Bryan Q. Miller: From Batgirl to Smallville

A comics interview article by: Josh Green
Bryan Q. Miller took time out of his busy schedule working on both Batgirl and Smallville to sit down with Josh Green to discuss what’s to come for both the comic and the hit TV series.


Josh Green: When you were asked by DC to write Batgirl, were there any other contenders for the Batgirl mantle or was it always going to be Stephanie Brown?

Bryan Q. Miller Even in the super-preliminary talk I had with Dan about the DCU in general when he was passing through LA (I had just wrapped my Teen Titans issues at the time) -- well before the Bat-group asked if I had a take -- it was always the one and only Stephanie Brown.

JG: While Cassandra Cain had her share of fans, some felt that she wasn’t as iconic as Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Considering Barbara Gordon is seemingly going to be Stephanie Brown’s mentor, is this your attempt to return Batgirl to her more iconic status?

BM: I’d love for two things to happen as this title comes out each month. I’d love for fans of Cassandra to warm to Steph. And I’d love for Batgirl -- as a hero -- to come into her own, much like Supergirl has in the last couple of years.

JG: Tell me about the relationship between Stephanie Brown and Barbara Gordon. How do they feel about each other?

BM: At present, Babs is a bit of a grump right now, down on herself, life, everything -- she won’t always be this way, but we needed to track her emotional state coming out of “The Cure.” There, we saw Babs start to turn some dark corners as she was dealing with Calculator. People died on her watch. Add to that the prior dissolution of the Birds, and it’s a recipe for anger. It may read a little blunt on the page, but playing it up helps makes Stephanie more of a stark counterpoint.

Steph, on the other hand, is all over the place. She’s a mess, and has been for quite a while. She unreliable, obsessive -- the list goes on and on. What she has going for her, despite all of that, is her heart. She may listen to it a little too closely all of the time, but she means well. Now, in the past, meaning well has led her down some disastrous roads -- not just for herself, but for all of Gotham. What she truly needs is focus, and someone to believe in her, at a very fundamental level. She needs to redeem herself as a hero, and define herself as a person.

More than anything else right now, Babs and Steph are thrown together by circumstance, and each is dealing with her own issues in her own way…and poorly, at that. Though they want nothing to do with one another, they may find very soon that there’s something each can take away from the other in order to help them move forward with their lives.

JG: In addition to Barbara Gordon, you have introduced some new supporting cast members from Stephanie’s college, Wendy (from Wendy and Marvin fame), as well as a new Gotham City Police Officer. Tell me about these characters and how they’ll impact Stephanie’s life. Can we also expect to see Batman, Robin, Alfred, Cassandra, or The Network in the series? How about any other shocking guest appearances?

BM: Francisco Gracia: the handsome Frat-type who laughed at Stephanie’s joke in class in Issue #2. He’s a campus basketball star, son to up-and-coming real estate mogul Stefano Gracia. He’ll never be who his dad wants him to be, and he knows it. And he resents that. Hates dad’s money, too. Possible romantic interest. Probable ally for Stephanie.

Jordanna Spence: that unpleasant gal who didn’t take kindly to Francisco showing attention to Stephanie during class in Issue #2. She and Francisco have a long history. She knew him well-before his family came into money. Hers has always lived well. She has no qualms living on her parents’ money. Definite enemy for Stephanie.

Det. “St.” Nick Gage: Nick’s a new transfer to Gotham’s den of detectives. He’s got a near bulletproof arrest record, making him (as the Uniforms refer to him) the “best present” Jim Gordon’s ever gotten. Hence the St. Nick of it. Much like Babs and Steph are beginning to forge a mentor/student relationship, so will Jim and Nick. Batgirl is Nick’s first brush with bat-dom since moving to Gotham. Definite ally for Batgirl.

Wendy Harris: Former Teen Titan, recovering from both the devastating loss of her brother, Marvin, and the use of her legs. Wendy may prove to be a bigger challenge in Babs’ mentoring than Stephanie. And that’s saying something.

Batman and Robin will be guest-starring in the “Core Requirements” arc that begins in Issue #5.

Alfred pops up from time to time.

We’ll have another Cassandra reference/flashback moment coming soon, but her express return to the pages of the DCU will be handled by another writer in 2010.

Though the Network still exists, we’re doing our best to keep Babs and Steph operating in their own pocket of Gotham, specifically in the Devils’ Square DMZ that used to be the Western area of Gotham before Battle for the Cowl.

Regarding guest appearances, see the next question!

JG: How are you enjoying your first ongoing monthly comics gig? How long are you planning on staying on the series? Also, what’s coming up in future issues of Batgirl?

BM: Um, it’s awesome. It gets a little crazy, writing an on-going, but not in a bad way. I like to stay busy. This definitely keeps me busy. I’m planning on staying on for as long as they’ll have me -- I’m committed to building Stephanie up to be the hero she deserves to be, however bumpy that journey may be for her.

As for both what’s “coming up” and other “guest appearances” -- we’ve got a Metropolis rogue in Issue #4, “Field Test.” Another Gotham rogue we haven’t seen in quite a while during “Core Requirements,” as well as a DCU villain. And it sure would be great to throw Tim Drake in here somewhere -- wonder when he’s headed back to Gotham…and not just in a Blackest Night visit kind of way. And for anyone who read my arc on Teen Titans, Calculator’s quest for revenge doesn’t end there, and neither does Kid Eternity’s story.

JG: Not only is today the release date for Batgirl #3, but you also have a Titans issue focusing on Raven hitting comic shops. Briefly tell me some more about your Titans #18 comic.

BM: In and around the Blackest Night: Titans issues are the line of Titans spotlight issues. There’s discord among the adult Titans as they struggle to find a place not only in the world at large, but in each others’ lives. They’ve been together since they were teenagers. How many friends do you still have from high school? Life happens to the Titans just like it does to everyone else. #18 is Raven’s turn at bat. Finding some new corner for Raven to explore (especially given the fact that the Titans book itself started with a multi-part, Raven-focused story) was definitely a challenge, but it came together in the end.

JG: Not only are you a comic book writer, but your day job is a writer on Smallville. Before we talk about Smallville, tell me the differences between writing comic books and TV shows. Was it difficult writing your first comic during your recent Teen Titans arc?

BM: The first thing that jumps to mind is budget. In TV you only have x-amount of dollars to make the magic happen with, which then begs the question of cool-factor versus necessity. Is it more important to have a giant robot, or to have a more quiet, emotional scene?

Now, going into a comic script -- GIANT ROBOT! GIANT ROBOT! But here’s the rub -- they aren’t as different as it would seem. Where money comes into play with TV, page-space acts as budget in a comic book. Is it more important to spend three/four/five pages on that kick-ass action sequence at the expense of a talky scene, etc.? In both cases, I still have not managed to work in my giant robot. Here’s lookin’ at you, 2010!

Was it difficult to transition? Yes and no. The opportunity came up so quickly and the deadline was so close, I really didn’t have all that much time to think about it. The biggest challenge was figuring out how much would actually fit into a 20 page book. Which then lends itself to the above “budget” discussion. But again, I was only on for the 3-issue fill-in. What’s great with Batgirl is that I’ve got time to let everything breathe as the series goes on.

JG: Tell me about how your background got you your job on Smallville? Considering you are a comics fan, was this a show that you were actively pursuing to join?

BM: I actually started on the show as an intern in Season Five. While I was going through Grad School, we were required to take an internship -- a friend pointed me towards an opening at TRP, one of the production companies behind the show. They had a few shows on the air at the time, and as I was interested in genre television, I worked my way into Smallville’s welcoming embrace. I stayed on as an unpaid intern for a couple of seasons, then landed a gig as Writers’ Assistant in Season Seven. After a stint in the WB Writers’ Workshop, I joined as Staff Writer in Season Eight. And here we are. Being a comic fan was kind of just icing on the cake.

What’s truly great about the show is that being a comic fan enriches your experience as a viewer, but if you’ve only ever seen the show and have never picked up a comic book in your life, the drama still plays. The characters still play. We’re still telling the origin of Superman, which is fantastically exciting.

JG: For anyone that may have fell behind with Smallville, can you briefly catch up our readers about Clark’s Season 9 exploits?

BM: Well, if you missed last year…a lot happened. Clark started working at the Daily Planet, opposite Lois Lane. As he ventured more and more into his hero role in Metropolis, Clark started forming his dual identity -- mild mannered reporter, and heroic vigilante, the “Red-Blue Blur.” After a devastating and costly battle against an early incarnation of Doomsday, Clark began to reexamine his role not only as a hero, but as a person -- resulting in a nagging detachment from human contact and the adoption of an all-black vigilante outfit… with the iconic S-Shield on his chest for the first time.

In Season Nine, more than ever, Clark’s struggling to find his place in the world. Matters are complicated by the arrival of several hundred mysteriously de-powered Kryptonian soldiers led by a very young Major Zod. Oh, yeah -- Lois returned from a trip to the future with no memory of her exploits there, and is being haunted by erratic visions of catastrophe and bloodshed…and “naked-time” with Clark.

For comics fans, I’ll throw out the following: Emil Hamilton; Metallo; Toyman; Roulette; Mia Dearden; Kandor; the Wonder Twins; the Justice Society of America. And that’s just the first half of the year.

JG: Your first Season 9 episode airs two days from now on Friday October 16th. What should fans look forward to in the episode? And please speak of the joy you must have had when writing lines for The Toyman. Talk about perfect casting!

BM: Chris Gauthier! My word, what a wonderful actor. You know him from Eureka, and from the last scene in Watchmen. He’s also on an episode of Syfy’s Sanctuary this season. Chris really just loses himself in each of his roles, and his time as Toyman is no exception. Creepy glee, thy name is Gauthier.

This season, Clark will occasionally undergo one of the “Trials” Jor-El has left for him during the course of his hero-training. During the course of the episode, Clark suddenly develops the ability to read people’s thoughts. That can’t be a coincidence, right? Meanwhile, Oliver Queen's downward spiral lands him in Toyman’s vengeful sights.

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