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman added literary complexity to the superhero genre and artists such as Brian Bolland, Stephen Bissette, and Dave Gibbons crafted ingenious art that had never been attempted before.
But recently, DC has fallen on some hard times. Bogged down after years of mismanaged stories and an overly complicated continuity, the company has seen its characters become less relatable and accessible for the common reader. It got to the point that if you didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the company and its characters, there was a chance that you would be completely lost by page one.
The company is aware of this and earlier this year they announced the "New 52," an initiative that relaunches 52 of DC’s most popular books from the beginning in an attempt to streamline stories and become more accessible to the average reader. These books will slightly tweak and reimagine these classic characters, while still retaining what made them so iconic in the first place. One of the men leading the charge for this new era of DC is writer Judd Winick.
Winick is the writer for the brand new Catwoman series as well as the debut solo title for the recently created character Batwing. Winick is no stranger to DC, having worked previously on Batman, Green Arrow, and Power Girl, but none of his previous titles were as important to the future of the company as his work on the "New 52" will be. Complex caught up with Winick to discuss origin stories, comic controversy, and tight leather body suits.
Interview by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Complex: What should readers know about DC’s "New 52" initiative?
Judd Winick: If you’ve ever read comics, or had an interest in comics, then this would be the time to pick up DC comics. I think a good example is that I was on an airplane about six months ago and I was sitting next to a dude that was kind of looking over my shoulder as I was writing. He said, “I see you're writing and the word ‘Batman’ keeps coming up. Do you work on the movies?” Then I told him, “No, I actually work on the comics,” which had him way more excited.
He said that he grew up reading comics, and I had a couple of years on him, but not too many, so we grew up reading roughly the same stuff. He was in his mid/late 30's and he said he stopped reading about 10 years ago. I asked him why and he said, “Well, one, I grew up, no offense. But you know what, that’s not the reason. The real reason is that I stopped reading for a few years and I felt like ‘Forget it, I’m lost. It will take me 100 comics or five years worth of comics to catch up or figure out what’s going on.'"
So I’m saying to him, and anyone else that has an interest in comics, you can pick up any one of the 52 comics, or all of the 52 new comics, and it’s like a fresh start. It’s just like coming into a television show or a movie, you can come in clean and start over. As we’ve said many times, this isn’t a reboot, it’s a fresh start. With that, we’re keeping a very strong eye for new readers. You wouldn’t have to read comics over the past two years, forget twenty years; it’s a good time to jump in.
Your most high-profile book in this initiative is Catwoman. Where does Selina Kyle begin in this new universe?
We’re kind of taking her back to the core of what Catwoman is. I think if you grabbed 100 people on the street and asked them about Catwoman, they would probably have the gist of who she is. It’s like, “Yeah, she dresses up like a cat, she’s a cat burglar, she steals things, and she’s really crazy sexy.”
And that’s all you need to know, that’s it, and that’s what we’re going with. Back to the core of who and what she is. She’s beautiful, she’s dangerous, she’s addicted to danger, she’s addicted to being a criminal. She’s not a villain per se, she’s a criminal; she steals things, more because she loves the thrill of it and is addicted to the danger than that she needs money. It’s not like she’s squirreling away money to somehow retire to an island. It’s more about “I dig doing this,” and whatever money she gets, she blows through it quickly.
Was there any trepidation on your part to take over such an iconic character that, a year from now, is going to be a huge movie star?
No, I’m up for it. Of all the characters in the DCU I’ve done, and I’ve done tons of them, Catwoman is one of the only characters that I had not written at all. Not even a little bit, not even a little drive-by; a little moment. But she is someone that I have always been a fan of, someone I have always found very compelling.
I think she’s fun—that’s what this book is more than anything else. It’s kind of dark fun because she’s not a good guy, because she’s not interested in saving people. She’s got kind of a moral code, but she’s a thief. When the wrong people get in her way, the wrong people get hurt.
The fact she’s going to be out there in [The Dark Knight Rises], which will be nothing short of epic, it’s going to be a monster, that just excites me. I’m thrilled that the book I’m working on will be part of the zeitgeist in another way.
You said this book will be great for new readers, but what about longtime readers? Will this still be the Catwoman that they’re familiar with?
She’s not going to be some alien hybrid who is suddenly working in Russia and is a guy, ya know? She’s Catwoman. Of all the characters in the "New 52," she’s one of the few that retained her costume from the last several years because it was something that worked. She dresses like a cat in all leather, she has a whip, she steals things.
I don’t think anyone is going to look at this and say, “This isn’t Catwoman at all! This is totally different!” No, she’s the Catwoman we know and love and has been around for decades and decades.
Are you going to expand on her supporting cast or is she going to be tied to Batman’s supporting cast?
Yes and no. Batman is absolutely in the book, Batman’s in the book a lot, but she will have her own people which we will be fleshing out. It’s a crime book; there’s a little bit of that Ocean’s 11 bend to it.
Being a good thief is not unlike being a good detective. You have to do the leg work, you have to talk to the right people and get your intel, get your ducks in a row. And if you’re going to get away with it, you better do it right so you only have to do it once, and not get caught. So it isn’t something you can necessarily do alone; you've got to get people, reach out to people, plan it, and it’s fun like that.
It’s kind of hammering nails. I mean that in the sense that she doesn’t go up to a building with an infrared sensor and hack into it and whatnot. She cuts glass, she breaks into doors. It’s a little bit old school, even in her high-tech world, she’s going to be old school.
Are we going to see any familiar villains at the start of the book?
She kind of is a familiar villain. [Laughs.] No, not right away. We’re kind of working on some new people here and there. Do criminals or bad guys like Catwoman really have a rogue's gallery? No. But she’s going to have some of her own criminals, gangsters, costumed bad guys who she is going to be mucking it up with. As well as members of the Bat group who will be floating in here and there.