Mike W. Barr On Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana

Katana co-creator Mike W. Barr is one of a number of Bronze Age DC Comics creators who are [...]

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(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Katana co-creator Mike W. Barr is one of a number of Bronze Age DC Comics creators who are returning to some of their best-loved creations in 2016.

In his case, it's Katana, a long-time member of The Outsiders who recently appeared on Arrow and will be seen in next year's Suicide Squad movie. She's co-headlining a Suicide Squad comic with teammate Deadshot...but it's not the traditional team-up style story that puts two characters side by side against a common foe.

Instead, Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana provides fans with two distinct stories, a Deadshot tale from Brian Buccellato, Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend and and Barr's Katana tale.

Barr spoke with ComicBook.com recently about the series, which debuts on January 27 from DC Comics.

I guess the biggest, most obvious thing is, when they came to you and said, "This character is going to be a big part of the Suicide Squad mythology moving forward," was that a surprise to you? I know for a lot of us, when she popped up in that cast photo for the movie, we were just like, "Wait, what?"

Yeah. I was as surprised as anyone. I had received a call from Geoff Johns at DC a few hours before the casting news dropped back in May telling me that Katana was going to be a part of the Suicide Squad cast. When the news finally dropped on the Internet, I was there with basically everybody waiting in line to see what was going on. I was both surprised and delighted.

In this particular instance, it's almost an anthology book, but is it be fair to say that they're essentially independent stories that interlock in a surprising way at some point?

They are independent stories, yes. At this point, there's no plans for the two stories to overlap at all, although I'm sure that there will be some common reference points since the characters will be interacting with the team, the Suicide Squad.

What Katana, she's not really a Justice League type hero. Her time with Batman and the Outsiders really helped to set the tone for a character and you don't see her with her arm around Green Arrow and a big smile in those old Satellite Era pictures.

No, that's cool. I thought it was very interesting when they made her a member of the Justice League because it'd be very interesting to see how she does interact with this team, with this very well defined, regulated team.

I won't say that she's never changed that much, because over 30 years or whatever, characters do develop, but the kernel of her character has remained very much what you worked on ages ago.

I believe so, yes. Even when other writers have written the character, they seem to have kept her pretty much the same.

Yeah. Is that very gratifying to know? When you look at a character like Booster Gold, depending on who the writer is, has taken a number of different journeys. Is it gratifying with Katana to look at it and be like, "You know what? I think I set something up that speaks to enough people that nobody has really gone off the reservation."

It is. Yes. It's very gratifying that no matter who seems to write the character, they all seem to appreciate the core of the samurai nature of the character and they never take her too far away from that no matter what kind of adventure she has.

She's very self-consisting character. In the same sense, and in that sense only, she's perhaps like Batman in that she has this central core that you can't stray too far from, otherwise you don't have the character anymore.

I have to ask because I have a few myself. Do you have any personal favorite samurai comic stories?

You mean samurai characters other than Katana?

I'm a big fan of Frank Miller's Ronin. I like that very much.

I've always enjoyed stories of samurais when I was a kid. That was where the character of Katana came from when we came time to put together The Outsiders.

Obviously that period in time was revisited during Convergence. Was it odd to see somebody delving back into that iteration of the team, or was it gratifying to know that, again, something that you'd created had left an ever-lasting impression that when DC was putting together their All-Star team of titles, that it's like, "No. We want that one represented."

It was gratifying in that sense. I have to admit that I probably would have rather written the title myself but it's very gratifying to know, as you pointed out, that you've created something that has caused enough of a ripple in this immense organization of the DC universe that has its own niche, that's able to be its own thing even after all these years.

Going to the series directly, and I know there's not a ton you can talk about because it's just barely been solicited, but Kobra playing a role in Katana's story is interesting to me because it's an organization that played a huge role for a fairly short time in the DC universe and since then has drifted in and out. Do you think that gives you a really great opportunity to redefine the organization for the post-Flashpoint DC Universe?

It does. The first time I used Kobra back in Batman and the Outsiders, the character had not received a lot of exposure for a while. Kobra was created by Jack Kirby, of course, and had been set up and then was used a little bit and then sort of fell fallow until we brought him back in the Outsiders on a more or less regular basis. He's been used a fair amount since then, so there's not a lot of redefinition involved in the character. We pretty much just continue with his roots and his ambitions as an international terrorist.

When you're dealing with Kirby characters, is there kind of that unique challenge to operate within a set of strictures because you can't go too far off the reservation with that without alienating any of the people who love Kirby and/or his creation so much?

There is a little of that, of course. It being created by Jack Kirby, you do want to do a good job with the toys that Kirby gave you. Kirby only wrote the one story of Kobra just as a one issue in the last jobs he did for DC back in the 70s, so there was not a lot of really solid definition and back story with the characters. We're able to supply a lot of that and, basically to some extent mold the character.

It's great because it's like basically having a hand in almost co-creating or at least fashioning a Jack Kirby character. How often does that happen?

To me, the DC universe evolves so often and so quickly that when you see somebody revisiting a character or a concept -- and this can apply obviously to Katana just as much -- one of the most interesting things to me as a reader is seeing how you as a writer can carry through those through lines and those themes and still remain consistent with everything that's happened in between now and the last time that you worked on them.

I think I understand what you're saying. What I can say to that is it is very gratifying to see the character of Katana, like the character of Kobra, have a very long life beyond its original series. To a lot of people, to DC Comics readers who are, say, younger than 30, Katana is a character who is as legitimate a part of the DC universe as, say, Superman. She's always been there, so to speak. It's very gratifying for me to see people regard her that way and have this interest in her as though she has been around for as long as Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman.

One of the things that actually I really like is that in the tiny bit of solicitation types that we got, we're going to be dealing with her relationship with the Soultaker, which is again something that in the context of Arrow was not a factor. I enjoy seeing elements like that in general and then having it be something where you could probably safely guess some of the people who maybe didn't try her New 52 series but who saw, "Oh, this is her creator working on it." That'll be a cool thing to explore in the context of potentially a much wider audience.

I hope so. Yes. Even though her appearance on Arrow did not use the concept of Soultaker because they had a lot going on in those stories. It was still, I thought, a very faithful rendition of the character. I was very glad to see what they did with her. I have no idea if she'll be in the current season of Arrow, but I hope so.

Do you have any particular favorite ... I mean, obviously the movie has not come out yet, but do you have a particular favorite like on Arrow versus to Beware the Batman versus the Justice League cartoon she's appeared in, or do you just gobble that all up and say, "Oh, cool. One of my toys is coming out of the box?"

Yeah, I just take it all in. I think that, although I'm not equating Katana in any way to the longevity of say Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman, it's very interesting that so many creators see so many different facets to her and can use her in so many different formats. To me, yeah, it's all a different facet of the same character. I look forward to seeing all of them.

A lot of the time when there's a mini series or a one shot, people are less engaged because sometimes it "doesn't count" or it doesn't play as big a role in the big continuity or tapestry. You have some experience with things like Son of the Demon and Camelot 3000 creating these one-off properties that resonate and become a big part of DC's backlist. Hell, with Son of the Demon you essentially created Damien Wayne. Do you think that that probably helps in terms of almost selling itself, because you sit there and go like, "Yeah. If you give Mike Barr a prestige format and mini series and a couple of characters that he's interested in, probably you'll be pretty okay."

I hope so, anyway. I know that Dan DiDio specifically asked me to write this mini series, Club of the Kobra, and I was very glad to take him up on it. Dan is a large fan of the old Batman and the Outsiders book, of course, and has written some of the new iterations of the Outsiders themselves. I was very glad to take him up on it.