Mike W. Barr talks Katana and Suicide Squad Most Wanted

SUSQ_MW_DEADSHOTKATANA_1_56240e803028b3.04781561Two of the stars of next year’s highly anticipated action movie break out in their own solo adventures in an extra-sized, 6-issue miniseries! This week sees the release of Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot and Katana #1.

First, in a story by Brian Buccellato, Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend, Deadshot is on the run, taking on a series of new contracts, and re-establishing himself as the world’s most deadly marksman. But things are about to get complicated for Floyd Lawton when a figure from his past threatens to expose a dark secret…and Deadshot gets word of his next target: Lex Luthor!

Then, writer Mike W. Barr returns to the character he co-created in “Katana, Cult of the Kobra,” with art by Diogenes Neves. Katana needs to know more about Soultaker’s origin if she’s going to have any hope of controlling the sword instead of falling under its influence. Dr. Helga Jace, a Markovian astrophysicist, may be able to shed some light—but before Katana can get the info, Kobra’s forces attack!

I got a chance to talk to Mike about how he got involved with the comic, what it’s like to return to his creation, and what it’s like to see her on the big and small screen.

Graphic Policy: So, the easiest place to start is how did you get involved with the new project?

Mike W. Barr: With artist Jim Aparo, I’m the cocreator of Katana back in 1983. It’s been 33 years now. Which is funny because I’ve gotten older and Katana hasn’t, so I’m not sure how that works out. I got a phone call in May of last year from Geoff Johns telling me that Katana was going to be used in the Suicide Squad movie. So I dropped a letter to Dan DiDio to see if there’s any publishing involved in that project, I’d like to be involved in it. And Dan asked me to write this six issue series, and I was glad to take him up on it.

GP: How does it feel to see the character evolve past the printed page in to other media and other folks handling her?

MB: It’s really satisfying, because the character’s being is being used in a consistent manner as she’s used in the comics. They’re making her a samurai, give her the haunted sword, and give her the attitude which is possibly the most important thing with Katana. The way she’s being used in the Suicide Squad looks really good, and the way she was used in Arrow I also liked very much.

GP: It’s one of the characters that doesn’t change much from version to version, she’s very consistent.

MB: That’s very true. Even the version with the DC Super Hero Girls, the younger version also has the haunted sword, which is kind of funny.

GP: Who is Katana to you?

MB: Katana for me is the essence of the noble lone samurai. When I was creating the character back in 83, I thought it’d also be interesting to also to make the character female. I thought it’d give her an added edge, and added level of complexity, and that seems to have worked out well.

GP: Yes it has.

MB: There aren’t that many female Japanese characters in the DC Universe. So, I think that’s one of the reasons for her popularity.

GP:  Yeah, I wanted to ask about that. When she was created, the landscape was very different for female characters, let alone one of Asian decent. It’s much different than today.

MB:: Yeah, it’s an interesting mix of features that seems to have worked out.

GP: How did you come up with creating the character?

MB: Well, I was trying to, I had created a lot of character for the Outsiders, a variety of characters. You want guys who are not just big and strong or with great powers, you want to mix it up a bit. I always had an interest in Japanese culture, so I thought it’d not just be interesting to do a samurai, but a female samurai. And the samurai’s blade is the katana, which is a perfect name for the character with the nice sharp “k” sound, and the feminine “a.” It was almost impossible to misspronounce so it worked out well.

GP: What it was like when she was created to the landscape today. What’s your thoughts on how that’s shifted?

MB: It took a long time for her to take off. There was a long time when there was no merchandising for her, forever. All of the sudden, the past couple of years, she’s all over the place. She’s in the Suicide Squad movie, she was on the tv show Arrow last year, she’s on the DC Super Hero Girls website, and she’s been licensed as part of DC’s Bombshells’ lineup. I guess they were looking for diverse characters, and found Katana as one of them.

GP: As the creator, how does it feel to see the character take on this new life?

MB: I’ve been happy with her, because the take on her, they haven’t changed her. She’s always been the same way she’s been depicted in the comics.

GP: Moving on to the comic. You have her taking on Kobra, which haven’t been in the spotlight lately. Why’d you choose them for the villain?

MB: That was part of the comic when they gave it to me. They wanted her to face Kobra. I can assume this is because I had written Kobra in the past with Batman and the Outsiders and I had a great deal of fun doing it. Kobra was one of the last creations Jack Kirby did while he was still at DC before he went back to Marvel. I always liked the characters a great deal, and had a lot of fun doing it because they’re just so evil. It turns out to be a pretty good match.

GP: What were you presented with for the story?

MB: Basically, the parameters I was given was they wanted to have Katana fighting Kobra, and have her meet the Suicide Squad which happens in issue 2. I gave them everything they wanted and it worked out well. I’m pleased with the story because it sort of expands with each issue. You learn more about Kobra’s plan with each issue, and it almost turns out to be something different.

GP: The setting is Markovia, a fictional country with a long history. Why choose there instead of a real country?

MB: Because I’m used to it. It’s a concept I’m comfortable with. The editor and I were talking about where it was going to be set, and we said a European country, we didn’t know where and we both said Markovia. That works out well because it’s a reference to the old Batman and the Outsiders series too.

GP: You’ve been writing for decades. How has writing changed over the years?

MB: That’s not something I think about a great deal… basically because I don’t want to. The quality control has changed over the years. I came in to comics in 1977, actually I sold my first story back in 1973, and comics were made the same way they did since the 1930s. The actual production and printing methods had not changed much at all. Since then there’s been radical developments in the printing, lettering, and coloring. The lettering and coloring are all being done with computers, which none of us could have conceived of 30 years ago. With the writing, things haven’t changed that much. You’re still dealing with a blank page and 26 letter of the alphabet.

GP: Very good point. It’s been awesome to talk to you. Thanks so much for chatting!