As Batwing ties into Batman Zero Year next month, readers will learn even more about the new Batwing, Luke Fox, before the character's next adventure in Italy.
Zero Year takes place about six years before the present-day DCU, before superheroes had a public identity. For Luke Fox, that means he hadn't been inspired by Batman yet — but it doesn't mean he wasn't already a hero at heart.
The issue also more closely ties Batwing to other DC comics that are taking part in the Zero Year event, which ties into Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman: Zero Year storyline. Other titles include Action Comics, Batgirl, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Birds of Prey, and Nightwing.
After November's Zero Year issue, Batwing takes off to Italy for its next storyline, fulfilling a promise made by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray that Batwing would be an "international" hero.
Newsarama talked to Palmiotti and Gray about the Zero Year issue (and got a few preview pages to share from the comic from artists Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira), as well as what else is coming up for Batwing.
Newsarama: Guys, Batwing's taking off for Italy in the next storyline. What's behind that choice for a setting, and how does it work as a backdrop for Luke/Batwing?
Justin Gray: The situation is that Charlie Caligula has been behind some of the recent events in Batwing and this is the culmination of that storyline as Batman sends Luke to Rome to shut down Caligula’s operations.
Jimmy Palmiotti: It’s always fun to take characters to exotic locations and Caligula has the coolest island that we eventually find Batwing on and getting to play with a set piece like this, as well as create it, was a blast. The Fish out of water angle is always cool as well because it’s like you are on the adventure with Batwing, discovering a place you both might not be familiar with.
Nrama: How would you describe the threat that Charlie Caligula represents for Luke?
Gray: Caligula would seem like an odd choice at first, but he’s this kind of gangland criminal with a serious fetish for ancient Rome so it was a lot of fun playing with those elements. Luke is going to encounter the Legionary, Rome’s vigilante and discover that Caligula is in possession of something that makes him extremely dangerous.
Palmiotti: It is all very James Bond in a lot of ways, but it plays out is a wild direction that makes sense in the Bat Universe. Caligula has access to power on many different levels where Luke is a one-man army in a sense. This all plays out in a spectacular fashion.
Nrama: The last we saw Batwing, he was in trouble because someone took out his armor's tech. Do you think he relies a little too much on tech, and will that change?
Gray: It isn't new in appearance, but Luke having worn the suit and used it in combat now realizes he needs to make certain modifications. Like any technology, the suit is constantly evolving and upgrading as Luke becomes more familiar with it.
Palmiotti: Luke is modifying it, but yes, it’s the same design. We hope at some point we can even go further with its shape and look like the covers Darwyn Cooke did for us. The cool thing about Luke being a tech guy is we can keep having fun with the idea that modifying the suit will be a regular part of his life. I like to look at it as someone who loves cars going in and modifying them all the time to get them to work better and to add new things.
Nrama: The Fox house was robbed during the attack by the Marabunta. Was that just an event to showcase how Luke's family feels about him right now? Or was something actually taken from the house that might show up later?
Gray: That was life, things happen that are beyond our control. When you think about what happened to Brian Halloway’s house, if you don't know the story then check this out www.helpmesave300.com heroes and their families aren’t immune to real life problems.
Nrama: Luke's love life is pretty tumultuous, which is usual for a superhero. But since you know what's coming for Luke, is there any chance that he could be happy in love?
Gray: He has about as much of a chance as the rest of us I suppose. Jimmy and I are dedicated to making Luke a relatable and grounded person regardless of the more fantastic elements surrounding him.
Palmiotti: A lot of changes are coming in his life so what he thinks he wants might change by what is happening around him. He is a healthy young man and we plan on keeping to what someone his age would want out of life…and love is a part of that.
Nrama: Now that we've met Lady Vic, it's clear she's quite a fighter. Will we learn more about her or see more of her?
Gray: Lady Vic is hopefully going to be a reoccurring character at some point, but for right now we’re moving Batwing forward and deeper into Gotham and interacting with storylines from the core titles. We have a Zero Year coming up that hopefully develops a nemesis specific to Batwing and another interesting storyline planned for January that we cannot talk about yet.
Nrama: Yeah, let's talk about Batwing: Zero Year. Does the the concept behind Batman: Zero Year help you develop Luke as a character, as you delve into his past?
Gray: Absolutely and it was a challenge, because here is a character not a lot of people are familiar with. We wanted to tell a story that showed how Luke isn't a hero because of the suit. Rather than presenting a hero who has to react and essentially become a hero, Luke is possessed of a heroic spirit.
Palmiotti: It is also gives us and the readers a chance to see what Luke was like before all of the Bat antics and get to know the character more.
Nrama: What's Luke like as we meet him in Zero Year?
Gray: He is training in Mixed Martial Arts and going to a private school in Gotham. We show his first encounter with the gang calling themselves the 99% and see that he has more balls than brains at this point.
Palmiotti: He is also a bit of a wise ass but a good guy at heart.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story we'll see in the Zero Year issue?
Gray: Luke as a teenager dealing with some of the same things all kids deal with except he’s somewhat privileged, good looking and popular. The difference is he’s also a good person. He’s not jaded or angry, but his optimism and idealism takes a hit in this issue as he tries to stop a friend from self-destructing.
Nrama: You said earlier that the Zero Year issue ties into something you have coming up. Can you explain what we'll see that connects to the upcoming, present-day stories?
Gray: Like we said, this is an opportunity to develop a nemesis for Luke, someone that ties closely to him and would want to harm him. At some point in the near future we’re going to have this showdown.
Nrama: How would you describe the upcoming issues overall? What can we expect in Batwing for the rest of 2013 and into next year?
Gray: Action, adventure and tragedy. We’re wrapping up the current storyline in #26 and exploring some more elements present in other Bat books. Luke is heavily invested in Batman’s world through his father and the relationship he has with his family will continued to be strained and under pressure.
Nrama: Eduardo Pansica has been really impressing critics and fans with his work on the title. I love the way he draws Batwing's "stealth mode." Did he develop that himself?
Gray: That was something we all developed during the process. Jimmy and I suggested it as a component of the suit. Eduardo and Julio began working out the visual details and then Paul Mounts suggested a technique he’d used in the past. What amazes me is how the work Edu and Julio are doing continues to get better with each issue and it was already amazing to begin with. I think they’re among the best teams working and we’re lucky to have them.
Palmiotti: The book, when we got it, was under the radar and our artists are breaking out and giving the other bat artists a run for their money. They understand how important storytelling is, get that the people have to stay on character and take great pleasure in creating a believable world around them. They are amazing.
Nrama: How would you describe what he's bringing to the comic overall?
Gray: Both Edu and Julio deliver a dynamic and cinematic feel to the action sequences, there is a lot of thought going into the construction of these scenes and somehow they’re able to pull that all in and do these incredible character driven moments. Like I said we’re lucky to have them with us on this book.
Palmiotti: They are doing what most artists cannot…getting an amazing amount of detail into a monthly title and never missing a schedule. Adding Paul Mounts to the book has only made the book better.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batwing?
Gray: If you haven’t picked up an issue or if you left the series give us another look, we’re offering a different kind of Bat book, but it also ties closely to the core titles that everyone loves. We have action, crazy villains, heartfelt characters and one of the best art teams.
Palmiotti: If I am speaking to the people that haven’t given the book a try, I say you go out, pick up the new issue and give it a shot. It has what everyone is looking for these days…a smart interesting main character set in the bat universe with amazing art and fun stories. This book is sexy and cool on so many levels.
For more information about Palmiotti and Gray, check out their studio's website, PaperFilms.com.