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DF Interview: Genevieve Valentine lets the Cat(woman) out of the bag
By Byron Brewer
Spinning out of the weekly Batman Eternal comes a brand new Catwoman!
Selina Kyle has discovered she's part of a legacy she never knew before, and heir to the family business. She decides to accept the position, both because she sees a chance to restore a ruined Gotham and because, deep down, Selina's always played power games against herself.
With Catwoman’s new direction in October comes a new creative team: new-to-comics writer Genevieve Valentine and artist Garry Brown.
Dynamic Forces found Valentine on a stylish balcony overlooking the steamy rooftops and concrete canyons of Gotham City. Here’s what she told us.
Dynamic Forces: Genevieve, how do we go from the award-winning Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, to DC Comics’ Catwoman? An unexpected turn in your career as a writer?
Genevieve Valentine: As a writer who until now has done only novels and short fiction, very much so. And it was something I hadn't particularly considered—at least not in terms a character as iconic as Catwoman on my first time out! It was a little serendipitous, and to say I'm nervous is an understatement, but I'll admit I'm also excited as hell.
There's definitely been a learning curve. On some level, of course, storytelling is storytelling, prose or otherwise. But an increasing part of my writing career in the last few years has been film and TV criticism, which means mainlining movies and television even more than I used to, and I'd say I've brought as much of that to comics writing as anything else—that sense of how a single episode fits into a larger season, the visual vocabulary to think about how a scene can be framed, are things I'm definitely thinking about.
DF: As you said, Catwoman is an iconic character so I am sure you were familiar with her. Had you ever read of her exploits in the comics?
Genevieve Valentine: Yes, but I'll be the first to admit I'm out of practice. I was a regular reader during my early teens; more recently I've read some of her vintage exploits (which were all varying degrees of amazing), but in terms of the New 52, I definitely came into it cold. I've been catching up since then, of course – somehow it seemed like a good idea!
DF: There is talk about some of the changes you will bring to the book. Can you discuss some of those?
Genevieve Valentine: Good question! Let's see if I can do it without a ton of spoilers.
The Selina we meet at the beginning of my run has been occupying a position that affects hundreds, maybe thousands of lives, which has put her in a state of hypervigilance; some of the dark humor is still there, but she's living in an uncanny valley between the biggest long con of her life and the potential for a new beginning, and both options keep her on her guard. That said, she's also facing a couple of new characters who challenge her, and with whom she finds a surprising honesty. And after everything that's happened recently with Batman, their dynamic at the start of this arc is at something of an impasse—a sexy, sexy impasse.
But of course, for something as collaborative as comics, the look of the book carries its own immense weight in the story—everything I've seen from Garry Brown and Jae Lee has been just gorgeous, and that's definitely shaped the mood and the movement of the story.
DF: Selina Kyle has always played power games with herself, been her own worst enemy. How will this new direction reflect that aspect of her character? Unlike most women in comics, especially villains, Catwoman has always appreciated her independence, her freedom. One thing that drives her to get in a cat suit some nights is simply that she can. How will this new responsibility affect that?
Genevieve Valentine: These two aspects of the character actually form, for me, the core of her psychology in this arc. The flip side of being a free agent—which is absolutely a defining characteristic for her, and something she feels as if she's lost at the beginning of this arc—is that you have to be able to know yourself absolutely to make it out the other side. The power game comes in whenever she thinks she can game that personal system somehow and lie to herself to get what she wants—and sometimes it even works, which makes it a tough habit to break. A lot of Catwoman's journey has been built around internal conflicts that stem from these two traits in opposition. She refuses the burden of being a hero, but her lines—Here But No Farther—get drawn regularly, and move in surprising ways even to her. By putting her in the position of making decisions that affect an entire city, you take away that flexibility of working alone and exacerbate that personal power struggle of what she'll do if she has the power to make it happen, which makes it a question of whether she'll begin to lose herself within this position she's made: If you crown her, does she become a queen?
DF: And does she still have the deep love for Gotham she has possessed?
Genevieve Valentine: Always. It was a driving reason she accepted her new role in the first place; she wants to use her power to help rebuild the city. Gotham might be a town full of suckers, but it's her town full of suckers.
DF: There seems a phenom these days of more women writers and more women characters in comics. Is that something that you see continuing in the industry?
Genevieve Valentine: It's definitely a trend I hope continues, but in the longer term, I think it's just an issue of the industry reflecting the culture. Looking at Comic-Con attendance, box office receipts, comic book sales, you see a diverse audience that deeply love comics and want stories that reflect, at the base level, a wider human experience; that's a lot of the reason women and characters of color who are getting headliner representation are doing so well, and I hope it all continues to be reflected in the creators as much as in the comics themselves. I feel like it's official recognition of an audience that's always been there—people behind the scenes who are listening and aware and actively working to shake things up (which is how I'm in the mix at all, I suspect).
DF: Will we be seeing more comic books written by Genevieve Valentine?
Genevieve Valentine: A very good question! I can't say just at the moment, but it's certainly the kind of fun somebody could get used to.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Genevieve Valentine for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. Genevieve begins her tour of duty on Catwoman in October!
NEW! 1. 11/25/2020 - STEVE SKROCE
2. 11/23/2020 - CHUCK BROWN
3. 11/19/2020 - DAVE BAKER
4. 11/16/2020 - RYAN O'SULLIVAN
5. 11/16/2020 - RYAN O'SULLIVAN