G. Willow Wilson explains why now is the right time for a new Poison Ivy comic
Poison Ivy is ready to seize the spotlight. As part of DC Comics' Pride month announcements last week, the storied superhero publisher unveiled a new six-issue series centered on the botanical Batman adversary from writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Marcio Takara — and we've got an exclusive first look.
Originally created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff in 1966 as another addition to Batman's extensive gallery of exotic femmes fatales, Poison Ivy has really come into her own over the years. It helps that she especially pops in screen adaptations: Wilson recalls first encountering the character via Uma Thurman's campy performance in Batman & Robin, while other '90s kids probably met Poison Ivy via Batman: The Animated Series. Her unique aesthetic, a fusion of feminine sexuality with an abundance of non-human greenery, distinguishes her visually, while the questions she poses about mankind's relationship to nature have only become more compelling over time.
"She's always experimenting with this idea of, what is consciousness?" Wilson tells EW in a Zoom interview. "We usually extend that only to other humans, but she extends it far into the non-human realm of plant life. She's always creating new and different ways of relating to the natural world and to other people in her own life. I think we forget that she is a scientist — she's willing to push the boundaries, ask tough questions, and propose hypotheses that some of us might not appreciate. That is a fascinating part of her character: She's always evolving."
Ivy's most significant evolution of late has been the blossoming of her relationship with Harley Quinn. The two characters first came together in the iconic "Harley & Ivy" episode of BTAS (the show that first introduced Harley to the world). What started as a charming riff on Thelma & Louise gradually morphed into a three-dimensional relationship that has improved both characters immensely by giving them definition outside of their dynamics with male characters like Batman and the Joker.
More recent adaptations like HBO Max's Harley Quinn animated series have seen Harley and Ivy evolve from friends to lovers, and that evolution has made its way into the comics as well. After all, this new Poison Ivy series will be launching in June for Pride month, and a variant cover by artist Jen Bartel for the DC Pride 2022 anthology shows Harley and Ivy in a loving pose. So even though she's not included in the title, readers should expect Harley to loom large in Poison Ivy.
"This is in many ways a love story," Wilson says. "I feel like that's not giving too much away because she says so on the very first page of the book. So I think fans of the Harley-Ivy romance will be pleased, because I think there's no question that her relationship with Harley is now the central, defining relationship of this character. Speaking of evolution, she's evolved out of being a straight-up villain whose sole job is to thwart Batman to someone who has her own identity, her own story arc, and her own individual relationships with other people in the Bat-verse completely independent of Batman and the Bat-family. I think that's really fascinating."
When asked what exactly makes Harley and Ivy such a good couple, Wilson says, "They've both been through a lot. They've both had to suffer through being manipulated by people they trusted, and that's shaped a lot of their backstory, but neither one of them wants it to shape their future. I think both of them are actively trying to break out of past toxic relationships, and so they see really kindred spirits in each other. There's just a certain chemistry between them that I don't think anybody could necessarily have predicted, and that's what makes it fun."
Don't expect Poison Ivy to be all about happiness and love, though. Last week's announcement for the series declared that Ivy will deliver "a gift to the world that will heal the damage humanity has dealt to it." This is another reason for Ivy's continuing importance: For a characters so enamored with nature and non-human life, humankind's continuing degradation of the environment is a big problem.
"Climate change is front and center in this whole thing," Wilson says. "That logline is so appropriate because you hear it and you're like, 'Oh, that sounds so uplifting!' But if you know anything about Ivy, that's the most ominous thing you've ever read. Any gift to the world from Poison Ivy is bound to be good for some, and probably not good for us."
What will this look like? Wilson references Alex Garland's film adaptation of Annihilation, which is full of people turning into flowers and plants fusing with each other to create all-new evolutions. That kind of change isn't always pretty.
"This is a bit of a departure for me in terms of subject matter and, uh, grossness," Wilson says. "There's quite a bit of body horror in this. I wrote moderate amounts of plant-based body horror into the script, and Marcio, who is an actual genius, took it and pushed it out to the nth degree. It's incredibly detailed and beautiful. It's gonna be wild."
Poison Ivy #1 hits shelves June 7. Check out exclusive preview art from Takara above.