Merced man gives 'Batwoman' a voice for DC Comics

10/01/2011 12:52 AM

10/01/2011 1:18 AM

It starts with a ghostly being entering a family's home in pursuit of children; then there's a crash of red as our hero, Batwoman, comes to the family's rescue.

The artist and co-writer of DC Comics' ongoing series "Batwoman," J.H. Williams III, will visit Comics Plus on Center Avenue early next month for a free signing.

"Batwoman" No. 1 hit stores Sept. 14.

"It seems to be doing really well; we're going into second print on the book already," Williams said.

Many of DC Comics' lines are selling well. The company rebooted all of its books beginning Aug. 31, throwing out decades of storyline continuity in some cases, to attract new readers.

Williams said he was skeptical at first about the relaunch of 52 separate titles. He wasn't sure how fans would respond or if the quality would decline. However, he said its energized the books.

"As things started rolling out and as more and more information started coming out, you could definitely see my skepticism was defeated," Williams said.

The Atwater High School graduate works from Merced, where he lives with his wife, Wendy. Williams is a frequent visitor to Merced's Red Sky Comics, and he also was the recipient of two Eisner Awards, the comic industry's most prestigious, in 2010 for his inside and cover artwork on "Detective Comics."

Along with the reboot, DC Comics is offering digital downloads of all of the titles the same day they are available in stores.

Williams said as DC tries to grab a digital audience, his artwork won't change. Though portable devices may have different limitations -- the centerfold splash page found in regular magazines is moot digitally -- he'll approach the art the way he always has.

"I have to draw the book the way I think it should be drawn, and the way it's intended to be seen," Williams said. "For me, that's as a finished book you can put on your shelf."

Williams has worked as an artist on books featuring the X-Men, Batman, Jonah Hex and countless others. His writing chops are not as robust, but he's not a rookie, with credits on books "Chase," "Batman: Snow" and "Hellboy: Weird Tales."

The DC relaunch finds Batwoman not too unrecognizable from her character before August, but she's only been around in her current form since 2006.

"The character is so fresh, and her story that came before was so profound that it would have been a real disservice to ignore any of that," Williams said about the superhero who happens to be a lesbian. "We always intended for her series to be a kind of continuation of what came before, but with lots of new, fresh elements to add to the meat of it."

Randy Martin, owner of Comics Plus, said this is first comic creator he's ever brought to the store. He said that's mostly because Williams lives so close.

Martin said he's excited about the visit, and has stocked up on "Batwoman" No. 1 in anticipation.

"He's won a couple Eisners," Martin said. "You don't win those if you're not good."

Martin said Williams will sign items free of charge, as long as they are something he has worked on. He's scheduled to be at Comics Plus from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 8.

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