by Sarah Goh
She’s green, beautiful, and deadly poisonous. Reborn into many timelines, Poison Ivy is the femme fatale villain DC fans look out for. Part human and plant, Ivy is angered by the way humanity has treated Earth and is frequently one of Batman’s nemeses and a love interest of Harley Quinn. She’s often caught wreaking havoc on polluting corporations with her notorious ability to control plants.
Though popular and well-known, Ivy usually assumes a supporting character role. But on June 7, DC will launch a long-awaited Poison Ivy solo comic series. The six-issue arc will center on Ivy’s story, explore her return to her hometown of Seattle, and examine larger issues like climate change. And acclaimed local author G. Willow Wilson has been chosen for the job.
Wilson is the cocreator of the Hugo and American Book Award-winning series Ms. Marvel and author of the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Alif the Unseen and The Bird King. She has written for notable comic series such as The X-Men, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
“Poison Ivy to me has always been a fascinating character because she has such a strong point of view,” Wilson said, “She’s instantly recognizable to anybody who’s into the Batman series.”
With a character so beloved, and who has been in the hands of many great artists and writers, it might be hard for writers to develop a clear vision for a new Poison Ivy. But Wilson said the team could clearly hear Ivy’s voice.
“This is a story that we haven’t heard before from this character,” Wilson said. “We go deeper into her psychology than we have before with the most sustained number of issues that we solely see from her point of view.”
Wilson’s goal was to merge two very disparate visions of Poison Ivy that have developed over the years. In some of the darker series, Ivy appears as an eco-terrorist with a very specific political mission and a morality that doesn’t always include humanity. In other books, she takes on a “laid-back earth mama” persona that is less threatening and more nurturing.
“I tried to come up with a very coherent point of view that takes both of those into consideration,” Wilson said.
Expanding from the DC realm, Wilson said this new series takes on issues that non-comic fans will relate to. Poison Ivy is placed directly in the fight against climate change and encounters her own journey as a woman navigating romance and consent.
“It’s an attempt to put her in the world in a way that’s relevant,” Wilson said. “Not just to people who are familiar with the Batman series, but to people who are interested in these issues.”
Historically, many villains have personal motivations for their decisions. They might have experienced a family death or life disappointment that led to their vendettas and character arcs.
“We might empathize with them on an abstract level,” Wilson said, “but their path to villainy is very much their own. It’s not about the rest of us, it’s about them.”
In contrast, Poison Ivy is a villain for the people. She’s upset about the things that affect all of us.
“She does things that are beyond a moral point of view,” Wilson said. “But we understand why and we know that her end goal is noble even if her methods are not.”
For Seattle readers, this new Poison Ivy is especially relevant. Seattle is canonically Poison Ivy’s hometown: It’s where she goes to graduate school and gains her powers through nefarious science. She might spend most of her time in the fictional City of Gotham, but she has strong connections to the real City of Seattle.
“She hasn’t been back here in quite a few years in the books,” Wilson said. “So this was a cool opportunity to bring her home again and look at some of these issues from a Seattle-specific point of view.”
As she heads back to her hometown of Seattle, Ivy will also encounter many challenges that women experience today. Wilson said Ivy faces people making decisions about her body and destiny that engage with the greater issue of consent. And she is in a complicated queer romance with Harley Quinn — pulled in different directions by their disparate missions.
“It’s dark, it’s romantic, and it grapples with a lot of different things that, even if you aren’t a superpowered villain, you have probably experienced,” Wilson said.
And if Poison Ivy’s advocacy for a better world and patronage to her hometown of Seattle isn’t enough to convince readers, Wilson encourages people to read Ivy’s story to revel in her villainy.
Superhero stories often pose the question of who to save. Does Superman save Lois Lane or does he save the bus full of kids going over the bridge? Heroes are encouraged to be unselfish, Wilson said. They prioritize the greater good over the people they love.
“Villains have no such constraints,” Wilson said. “If we were their friends or romantic partners, they wouldn’t care about anything else, they would save us specifically.”
And Wilson believes this is what appeals to audiences.
“As the saying goes,” Wilson writes, “a hero would sacrifice you to save the world, but a villain would sacrifice the world to save you. This is a love story about a villain.”
Poison Ivy #1 will be released on Tuesday, June 7. Pick up a copy at your local comic store. Some in Seattle include Phoenix Comics and Games, Arcane Comics, Golden Age Collectables, and more.
Sarah Goh is a Singaporean American journalist from Seattle, Washington, and a current medical student at WSU College of Medicine. At the intersection of community, science, and humanities, she hopes to elevate marginalized voices and explore the overlooked and unexpected through her writing. Find her at SarahSGoh.com or @sarahsgoh.
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