BATMAN: ETERNAL Writer Talks TIM DRAKE & STEPHANIE BROWN
CREDIT: DC Comics
When James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder get together, you can bet something interesting is happening in Gotham City.
The writers, who have been working together on various Batman projects for the last two years, are next bringing their Gotham sensibilities to Batman: Eternal, the new weekly comic series that launches in spring 2014. As the story kicks off, Tynion will be focusing on some of the younger members of the Bat-family, including former Robins Tim Drake and — in her introduction to the post-reboot DCU — Stephanie Brown.
When DC first decided to launch a Batman weekly series, Tynion and Snyder came up with the overarching theme of what would be written in Batman: Eternal. Then they enlisted a few other writers to help round out the stories: Tim Seely (Revival), Ray Fawkes (Justice League Dark), and John Layman (Detective Comics).
The team of writers has divided up the issues they'll write, with Tynion starting the story for the first few issues — and Snyder serving as a sort of "show runner," as he ties in his monthly Batman title to the weekly.
Tynion started his comics career as an intern at Vertigo, but after he took a writing class from Snyder in college, Tynion impressed him enough that the two became friends and collaborators. After working on Batman with Snyder, Tynion launched the monthly Talon series last year and later took over Red Hood and the Outlaws.
The writer told us he's already well into writing Batman: Eternal, although the weekly's busy schedule required him to leave Talon. In the first part of our interview with Tynion, we talked about what's coming up in Red Hood, including the addition of the New 52 version of Ra's Al Ghul. Now we turn our attention to his departure from the monthly Talon series, and the focus of Batman: Eternal, including Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown.
Newsarama: Is it official now that you're off Talon?
James Tynion IV: Yes, I'm off Talon now.
Nrama: The newest solicitations for January list Marguerite Bennett as writer. Is she the new regular writer going forward?
Tynion: She's writing issue #15.
Nrama: It must be weird walking away from this whole concept, since you were not only the creator of Calvin's character, but also worked on the Court of Owls storyline, right?
Tynion: Yeah, I've always been kind of a story guy with Scott, so I was helping him bounce ideas back and forth on the original "Court of Owls" storyline, and then built right out of that into Talon, which has lasted… I'll be stepping off with the 14th issue, so 16 issues if you count the "Court of Owls" one-shot and the #0 issue.
But when I originally pitched Talon… you know, you're never sure if a book about a brand new character that's bringing in brand new mythology to the DCU and exploring that without big, bombastic guest stars for the first big chunk of the story, you're never sure how a book like that is going to do. And I'm just so thrilled that we have this incredible audience that's stayed with it this long, and has given me the opportunity to take the story to the end that I always saw.
Nrama: So you're getting to finish the story you set out to tell?
Tynion: Basically, over the next three issues of Talon — issues #12, #13 and #14 — it's the big finale that I envisioned in the original pitch document for the series. It's the end of the big, emotional arc that we've been taking Calvin Rose on, and Casey Washington, and Felix Harmon and Sebastian Clark from the very, very beginning.
So I'm just so, so thrilled to be able to draw that to a conclusion. And it just felt like the right time to step off the title and let someone else bring these characters to life and define their future in the DCU.
Nrama: Is there a possibility we'll see Calvin Rose in Batman: Eternal?
Tynion: I think there's a big, big possibility we're going to see him over the course of the first big, yearlong story arc.
At the start, we're focusing on the more core members of the Bat-family. But over the course of the year, we want to shine a light in every corner of Gotham City, and every corner of the Bat-family, and really tie them all together in a huge tapestry. And Calvin Rose is obviously now a part of that tapestry. And I very much want him to play a key role moving forward in the universe.
Nrama: One thing that you mentioned at New York Comic Con was that Tim Drake is playing more of a role in the Bat-universe. Are you writing him in the series?
Tynion: Yes! He is going to be one of the major characters over the course of the whole year. That was always one of the goals. Tim has had a lot of great stories going on since the New 52 started, but he's been kind of disconnected from the core Bat-family, and we wanted to show his role and all the key relationships he has with the Bat-family members, and tell a Gotham story — although it might expand out of Gotham — but a Gotham-style story featuring Tim and some other major characters in the Bat-family.
Nrama: Everybody loves Dick Grayson, but Tim was Robin long enough that a lot of people embraced him in the role.
Tynion: Absolutely. And Tim is the Robin that I grew up with, so I'm thrilled to have the chance to write him again. I loved writing him just for a few pages in the Batman #0 back-up, so I'm thrilled to have my chance to make my mark on the character again.
Nrama: Was the Batman #0 back-up the one where the various members of the Bat-family first saw the Bat-signal?
Nrama: Good story. At New York Comic Con, you revealed that you pitched a New 52 version of Stephanie Brown that's going to show up in Batman: Eternal. Why did you think she would be good in the weekly, and can you reveal anything about her?
Tynion: A lot of it's hard to talk about, because with the series launching in the spring, we're still a ways off. I'd say at the core of it, there is a very specific role in the series that she was just absolutely perfect to fill. And when we pitched that to DC, they agreed, that this was the moment — the moment is now; this is the time to bring Stephanie back into continuity.
Because part of our goal… we love that Stephanie has such a huge fan base, but our goal in this story isn't just to tease that fan base, but also to, like, triple the size of it. We want to introduce a whole new generation of readers who may have never read a Stephanie Brown story before, to see why she has such a huge fanbase and what makes her a great character.
And what we're doing with her, I think, is really exciting and very fitting to who she is, but it's very rooted into the core plot of the series. So I can't hint about it just yet.
Nrama: I think for a lot of these characters that they haven't brought back into the New 52, there's a feeling that they are redundant — Stephanie is like a Robin, but there are already a lot of Robins, and she's like a Batgirl, but there are already Batgirls. But you said there's a specific role that eliminates that redundancy?
Tynion: Exactly. And that was very key to figuring out the best time to bring her back. Because there are so many incredible female characters in and around Gotham right now, so we wanted to make sure when we introduced Stephanie, it didn't seem like we were, you know, doubling-down on any of them.
We also wanted to make sure we were staying true to the core of the character, and that we'd be able to tell a story that would introduce her to everyone.
So I think that's exactly what we're doing here.
I've already written my first Stephanie Brown scenes, and I'm really excited for people to see them.
Nrama: For you, what's the experience like to have the chance to be so instrumental in putting together a Batman weekly, which is not only a really high-profile project, but one that really gets to define Batman's world for the new universe?
Tynion: It's been incredible, and overwhelming and all of those things. But this is the kind of story I've always wanted to tell. I love, love, love telling huge stories with huge stakes and huge casts of characters. It's the kind of work I wanted to do ever since I started wanting to write comics. So to be able to sit down and explore the smaller pieces of Gotham that there isn't necessarily room for in 20 pages a month, and draw them in and give the a big role.
One of the big pieces I've been talking about is we're going to be introducing a whole cast for the Gotham Gazette, and really showing what the Gazette's role is in Gotham City. And at the core of that will be, of course, Vicki Vale, but it's also, who's been the crime editor of the paper for the last 10 years? Who's the guy who literally broke the Joker story and wrote the book on the Joker? The book that's sitting on, like, the nightstands of everyone in Central City and Coast City and all around the world.
I wanted to explore that kind of thing, to really make Gotham a living, breathing entity that has a cast that sprawls out of this book into all the titles across the line.
We're going to be doing that with a bunch of key locations across the city, just introducing these casts and telling the sort of stories that we otherwise might not get a chance to tell.
Nrama: So you're introducing quite a few new characters?
Tynion: Yeah, we're introducing a lot of new characters, but we're reintroducing some characters too.
Nrama: And the overall arching story leads into Scott's monthly Batman?
Tynion: It's more that we're working side-by-side, to build off of it together. We're going to be creating a very dynamic and crazy new status quo in Gotham over the course of the year, and that's going to tie in very heavily to what Scott's doing in Gotham.
Eternal is going to have its own core storyline that will begin and end in that book. But I think if someone's on board with Eternal, hopefully they're also reading Scott's Batman. And I have to imagine they are, because it's an incredible comic.
But we're all playing in the same sandbox. We want to use the weekly to develop the world in a big way, to then allow Scott to launch off into his next big storyline.
Nrama: You know, talking to you, it seems to make sense that Batman has his own weekly comic, and also his monthly comic, and also all the other comics that feature him. What do you think it is about the character, this city, this concept that makes it so strong that you can do a weekly comic just about Batman and his world?
Tynion: It's hard to say, but for me… Gotham is my favorite fictional city. There's a certain dark magic to it. I don't know how to put it any other way. It's so primal, the way it reflects Batman and it reflects all of our darkest fears about urban life and insanity and obsession and all of the deepest human fears and vices. And it's all brought into stark contrast under the lights of the city. And in these huge stories that are very human, because at the core of them are ordinary men and women. I mean, obviously, they're extraordinary because they're putting on costumes and everything. But these aren't superhumans. They're ordinary people who are standing up to do extraordinary things.
And I think that's always been the thing that has made Batman such a key character and such a relatable character. And it's also why, to build a city around that core concept, and build all of those villains and allies, and all of that — it's incredible, and there's a lot of room to explore.
Batman is just such a versatile character too. You see how many types of stories you can tell with him, and that's part of the goal of the weekly too. We'll have things that edge very close to horror. We have things that edge closer to science fiction. We're going to have crime stories and all of that. It's all weaved together into one picture, and it's all purely Batman. But it's not something where, month-in and month-out, we're not shifting the tone or anything. We have lots of different types of stories to tell because of this incredible cast of characters and this incredible city.
And the other thing I have to bring up is that we have an incredible team working on the book too, and each of us have our own specific voices. We have Tim Seely, who's been doing some incredible horror work — very human horror, the type of horror that's perfect for Batman, over in Revival for Image Comics.
And we have Ray Fawkes, who's really good at the occult kind of horror, and that's going to play a key role in the series.
And you have John Layman, who can tell those grey, crime, detective stories, as he's been doing in Detective Comics. And also tell big, over-the-top, fun stories, like he does in his Image series Chew.
What I want to be able to do is to think about how all the little pieces fit in. That's why I get excited talking about, you know, the crime editor of the Gazette. And I also have a deep affinity for the younger characters of the DCU. The Bat-family has always been my favorite characters — the Robins in particular. In Batman: Eternal, I get the chance to explore them in this series, in a very "Gotham" story, that brings them all together in a big, new way. I really think it's going to be incredible.