Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey Is Unapologetically Female
This past summer, DC Comics hit the restart button with a relaunched series of titles called “Rebirth.” With that came the return of one of its most dynamic and unapologetically female teams: The Birds of Prey. Helmed by sisters Julie and Shawna Benson, the Batgirl and the Birds of Prey comic features the original trio of Batgirl (née Oracle), Black Canary, and Huntress—but with some significant changes.
Since Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance’s last team-up, Batgirl’s become the hero of Burnside, and Black Canary’s become a bona fide rock star. When Babs discovers that a criminal is operating under her old alias, Oracle, she asks her former field operative, Dinah, to help her track it down. Along the way, they include deadly super-spy Helena Bertinelli, who has been running with the Spyral organization for a few years in Grayson, on the mission. That’s where the real fun begins.
While the ongoing mystery of Oracle’s identity—which will be resolved by Issue #6—is the central focus of the first story arc, the relationship between the Birds of Prey has always been the series’ heart. When it began in the ’90s as a series of one-shots, the clash of values between passionate, idealistic Dinah and pragmatic, analytical Barbara was front and center. The Benson sisters have Batgirl and Black Canary retain these characteristics and add a louder, more lethal take on Huntress, making for a combustible, and at times frustrating, mix of personalities.
But at the end of the day, these woman are family, something that the Bensons know a thing or two about. We caught up with them at New York Comic Con, where they chatted about their spin on the iconic Babs-Canary-Huntress dynamic and dropped a few hints for what’s to come for the Birds of Prey.
It’s so great to see Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress in the field together because it’s a new dynamic we haven’t seen before. That being said, it hasn’t been a smooth transition for them as a team in these first few books.
Julie Benson: It’s hard because people want them to be a team already. We get a lot of, “Why aren’t they all friends?” Well, we’ve got to get there. So the struggle is that we want it to happen sooner than it can happen. You have to earn it. The fun part is the conflict and their personality differences and their points of view—killing a guy versus arresting a guy. That’s a big deal with these women who are so formidable.
Shawna Benson: Over time the thing that brings them together is finding their commonalities. Those are the things that over time we get to explore, and you get to understand how these three women can be a team and work together in a really dynamic, powerful way.
JB: And they respect each other too.
SB: Respect is huge. That is one of the things that we also wanted to make sure was present in the book, that these relationships are mature relationships. They are our versions of female relationships, as opposed to what a male writer sometimes imagines about a female relationship. So that was important, that we capture that.
For me, Dinah’s always been the heart of the team, and it sounds like she’s going to help bring Batgirl and Huntress together here.
SB: Dinah’s role will be very important in helping to cement this team. She, more than any of the three of them, wants a cohesive unit because she’s done this before. She knows what it’s like to be out in the field as a Bird of Prey, and she’s got the person who used to be her guidance for that standing side by side [and] fighting with her and this other person that they’re bringing into the fold. She recognizes on the respect level that Helena has a great skill set that could be incredibly valuable to them going forward.
I saw that you compared Clarke from The 100 to Black Canary, an idealistic person who’s caught between opposing forces. Does that make Octavia the Huntress in this scenario?
JB: Octavia is a little like Huntress! Dinah’s been so fun to write because she’s so rock and roll. She gets to have the fun jokes, and she gets to have this meta-human skill, so she’s got it all. She’s the coolest.
SB: One of the things I think people maybe don’t understand about the book, that I wish they understood a little better, is that Batgirl’s in the title, but Black Canary is very important to that team. She and Barbara have a good, solid relationship with each other. They are friends. In fact, they are more like sisters. So we draw upon on our relationship with each other, as sisters, to inform their relationship, which means they’re not always going to see eye to eye. They’re not always going to get along. But at the end of the day, they’re going to have each other’s backs.
In Issue #2, we see Batgirl chasing down bad guys with Police Commissioner Gordon. As a reader, that was shocking to see Batgirl so close to her father out on the field.
JB: There was some confusion on whether or not they knew each other, or whether he knew it was Barbara, and the answer is no. She’s sitting further back, and there’s some shadows, and she’s definitely turning her head. All those things are happening, but of course the proximity is shocking. That’s where she’s at right now. Her drive to find out who is Oracle is putting her into those positions.
SB: One of the things that we talked about was how does he not know that this is his daughter? He doesn’t see it because he’s not thinking about it. Batgirl is this person that, to him, is a mystery. He’s willing to accept that mystery. He doesn’t necessarily want to dig in and find out who that person is. He does not approve of the vigilante lifestyle of most of these Gothamites, and yet, he knows that they have a place in the world.
JB: We also wanted to show that Barbara is by the books. She does adhere to the law as closely as possible. She’s the one that’s willing to call in the police when she thinks it’s time.
“Who is Oracle” will wrap up in January, and that’s been a very Barbara Gordon–focused story, so what’s next for the Birds of Prey?
SB: In “Rebirth,” we got to tell a lot of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon backstory that we haven’t had a chance to do with Black Canary or Huntress yet, so in Issue #3, you get a little Black Canary; in Issue #4, you get a little Huntress; and then you get into Oracle. We’re really looking forward to the next arc. We’re going to add a new team member — we can’t reveal who yet — and we’re very excited about it.
JB: People are going to be blown away by it. The big thrust of the next arc will be, they are now a team, so how will they function as a team? How will they operate going forward? Those growing pains are going to be very interesting to explore.
Obviously the relationship between Babs, Dinah, and Helena needs to be established before you bring any more characters into the fold, but can we expect future visits from characters like Nightwing and Green Arrow?
SB: We don’t want anyone to feel like we are losing those relationships. We’re dealing with their alternate activities to some degree, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know that those relationships exist, and in the future, certainly, we will bring in characters where it makes sense to use them in the stories.
JB: Let’s get Nightwing in. Let’s get Ollie in. And Frankie! Sometimes, we do call ourselves the Bat Family. We’ll send an email to [comics writer] Tom [King] and say, “Are you going to do anything with XYZ character?” Just last night, we were talking to [comics writer] Tim Seeley about Nightwing and how can we get him in our book. It does feel like a family. We’ve been so fortunate that everyone’s embraced us and that no one looks at us like we’re female writers—we’re comic book writers.