Whis­tle: A New Gotham City Hero

September 1, 2020

Whis­tle (aka Wil­low Zim­mer­man) is a new hero in Bat­man’s Gotham City – pro­tect­ing her water­front neigh­bor­hood of Down Riv­er. She is the first orig­i­nat­ing Jew­ish super­hero to join the DC uni­verse in over 40 years. Famous vil­lains Poi­son Ivy, the Rid­dler, and Killer Croc all appear.

Our teenage activist strug­gles to take care of her can­cer-strick­en moth­er. When an estranged uncle” opens the door for her to the under­ground pok­er world and a job that allows her to pay for her mom’s med­ical treat­ment, our hero­ine ques­tions her impurities.

As she dis­tances her­self from those she tru­ly cares about to earn crit­i­cal funds, some­thing strange hap­pens when she and Lebowitz (stray Great Dane) are attacked by one of Gotham’s most hor­rif­ic vil­lains. Though injured, the pair now are able to under­stand each oth­er (mind meld) and sud­den­ly Wil­low has unimag­in­able powers.

Not long after, she dis­cov­ers that her uncle” and his friends are some of Gotham’s most cor­rupt crim­i­nals and must choose whether to remain loy­al to the man who helped her keep her fam­i­ly togeth­er or use her new­found pow­ers to fight for Down Riv­er as Whis­tle and the Hound.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of E. Lockhart

  1. Is Wil­low in a moral posi­tion at the end of the nov­el? Why or why not?

  2. What would you do if you were in Willow’s posi­tion when she first gets her pow­ers? How would you use such powers?

  3. E. Nig­ma is gen­tri­fy­ing Down Riv­er. What do you think about the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of impov­er­ished neighborhoods?

  4. How do Wil­low and her moth­er view their Jew­ish iden­ti­ty dif­fer­ent­ly? You might con­sid­er page 104 – 105.

  5. If you’ve read comics or seen movies set in Gotham City, how does Lockhart’s ver­sion of Gotham dif­fer from oth­ers you have seen?

  6. Wil­low has chal­lenges fig­ur­ing out a super­hero cos­tume, pages 154 – 155. Maybe this is espe­cial­ly an issue for a female-iden­ti­fied hero. What do you think of her cos­tume and how does it relate to the the sto­ry­line about her makeover for Pok­er Night, pages 75 – 78? How do oth­er female heroes dress? Won­der Woman, Cap­tain Mar­vel, Cat­woman, Harley Quinn? Why does sub­ject this matter?

  7. Wil­low goes through sev­er­al phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions in the book. What are they? How do the changes to her exte­ri­or affect her interior?

  8. The neigh­bor­hood of Down Riv­er use to house 500 syn­a­gogues. How does the area’s Jew­ish his­to­ry make its way into Willow’s sto­ry? How does she, as a char­ac­ter, relate to that history?

  9. Com­pare Whis­tle to Ms. Mar­vel by G. Wil­low Wil­son. Kamala Khan is the first Mus­lim super­hero. How do these two char­ac­ters bring their reli­gious iden­ti­ties to the project of heroism?

  10. The vil­lain Kiil­er Croc has some par­al­lels to Whis­tle. What are they? Why do you think Lock­hart includ­ed that char­ac­ter? You might con­sid­er pages 107 – 113.

  11. Wil­low has three men­tor fig­ures: her moth­er, Pam­mie and E. Nig­ma. What does she get from each of them? At the end, how have they changed her?

  12. Do you think Willow’s rela­tion­ship with Garfield can sur­vive the fact that she is keep­ing secrets from him? Why or why not? (Hint: search Garfield Logan on the internet!)

  13. Graph­ic nov­els used to be con­sid­ered not real books.” Now, they have won the Nation­al Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the New­bery Medal. What can graph­ic nov­els do that oth­er lit­er­ary forms can­not? You might con­sid­er page turns, the pas­sage of time and what hap­pens in the space in-between pic­tures. Maybe look at pages 28, 75 – 76, 84 – 87, 158 – 161.