As the Robin Rises story continue in Batman and Robin, more clues and themes are starting to emerge.
Written by Peter Tomasi with art by Pat Gleason, Batman and Robin kicked off the new storyline in July, promising to bring "back" a Robin for Batman (and to be clear, Tomasi confirmed the word "back" was the right descriptor.
Now readers have learned that the story is not only depicting Bruce Wayne's mission to resurrect his deceased son Damian, but also to "resurrect" the Bat-family after it was figuratively destroyed during "Death of the Family." In last week's Batman and Robin #34, readers saw a reconciliation of sorts between Bruce and former Robins Jason, Dick and Tim, as well as current Batgirl, Barbara Gordon.
Although the story still focuses on returning Damian from the dead, the focus on the other Bat-characters (and the family-focused cover now revealed for November's Batman and Robin #36), could Tomasi and Gleason be positioning one of the former Robins to come "back" into the job?
As the story takes a break until October — for the unrelated Futures End issue — Newsarama talked to Tomasi and Gleason about Robin Rises, following up on our extensive July interview with the writer to learn more about the resurrection theme, the story we'll see this fall, and of course, that awesome Hellbat suit.
Newsarama: Peter, now that we've seen the cover for Batman and Robin #36 and saw the importance Bruce places in the Bat-family in this issue, it's becoming apparent that they're playing a bigger role in this than we might have imagined.
Peter Tomasi: Yeah, absolutely. And it was really key for us to do this issue #34, where we set the players in motion, but our sort of B-story has always been to bring the family back together. So it's a question of something as dire and something as life-shaking, world-shaking as this mission is, we wanted to mend the fences, so to speak. Or at least start to, and open that door for the "Death of the Family" to now fade into the past.
Bruce is on a mission of resurrection, but at the same time, it's a mission of resurrection of his own family on earth, at the same time. So there are two sort of parallel lines.
Nrama: And Pat, you got to draw the new Grayson look.
Pat Gleason: Yeah, I did! I was just glad we were able to get him in there.
Tomasi: Yeah, me too. Originally, Dick was going to play a bigger part, but suddenly things changed because there were some things going on in the Grayson book, so we altered a few things. But we still wanted to make sure Dick was there — being such a big part of Bruce's life, and Damian's, more than anyone else, too, that he definitely made an appearance in here.
Nrama: I want to talk about the Hellbat suit. How did you come up with that idea?
Tomasi: We both knew we needed to have Bruce in something that could take some punches, could take some massive damage and not take him out.
So we're really exploring Batman from the human side — and Wonder Woman pointed out that he's the human one in the group, and they had to make sure they kept him protected. Pat and I knew we needed something like that.
And then Pat started working his magic.
Gleason: Yeah, but you know, even though Wonder Woman said that…this isn't, like, a bicycle helmet. Like, "Here Bruce, put this on your head."
This thing is going to be able to go toe-to-toe with whatever he encounters, and it's going to be able to withstand the harshest environment.
I really liked the idea of Superman forging it in the sun. I mean, having it look cool is one thing, but it's also really functional. There are going to be a lot of tricks up his sleeve that I think fans will be excited to see in the coming months.
Even that last splash page in issue #34, you know, having these giant wings as he glides into Apokolips — that's the flavor we were going for. To almost have this thing be surprising. You won't know what's going to come out next.
Tomasi: We knew we needed a suit of armor, but we also knew we wanted to push it into other avenues we haven't seen from some of the other Batsuits.
It all stems from their first adventure in Justice League, and that was the catalyst for the League. And Bruce is always about being prepared. He knew that, after something like Darkseid that he had to deal with, and the Parademons and all that stuff that happened in Justice League, he knew that, from here on out, things are going to be different. He wasn't just going to be fighting guys with guns or people on the docks here and there.
He knew there would be otherworldly enemies, possibly.
So he's always thinking ahead. And of course, with the help of his super friends [laughs]… he put it together.
Gleason: [Laughs] His awesome squad?
Tomasi: Yep, and with the help of Pat's pencil, they were able to craft something.
Nrama: And yet the suit poses a danger to him. I'm sure a thought that would run though fans' heads is, well, why doesn't he wear this all the time? But you've answered it here – if he wears it too much, it drains his energy.
Tomasi: Yeah. I mean, you hit it right on the head. It's like, then why not just hop out all the time with this thing, and go scrub the streets of Gotham in two seconds?
You know, it's that exact question, when you introduce something, you have to sometimes ask yourself, well, what are the threats of this thing? What are the repercussions of it? Pat and I talked at length on the phone about it. And we knew we had to have something that would start to mess with him. It had to drain him. It couldn't be something really easy to put on and take off.
And of course, that adds more drama.
Gleason: Yeah, there's a reason they keep it at the Justice League and not at the Batcave.
Nrama: Pat, you drew a cool sequence where each of the Justice League members put the suit together. Will we understand that more later?
Gleason: Yeah. That was a lot of fun to draw, but that page tells the backstory of this really cool weapon that he has, and it will explain things you see from the suit.
Tomasi: I bet you would have liked to have a splash for each of those panels too.
Gleason: Well, yeah. That would have been nice there.
Tomasi: Tomasi dropped the ball on that one.
Gleason: No, no, it was great.
Nrama: I hope you're giving him a little space to draw Apokolips. And that leads to the next question I wanted to ask you, Pat. As Batman makes it to Apokolips, what does it offer you as an artist to get to draw this other world of the gods?
Gleason: It's definitely keeping me on my toes. I'm certainly not going to get bored. I'm working on some stuff right now that's actually pretty exciting. I spent a lot of time off the planet, so to speak, when I was working on Green Lantern Corps, so there's been a lot of that coming back to me as I'm sitting down and drawing some other-worldly things.
I'm really liking… not just the chance to show the fantastic side of comics, with these landscapes and characters, but placing a human being — placing Bruce — in the midst of it. To me, that's what makes it really interesting. I mean, he's Batman, so he's not your everyday man. But it gives us a human lens to look through at all this stuff, and to kind of feel what he's feeling – the horror of Apokolips and the things that are there, but also to see the sensibilities that he's going to be bringing when he touches down there on the planet.
I love the variety. I mean, I get to sit down and say, I'm going to draw a 100-year-old skyscraper today, and the next month, I'm going to draw a giant Apokoliptic landscape. It's awesome.
Nrama: Let's talk about this upcoming cover in issue #36 and the choice to have all the Robin costumes on Jason, Tim and Barbara. Is that just a fun, symbolic cover, or is there more to it?
Tomasi: It's done for a reason, emotionally, and also physically. It's something we're going to see.
As you see them all in that suit — and they're wearing something that Pat suggested, which works in this design element of Damian's stuff — but as you see them wearing that, you have to think of the theme that this story is about, which is "Robin Rises."
It's also not about one Robin Rises. It's about a theme about Robin rising.
We're trying to imbue the story with a whole bunch of thematic elements that play into the Robin mythos.
And obviously, we want to shake things up a little bit, and add some distinct visuals that make people kind of step back, like when they see that cover and say, "Oh wow, why are they wearing R's on their chest?"
Nrama: They combine Damian's costume with their own costumes — even Batgirl's new costume.
Gleason: Yeah, the new costume looks great. And as we were talking about this, that was Rachel Gluckstern's idea, that we reflect the Batgirl costume. I thought it would be cool to just show a little bit of that. I didn't want to go exactly in that direction
We'll see why the costume changes too. It gives us a chance to show this other side of these characters.
Nrama: So after this month's issue, you take a break from the story for Futures End, which you're not writing — and you confirmed for us before that it doesn't tie into this story. So what comes next? Although we got some good relationship stuff out of the way in August, what are we going to see in October? Are you ramping it up a bit?
Tomasi: Yes, absolutely. As we go through to the end of December, it's all getting ramped up. We're making sure all our characters are really emotionally involved in all this.
And with the whole resurrection theme I mentioned, we're just making sure we're building both of our stories — resurrection from Batman's point of view, and resurrection from the family's point of view, because they're also invested and behind Bruce now, after that talk in the cave.
All the pieces are in place now. And Pat and I just need to put them all in the box and shake well.
Gleason: In issue #35, we start running right out of the gate. There's a really cool opening scene that Pete wrote for me, and… I won't say any more than that.
Tomasi: And there's a cool surprise too, about how it all plays out.
The next issue, Batman and Robin #35, is a big issue, as we really start to see those pieces fall into place.
Nrama: I was surprised to see clues that referenced the Batman/Superman issues that Greg Pak wrote.
Tomasi: Right, right. You know, I always try to have my old editor hat on, to a degree, and try to hit touchstone stuff that's going on in the DCU. If I can, I try to work it in in organic ways, and try to play along with everybody. Get in the sandbox with all the kids. And try to make it work with the story.
Obviously, if it's forced and it doesn't feel right, then you obviously have to jettison it, but when you can take this tapestry that's all around you, and you can start to pull threads into your own stuff, I always think it's not just a blast for the creative team on it. It's a lot of fun for the fans too, to see this stuff get worked into the story.
Nrama: You mentioned "resurrection," and there was this advertisement DC was running, with Damian's costume over a skeleton. I don't know if you drew any of that, Pat, or if you were aware of it Pete. Is that just a thematic thing? Or should we read more into that?
Gleason: I did not draw that. I've had people think I drew that. I don't know who the artist was for that.
Tomasi: Let's just say it's an ad to just get people to read the book. I wouldn't be reading too much into it.
Nrama: Then to finish up, can you just say again what the order of the issues is? We've got issue #37 then Robin Rises: Alpha? Is that still correct?
Tomasi: Yeah, in December, there will be Batman and Robin #37 that Pat's drawing, followed by Robin Rises: Alpha that Andy Kubert's drawing. And I've seen pages from that, and it looks pretty amazing.
I think I told you, Vaneta, way back in the day, that this has always been a big, "uber" story. And Pat and I have talked about this — we've seeded stuff that you're going to see in the future issues. There are little things that, I think, anybody who's been reading the book from the beginning will be like, "oh wow… I can't believe they harkened back to that."
So this story has been told in a big, long-form kind of way.
There's also been great jumping-on points throughout the series that we've worked into it. But I think anybody who's been along for the ride is going to appreciate the bigger story — and anybody who discovers it again, or discovers it for the first time after maybe joining us in these last few issues, will look back and pick up the trades and really feel like they've gotten one big, sort of War and Peace, massive epic.
Nrama: And at the end, we get a Robin.
And I also want to point out that, in the end, I think out of the close to 40 issues, Pat's drawn, I think, like, 39 of them. So it's a big feather in Pat's cap. And for me as a writer, to look back and see the consistency, and have the same artist on all this stuff — especially such an emotional story — it's been great.
And to have Andy step in for two big special issues? I couldn't be happier. It's been a great ride with this book. I've been really blessed to have Pat on one side, and Andy step in and do two issues.
Tomasi: Don't cry, Pat, don't cry.
Gleason: No, but I totally echo that. Being on a book this long.. you know, I've had people say, you do really long runs on books. And yeah, I do. But there's a lot of reward that comes out of that. And hopefully there's something memorable.
And if the fans are any indication, I think we've touched a lot of people with this series, and it means a lot to us. So for me personally, being able to work on the book, and I know for Pete too, we're really proud of the book, and there has been a lot invested personally. It's not just a job for me. There's a lot of us in this book. And we really care about these characters. And we care about how the fans feel. We just want to do a good story.