When DC released a Thanksgiving-themed teaser image for Batman: Eternal, the new weekly comic series DC is launching in spring 2014, the hints were cryptic, but one thing was clear — the series will shake up the world of the Caped Crusader.
But according to the Tim Seeley, one of the five writers behind the weekly series, the comic is also a celebration of Batman during his 75th anniversary — putting him into different genre stories, reviving characters and concepts from his history, and introducing new ideas into Gotham's landscape.
The overarching story for Batman: Eternal was put together by James Tynion IV and Batman scribe Scott Snyder, then they enlisted a few other writers to help round out the stories: Seely, Ray Fawkes (Justice League Dark), and John Layman (Detective Comics). The artist for the weekly, when it begins, will be Jason Fabok.
Seeley is best known for his horror-themed comic Hack/Slash from Image, but he's also getting a lot of attention for his current zombies-with-a-twist story in Image's Revival, which he creates with studio-mate Mike Norton. The two are also uniting for the second volume of The Occultist at Dark Horse, and Seeley will be working at Dynamite for a reboot of the Chaos! Comics universe in April.
He's also writing a two-issue story in DC's Talon beginning in February, featuring the villain Lord Dead Man.
In a multi-part interview with Seeley about all his upcoming work, we talked to him about what genre he's hoping to incorporate into Batman: Eternal, which Bat-characters get a focus, what it's like to work with the other weekly writers, and why he thinks Batman deserves a weekly series.
Newsarama: Tim, I know you guys are each writing a different section of the weekly series. How did you divide them up, and what are you writing?
Tim Seeley: The cool thing we're doing with the weekly is that we've divided it up by genres. Scott and James came up with the overarching plot threads that would keep us moving, and how each character would be tied into it. But then they broke it down into genres, essentially. And each of us was assigned a genre.
So for instance, I think James is working on the sort of crime story aspect of it. And I'm sort of working on the action/espionage/adventure type aspect of it. And so each of those genres includes a set of characters.
It's been cool doing it that way, because the point of the weekly is to celebrate Batman for his anniversary. And as part of that, we want to utilize all the different genres that Batman sort of encompasses, or has over the years.
That's why he's so popular, I think the flexibility of that character, and his ability to transcend different genres and still maintain the heart of the character. Batman at various times has been a horror comic, it's been an action comic, it's been a sci-fi comic, it's been a crime comic — and it works. All of that works within the context of Batman.
We're celebrating that. And I got the lucky draw. I was surprised; usually I get the horror stories. But I actually got the action bit.
Nrama: Are there any Batman stories that you might have in the back of your head as you write this, or other influences that you'd point toward for your story in Batman: Eternal?
Seeley: The thing with Batman is, I think no matter who you are, if you work in comics, you have some measure of exposure to Batman, if not a whole lot of exposure to Batman. And I have had a whole lot. I was a very avid Batman reader as a kid, and obviously I've seen all the movies and the cartoons, and I was reading the current run when I got the job.
So it's hard to pick just a few things that helped synthesize your version of the character.
But the stuff that really got me as a kid was — it was actually a horror arc, I think — it was called "Dark Knight, Dark City." It was by Peter Milligan. And it was a Riddler story. It had these really creepy, occult aspects to it, which I loved as a kid. What I got out of that is that Batman is always ahead of everything, even if it was something out of the realm of his specialty. He's still able to clamp down and just say, "Here's the fact, and I'm going to figure it out because I'm the damn Batman."
And I think a lot of the animated series stuff comes to my head too — just the pace and the excitement of that stuff when I was watching it as a 15 or 16 year old.
I think those are the only influences I'm kind of conscious of.
Nrama: I think the current generation of comic book writers, at least the ones I've interviewed, were influenced by the cartoons.
Seeley: Yeah, and I was a teenager by the time they came around, and I was envious of kids. I was 16 and too cool for cartoons at that point, even though I watched it. But I remember being really envious of kids, that they had this Batman cartoon, and I had, like, Super Friends, I think, when I was a kid. They talked down to you a lot more than the Batman animated series did.
Nrama: We've heard from James Tynion that Tim Drake is playing a big role in his part of the story. Can you say who's important in your story?
Seeley: My arc is very Batgirl-focused. There are other characters in it, but Barbara is my character for my arc.
Nrama: That makes sense with your focus being "adventure." I see her being a young spark in the world of Batman.
Seeley: Yeah, she's not so vendetta focused, usually. She's focused on helping people. The way she's typically done, she's not the one using her position to get back at people who did her wrong. She's the spark; she's more light-hearted. So her going on this big adventure thing makes a lot of sense.
Nrama: You mentioned before that Batman is versatile. I was going to ask you why you think he's strong enough a character for his own weekly series. Do you think that's part of it? His versatility?
Seeley: Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. I mean, Batman is his own genre at this point, you know? As times change, Batman changes with them. But the core of the idea is the same, and it's so simple that no matter what era it's re-born into, it can take on aspects of that era and work.
And another thing is this great supporting cast he has. I think having the different Bat-characters really adds to his universe. You can just see, while those people help characterize Batman, Batman helps characterize those characters. They bounce off each other and reflect each other.
So yeah, it's just a rich core of concepts and characters to work with. It's almost unlimited.
The hardest part, for us, wasn't coming up with enough stuff to fill 52 issues. It was having too much stuff and trying to pare it down. We had five writers and two editors sitting in a room, and we were just so full of ideas that I'm actually going through this stuff and going, "I can't fit all this stuff! I'm going to have to save some of it for later!"
Nrama: That's a good problem to have. You said you're using Batgirl and other characters, and I when I talked to Jay Fabok, he mentioned that you had come up with some character designs. What can you tell me about your attempt to sketch out these new characters both in words and pictures? Are there quite a few of them?
Seeley: There are a bunch of new characters introduced in this, which was one of the reasons for the existence of the weekly — to populate Batman's world even further. We, as a team, came up with a bunch of new, interesting characters — both villains and allies.
If I'm writing a character, I need to know what they look like. What they wear, how they look — those things just help me write the character. So sometimes, when we were coming up — just a bunch of writers coming up with stuff, we didn't have a visual, and it would bother me. I couldn't move on until I could really get a sense of who they were.
So I would just draw them.
I'm not 100 percent sure that the editors knew that I made a living for 10 years as a comic book artist, not a writer. [Laughs.] But they do now.
I don't think I'm as good an artist as the guys we're working with on the book. But I think being able to think visually is a helpful skill, especially when you're working with a bunch of people, so you can get everyone on the same page.
Nrama: Is there a certain villain you're focusing on in the story you're writing? Or if you can't answer that, maybe just answer this — is there an overarching villain in the weekly story you're all writing?
Seeley: Yes, sort of. And the character in my arc is a brand new creation.
Nrama: Is that something you guys find yourself doing a lot? Coming up with new concepts and characters for the Batman universe?
Seeley: Yeah, and the cool thing about it is that we're spitting out stuff — because we're moving quickly compared to monthly books — we're spitting out a lot of stuff that other people can grab onto. So hopefully we'll be this character and idea generator for the Batman universe, and all those other talented writers can grab onto it and sort of add to it.
And you know, that's one of the great things about this, right off the bat, is there's not a lot of ego, because we're splitting everything between five writers. So it's more about contributing. So I don't think anyone's very precious about anything, you know? I think we're making this stuff for other people to use it and add more to it. So by its nature, it's like a casserole. And we're totally OK with that. No one's scraping one pile of ideas to their side of the plate for themselves to use.
Nrama: I know it's several months before we'll get to read your issues of Batman: Eternal, and your ability to talk about the story now is limited. So to finish up, what would you want to say to Batman fans that are thinking about whether or not to pick this up?
Seeley: I was talking to one of my wife's brother's friends last night — not a relation or anything — and he asked me, "Would it be a good thing I haven't read comics in a bunch of years? Would this be a good thing to get in on?"
And I was like, "Yes! Absolutely!"
In itself, it's really contained. It's obviously part of the larger Batman universe and ties to other titles. But in itself, it is a completely contained story with 52 parts that make one big whole.
In that way, it's a great, new-reader, jump-on point, if you're just a Batman fan who would like a great story.