In Batman and Robin Eternal, writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing are getting to re-energize and re-define Bane, while also helping to craft the weekly's revelations about the secret history of post-Flashpoint Batman.
The weekly Batman and Robin Eternal kicks off October 7, serving as a sequel of sorts to DC's Batman Eternal, which finished up early this year. This time around, Bruce Wayne doesn't remember he's Batman in the present-day DCU, so Batman and Robin Eternal will features parallel stories. In one, Dick Grayson and other Batman family character will deal with a mystery in the present, and while another shows a story from the past of Batman and Robin when Bruce and Dick were in those roles.
Kelly and Lanzing started writing together as screenwriters, but broke into comic books with Hacktivist. Batman and Robin Eternal represents not only their first work for DC Entertainment, but also their first foray into superheroes. Batman and Robin Eternal #9 will be s their first full issue scripting, working from a plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder.
Newsarama talked to the pair — following up on our interview with Tynion — to find out more about their role in the weekly team, what it's like to start with Batman, and what they hope to bring to Bane.
Newsarama: Collin and Jackson, since this is your first work at DC, were you happy to get to write Batman?
Collin Kelly: When we got the call, we were thrilled. The opportunity here is amazing. What kid doesn't dream of this opportunity, to write a legendary character like Batman.
Jackson Lanzing: It's also a particularly wild opportunity for Batman and Robin Eternal specifically. On one hand, we're not just writing Batman. I mean, we do get the opportunity to write Bruce Wayne as Batman, which is a unique thing to do right now, with the current status quo of Batman in the DCU. But because the book is rooted in a flashback story, we get to tell the story of Bruce as Batman.
But moreover, we get to tell stories with the entire Batman universe. It's a story that's going to feature Dick and Tim and Jason and Barbara to some degree, and Damian to some degree, and Harper Row, and now Cassandra Cain. It's pretty bonkers. The fact that all of these toys are on the shelf and we get to play with all of them and not just one particular corner — these characters that we grew up with, the ones we know like they were our own family — that's insane.
And then obviously the opportunity to work with the incredible creative team on this book — James Tynion, whom we're very lucky to have as a friend, and Tim Seeley, whom I've admired for years, and Steve Orlando, whose talent makes me jealous, and Genevieve Valentine, who's smarter than any of us, and the amazing Ed Brisson. It's an amazing group of creators we get to work with.
Nrama: You mention all these writers, but I think what's unique about the two of you is that you're writing as part of this team, but you're doing it as a duo. I assume you're writing your Batman and Robin Eternal issues together? Why do you work together so well as a team?
Kelly: Yeah, we've been working together for about seven years at this point. What we found early on in our careers — because we come from Hollywood; we've been writing feature films and TV stuff out here for quite awhile — is that this can be a pretty brutal business. If you're going to go into the trenches, it's always better to do it with someone you trust at your back.
And Jackson and I have been best friends for as long as we've been writing, and there's no one I'd rather have backing me up.
Lanzing: You're right. It's rare in comics. Even great comic writing teams tend to do that thing where they plot it together and then write individually, on their own. I think part of that is that those writers have very individual voices they're expressing all the time.
Collin and I, because of the nature of writing features where it's very useful to not just be the writer in the room, it was tough for us to come in as solo writers. We were just 23 or 24 years old when we started, and it's tough to have to stand up for your ideas against huge directors and producers and people, who really know their stuff. So it's always great to have that back-up.
As a result of having that back-up, I think we ended up developing a joint voice, which you don't see that often.
Work that Collin does, you can tell from work that I do. But when we're writing together, I challenge anyone to say who wrote what page or who wrote what line. In fact, by the time the issues get printed, a lot of time we don't even remember that stuff. It all becomes something we really feel is a joint voice.
So when we get hired, we're getting hired for our joint voice. So that's how it ended up being a thing.
Of course, we're interested in solo work and we're starting to branch out to that because comics allow for that in such a cool way. But ultimately, I think we both feel like what we do together is better than what we do apart.
Nrama: We've talked to Tynion a little bit about how you're breaking down the weekly, and he said you're each doing individual issues. I know you have to keep the same tone to some extent from issue to issue, but what do you feel is your style and your tone? As you put together your first few issues, how would you describe what you're bringing to Batman and Robin Eternal?
Lanzing: That's something great about being part of this group. Everybody has something to bring. I hope what we end up bringing is a certain — and this is a kind of weird shorthand because we come from screenwriting — but a certain cinematic quality. We try to really focus on our dialogue, really make sure that our characters feel like they are alive and like they have an internal life that's shaped around their needs and their wants. We approached it the same way we would approach a screenplay. There's never a throwaway moment or scene.
And then we also do a lot of research. We are research machines.
Kelly: And also, we bring a connectivity between the characters. We are always going to be more interested in the quiet moments of characters just ruminating on their lives or telling a quick joke to each other, rather than leaping out of a plane that explodes. Obviously, an exploding plane is amazing, and we love that stuff, be we are equally in love with those small, tender moments that reveal the inner life of the character.
Lanzing: I think there's actually something unique about anything that Collin and I work on — and this is true of our indie work as well — we are very different guys. We have different opinions. We are best friends, but that doesn't make us identical.
Kelly: Yeah, I often want to put a pencil through his face.
Lanzing: I think the thing we end up with at the end of any piece is that it's a conversation between us. There are ideas being expressed by certain characters that are in line with where I'm at, there are ideas being expressed by certain characters that align with where Collin is at. It's a conversation that's willing to think outside that box, that is pushing for newer and weirder ideas, because we are constantly pushing each other toward that, which again, I think is why the work is unique from a joint perspective.
Nrama: Let's talk about some of the things you're getting to play with. We talked to James a little bit about the villain Mother. But when you guys come onto the book as scripters with issue #9, there's a mysterious new character named Sculptor. What can you tell us about that character and what you get to focus upon as you kick off your issues?
Kelly: What we can say is that one of our mandates, when we were breaking this story, was to create new characters, to create new elements. Obviously, the fans are always going to love a good throwback or reference, a good character you might not expect. But to bring someone new in to fill a void within the well-established pantheon of DC villains is a real honor. And it's just awesome when you hit upon that character and realize you can bring something original to this.
Lanzing: And James led the charge on that with Mother, which is a new character, a Ra's Al Ghul-level villain for the DC Universe, unlike any villain in that pantheon, one that, I think, makes you look at Batman and the Batman family through a different lens than most Batman villains, and that's her strength. I'm really excited for people to meet her.
Sculptor is a similar character. She's going to hopefully let us look at these characters in a bit of a different way. She's going to reveal certain things about the characters that we may not have understood before. And she and her history with certain characters in our story will be a big part of the book and connects into the sort of second act of our story.
Her entrance into the story and the events that lead up to it wrap up our initial section and really launch us forward.
We get to play with Sculptor a little less than Ed Brisson. He's going to be, I think, the definitive voice for that character.
Nrama: So can you tell us who else you get to write as you start off your time on Batman and Robin Eternal?
Lanzing: Collin and I, in our very first issue of a superhero comic book, we got to write one of our favorite villains of all time, which we can reveal — we get to write Bane in our first issue.
We get to hopefully re-energize and re-define that character in a way that we are very excited about. We both grew up reading reading Bane. We both have very strong opinions about this character and feel like sometimes he doesn't get treated with the respect he deserves. We're incredibly excited to give him some real scenes.
Kelly: He's an amazing character. He's incredibly versatile. We hope we can bring something cool to him.
Nrama: Right now, the status quo for Bruce Wayne is that he doesn't remember that he's Batman. You mentioned that you're utilizing flashbacks. Are you able to use Bruce Wayne? I know you're getting to use these other characters in the Bat-family, as you mentioned.
Kelly: Yeah, this was an idea that James brought to the table. This has been in the DNA of this book since the very start of it. And when he was first telling us about it, it's what got us amazingly thrilled.
What we're getting to do with Batman and Robin Eternal is tell the secret history of Batman and Robin. With the "New 52," there's all this time where we don't really know what happened, and there are all these stories that we kind of skipped right over. So getting to jump in and tell these stories — yeah, we get to write Bruce, but we get to write the things we don't know he's ever done. We get to show some of the secrets he'd rather keep hidden.
And [we'll see] the elements that also helped evolve Robin into Nightwing, something that's different from what we've seen before.
Lanzing: But I think flashback is, to some degree, a misnomer. They are flashbacks, in that we are flashing back. But really, I see it more as a parallel narrative.
This story takes place simultaneously in the present day of the DC Universe — and not just in Gotham, but around the world, and with a lot of different characters and in a lot of different locations. I liken it a lot to an espionage book. It's globe-trotting and has a lot of that Grayson DNA, which is great because it's one of my favorite books.
But at the same time, every issue is going to take you into the past with Dick and Batman on a very specific, very secret mission.
And Dick starts to realize in the present what was really going on, that maybe he didn't understand at the time. It's that idea of being an adult and looking back and maybe realizing you didn't understand the entire context. When dealing with a character like Batman who has so many secrets, there's probably some pretty dark things that you were involved in as a kid that you may not have realize you were involved in, or that were being kept from you.
Those are incredibly exciting stories to tell — looking into that relationship and digging deep into it, trying to look at the strength and weaknesses of Batman and Robin.