A brand new version of Cassandra Cain will be at the center of DC's new Batman and Robin Eternal, joining Dick Grayson and Harper Row in a battle against the new villain, Mother.
And although the weekly takes place in present-day Gotham City — where Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman — Bruce will play a role in the weekly. The story also focuses on a mystery from the past, one that took place when Dick Grayson was Robin, Bruce Wayne was Batman, and the two first encountered Mother during one of their global adventures.
The weekly series, which launches October 7 and continues for six months, also serves as a follow-up to Batman Eternal, the 2014-2015 weekly that ended in March. This time, James Tynion IV will serve as lead writer, working with Batman scribe Scott Snyder and a long list of co-writers including Tim Seeley, Genevieve Valentine, Steve Orlando, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Ed Brisson. Artists will include Tony Daniel (who spoke to Newsarama last week), Paul Pelletier, Scot Eaton and Francis Manapul.
Within the pages, readers will see a slew of other characters, including all the former Robins and even the current team of We Are Robin kids. And Mother, the new villain who Tynion calls a thematic "surrogate" for Martha Wayne, will also be surrounded by a cast of characters.
But the new, "deadly, silent" version of Cassandra Cain is "key" to the plot of Batman and Robin Eternal, according to Tynion. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more.
Newsarama: James, a lot of people are looking forward to this as a sequel to Batman Eternal, but how much is this really a sequel? I mean, the Batman world is very different now, right?
James Tynion IV: It is very different. I would say Batman and Robin Eternal is less of a sequel and more that it serves the same role that the first book did. It captured a moment in the Batman line and changed all these elements and brought, like, a bunch of characters together for a huge, epic story.
So we're doing that again. The first time we had so many huge repercussions. We had, you know, Arkham Asylum destroyed and we had Wayne Manor become the new Arkham. We had Selina Kyle step up and become the kingpin of crime of Gotham City. We had an introduction of Julia Pennyworth into the line, and now she's playing a huge role in the Batman books.
That was the goal in sitting down and telling this story. It's not to sort of follow up all the threats in the first one, but to take this moment, this very strange moment in Batman continuity and tell the biggest, craziest story we could think of that could utilize every corner of the Batman mythos.
Nrama: Some of the artwork we've seen has highlighted that use of every corner, with multiple characters showing up. Can you talk about some of the characters you're utilizing, especially this information about Cassandra Cain playing a central role?
Tynion: Cassandra Cain is the key to this entire story, and it's such a huge honor to be able to bring her back into continuity — and more than that, introduce her to a whole new generation of readers, because it's been a while, even in pre-"New 52" continuity, since Cassandra Cain was up front and center in the Batman line.
This is a character who meant a lot to me growing up and is one of my favorite characters in the Batman mythos. Having the opportunity to introduce her in the same way we introduced Stephanie Brown as Spoiler is such a huge part of my excitement for this series.
We have something huge planned for her. She's not a small part of the story. She is key to this story.
The main characters in this story are Dick Grayson, Cassandra Cain and Harper Row.
And then we have all of the Robins playing a huge part in the story.
But in terms of the emotional heart and the mystery, it really come down to those three.
Harper Row is another character I adore, and writing her and getting to bounce her off of Cassandra is in absolute blast.
A character like Cassandra is something that… for a long time, we didn't want to bring her in in some kind of diminished, like, smaller role. It needed to come out of a huge story that is really worthy of bringing her back into continuity. And with this story, we have that. And I'm just above-and-beyond thrilled that she will be a part of the DCU going forward.
Nrama: OK, but let's clarify this a little for Cassandra Cain fans, because she's one of those characters who was around in Batman Inc. and Gates of Gotham, and those are both sort-of, kind-of part of Batman continuity. So is this a continuation of her story at all? Or is this an introduction of a brand new Cassandra Cain?
Tynion: This is the introduction of a new Cassandra Cain, in the same way we introduced Stephanie Brown as a new character to the Batman mythos in the first Batman weekly.
For Cassandra Cain fans — we want to bring this character you love to an entirely new readership, and bring everything that made her a great character back while also making sure that she's up front and center in a way that we're not bound by classic continuity.
Nrama: You mentioned a lot of characters, but one of the people in the two-page spread that Tony Daniel shared with us last week was Duke Thomas. And it looks like he's wearing a Robin costume, which could be a result of his We Are Robin role. He's also playing a role in Scott's Batman story. Does Duke play a role in the weekly too?
Tynion: Duke Thomas and the cast of We Are Robin will definitely be making an appearance. They'll be playing a role in this as the story moves forward.
They're not necessarily the core focus, but they are definitely playing a part. We wanted to cover every aspect of the Robin mythos as this story is moving forward. They're a crucial part of exploring this stage of Robin in the DCU.
Nrama: With Bruce Wayne out of the picture right now, I assume you're utilizing the character in flashbacks — as we see in the pages you're sharing — showing Bruce's history with this new character, "Mother." Is she the main villain in the story? In Batman Eternal, you turned the tables every once in awhile and readers weren't sure who the main villain was. Is it up front this time?
Tynion: We wanted to be a bit more upfront this time. And more than that, we wanted to try the hardest thing a person can do in the Batman mythos, which is create an A-list villain, create someone who is absolutely terrifying, and who can operate on a global scale in a way that grapples with Batman and the entire Batman family.
The heart of the story is that it's a balance between the past and the present. The idea that Bruce came face-to-face with Mother, many years ago, while he and Dick Grayson were off on a global adventure.
At the time, Dick thought that they were up against something much different than the actual case proved to be. And Bruce was protecting Dick from the actual threat, by keeping him out of the loop.
Now that she is returning in the present, and Bruce Wayne is not there to be able to tell them what happened all those years ago, that's one of the most dangerous things that can be happening. They are not going to know who to trust.
And when Cassandra Cain emerges, knowing something about this threat but not fully being able to tell them about that, that's going to be really exciting.
Mother is one of the scariest concepts I think I've ever had. And getting a chance to bring her to life in a story on this scale means a lot to me. I cannot wait to scare readers with her like she's scared me.
There are also characters that are connected to her and are operating around her.
The biggest thing with her is… you know, there have been so many villains that have operated as sort of surrogate to Thomas Wayne for Bruce. And I wanted to see, what kind of character do you get when you build a surrogate for Martha? What does that change in the core relationship between Bruce and a villain like that?
How she operates in the world — that's something that you're going to see play out over the course of the series. But the core concept comes out of the idea of, a person who engineers those kind of moments that created Batman. You know, dead parents in the alley, taking children. Like, engineers that many times a day, all over the world, to shape them under her own world.
I've seen in her something that I'm really excited to introduce to the line, because there isn't a character in Batman's canon that serves the role that she will now serve.
Nrama: You have a different set of writers this time around, and a shorter window to tell your story. How are you breaking down each issue between the writers? Is it similar to what you did with Batman Eternal? Or are you doing something different this time around?
Tynion: We're breaking it very similar to how we broke Batman Eternal, where you treat clumps of issues as almost episodes. So there are two-issue arcs that will interchange person by person. And you can sort of treat each two-issue arc as an episode of the show.
Every issue also propels the plot forward.
It's working out really, really nicely.
It also gives us the opportunity to really dig in and tell a great story every time we sit down and write a script.
Nrama: The last weekly also had a situation where readers were part way into the story, then found out the regular Batman titles would jump forward to the end of the weekly before the weekly was finished. Can you describe where — or rather when — Batman and Robin Eternal falls within the Batman universe right now? With Bruce Wayne not being part of the story, it sound current. Will it catch up at the end? Will it be current then?
Tynion: Yeah. I mean, the goal is that this will take place within the current DCU. Key things are happening to all the characters, and the ramifications of it will spill out into the other books.
There are always little things that you don't expect, like I remember in the first Eternal, we shifted the beats a little bit forward to set up Catwoman and Arkham Manor when those books launched — to help bolster the line and make sure those pieces were grounded in what we were doing in Eternal.
Those moments, I'm sure, will happen again.
But this book is designed to really unite the Bat-line. Those are always exciting conversations to have.
We're all working together, and that's one of the benefits of having so many writers from the current Batman line involved in this book. There's no secret things happening elsewhere. We have the writers of Batman, Grayson, Midnighter and Catwoman sitting in the room with us as we plot this whole thing out.
Nrama: Then to finish up, James, is there anything coming up in the weekly — maybe something we didn't cover — that you want to make sure fans know about Batman and Robin Eternal?
Tynion: Just this is a story I'm so incredibly proud of, and the team we have to tell it is absolutely phenomenal.
There are so many big, crazy surprises to come in this story. And there are characters that will be returning to continuity that we haven't announced yet. So in the same way we brought Julia Pennyworth back — a little bigger than Julia Pennyworth, actually — so everyone should stay tuned to see what we've got up our sleeves. It's going to be something special.