The relaunched Witchblade is a much different take than the series that launched during the “bad girl” boom of the mid-1990s. Thanks to an all-female creative team, Top Cow’s flagship title has charted a new direction that looks to shake the prevailing image of the book while maintaining the high-quality storytelling that it was known for throughout the 2000s. Comics Bulletin was honored to talk with Witchblade writer Caitlin Kittredge about the future of the series, writing influences, and phobias.
Daniel Gehen for Comics Bulletin (CB): It’s been a year since the first issue of Witchblade launched – what’s been your experience like over the past 12 months?
Caitlin Kittredge: Unbelievable—I’m so blown away by how fans have responded to our take on Witchblade and I feel like we continue to gather momentum with every issue. I’ve never written something with this level of fan engagement and it’s been a fantastic experience.
CB: Comic readers are notorious for disliking change. Was there any trepidation in moving forward with a new bearer after 20 years of Sara Pezzini?
Kittredge: We knew going in there was going to be pushback from certain sectors—that’s the nature of working on any legacy franchise, be it Witchblade, the new STAR WARS or anything people feel a level of attachment to or ownership of. My stance has always been our reboot is our thing, and the legacy Witchblade is it’s own thing, and you can enjoy one or both. They each have their merits and without Sara and the original team, we obviously wouldn’t have anything to reboot, so we’re very aware of our roots!
CB: Early in your run (I think it was issue #2), readers were treated to a glimpse of the other artifacts that make up the Top Cow Universe. Will they play a role in the coming issues?
Kittredge: I would love that, and discussions with the Top Cow folks are ongoing about how we’d make it work.
CB: What were your influences in developing Alex’s character?
Kittredge: I had that Hemingway quote tacked up above my writing space when I was first developing Alex: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” I was inspired by a lot of reluctant protagonists in fiction and reality—somebody who has been through hell and hasn’t always come out on top, but has the core strength to pick herself up and keep fighting.
CB: Even today, broader comic audiences think of Witchblade is the “bad girl” book it was in the mid-1990s. Do you see this as a challenge to change the perception?
Kittredge: Absolutely. Comics has come so far since then—it’s basically a completely different industry, so naturally a reboot of Witchblade was going to have some fundamentally different underpinnings from the original. I have to say again, I really like and respect the source material for the franchise—but we are in a different world, and when I got the job offer I was tasked with writing a very different comic from the original, with the blessing of both the original creator and the powers that be at Top Cow.
CB: Because of her background as an investigative journalist, Alex is much more traveled than previous Witchblade bearers. Will we see her outside of New York?
Kittredge: I would love to do a globe-trotting arc, and wouldn’t rule it out in the future—we’ve already done dimension hopping and time travel so having Alex hop an international flight wouldn’t be far fetched at all.
CB: We’re early in the run and you’ve built a rather large ensemble to support Alex. How do you go about juggling so many characters?
Kittredge: I tend to look at it like a team lineup (and we even started the #TeamWitchblade tag)–depending on the requirements of the story, I pick three to four supporting characters who will be integral to the arc and I let the rest take a break.
CB: Of the current cast, is there one that gets you excited to write? If so, why is that?
Kittredge: Alex is great to write, but out of the supporting cast my favorites so far have been Detective Roseland and Majil—Maj is a character that really took on a life of his own and since he’s both the reality check and comic relief of the group, writing his dialogue is just really fun.
CB: How does collaborating with Roberta Ingranta impact your storytelling approach?
Kittredge: I trust Roberta to pull off whatever I throw at her—she’s so talented that I never feel like I need to hold back or hew to a certain style, and because she’s very inventive and has a really strong design background I also don’t have to spell out every panel for her—I can write “Page 12—Alex fights six bodyguards” and she’ll come back with the most incredible layouts. I say a lot her and Bryan make me look good and that’s absolutely true—this book is a true collaboration.
CB: Roberta has given Alex a few different looks with the armor – will there be continued evolutions of her armored-up design
Kittredge: Yes, as her powers evolve her armor will evolve as well—and we’ll get to see an entirely new take on the armor in the story we’re starting in #13.
CB: One thing that has resonated in recent years is the idea of overcoming a trauma and reclaiming autonomy – especially women. Perhaps the most prominent example in the entertainment industry (or more accurately, the one at the top of my mind) is recent Halloween movie. With a trauma being the catalyst for Alex’s time as the Witchblade bearer, are these themes that you are looking to explore?
Kittredge: Alex has survived three near-death experiences at this point, so she’s acutely aware of how chaotic the universe is and how badly that can mess with your mental state. Reclaiming her power for Alex means helping others—she’s hugely empathetic, she can put herself in the shoes of victims and survivors, and suddenly she’s handed a literal weapon against evil to help her defend the most vulnerable and helpless. I’m sure you can draw the metaphorical lines there yourself.
CB: Between Witchblade, Coffin Hill, and your novels, you’re clearly at home in the dark fantasy/supernatural genres. What is it about these genres that keeps drawing you in?
Kittredge: I’ve always loved dark stories, and I think I keep coming back to them because it’s very cathartic for me to work through my own dark places via fiction. Which I know is a huge cliché, but it’s true. I didn’t realize until I’d written three or four novels that I could use things that would have absolutely crushed me if I discussed them in real world terms as components of my stories, and when I did, whatever it was no longer belonged just to me, and wasn’t just something I had to carry alone.
CB: In the past , you’ve mentioned that creators such as Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, and Raymond Chandler as influences. What lessons have you taken from their works as your career advances?
Kittredge: I feel like you have to grow and evolve in terms of influences if you’re going to grow and evolve as a writer. I have definitely made more of an effort in recent years to read more work by women, LGBT creators, creators of color and just generally step out of my bubble and diversify the media I consume. I’m well aware that a lot of titans of genre fiction are hugely problematic as human beings (especially Lovecraft, yeesh), and I try to balance being influenced by the qualities of their fiction I admire with trying to do better with my own writing and not be another person in the line of exclusionary gatekeepers in genre fiction and comics.
CB: Because I’m not at all superstitious, here’s another question so we don’t end with thirteen. What’s on your to-read pile these days?
Kittredge: Triskaidekaphobia! One of my favorite phobias!
I am a gigantic nerd for non-fiction, and I’ve been reading about the Black Dahlia murder lately. True crime is my go-to for relaxing reading (yes, I find reading about serial killers and unsolved murders and kidnappings relaxing. I can’t explain it either.) The top book on my to be read pile at this exact moment is Lady Death, the memoir of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who if you don’t know her was a female soldier in the Red Army and probably the most prolific sniper of WWII. Unsolved murders and snipers—that’s pretty typical of my TBR stack!