Giving Paws:  Grayson (below left with cat Nada-san) views Catwoman (below right) as a kleptomaniac unable to relate to people.

Lured into comics by a random 'Batman'
cartoon, writer DEVIN GRAYSON emerges
as DC's wonder woman on 'Catwoman' and 'Titans'
          Four years ago, Devin Grayson didn't read comic books. The Catwoman writer didn't even like them. In fact, the only comic Grayson can remember reading pre-'94 was an Archie book when she was around 10 years old.
          That changed when she came home from work early one day and flipped on the television in her San Francisco apartment.  Remote in hand, she began flipping through the channels and clicked into the middle of a "Batman: The Animated Series" episode.  Batman and Robin were talking in the Batmobile, Grayson remembers; Robin had his feet propped up on the dashboard. They weren't in the middle of a big chase; they were just talking.
          That's why she kept watching.
          "I was fascinated," the now 28-year-old Grayson recalls, sitting in the basement office she's made in the Philadelphia home she shares with her boyfriend (and fellow comics writer) Mark Waid. She looks up and smiles at her cat, Nada-san, who's looking down from a perch atop the nearby computer monitor. "It was the first time I ever saw Batman as a father figure, the first time I'd ever thought, 'Hey. He raised someone.' I became absolutely fascinated by the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. I wanted to get to know these characters. To get to know them, you have to go into their medium."
          Grayson immersed herself in the culture of comics after that, and it's paid off-she's now one of the busiest writers in the business.  Although Grayson's only been writing comics for three years, she has proved herself at DC Comics, scoring some high-profile gigs on Catwoman and the Titans ongoing that's launching in January. There's also the creator-owned DC monthly she's working on called The Weinbergs. Plus there's the Black Widow miniseries for Marvel Comics, due next spring.
          "You're going to see me at a convention in a few years, white-haired and twitching," Grayson says, beginning to laugh. "I'll be screaming, 'Get me out of here!' But it's cool.  I still like getting up and doing my job. Think about it: I'm officially allowed to make time to chill out in Gotham City. I get to clear out a piece of my week to hanging out with superheroes. I love that."                             .
          You can tell it, too, by walking around her office. It's an eclectic mess, partially because she and Waid. (whom she met at last year's WonderCon) are planning a move to Brooklyn soon...and simply because, as Grayson puts it, "I like it this way." Stone gargoyles rest menacingly on cabinets and desk corners. An autographed photo of Julie Newmar-TV's Catwoman-proclaims, "To Devin:  You're Fabulous!" A hand-made Batarang rests near her computer keyboard ("It's all Mark and I have for protection. We don't have any guns-this is a Batman house," Grayson says proudly). And the poster of Nightwing she bought the day she saw that "Batman" episode guards a wall.
          Grayson is spunky and good-humored, but she takes her writing seriously. She makes musical "soundtrack" tapes of tunes she listens to when writing, themed for each title she's working on, "One of the best parts of getting a new assignment is making that tape," she says. "It sounds silly-playing a 90-minute tape over and over-but every 90 minutes, the theme of your work comes back to you. It's a nice way to remain focused." Concentrating on the angry, independent nature of Selina Kyte, Grayson's Catwoman tape sports ferocious tracks by female punkers L7-with a dash of Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing" added for good measure. The Titans soundtrack is a great collection of coming-of-age rock tunes, such as Third Eye Blind's "Graduate."
          Focus is what got Grayson in the business in the first place. Just months after she channel-surfed her way into the comics culture in 1994, Grayson was calling DC's offices to do something-anything-in the comics business. "I pretty much pestered the editors for about two years. I knew I just had to write these characters," she recalls. "I told them I'd do anything: answer fan letters, sweep the floors. I just wanted to be closer to it and learn more. The DC editors were extremely kind and accessible." She gives an embarrassed grin here: "And they were probably amused by me at some level."
          But Grayson got the last laugh. Her first assignment was in 1996 with a short Batman Chronicles #7 tale featuring Nightwing and his Titans teammate, Donna Troy. Things blossomed from there, and soon Grayson found herself writing more one-shot stories in Chronicles and other Bat-books. She scored the Catwoman gig and took over-unofficially, Grayson insists she's still considered "freelance"-as the ongoing writer with #54. Then came
a Superman Adventures story, and last summer's Nightwing/Huntress mini-series.
          Grayson feels her strongest talents lie in characterization. She views the characters as real people with their own agendas and what she calls "damage"-the emotional baggage that has shaped the them into who they are. When Grayson talks about Batman and Catwoman, it's as if they're real people. For the creative process to be genuine for her, she has to think of them that way. "I think of [writing] as being a conduit for the characters," she explains. "When I'm writing Catwoman, I don't think of myself as 'Devin Grayson, Representative Of All Womankind,' It's not about me at all. It's about the characters."
          In the case of writing a character such as Catwoman, Grayson examines Selina Kyle's motives from all sides. Although readers could perceive the cat burglar as a villain, Grayson has another point of view.
          "Catwoman is one of the purest archetypes: She's dark, female sexuality. Sure, she's a thief. She's a criminal, a criminal to her toes," Grayson says. "But a villain? No, I don't see her as one. I like to think of her as a kleptomaniac; I think the stealing is out of control. Because she doesn't have intimate relationships with people, she has them with objects.
          The kleptomania angle will be explored early next year, during the Bat-books' "No Man's Land" story arc. It will arise from a nightmare Selina has in Catwoman #66. In the dream, Grayson says a DC character will damn her as a common thief, causing Catwoman to suspect she may have a problem.
          Catwoman also will leave Gotham City next year on a vacation. "Selina decides to cut her losses and leave Gotham; the place has become a violent, unpredictable wasteland," Grayson says. "But she'll be coming back. She'll realize later that what she left was more than a wasteland. It's her home."
          And around issue #68, an established male DC Universe character will visit Catwoman and become a supporting character in the title. Grayson won't say who he is-when it comes to storylines, this writer loves keeping secrets.
          As she takes a break from chatting about comics, Grayson smiles again at Nada-san, still sleepily peering down from her roost. Grayson loves these moments, virtually alone, with her music playing on the headphones and dialogue dancing in her brain. There's a soup bowl by her keyboard filled with small Post-It notes of dialogue that have come to her while writing: "I use a lot of this later.  I just hear it and write it down," she says.
          The bowl will see a lot more use next year, considering Grayson's workload. First on the menu is Grayson's dream project, DC's new Titans series, launching in January. "[DC editor] Eddie Berganza put it like this when he pitched the idea to me: 'Could we possibly interest you in writing Titans?' " she says, raising her eyebrows knowingly. "He knew damn well that I'd be ecstatic about that. I can remember him saying, 'Are you cool with that?' I almost fainted. I'm insanely excited about this."
          Grayson glows when she talks about Titans but doesn't want to give too much away. Here's some info she would spill: The five founding members—Nightwing, Flash, Tempest, Arsenal and Donna Troy (formerly Wonder Girl, with a new code name pending copyright approval)—will be on the team, as well as a second wave of former Titans (she's not saying who yet). Big threats are planned, along with some intrateam romance...and a theme that Grayson explores in much of her work: family.
          "When I talk about family, I'm talking about the concept—not genetics," Grayson explains. "It's the kind you search out; the people you look for throughout your life who allow you to be as much yourself as possible. Dick Grayson and Donna Troy are so clearly that for each other. In fact, all the Titans are. That's why Titans is such a dream job for me. It resonates of that feeling: 'Yeah! We're going to be there for each other no matter what, because we don't have anyone else!"
          The Titans will be doing more than bonding; they'll 'be taking on some familiar villains. The terrorist group HIVE will return with a new leader and a new mission: to rid the world of all superpowered beings. A Titans version of the Injustice Gang will form, too—led by the immortal megalomaniac Vandal Savage. Expect to see an all-new villain named Goth to surface around issue #3, as well as guest appearances galore.
          "It's a really powerful team, something that can be problematic," she continues. "You start looking at a threat and you have to say, 'Whoa. Just one of these guys could handle this.' But that's the interesting part. If one of them could take this down, why are they working together? They can work alone. But they come together and explore the needs in one another's lives. That's family to me."
          Grayson's writing duties don't end with Selina Kyle or the twenty-something Titans. She's also closed a deal with Marvel to work on a Black Widow mini-series, due next spring.
          A few months ago, Marvel editors Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada spoke to Grayson about doing a Widow mini for their darker, character-reviving Marvel Knights line, the storyline up to Grayson. Grayson actually hesitated at the opportunity, fearing she would be typecasting herself a "female character only" writer.
          "I don't want my work evaluated that way," she says, the concern seeping into her voice for a moment. "Writing comic books isn't about writing male and female characters. It's about writing characters. Sure, I feel responsible for talking about the realities of gender bias in comics, but at the same time, I really don't want my work evaluated that way. I have fans who come up to me and say, 'You should write...' and they list of a dozen female characters. I wince at that."
          In the end, a good story idea—and the love of the character— brought Grayson around. Primarily a DC reader, the character of Black Widow (along with Gambit and Captain America's Sharon Carter) is one of the few Marvel  characters she really knows something about. The story for the miniseries goes like this: Black Widow, a former Russian spy, is investigating a super-serum smuggling ring. During the adventure, a young woman confronts her, wanting to take the title of Black Widow for herself.
          "Black Widow really has to think about defending that," Grayson says. "I mean, she'd been at this spy thing for a while. Is it time to retire? That's the theme of the story: aging."
          While Widow may be a fun journey into spyville, Grayson's proudest creation is her creator-owned, in-DC-Universe-continuity series scheduled to debut in May, The Weinbergs. "It's really the most purely 'me' thing out there," Grayson says with a laugh. "It's straight out of my sick little head." The concept? A family of five teenagers with superpowers travel the DCU in a Winnebago, exploring their new superheroic lives...while dealing with the death of their parents.
          "They decide to take to the road, become superheroes and never look back," Grayson says. "So you have a bunch of kids taking on DC supervillians. It's going to be really fun—but at the same time, it's a very tragic story. This isn't Batman and Superman, where the resolution comes easily. Ultimately, they're going to have to face those realities on the road. It's basically 'Party of Five' meets Teen Titans meets 'Road Rules."'
          Grayson laughs, an infectious staccato that bounces off the walls. She knows her professional status hinges on a chance encounter, a lot of "pestering" and hard work. She knows how fortunate she is to be this successful this quickly. And she knows how cool her job really is.
          "My favorite question I've ever fielded is, 'What characters do you want to work with?' And I just smile because I've already done it," she says. "I'm working with characters I've always wanted to do. As a fangirl, I sometimes scream, 'You're joking!' when I think about all this. I still sometimes think it's all an elaborate hoax and someone's going to say, 'The show's over, babe."'
          Maybe. But only if Grayson lets go of the remote.        (JW)

Kentucky-based writer Chris Hutchins' life is basically "Groovy Ghoulies" meets Atari Force meets "Sailor Moon. "
Grayson's Heroes

         Don't call the Titans a bunch of least not while writer Devin Grayson is around.  She's spent months reading aback issues to make sure her upcoming Titans series, launching in January, is loyal to the characters and keeps readers happy.
          Here's her take on the personalities of the five core members of the team--and what motivates each of them.


"Dick Grayson knows leading a team is time-consuming and stressful.  But his conflict is he's a deeply responsible person; its really hard to let this stuff happen without in some way checking in or watching over the people involved.  When the team starts up, he has some serious questions about whether its a good idea to start the Titans up again."

Donna Troy

"Donna (first as Wonder Girl, then Troia) used to be the den mother, but we're not going ot see a lot of that.  She's been through a really difficult time lately.  Basically, she's been told that she was (wiped from existence in Wonder Woman #134-#136), but then was restored through the memories of Wally (West, a.k.a Flash).  When we start, she's going to be examining those issues.  But she will have her Amazonian powers back...and some new ones."

The Flash

"Dick's busy, but Wally West's even busier.  Not only doe she have his own city to protect--if not the world--he's a member of the JLA and the Titans. He joins the Titans out of friendship.  IN a sense he makes a sacrifice, but he does it gracefully.  There's no resentment there.  But when the Titans start scheduling meetings at the same time the JLA does, that'll tick him off a little."


"On some levels, Roy Harper would just be happy continuing to be his own man without the Titans.  But he finds the dynamics pretty irresistible -- not to mention the free rent (in their new HQ on Titans Island).  Since he's raising his baby daughter full-time, he knows you can't really get a better group of baby sitters than the Titans.  He's a man who just kind of goes where his path takes him."


"Tempest (a.k.a. Garth) is a man with something to prove.  He's another one of the members who'd just as soon do his own thing, but he's gaining a sense of confidence, although he may be the quietest one on the team.  He becomes the Titans' treasurer.  That's a new position for him, and he'll find he has more of a voice than he ever had before."

This article appeared in Wizard, the comic magazine, in December of 1998