This interview contains spoilers for Batgirl and other Bat-books.
It’s always a pleasure to meet the people behind your favorite comic books. Alongside my interview with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (Batman) at NYCC 2015, I also sat down for a wonderful chat with Babs Tarr, the absolutely brilliant artist on Batgirl, the book many in the comics world consider responsible for the big shift in the DC line-up to a more diverse, creator-owned-like approach.
Babs brings a youthful energy to the book with her pencils, filling the page with cartoony influences, such as Hannah-Barbera and the manga books she undoubtedly loves. Her characters, who also greatly benefit from the scripts writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher have created for them, are always in motion, shooting hilarious gestures at each other at every turn and plenty of flirty looks. But when it’s time for Barbara Gordon to kick bad guys in the face, Babs totally brings it, with drawings that could almost pop off the page. Her latest issues of the book are exemplary of how fun comics can be.
I spoke to Babs last year, and our second conversation is even better. Talking to her is like chatting with an old pal, one that offers you infinite happiness every month. No matter how hard things are in the real world, there’s so much Batgirl to enjoy.
Here’s my chat with Babs:
Why are Luke Fox and Barbara Gordon perfect for each other?
I don’t know if they’re perfect for each other, but I think they make a really good team because they have a lot of the same struggles. More than anyone, he can understand what she goes through. Having to fight crimes and do all that other stuff. Plus he’s really tech savvy too—he owns his own tech company—and so is Babs. They have that in common, and plus they just look really good together.
They really do! I didn’t expect it when I first saw it, but it was being teased and those last few panels in #44 were great.
A lot of things happen off page that people don’t see, like something coming out in the next issue on Oct. 28, that shows Luke’s maturity and why he is a really good fit and why they work. I hope people don’t hate us too bad for having them together.
I don’t know what Luke Fox’s last appearance was, but I remember in Batman Eternal he went through a hell of an ordeal in Arkham Asylum and now he’s taking a break from Batwing. But will we see a Batwing/Batgirl team-up at some point?
I don’t know. It’s not there yet, but maybe? Who knows? I know [writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher] always try to let Babs stay on her own for a while, and then they’ll let people suit up later. So maybe not this arc but the next one…
Frankie has taken a very active roll, which I love, since issue #40. Playing around [with Frankie] and the neural implant which is really cool.
Now she can control the bike.
That was amazing.
There was a page in #44 where she has the bike coming and it feels like it’s going to pop off the page.
Do you envision Frankie as the new oracle?
She takes a role that is similar, but she is her own person and we are trying to make her her own thing. Frankie is an essential part of Babs’ team and Babs might not know it yet, but she’ll find out.
When redesigning the book and the character, way back in #35, did you think Batgirl would have such a profound effect on the rest of the DC line?
No, I had no idea. I barely knew how the comics’ world worked, because I was so new to it.
This isn’t your first book, is it?
Yeah, it is! Cameron [Stewart] pulled me out of oblivion and was like, “Hey, you have really cool art. Do you wanna draw this book?”
So Batgirl‘s my only book, and I had no idea that it would have the effect the way it did or that it could even. I just thought that when any change happened in the comic world everyone got mad. That’s what I knew about the comic world. But we changed the costume and everyone got happy. We had this outpouring of love for it. It blew our minds to see it effect the rest of the line and have them try all these new things. It’s just so exciting. Whether we had anything to do with it or not, I think seeing the variety in it is a reward in itself.
They even made up a comics term for what you guys did which is “Batgirling.” Did you have any reaction to that?
It’s just absurd and surreal. I am very honored.
How much research goes into the weird science and tech of the book?
I think [Cameron and Brenden] really have to research because Babs is smarter than all three of us. So we really have to research and do our part to make sure we’re doing everything we can to portray her in her true fashion, which is brilliant and beautiful.
Since the return of the re-launch in June, you guys have mostly stuck to two-issue arcs. Is that the directive since the re-launch? Or are you guys thinking of doing longer arcs?
It’s something we wanted to do since the beginning, but we wanted to pay homage to Gail’s run. We felt we couldn’t have just jumped into cute little two-issue episodes. We needed to have Babs do this journey so that when we did get to this point, where we could just do these fun little episodes, that it would make sense and that it felt authentic.
So we did this big arc to see her grow, and then when we got to the two-issue arcs, it made more sense and it felt more right for her and her character at that pont in time. But there is going to be an overarching villain throughout the whole arc.
You guys did two issues with Barbara and Jim. I was wondering why you think it is so important—now that they’re both superheroes—to keep that secret from each other?
I think she wanted to tell him, but because he’s such a good man and he’s so upholding to the law, Babs didn’t want to put that on him. To reveal her secret to her dad. It’s a different dynamic between him telling her than Babs telling her dad. It’s in his DNA to protect her and want to shelter her. I think it’s just a different dynamic, and I think it’s better that he doesn’t know. I think it would put him in an awkward situation at work. It’s a really selfless act of Babs not to put that on his shoulders.
Your drawing of Jim Gordon make him look younger in a way. I really like it.
Yeah, you do turn him into a hot dad.
I really miss his mustache.
You bring out the burnside in Jim Gordon.
I’m glad. Good.
Dick Grayson is back in Gotham, in issue #12 of his book, and you see he approaches Barbara but she’s not having it at that moment. Are we going to see that confrontation in the book at some point?
Yes. We just released the cover for #45, and it’s a wedding issue cover and it has Grayson and Babs on the front. So he does come. But it’s at a very inopportune time.
I wonder what he’s going to think about Babs and Luke Fox.
It’s going to be fun. This issue is my favorite one I’ve ever drawn. It’s the best one I’ve drawn. The guys really wrote a lot of stuff that are to my strengths. I got to draw Dick Grayson super dreamy, so it was really fun.
Will we see beautiful bearded Bruce at all? We haven’t seen Barbara interact with him at all since Endgame.
I would love to draw a bearded Bruce.
You want to “burnside” him, too?
He is already kind of burnsided. He’s wearing plaid and has a beard.
We’re making that a term along with “Batgirling.”
Bruce would fit in perfect in Burnside right now if he just wanted to hang out. I don’t know if he’ll show up. We don’t even know who he is right now.
He has that amnesia right now. Don’t even know if he knows he was ever associated with Barbara Gordon…
We can’t use him right now, but maybe in the future. I would love to draw Batman.
I noticed that Bengal did the art for the latest issue of Batgirl and he did the annual. Are there plans for more collaboration?
Maybe. I had done nine issues in a row and I needed a little break. But I am back on at #45 and for the foreseeable future. But I think if I need a break again ill probably use him one or two times. He’s a great fill-in. I know eventually he has something else coming up, so we might not get to use him, but he might help me another time. Like during Christmas if I just want to relax and not have to worry about pages this time.
Is there anything else you want to tease about the book?
You guys have to buy #45. It’s really juicy. It’s really good. There’s a really cute wedding. Luke’s there. Some shit goes down. You guys have to check it out. Its gonna be a really good issue.
Babs Tarr, thank you so much!