11 1 / 2013
The hardest thing about writing Kate Bishop is, of course, not stealing Fraction’s Lady Hawkguy gag.
This is another one with odd timing. I was planning on hitting up Kate next, and then the first three pages drops unexpectedly kind of pre-empting it. How will I write Kate? You already know.
Okay. Here’s some of the thinking
In the earliest stages of Young Avengers, even before I had officially said yes to the gig, my first task was to decide which parts of the existing cast would remain as mine. I already knew instinctive that Kid Loki would put the team back together – that was a pre-actual-work sort of thinking. This was conscious.
Children’s Crusade had reduced the scale of the decision but increased its importance. Cassie was dead. Jonas was dead. Nate had stepped back on the path to becoming Kang. I didn’t want to explicitly undermine anything that had come before, so all those three were off the table.
Since Patriot was unavailable, I was left with Teddy, Billy, Tommy and Kate.
I’ll be writing more about this later, but in cold, hard dramatic maths and team versatility, there was no way I wasn’t going to include Kate from those options. The other three are tied together by blood and love. Their stories are often each others stories, with a tendency to overlap. Kate, despite the shared experience, was her own thing. She brought a whole different perspective and options of what sort of story I could tell.
Even if I hated her, I’d have picked her.
I didn’t hate her. She was one of my favourite Young Avengers. I liked her enough that even if it didn’t make a lot of dramatic sense for her to be in the mix, I’d have tried to work out a way to work her in.
Kate hasn’t superpowers.
The concept of superheroes without superpowers is something that I think about a bit too much. A trope of the genre is how the unpowered human can stand against the power of these walking gods. It’s the Batman Always Wins line – that by force of will and preparation, you can trump anything.
Looked with cold eyes, it’s utter nonsense. You can’t trick an A-bomb by hiding in the shadows. You need to turn anyone with powers into an idiot to pull it off. And that’s putting aside the fact that all the “normal” human heroes are performing stunts that are simply beyond anything any actual member of our species can do. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever when looked at in a literal fashion.
Which makes it lucky that it’s not a particularly literal genre. It doesn’t matter if it’s realistic or factual. It only matters if it’s true. It’s a metaphor. It’s all metaphors.
With Young Avengers, we’re firing everything about being 18-20 through a superheroic filter. As such, powers tend to come across as potential, talent, ability or whatever. And as amazing as Kate is, as hard as she’s worked – and she’s had to work harder than anyone else on the team to be who she is – she still isn’t as mercurially brilliant as everyone else. She looks around the room and knows that she lacks in a way that all her hard work can never overcome.
I’m not leaning into this that much – not least because “unpowered hero realises that being yourself is the true superpower!” - is a pretty threadbare plot by now. But it’s there, lying beneath it all. These are things that she’s come to terms with already. Kate having come to terms with stuff is a big part of her, for me. A compare and contrast with Eli is useful – where Eli was serious, Kate was sensible. She’s got a level head on her shoulders. She weighs her feelings and decides what she’s going to do about them. She doesn’t have an inferiority complex. She’s worked past that. In some ways she’s the oldest of the Young Avengers, even more than Marvel Boy and Ms. America.
This segues neatly into something several people have asked me about: Kate’s origin.
She’s doesn’t let that define her, and I won’t either.
Hmm. I’ve got some other things to say about Kate, in terms of how it was interesting that the previous YA didn’t use her as the reader-entry-point character, and why I decided to use her for that exact purpose, but that’ll wait for my notes on Issue 1.
I’ll end with some notes on how I wanted her to feel on the panel. She’s unusual in the cast, because she’s the only one who’s been in a comic recently. She’s appearing in Hawkeye every month. She’s got her separate life to the Young Avengers – in that she’s been secretly having adventures with Clint Original Hawkeye. The other Young Avengers don’t know this to start, not least because everyone realises how touchy Billy is on the issue of anyone starting up again. But, relevantly to us, she’s got another life. She’s a little more worldly, and you can tell. But worldly is grounded – she’s not otherworldly like Marvel Boy are is
She’s basically phenomenally classy without a fear of the modern. Jamie’s followed David Aja’s design to start with, but his big influence is British Singer Jessie Ware. I believe Jamie noted she manages to be simultaneously both Robert Palmer and the Robert Palmer Girls. Or he stole it from someone and didn’t tell me who. But, for once, she’s right.
Inevitably, she’s on the soundtrack.
Of all the Young Avengers, I think she’s the character I’d most like to be like. The world would be a better place if there were more people like Kate Bishop.
But no. I’m Loki. And not even the good bits of Loki. Man!
“She doesn’t let that define her, and I won’t either.”
This is exactly why Kate means more to me than anyone. Of course I’ve been excited for Gillen’s take on the title (mindful discussion about separating sexiness and objectification! using the lens of the female gaze!) but to actually see that line in his own words is so exciting. Kate’s story (YA Special #1) is, in my opinion, the most respectful and responsible depiction of a sexual assault and the personal aftermath ever in mainstream comics. It didn’t just happen to progress the story; it didn’t happen to progress a more central male protagonist’s story to ~motivate him~ or ~get revenge~ or whatever; it didn’t just happen in one issue and in the next, she was written like nothing happened; and, most importantly, the trauma didn’t define her character and control her decision-making and development afterwards. And the reason this works is because we actually get to see her take the initiative and heal herself, mentally and physically. Like, we see her getting counseling! That’s so cool! We see her do the work - the hard, awful, wonderful work - in a real-life way, not just kicking bad guy butt until she magically feels better. She didn’t just “move on.” You can’t, on your own. But she wanted to, and seeing her take those steps meant the world to me. My story looks like Kate’s story. It was hard but we did it. And these things do change you, and you don’t forget them, but they shouldn’t have to haunt the way you live your life.
Heinberg’s writing of those scenes where Kate gets help and regroups meant so, so much to me, because that’s why it’s a POSITIVE thing that Kate doesn’t bring up her past. It’s not that the writers are ignoring or minimizing what happened. It’s because Kate doesn’t need to look back. She’s good. And after some rough years, I’m good too. That’s how I want these stories told. It’s important to discuss the emotional, mental, and spiritual repercussions of sexual assault, obviously! I tend to discuss those a lot more often. But I want to see stories like this, where the last note is one of personal victory over the trauma. I want to see hope and growth and healing and control in a way that still respects the horror that these situations entail. Kate emerged from her story a champion, and her prize is that she is free from dwelling in the past. Heinberg knocked it out of the park, and now Gillen’s going to knock it out of the park. Kate put up that boundary and he’s going to respect it. And when Kate is respected, I feel respected.
Whoo! A lot of words. The point is, Young Avengers kicks ass and you should read it.