Two Birds of Prey and one pigeon of Portillo’s Hot Dogs sat down at WonderCon to talk comics and be all -around fabulous. Shawna and Julie Benson are the sister creative team currently writing Batgirl and The Birds of Prey. The pair also serve as story editors on The CW network’s best show The 100. Yes, it’s the network that has The Flash, Riverdale, and Legends, but I will fight you to my –chocolate cake shake– fueled early death on that point.
With a new Oracle and a few high profile guest stars, Batgirl and The Birds of Prey has been an incredible reading delight coming from the DC Rebirth initiative. Oddly enough, delight is also the best word to describe the writers of this book.
COMICS BEAT: I’m gonna start by saying I’m a bit nervous interviewing you both again after a year. You’re superstars now and I love this book, it’s fantastic.
JULIE BENSON: Really! Yay!
SHAWNA BENSON: Thank you!
JB: I don’t know why I said it like that. I love it too.
SB: Of course you do.
COMICS B: [laughs] I’d have very different questions if you didn’t. I’m lucky to be joined by “The Commanders of Death” and who doesn’t get that reference is an onion person. Ladies, it’s been a year since the Rebirth lineup was announced, how has your first year in comics treated you?
JB: Terribly! We’ve been beaten and abused. Send help! And food!
SB: They locked us in a dungeon. It was pretty scary.
JB: [laughs] No. It’s been great everybody has been super cool.
COMICS BEAT: I thought you’d been locked in DiDio’s dungeon the WB tour goes by.
JB: It has been awesome. It’s like NASCAR driving while you’re trying to change the wheels, every month. You have to keep going and going, but the experience has been great, everyone at DC has been amazing. Talking to other writers about collaborating, talking to our artists who’ve been phenomenal. It’s not like anything we’ve done before.
COMICS BEAT: When you started writing the book these characters were in such different parts and places in the DCU. What was the goal going into the book for these characters and do you feel as though you’ve hit it?
SB: We had the advantage, Birds of Prey hadn’t been around for awhile and was something people wanted to see happen in Rebirth DC. This was about getting to bring these characters together again…for the first time.
JB: We also had the luxury of a Batgirl book in Burnside and Black Canary and Grayson. It all set us up for success. Those characters were already in the zeitgeist. It was a matter of getting everyone together and saying “Hey guys remember this!” Even though it hadn’t been that quite that long but in everyone’s mind it felt that way.
SB: It’s been awhile since we’ve seen The Birds.
COMICS BEAT: Has there been any previous runs of the book that have influenced you going in?
JB: Gail’s [Simone] stuff, Chuck Dixon, and Duane [Swierczynski] stuff in New 52. Just on a personal level, we’ve had a lot of support from Gail. She’ll tweet out support and talk to us. She’s basically passed the baton and we feel like those are very big shoes to fill, but she has graciously handed us some shoes.
COMICS BEAT: Well she does have some style.
JB: Maybe it’s not just metaphor.
SB: There’s a reason why everyone loves her work. She’s brilliant and has done some amazing comics. It’s an honor for us to follow her and try to get anywhere close to where she aimed.
COMICS BEAT: We started out with the mystery of who the new oracle is and you’ve had some cool guest spots so far. Where are we now and what can we expect in year two?
JB: I’m excited about this second run. In issue 9, we dig into this new character named Blackbird and in that issue we’ve got Nightwing coming back. We introduce a little bit of Green Arrow coming into the picture. By the time issue 10 hits we’ve got the whole team backing up Dinah’s mission to flush out Blackbird. The Blackbird story line is amazing. After that we get into a story called “Source Code” because we have a lot of questions about Gus. We’re starting to hear some concerns. And that’s a good thing! We want everyone to know there’s something off with Gus and we’re going to explore it by issue 11. It’s going to open up a whole new world for the Birds and bring back an old school Birds of Prey villain that’s going to surprise some people.
COMICS BEAT: You gotta give me the first letter.
JB: No! That would give it away. We are bringing back two female former associates of the Birds of Prey
COMICS BEAT: *CoughBlackHawksCough*
SB: [laughs] I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
COMICS BEAT: AHHHHHHHH!
Okay well, I do have to say. I love this book, but I also love your work on The 100. In my house, my dog and I refer to it as “The Fun-Hundred”. You can let them know that quote is available for any and all press.
JB: [laughs] The Fun-Hundred needs to be trade… The Fundred
SB: [laughs] Fun-Hundred.
JB: The Fun-Hundred!
COMICS BEAT: [laughs] Right! So my question to you both is for aspiring writers. What are some of the differences in writing for TV versus comics or are there more overlaps in your process?
SB: The format is different in writing a script for television versus writing a script for comics, but the process we use to get to that place where we’re talking about story, character arcs, all the ins and outs are very similar. If we talk about a 3 issue arc, it’s essentially the same as talking about an episode or a 3 episode arc.
JB: We try to cram a lot of story into the Birds of Prey. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed or not! But we really try to pump through story like we do on The 100 because we feel like we want our money’s worth if we bought the book.
COMICS BEAT: That’s really noticeable in your style of writing. Reading the comics, I see there’s very little wasted real estate in the books and it’s admirable in a medium that constantly seems to care more about next month’s issue than the current one.
One thing I really like to talk about with new creators in comics, especially ones who come from other parts of entertainment, is what was your first memory or experience with comics?
JULIE BENSON: Oh mine, I tell this everytime but our dad collected comics. He had silver age long boxes. I would dig through them much to his chagrin, but then he’d let me look at them and I think the first one I read was Green Lantern #23 with Abel Tarrant on the cover and I immediately was like “that’s cool, a guy’s tattoos come to life and do stuff. That’s like a cartoon it’s amazing.” That was my first foray into it and it’s all been a lot of money and long boxes since then.
COMICS BEAT: Damn Julie! I damn near almost married you right there.
What about you Shawna, what was your first memory?
SHAWNA BENSON: It’s similar. Obviously, we grew up in the same household so there’s a little bit of overlap. I got into comics reading adaptation comics, so I was reading Star Trek: The Next Generation comic books, Doctor Who, and Quantum Leap ones. They were the thing that I liked because it was an extension of the other entertainment that I was really involved in. I wasn’t in the traditional superhero space, I was a different kind of geek.
COMICS BEAT: No shame in that at all.
I wanted to ask as females writing comics; what’s been the most rewarding part and as creators do you feel the extra weight of the women in comics flag is too heavy at times?
JB: Having young girls come up to us and say “you don’t know how much your book means to me, how much Barbra means to me. I started learning computer science cause of her.” That’s the stuff that makes you say “Wow! We gotta keep doing this.”
COMICS BEAT: What about the flag?
JB: Nah. Give me a flag, I’ll carry it as high and as far as I have to.
SB: It helps that there’s two of us [laughs].
COMICS BEAT: [laughs] I imagine you two took kids lunch money in school. Before I let you out of the DC interview dungeon here at WonderCon. Julie, I have to ask for a story about something I saw on your twitter feed. I admittedly stalk you on Twitter, but not in a creepy way, it’s just rare I get time to scroll through someone’s feed so when I do it’s usually through weeks of tweets, but I looked through some of your recent tweets and I saw a picture of you, Shawna, Tony Lee and one of my favorite independent wrestlers of all time Christopher Daniels. Do you know him?
JB: [laughs] I was scared there for a second. But yeah we met him that night, he was a friend of Tony Lee’s who’s a friend of ours.
COMICS BEAT: The author?
JB: Yeah, we were all just having drinks and he wasn’t drinking cause *hulks up* he’s a wrestler and super fit. At first, we couldn’t figure out why this super fit person wasn’t drinking and then found out he’s a wrestler. He’s just the most amazing guy and we all became friends that night.
SB: And he’s a big comics fan.
COMICS BEAT: Yes! That’s why it occurred to me. Since you’re DC Comics writers they give you the list of famous people who are your new friends now, right?
SB: It did feel like that at WonderCon last year. All of the people I’d never met, I was meeting them all at once.
JB: [laughs] I was trying not to cry.
COMICS BEAT: Thank you both for your time and congrats on winning the prestigious prestigious “COMICS BEAT ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD” which is prestigious and not at all a thing I made up. Once I decide on if it’ll be a trophy or a wrestling title belt of some kind I’ll present it to you. In the meantime, everyone read the first collected Batgirl and The Birds of Prey trade paperback in stores now. Then follow the ongoing adventures of Babs, Dinah, and Helena *CoughPlusBlackHawksCough* monthly from DC Comics.
Hey if you’re in California, Shawna and Julie will be signing Batgirl and The Birds of Prey in Burbank at House of Secrets on Saturday, April 8, from 12-2PM. I’m just gonna go and complain if I don’t like this week’s episode of The 100.
House of Secrets
1930 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91506