There's a new Batwing in Batman's life, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are hoping fans flock to the new direction.
Beginning with April's Batwing #19, Palmiotti and Gray will show Batman giving the Batwing suit to a different character, although the writers plan to tie up many of the loose ends from the story of the armor's former inhabitant, David Zavimbe.
Newsarama talked to Palmiotti and Gray, the writing team behind the success of DC's All-Star Western, to find out more about this new Batwing.
He's someone familiar to DC readers. So who is he? Why does he need a suit that "changes?" And how will his story bring a faster pace and more international feel to the title? We found out a few clues.
Newsarama: Batwing is one of those books that seems to have gotten a little bit lost in the shuffle among all the high-profile Bat-books that came out of the relaunch when the New 52 started. What are you guys hoping to bring to the title?
Jimmy Palmiotti: First off, we plan to get the rest of the Batman audience buying the book and at the same time get totally new readers that are open to some new and interesting ideas.
Justin Gray: When you look at where Batwing is in relation to the other Bat books, it is clear that a change in ideas, locations and the overall direction of the character is in order. For whatever reason, the Batwing in Batman Incorporated feels very different from the one in his own book. We scrutinized that and everything about the book as it exists.
Nrama: OK, so we've been told that there's a new Batwing in town. Assuming you're not going to reveal who's inside that new armor, how would you describe him? And what's the appeal of putting him in the role instead of David?
Palmiotti: Batwing is the guy I wish I were as his age. Confident, connected and a bit of a flirt. Every aspect of this character is interesting and take all of that and give him a multi million-dollar bat suit and watch what happens. He is less like David because he is celebrating life and who he is.
This new Batwing will be a character more people will relate to…or more likely wish they were. We are approaching this with the feeling of “what if Batman picked me as the next Batman” kind of feel. There is joy, chaos, over the top action and adventure and a lot of romance.
Nrama: So it's not just a new character, but a new attitude too?
Palmiotti: Yeah. Right away people will see a new attitude.
Gray: Attitude is a good way of approaching it. This character is different. How and why he becomes Batwing is unique, in some respects, to the formula of building a new superhero. We’re always striving for ways to make entry to a book easier, leaner and more fun. At some point everyone in this business has pretended to be a superhero and the joy of that seems to get lost over time.
Tone is important, setting is important and most of all having a relatable character you can root for is paramount. We’re shooting for the widest audience possible and certain changes have to be made in an effort to reach them. We’re taking a different approach with a new character we hope will resonate with more people.
Nrama: Does Batwing tie in more closely to the Batman universe?
Palmiotti: It ties really, really tight to the Batman universe, much tighter than it was before. And that was also a key in making the book important not only on its own, but actually vital to the Batman universe.
Gray: It offers a different perspective on the world of the Bat-books. There's a certain element we really like about Batman Incorporated, that sort of "wide open" and "fun" approach that has a lot of life and joy to it. The representation of Batwing within those pages was really different from the one that was in his own book. And it got us thinking, who is this character really? But it felt like we should take into consideration his portrayal in both places.And we want people to feel like this character exists for a reason, so that a priority in the new direction as we tie it more closely to the Batman universe.
Nrama: Is he still the Batman of Africa?
Palmiotti: He's a Batwing that is a man of the world and less of one location.
Gray: With this Batwing, it's more about him being Batwing, which is a unique entity. He can be the Batman of Africa and he can be the Batman of France. He has the potential to be international.
Obviously, because he has ties to the Bat-universe, it gives us a wider landscape to work with.
Palmiotti: He can be in Africa, and then he can be in Gotham.
Nrama: And the set-up of who he is makes that all logical, that's he's this international hero?
Palmiotti: Oh yeah. The setting is going to be the entire world, not just Africa. We plan on some major globetrotting.
Gray: Once we establish Batwing’s importance to the Bat family, Gotham and other elements of Batman’s world, we'll unleash him on the DCU.
Nrama: OK, so if someone is picking up this book with issue#19, is a totally different type of book, aimed at new fans?
Palmiotti: Issue #19 is made for new fans, but it's also made for fans who have been following Batwing. We keep the current story on track, but then we hit everybody with a bomb at the end. It's something they're not going to see coming.
But there was a lot I enjoyed about the previous Batwing and with issue #19, we did our best to bring the title and the character David to the right place that made sense to what all the previous creators set up. It was not easy and some hard decisions had to be made to get to where we needed to be. But Issue #19 ties up the issues that David as Batwing had to deal with as Batwing and as a policeman surrounded by corruption and chaos. We took what we thought were the main story lines running in the series and brought the character to a natural place where his actions would make sense to us and at the same time left the door open to a brand new character and look to the book.
But I will tell you this…issue #19 is a roller coaster of madness that the die-hard fans will get and new readers will enjoy.
And then with issue #20, we really go full force into who the new Batwing is. And with that issue, it has a whole different feel.
We knew we have a chance to make this book stand out and be something unique, and we went for it with all guns blazing.
Nrama: It sounds like, at least talking to you guys, that the guy inside that costume isn't going to be a stranger to DC readers. Is that a fair assumption?
Gray: That's fair.
Palmiotti: Yeah, that's fair. If it was somebody that nobody knew, there would be no big reveal. There'd be no point.
There is a point.
And let's just say a lot of people are going to smile, because they like where we've taken the book and whom we've chosen to be Batwing.
In that mystery lies some really fun ideas.Once we do an interview for issue #22, we'll be laughing a lot.
Gray: We're opening the door to something that is both familiar and new. It's opening up a new dimension of the Batman family.
Nrama: Is this a new costume he's wearing in your first issue? It looks very futuristic, even Batman Beyond inspired.
Palmiotti: It's a new costume, made for a new person. And it's an evolving costume.
Gray: Technology and the suit are important elements of Batwing as a hero and a person.
Palmiotti: The costume itself goes through changes, which is another interesting aspect of the story.
Nrama: It's changing to meet the character's needs?
Palmiotti: Because of who the character is, it's natural that the suit would be changing.
Nrama: So the images we've been seeing may not be what it ends up looking like?
Palmiotti: What you see is not always what you get.
Gray: The technology needs to be adaptable.
Palmiotti: Yes. All technology needs to be adaptable. In this case in particular, it especially makes sense.
Nrama: What are your hopes for his supporting cast? Are they people we know?
Palmiotti: We will know some of his supporting cast out of the gate because they are key figures in the DCU, the new ones will be coming fast and furious to the book and we have a couple that we think the readers fall in love with. The new Batwing is a special man and he deserves to have extraordinary people surrounding him.
Gray: We’ll be introducing a dynamic that places Batwing at the center of a very important relationship in Batman’s life. There’s a trinity at work and both Bruce and Batwing will have to walk a line and live with the possible repercussions of whom Bruce has given the suit to.
Nrama: What's the approach to the villains in the book? I noticed you're revamping Lion-Mane, whom you guys have written before.
Gray: Yeah, with Lion-Mane, we said, what can we do to really pump this character up visually and as a character himself. With him, people will see nods toward what was "pre-New 52," but in a new way.
So with existing characters, we're taking a fresh set of eyes and putting them on these characters and saying, "How can we make it exciting and fun?"
Palmiotti: And Lion-Mane is just the first thing you'll see out of the gate. We've got a longer plan. It's like what we did in All-Star Western, where things you saw in issue #1 were still relevant in issue #12. But you didn't have to read all of them.
There's a greater tapestry of things that are happening in this book that we have mapped out, in terms of what things happen and what villains he's going to encounter. It has to be personal, in one way or another.
Batman gives him the suit, so he has a connection to the Bat-world. And that means he has a connection to those villains as well. There's a lot of fun stuff to come.
Nrama: Anything else you want readers to know about your Batwing run?
Palmiotti: Issue #20 will put you right in the drivers seat and we plan to take readers on a ride they will never forget. Everything you would ever want in a book like this is going to be done.
Gray: That’s the plan.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!