War Rocket Ajax podcast (2012)
Willingham discusses the War Games controversy and its aftermath just after the n52 is launched.
Wizard Interview with Bill Willingham (Robin 121-131, War Games)
Our new Robin is not cut out for the job; they absolutely need Batman there for a while and I’d like to explore that. The whole idea of doing the teenage sidekick is to look at how someone learns to do that job; at least, that’s what’s interesting to me.
At first [Batman]’s like, “How dare you break into the Batcave?” and then he thinks it over and says, “OK, you want the job. It’s yours.” One of the things I want to do is that we’re not going to look inside Batman’s head a lot. The only things we’re going to find out about him are the things he says to [the new Robin] and to us on screen, because I want to keep his real motivations secret for a while. To use a military analogy, he’s the drill sergeant, so far all we know about him is that “Boy, he’s big, he’s mean, he screams a lot and nothing I do seems to be good enough for him.”
Wizard #150 Article with Bill Willingham
From Wizard magazine, issue #150:
“She breaks into the Batcave with her homemade Robin suit all sewn up — which actually looks pretty bad,” says Willingham . “While Tim showed up ready for the job, Stephanie has a lot to learn.”
Although Batman accepts Stephanie as the new Robin, his reactions remain ambiguous. Does he really think she’s right for the job, or is it just a ploy to lure Tim back to his post?
“We’re not going to look inside Batman’s head because I want to keep his real motivations secret for a while,” explains Willingham. “All we know about him is from Stephanie’s point of view. He’s big, he’s mean, he screams a lot and nothing seems to be good enough for him.”
Once training begins, Stephanie quickly realizes that running with the Bat isn’t all that easy. “Batman’s looking for her breaking point,” says Willingham. “Can she be provoked into losing it? The greatest challenges facing her will be psychological more than physical.”
Worse than any villain she might face, Stephanie’s doubts threaten to defeat her. “It’s like being the first girl at West Point,” suggests Willingham. “She’s the fourth in what’s becoming a long line of Robins. Is she every bit as official as they were? Is she good enough for this job?”
And, of course, the successes of her predecessor loom large over everything she does. “Bruce is constantly comparing her unfavorably to Tim,” says Willingham. “All through training, he’s saying things like ‘Tim mastered this in the second week and here you are in week three and you still haven’t got it.’ For a while, she’s definitely going to be under Tim’s shadow.” After her training has progressed, Stephanie still sticks close by her Dark Knight. “Stephanie is a Robin who, unlike Tim, absolutely needs Batman there for a while,” asserts Willingham. “The whole idea of doing a teenage sidekick is to look at how someone learns to be a hero. At least, that’s what’s interesting to me.”
Yet, even with all the growing pains, there’s no question that Stephanie’s living a dream come true. “She comes into Robin with a sense that she’s been kind of mopey, but once she finally gets the big job, she brightens up and just has a wonderful time,” notes Willingham.
Comicon interviews Bill Willingham
He’s a comic book icon, the archetype of the teenage sidekick. I don’t think that iconic status will change, now that ‘he’ is becoming ‘she.’
Yes, the future of Spoiler was one of the pre-ordained events, before I was brought on board.
Spoiler’s future was one of the things locked in before I came onto the series. I got to add one important development to the planned events, but I can’t reveal what that is yet.
She needs to learn the job. One thing I didn’t like about the previous takes on Robin was that Tim came into the job already prepared for it, and as many critics have now pointed out to me, ad nauseum, Tim no longer needs Batman’s training and instruction.
This made little sense to me. Robin should always, at its core, be the superhero in training. If he’s ready to be out on his own, what is he still doing in the Robin suit?
So Spoiler needs to learn how to be Robin, and that is what I find compelling about this story.
Everyone has past mistakes, current mistakes and future mistakes. No one ever gets to the point where they don’t make them … or if they do, why bother telling their stories?
Perfect people are dull, boring, tedious and did I say dull?
She wants the job. She wants it like a drowning man wants air. She isn’t planning on just dabbling in the superhero trade, until something better comes along. Damion Scott has perfectly captured her enthusiasm in her first appearance as Robin.
What areas does she still need improvement in?
All of them. Isn’t that fun?
How tough was it for you to get to know Stephanie Brown and get into the Spoiler mindset?
As tough as it is to get into any fictional character’s mindset. Teenage girls who fight crime on the sly don’t think like middle aged men whose crime-fighting days are long past … at least I hope they don’t.
Then again, how many of us have actually put on gaudy clothes to go out and battle super criminals; or fought against sword-wielding barbarians in some forgotten kingdom; or hung out with talking animals?
Writing in the various fantasy-adventure genres is all about getting into the mindset of fictional characters who bare very little resemblance to you. It’s not easy, but it beats shoveling dirt for a living.
What is Spoiler’s mindset? Does she really take all this seriously or just have the wrong idea about what it means to be a true hero?
How does one answer this question? In truth, anyone who puts on a costume to use ropes and sticks to fight gunmen has the wrong idea about what it means to be a true hero.
Within the admittedly bizarre fictional conceits of a superhero universe, one presumes she better be taking this seriously. She’s the devoted one. She’s already convinced this is a job that needs doing. Tim is the one struggling with the level of his commitments to the cause.
My template for writing female characters is simple: Design each as an individual character. None of my characters could (or should) be able to serve as a role model for whatever group they might be perceived as belonging to. In fact none of them should ever be perceived as representing any given gender, group or lifestyle, or I’ve failed miserably.
How does Steph compare to Carrie from Dark Knight Returns?
Well, since the Dark Knight takes place some unspecified number of years in the future, Carrie would still be an infant now, or not yet be born, so I would imagine Steph could easily take her in a fight.
Bill Willingham from Word Balloon
Willingham: I knew coming into the Robin series that Spoiler was doomed to die. And I wouldn’t have done that, but that was already locked in even before I came on Robin, so I had no point at which to say you shouldn’t do this. But, I did I have this hair-brained idea that, well, if she was going to die — she was such a frustrated character…I mean, everything she wanted out of life she pretty much didn’t get. So, can we give her one little reward before she dies and let her become Robin for awhile.
Willingham: There was a nice spike in sales during that time and I wish her death hadn’t been so as locked in because when it started going really well, what I would have liked to have said was ‘let’s follow this for awhile.’ That was not available as an option and you can’t really do it twice…now let’s have a character that we don’t plan on killing do a female version of Robin taking the reins. You do that same stunt over and over again. We had that momentum once, we lost it.