There are a lot of great relationships in the DC Universe, but in the end, we all know Dickbabs is the best. Over the years, we’ve watched Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon get together, fall in love, break up, and repeat the cycle over again, breaking our hearts and mending them each time. There’s a playfulness to their flirtatious relationship that makes their pairing irresistible to creators and resonant to generation after generation of readers.
Now, after a long break that seemed very final, in Batgirl, series writer Hope Larson and artist Christian Wildgoose are bringing Nightwing and Batgirl back together again in their “Summer of Lies” storyline. The arc sees the two heroes brought back together to deal with a dark secret from their past that has come back to haunt them in the present. And of course, when you leave the two of them in a room for long enough, the sparks start flying.
In celebration of the release of Batgirl #15, the second chapter of the “Summer of Lies,” the Comics Beat sat down with Hope and Chris to talk to them about their experience working on Batgirl thus far and how they feel about the quasi-doomed relationship between Dick and Babs.
Alex Lu: Hope! Last time we talked, you were just getting settled into writing Batgirl. Now that you’re a year into the series, how have you found the experience?
Hope Larson: It’s been a great experience overall. I’ve had the opportunity to work with not just Rafael Albuquerque, but Chris Wildgoose. The current team includes Chris, Jose Marzan, Jr., Mat Lopes, Deron Bennett, and Brittany Holzherr, and I couldn’t be happier with the work every person on the team is doing. The schedule is a challenge, but less so than it was at first, and I’ve developed some new writing muscles. Another plus is that I know the DCU better than I did, so it’s easier to work within this world.
Lu: Back when Rebirth first started, it looked like Barbara’s and Dick’s relationship was pretty definitively on ice. What prompted the creative decision to move towards bringing them back together romantically and how have you both found the experience of portraying perhaps one of the most classic romances in comics?
Larson: This came about as an idea mentioned by previous editor Rebecca Taylor during a phone call. I latched onto it and wouldn’t let go. It went through at least three different iterations before we landed on one that was working for everyone. I’m a sucker for a semi-doomed/complicated romance, and I was excited to write Babs and Dick as teens. I’ve written stories with split time periods before, and that appealed to me. Obviously, Dick and Babs are meant to be, but will they ever get to be? It’s a narrative question rife with drama.
Christian Wildgoose: I follow Hope’s script queues with how this is handled. For me, Hope just taps into this so well and is handling it beautifully. Balancing how their relationship started alongside how it is now, it’s a beautiful stroke of genius and has been a real education to watch Hope craft this relationship issue by issue.
Script-wise, Hope adds these little interactions, shy glances, directions on who may kiss first or will sometimes write little snippets of the emotions that they are feeling which isn’t put into the dialogue or thought bubbles of the final page, it is purely to give me a cue on facial expressions and really helps to know how to make these guys ‘act’. It’s the small things that, more often than not, go a long way with a story like this.
Larson: Who doesn’t love a good girl and a bad boy who are star-crossed, but each other’s equals and complements?
Wildgoose: What Hope said! They are like any real-life couple, flawed, but when it’s right on so many levels like it is for Dick and Babs they are just magnetically drawn to one another.
Lu: Over the course of your run on Batgirl, we’ve seen Barbara romantically involved with a number of guys including Kai, Ethan Cobblepot, and now, Dick. Do you think these three have some sort of commonality that make them all attractive to Barbara?
Larson: Ooh, this is a good question. Kai and Dick are both “out of the past” guys, so that is definitely a thing for her. Ethan was never going to last, and I think she always knew that. She definitely has a bit of a thing for boys who’re capital-T Trouble.
Wildgoose: Whether a girl or a boy, who doesn’t like to play with a little danger? Bab’s is a super genius crime fighter who can see a badboy a mile away, yet is still tempted to play with that danger. Isn’t that such a real messy human thing? I think a lot of people would easily be guilty of the doing something like that, I know I have been.
Lu: On a more general thematic level, what informed the choice to put Barbara’s dating life front and center throughout the series?
Larson: She’s young. I was married in my 20s, and had a lot of catching up to do after I got divorced in my 30s. I guess the idea I’m putting forth through Babs is, “You’re young. You probably should be dating a lot of different people. Have some fun. Fall in love. Have your heart broken. Break some hearts. Figure out who you’re compatible with. Date the guy who is probably a supervillain–and then defeat him in hand-to-hand combat, because you’re the master of your own destiny, damnit!”
Lu: This arc, the “Summer of Lies,” dives heavily into Barbara’s and Dick’s shared past and honestly, it’s been a joy to get these flashback sequences to a more innocent point in their lives where we get to see them interact for some of the first times. Could we possibly get to flashback to their first date later in this storyline?!
Wildgoose: Ha! Stay tuned and all will be revealed.
Lu: Let’s talk about the Red Queen specifically for a moment. I adore her character design, filled with sharp edges and perhaps the best boots ever?! What were the ideas and images that inspired her character concept and visual design?
Wildgoose: Hope was pretty loose with her description, she knows I like to have a play around with sketches first and then come to her and our editor Brittany with a batch of designs to get their feedback on. The red crown and the veil was there since the initial description. The veil was something just so cool and sinister that kept the mystery and allowed for a cool wicked smile to show, I loved that and it just had to stay. The crown and the general style was totally influenced by Ravenna from Snow White and The Hunstman but it is essentially from mashing some styles together and seeing what worked.
We explored a few different dresses or one piece suits, I always played with her having some kind of old medieval regal shape but still had a modern flare which is where the straight edges and lack of fine detail comes in, though I think the shoes really tied those two elements together in the end!
Lu: Can you give us a tease as to her identity? There are some hints that point towards Ainsley’s general direction, but perhaps there are more twists in store
Larson: Let’s just say that the clues have been planted.
Lu: As a whole, this run on Batgirl has proven to be very socially conscious. On a micro level, there’s a lot of meaningful representation present in Barbara’s social circle and on a macro level, the first two major storylines have dealt with the academic pressures facing students and the dangers of modern technology and gentrification. What big ideas are you hoping to tackle with this arc?
Larson: Thanks. I’m writing about the world as I see it, that’s all. This arc is ultimately about addiction and what it feels like to be close to a person who is self-medicating in some fashion. I haven’t set out to say, “This is how you should act if you have a loved one who’s an addict.” It’s really about how it feels when you want so badly to take that person’s struggles away from them, and, of course, you can’t. Helplessness is an awful feeling, whether you’re a superhero or an ordinary person.
Batgirl #15 is out now.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.