LOBDELL: DEATH OF THE FAMILY, #0's & 'RED' ROBIN Decision
During September, DC writers are filling in a few of the "blanks" in the newly rebooted universe's continuity. And for Scott Lobdell, who is writing three of the #0 issues, the tweaks will start this week.
Earlier this month, Newsarama talked with Lobdell about his run on Superman, which starts next week with that title's #0 issue.
But Lobdell is also writing this week's Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 and next week's Teen Titans #0. Readers are braced for what changes the writer may be making for two former Robins — Jason Todd and Tim Drake — whose origins are the subject of Lobdell's #0 issues. The writer already raised some questions among comic fans for stating that Drake never called himself "Robin," instead choosing the name Red Robin from the beginning of his tenure as a superhero.
Lobdell is also tying both titles into the upcoming "Death of the Family" event that sees Joker targeting the Bat-family.
Newsarama talked to Lobdell to find out more about Tim Drake's name change, what's coming up in this month's #0 issues and what he can tell readers about upcoming issues of Red Hood and Teen Titans.
Newsarama: Scott, for "Death of the Family," how many issues will you be tying into the Batman storyline in both Red Hood and Teen Titans?
Nrama: How much of your Teen Titans tie-ins to "Death of the Family" will be about the team, and how much is it a Tim Drake story?
Nrama: How do the "Death of the Family" issues tie into the story arc you've been building for these characters?
Lobdell: It doesn't! Not a page! Not a concept! Which is what I love most about it!
I've said in other interviews that I'm not a writer that likes to plan ahead. Because, really, there isn't a lot of planning ahead in life either — and if we want our characters to feel life-like, we have to be prepared for the curves that life throws at them.
When I was talking to Scott Snyder and he was sharing his dark and demented plans for "Death of the Family," I suddenly felt like the kid on the playground that takes the dodge ball to the groin as all the other Bat-family writers chortle. The big story left me gasping for air and wondering how the heck I would be able to write Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws moving forward.
And I loved it! I loved the idea that Scott was hurling these huge epic plot twists in my direction, because it forced me to sit down and look at “my” characters and how they would be reacting to the “real-life” events in "Death of the Family" in the very same way you and I deal with the unexpected fates of family members when we get that frantic 3 a.m. call. One minute you are sound asleep, the next your entire life and the lives of those closest to you have changed, maybe forever.
Again, it doesn’t “tie into what I've been building”; it is the polar opposite. The events of "Death of the Family" hurls them off into an entirely different direction. How awesome is that?!
Nrama: It sounds like you're enjoying the chance to work within the framework of "Death of the Family." But what did you think of Scott's idea for the storyline when you first heard about it? Were you reluctant to participate? Or had you already wanted to write this type of confrontation in your comics?
Lobdell: I think it is a great idea for a story because it sort of reaches into the guts of each of the characters and just twists. There are very few ideas that expose all the raw nerves and tension that come from choosing to be a member of the “Bat-family”. Joker may or may not know your identity, and that is maybe the most horrifying part. Imagine, as crazy as the Joker is, you can at least go to bed secure in the knowledge that once you take off the mask you are a little safer. But if he knows who you are....aiyeee!
Reluctant to participate? In maybe the most personal character-driven event in comic books? That feels like a crazy question to me! Reluctant? I am flat out honored!
Had I already wanted to write this type of confrontation? No, I had no plans for either Tim or Jason to have confrontations with the Joker — let alone with Batman! But once Scott set the story in motion, it all became very natural. Suddenly I had to have both Tim and Jason deal with Joker and Batman in ways that I would not otherwise have imagined.
I’ve been involved with crossovers where the other writers get very frustrated and angry over their assigned roles in the bigger story. But I’m not usually that guy. I love being challenged.
Lobdell: It actually ends on Jason’s realization that he is about to come back to life, so we see no rising from the grave or his relationship with Talia or any of that.
Instead, we see Jason’s life from Jason’s perspective, and I have to warn you, it is not an easy story to read. Even after the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne was still a boy millionaire with an adoring Alfred at his side. Jason was born into poverty and crime and addiction and depression. In fact, aside from the short time he was Robin, he had a very hardscrabble existence. In this story, we understand why Bruce and Batman both came to be the defining people in his life just before he died.
Nrama: As Jason heads toward "Death of the Family," just to clarify what this meeting means to the character, what does the New 52 version of Jason Todd feel about Joker?
Lobdell: There are so many reveals in the #0 issue that I risk giving them all away by answering this question.
Imagine driving down the highway and all you do is look in the rearview mirror the whole time, never looking at the road in front of you or at the landscape to your right or the little kids making faces as the car on the right passes. Jason has to be about more than the rearview mirror.
Nrama: What does the New 52 version of the Joker feel about Jason Todd? And how does that inform the way he approaches him in your story?
Lobdell: I think you’d be surprised to realize that Joker feels a lot closer to Jason than people have realized. Giving birth to someone is a very intimate experience, but so too is taking their life. In that way, Joker feels a sort of proprietary relationship with Jason that he doesn’t with any of the other Bat-family.
Nrama: How has it been developing the Joker you're writing? What's it like to get your hands on the villain, and how would you describe your take on him?
Lobdell: I think he is the closest thing I’ve ever written to an autobiographical character in my whole career.
In my high school yearbook, my quote was, "Life is too serious to be taken too seriously," and that is kind of how I feel about the Joker and all his evil machinations. It isn’t enough for him to do horrible things. He has to do them with a sense of humor, a twist. He doesn’t care if you boo him — only that when the curtain falls, you are left sitting in your chair wondering what the hell was that performance you just watched.
Lobdell: It's not much more than an extended cameo based on the events of Superman Annual. It just made sense as they were coming back from an adventure in space. It wasn’t much deeper a thought than that.
Nrama: How do you play this meeting between these very different characters as Superman meets the Red Hood and the Outlaws characters?
Lobdell: They think he is a big dopey clown. They are the Outlaws, which means they have almost nominal respect for anyone outside their group. They aren’t impressed with his "S" or his cape or his bulletproof chest or even his ability to fly through space. It is one of the things I love about this group — just how totally unaffected they are about the things that would normally impress the rest of us.
Superman, on the other hand, sees them as a trio of particularly rambunctious children. I think he’s used to some level of respect, if not fear from people. So when he gets this [attitude] from Red Hood and the Outlaws, he’s a little taken aback. Even as they attack him, I think a part of him is like, "You realize the only reason you are not pulverized bone dust by now is that I’m being polite, right?" But it isn’t in his nature to say those thoughts aloud.
Nrama: As Red Hood wrapped up its first year and is now heading into its second year, how would you describe what's coming through the rest of 2012 and into 2013?
Lobdell: I think it's going to keep on barreling into "Unexpectedville." One of the things I loved about the first year of Red Hood was that it wasn’t just more street level vigilante stories we’ve come to associate Jason with in the past. It had lost civilizations and the "Chamber of All" and epic star-spanning battles where the fates of planets rested on the action of our trio. It was a bit of an acid trip, I would imagine as I’ve never been on one.
In the coming year, there's going to be even more zigging than zagging Red Hood. They continue to surprise me every time I sit down at the keyboard, so I’m going to assume that the next few issues are going to be even more staggering for you!
Lobdell: There is already a Wonder Woman and she is awesome!
Nrama: We also found out Solstice and Bart have feelings for one another. How would you describe the attraction? And what interests you as a writer about these two being together this way?
Lobdell: I like that one is very grounded as a person and the other is just all over the place. I love that Bart told her she was the only person he’s ever met that has made him want to slow down. I love that where she is cautious he might challenge her to at least spend some time in the fast lane. And I love knowing that when the individual secrets come out, they will be doomed. Did I say “doomed”?
Nrama: A lot of people have reacted to the comment you made in San Diego that Tim Drake was never a Robin. Do you maintain that people calling him "Robin" in former New 52 issues were just shortening his real identity of "Red" Robin to the one-word, common name for Batman's sidekick?
Nrama: I guess you could argue that it's just a small change, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. But then the flip side of that is, if it's such a small change — why make it?
Lobdell: Oh, I don’t think it is a small change at all. I think it is a huge change.
Lobdell: The way you frame the question makes it seem like being “only” Red Robin is somehow a demotion, but I don’t see it that way at all. I think it is awesome that Tim looked at the role of Robin that was filled by Dick and the recently departed Jason and said, "I'm going to honor the role of Robin by not assuming I can leap into the part just because I'm the latest 15-year-old boy to put on a cape."
In #0, he very directly says yes, he will be Batman's partner, he will learn everything he can from Batman, but he's not going to downplay Jason's death by pulling on the mask before Bruce has even had much time to deal with the boy's murder.
It is sort of like a cop coming to a new precinct and deciding to grab the badge and number of the cop who died the night before. Who would do that?
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