By Jarrod Jones. If you ever find yourself speaking with James Tynion IV, you’ll find it difficult not to get excited about what he has to say. James has this energy to him, one that’s practically impossible to ignore. When he talks enthusiastically about his work, particularly about his time with the Batman and his upcoming run on Detective Comics, there’s just no way around it — you find yourself getting charged up too. We’re talking about Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez and Kate Kane and Tim Drake, and I’m trying not to let my head explode. But James just lets loose one of his characteristically nonchalant chuckles. He’s excited too, but he’s playing it cool.
“Honestly? It’s fun to write about Batman,” Tynion said to me earlier in April. “I don’t think that’s going to come as a great, big shock to anybody?” (No, no that’s not a shock, James.) “I’ve been embedded in Gotham City since I started working in professional comics. This is really the first chance I’ve had to — I’ve been able to take the reins in the past — but this is just my name on the title. And it’s just me being able to go out and tell the stories exactly how I feel will be the most exciting. This is the most “me” Batman book.” There’s no reason not to get excited about that.
James Tynion IV took time out of his insane schedule to speak with DoomRocket.com about his upcoming run on Detective Comics, the prospect of reaching for the landmark 1,000th issue, and which legendary run on ‘Tec is his personal all-time favorite.
DoomRocket: Congratulations, obviously, on ‘Detective’!
James Tynion IV: Thank you so much.
DR: Thank YOU so much. [Laughs] So going through some of the press for ‘Detective’, we don’t have a lot to go on as yet. But there is one name attached to the project that has a lot of people excited — Batwoman.
JTIV: Oh, yeah.
DR: What’s her relationship with Batman going to be like in your ‘Detective’ run that differs from eras past?
JTIV: Well, there’s a few things. For one, what’s her relationship with Batman? She’s his cousin! That’s something that’s been established in continuity, but has never really been explored that much. The real relationship between Bruce and Kate — the relationship between the Waynes and the Kanes — it’s such a rich background to draw from. We know the relationship between Bruce and the Kane family. It’s always been very fraught — and we’ve seen more of that recently in Zero Year with Philip Kane.
But what is his relationship with Jacob Kane? What’s Kate’s relationship with Jacob Kane today, after the events of the last Batwoman series? There’s so much ground to cover. So much interesting story, that honestly — just from a fanboy perspective — it’s always been in the back of my mind. So when we started talking about building the series, one of the crucial things to me was that this was a series where Batman and Batwoman are co-leaders. That they would be in this together. This first story, more than anything, is Batwoman’s story. Batwoman is up, front and center… for everything that’s coming up.
The angle on Batwoman that I really wanted to dig into more was that she has always been put up against supernatural threats. And what I’ve found so interesting about her as a character is that she comes from a military background. Batman has obviously studied military thought and all of that — I mean, he can fight a soldier, but he is not a soldier, and he never has been. Even though he’s always referred to what he’s fighting as a “war.” So to be able to show the difference between the mission of Batman and Batwoman right from the start, especially as they’re building this group of people with vastly different ideas on how best to prepare this next generation of heroes — that’s the crux of this story.
The story’s called “Rise of the Batmen”. The story is going to be putting Batman up against this militaristic organization called The Colony. And the story is really going to be about these two schools of thought concerning what it means to be a soldier, what it means to have a mission, and what are the core differences in Batman and Batwoman’s methodologies?
DR: Batwoman’s methodology was firmly ensconced in that really wonderful Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams III run on — appropriately enough — ‘Detective Comics’.
JTIV: Oh yeah.
DR: Will you be reaching back to pull on some of the plot threads from that ‘Detective’ run, Williams’ solo run on ‘Batwoman’, or are you soldiering on, so to speak, with the character?
JTIV: In getting prepared for this story I read through all of the Batwoman material that exists, from her creation to today. This story is the next step in that journey. This is moving that story along, particularly for Kate and Jacob Kane. There are lingering threads, like with Alice — I mean Rucka, Williams and [Marc] Andreyko all went into that — and while Alice won’t be front and center with this arc, people who have been following her the whole time will be thrilled to find that this is the next chapter. It’s something that’s built from something that’s come before. But for the people who are coming in and meeting Batwoman for the first time, I think they will be very engaged and very excited by the character. They’ll be able to jump right in.
DR: You told ComicVine during WonderCon this year that you didn’t want ‘Detective Comics’ to be considered “that other Batman book.” You said that one way you’re getting around that is by making it “the Batman team book [you’ve] been waiting for [your] entire life.” In a way, this feels like a natural progression of your run on Batman and Robin Eternal.
JTIV: The fun about Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal was being able to play with all the toys in the toybox. But with Batman and Robin Eternal in particular, which was very much an emotional story for most of the supporting cast of Gotham City, it wasn’t a Batman story. This really is a story about Batman’s relationship with all of these characters, he really is front and center with all of them.
Honestly? It’s fun to write about Batman. [Laughs] I don’t think that’s going to come as a great, big shock to anybody? But to be able to make my mark, especially to — to be blunt, yesterday [April 18] marked my four year anniversary of the publication of my first DC comic book, which was Batman #7.
JTIV: Well, thank you very much! I’ve been embedded in Gotham City since I started working in professional comics. This is really the first chance I’ve had to — I’ve been able to take the reins in the past — but this is just my name on the title. And it’s just me being able to go out and tell the stories exactly how I feel will be the most exciting. This is the most “me” Batman book. [Laughs] This is the Batman book that I’ve wanted. This is the book that I’ve been dying to write, dying to read.
And the ideas keep flying off the page. Hell, I have a rough outline that could take me through three years of this if [DC] decided to let me stick around. Trust me, I’m going to try to fight towards issue #1,000. [Laughs] You can’t dangle that in front of me and not go for it.
DR: You’re jumping on with issue #934 with a biweekly schedule. I mean, if you got it in you, and if DC will let you — you could go all the way to #1,000.
JTIV: Yes. Absolutely. 100%. The amazing thing about this book is that — we’ve all seen the initial cast of this book. You’ve seen the beginning of what we’re trying to do. There are clearly characters not in the mix because they’re off in other titles: we know Damian’s off running around, we know that Nightwing is up and running. This is the book to find these characters.
It also means that we’re going to be able to explore a lot of different characters. We’re going all out! [Laughs] We’re introducing a secondary Bat-base in Gotham City, it’s called The Belfry, and I can’t wait to let people see this space and how we’re building it. We’re gonna have cool new gadgets and — it’s all the fun stuff! It’s all the fun stuff in a really epic story. [Detective] is letting me play with everything I wanna play with.
#1,000 is 65 issues out. If everyone loves this book, if everyone loves me on this book, and if everyone keeps buying this book, I will be there for that. Because I have so many stories to tell. And with the biweekly schedule, I get to dig into little moments. I don’t have to worry about going down a little tangent, because if people want a big, muscular Batman front and center, it’s like, “Oh! We just had a big, muscular Batman story. We can go a little more personal this month.” It’s a very freeing book. The possibilities are endless, and I want to keep exploring them until my brain is bleeding. [Laughs] Trust me. I’m sticking around as long as they’ll have me.
DR: You’re teasing new Bat-gear. Can you give us a little hint of what kind of toys Batman’s gonna be playing with? Have you created any out of thin air?
JTIV: Oh, boy. I have, but I’m not sure I wanna dig in, because they’re all pretty exciting things.
DR: Gah! [Laughs]
JTIV: I will say that, going back to when I was a student of Scott Snyder’s, he always pointed to individual stories, to make sure that every scene, every little moment, had that one extra thing that surprises people. Particularly in licensed comics — you want that one thing that readers haven’t seen before. And I’ve been taking that very much to heart with this series. Every issue I am trying to do things that people haven’t seen before. With this combination of characters there’s a lot of good stuff — a lot of material.
DR: I can’t help but notice Tim Drake’s hanging around in that awesome Eddy Barrows cover. Tim’s been my all-time favorite Robin since he was Robin. But he’s had the toughest time acclimating to the DCU since the New 52 — he donned a permanent Red Robin moniker, it seemed murky as to where he was as Robin in the timeline, only to then jump into the futuristic Bat-boots of Batman Beyond. What do you have in store for the character?
JTIV: We’ve been using him in the last two Eternals, because — to be frank, I’m in the same boat. Tim Drake is not only my favorite Robin, he’s one of my favorite characters who ever existed in the DC canon. He’s the Robin I grew up with. I have read every issue of the Robin ongoing series, all of Young Justice, all of Teen Titans — he is very special to me.
And honestly, bringing him into this story, especially with Batman and Batwoman as the co-leads, Tim is really the heart. He’s worked with teens before, and he is the smartest of them. He is the teenaged genius. He is the young detective. A lot of the technology we’ll be seeing will have come from Tim’s imagination. There is a great line, I think in the fourth issue, where he points to a new thing I can’t reveal just yet, and he says, “This is what happens when you give a 17 year-old genius an unlimited budget.” [Laughs] I’ll be able to play with Tim and his relationships, particularly with Batman especially, but also with a relationship that we haven’t seen explored in the post-Flashpoint continuity, which is his relationship with Stephanie Brown, The Spoiler.
Like I said, I’ve read the old Robin series, and that’s where I fell in love with Stephanie Brown. Tim is the emotional engine for the entire first year of storytelling that we’re doing here, and that’s part of why we wanted to put him back in a more iconic costume. I mean, it’s got the double-R in there, he’s still Red Robin, but I wanted this to be the Robin we all fell in love with. Remind people why he’s so important, give him a place in Gotham City that will play out in the long haul and shape the stories to come. Lots of Tim Drake plans.
DR: I was noticing his new costume, with the original red and greens, and there is that double-R there… was that a collaborative effort on your and Eddy Barrow’s part? How close are you working together on this?
JTIV: Things were up and running pretty quickly. Especially with the double-shipping schedule. It’s one of those fun things where I wrote issue #1 and then I wrote issue #4. [Laughs] The plus side of that is that I’ve seen these phenomenal, like incredible, pages from Eddy coming in every single day. But I’m also seeing these incredible pages coming in from Alvaro Martinez as well, so it’s thrilling. It’s absolutely thrilling. I think both of them are doing the work of their career. This is a good-lookin’ Bat-book. I know you guys have seen the covers, but just wait until you open it up and see inside. This is something special.
JTIV: But with the Red Robin costume in particular, I will say that that happened pretty quickly. Honestly it was more like, “Hey! Let’s go back to the classic.” And everyone got on board pretty quick.
DR: I’m definitely on board. Any chance to see Tim in the red and greens — that’s an opportunity for celebration if there ever was one.
JTIV: Oh yeah.
DR: James, you gotta tell me — what’s up with Clayface, man?
JTIV: [Laughs] With a team like this, you need the wild card. You need the character that’s like, “What the hell are they doing here?!” When I started thinking about bringing Clayface onto the team, I thought of all the stories that could play out. One of the benefits of having the new continuity is that I get to take elements from a lot of different Clayfaces from the past and bring them all together into one truly iconic interpretation of the character that builds off the appearances we’ve seen over the last few years, but is also taking him back to his core truths. Basil Karlo was an actor, and after his accident he crossed some horrible line in order to get his life back. And when he couldn’t get his life back, he just kept going into the darkness. But at his heart, he didn’t want the path of the criminal, he wanted the path of being a stage actor and a movie star — he had this beautiful path that could lead him to glory, and he screwed it all up.
We’re gonna be digging into the physiology of Clayface, and if people remember Batman from issues #19 and #20 of the Snyder/Capullo run, he’s been losing a sense of himself for a long time. And with Batman’s help, he’s gonna start getting a bit of that back. In exchange, he’s working with them; not for altruistic reasons, but because he wants that path to a normal life again. We’re gonna be seeing if that’s possible, if he can go back to that. It’s imagining the man auditioning for his next role, and the Bat-Signal goes up, and he knows that’s the deal, he has to go. He has to go when he’s called. I’m really excited for people to see the journey we’re gonna be taking Clayface on in this story.
DR: It’s an interesting thing — Batman’s taking on a mentor role in this new paradigm, which as all Batman readers know, can be either a great thing or a disastrous thing. I can only assume the balance between him and Kate Kane is going to be tumultuous. Will there be a rift that occurs between these characters — Clayface, Orphan [Cassandra Cain], Red Robin, The Spoiler — will there be favoritism? A Teacher’s Pet?
JTIV: Those are all very good questions — I think you might have to check the book out for that. [Laughs] Of course. There are already so many tension lines you can see in the sand. When you have two different philosophies going head-to-head, when you have people with different levels of experience and different levels of altruism working side-by-side, there will be rifts. There are going to be some really rough things that happen at the end of this first arc, and that’s gonna launch into our second arc. And if you’ve ever read some of my independent work, like The Woods — The Woods is a fun series, but when I go dark? I go dark. [Laughs]
I like seeing characters pushed to their limits, just from a pure, dramatic standpoint. And the benefit of the schedule, the benefit of the shape of this year, is that I will be able to play out two years’ worth of story in a single year.
DR: That’s awesome.
JTIV: And then, hopefully, another year after that and another year after that. I have so many plans. And this is just the beginning.
DR: Amongst the plans in this opening arc, which you’re calling “Rise of the Batmen”, what, if anything, can you tell us about this cabal? Has Gotham City given birth to yet another costumed vigilante force like The Robins, or is this something else entirely?
JTIV: They are something else. I’ve described it before in another interview, and I will describe it again here: the way our story begins, is we see a familiar character, Azrael, running down the streets of Gotham, and there’s a shape pursuing him, and it’s the shape of a Bat. There’s a Batman-shaped figure in the shadows calling out to him, pursuing him. Azrael stands and fights, saying that he won’t submit to them, and the figure brutally takes him down. And that’s when Batman arrives at the scene.
What this group is — what The Colony is and what their goals are — that’s the real mystery of the arc. That’s the mystery that brings this group together, because each of the members of this group have been targeted from the very beginning. And a part of Batman’s realization is that they’re not ready. They are not ready for what’s coming for them. He needs to start stepping it up. He can’t just take each of them under his wing, one by one, and see what happens. He needs a more comprehensive vision. And that’s why Batwoman’s the best person for the job. She knows how to train as a unit, not as an individual.
DR: Batman had a wide tapestry of training to cull from, while Batwoman had boot camp to endure.
JTIV: Oh, yeah.
DR: I only have one, final question for you — what is your favorite ‘Detective’ run of all time?
JTIV: Oh, lord. That is a tough question. Honestly? I have to expand it a bit from that. The story I loved, because I was at the right age and I was picking up every issue as it was coming out, was the Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive storylines running through Batman and Detective. That is still one of my favorites, just in terms of how it views every part of the Bat-family, every part of the mythos. All those pieces coming together.
To create a big, personal mystery with big, emotional moments — that’s still my favorite Dick Grayson versus Bruce Wayne moment, that fight in The Cave. When Bruce tricks him into punching through the glass case with Jason Todd’s costume in it, just to shock him enough to get the escape… there’s real power in that story, and I think if you look at a lot of my Bat-work, you’ll see the influence that run had on me, and I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of it to come.
DR: Thank you so much, James.
JTIV: Of course. I just want to reiterate just how incredible this team is. Everyone is starting to see these Eddy Barrows covers, and they are so incredible, but Alvaro is destroying it. From Eddy and Alvaro on pencils, to Eber Ferreira and Raul Fernandez on inks, to Adriano Lucas on colors, this is… I really can’t wait for everyone to see this story unfold.
James Tynion IV begins his run on ‘Detective Comics’ this June.