With an action-packed Batman #1 this past week, new creative team Tom King and David Finch, have introduced their vision for the character as DC's Rebirth timeline begins — one with a classic look, an effective use of the Bat-family, and an almost-deadly determination to fulfill his vow to defeat crime in Gotham City.
And with the debut of two new heroes named Gotham and Gotham Girl, the series will challenge Batman on the effectiveness in his mission, while also following up on the revelations from DC Universe Rebirth about there being three Jokers and the Watchmen characters.
King, who's best known to DC fans for his revamp of Dick Grayson as co-writer of Grayson, is also helping develop the new role for Duke Thomas, although the role of that might-be-the-Next-Robin character will be more thoroughly explored in All Star Batman, the new title by King's friend and former Batman scribe Scott Snyder.
Finch, meanwhile, is coming off a run on Wonder Woman, returning to Gotham City after having drawn the character in the Batman: The Dark Knight series.
Newsarama talked to Snyder and Finch about their new run on Batman, what the appearance of Gotham and Gotham Girl mean, and whether readers will get a new Batmobile, since Finch's new one has already been destroyed.
Newsarama: David, you got to draw some pretty cool stuff in this issue, didn't you? Batman on a freaking airplane! What did you think of that script when you got it?
David Finch: I loved it! I mean, it's incredible. It was incredibly inventive. And I was also really freaked out. I mean, I've never drawn anything remotely like that. I've never seen anything like that in a comic. So I didn't know what I was going to do. I was definitely freaking out.
I read it. I freaked out. And then I just put it out of my head and just started with Page 1, because I thought, I can't take on all of this at once. It's just too much.
Usually, you know, I'll get a script and I'll think, "Oh, I've seen something like this before, from an artist that I really like, and maybe I'll kind of go in that direction." But with this one, yeah, it was pretty scary. [Laughs.]
Nrama: And you got to draw a new Batmobile.
Finch: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, I got to redesign the Batmobile and it's very similar to the animated series Batmobile.
But then it fell in the water. [Laughs.]
And I was like, awwwww.
Tom King: The Batmobile is like the drummer in our band.
Finch: I think we should have a new one every issue and then destroy it.
Nrama: That would be hilarious. Like Spinal Tap. Or Kenny in South Park.
Nrama: But let's talk about your Batman, Dave. How would you describe the character as you're drawing him in this new Batman series? Any influences?
Finch: There are so many different Batmans that I love, and I wish I could do them all. I'm such a huge art fan, and there are so many great artists who have worked on Batman, so that's always in my head.
But my Batman, really, depends on the story, especially when I have a writer with a very, very strong vision. It has a huge influence on where I go with my artwork and what the book ultimately feels like.
I feel so strongly about this story that I just kind of went with it and trusted what Tom was doing.
Nrama: Yeah, I have to admit that, to me, it felt very different from what you were doing on Dark Knight.
Finch: Yeah, on Dark Knight, I went through a few different phases during that book. I think I have a better idea now about the kind of work I want to do and who I am as an artist.
It's almost like I went through a bit of an artistic mid-life crisis. So I feel stronger about where I am now.
And again, the story -- that's where I get the direction for where I'm going with my art.
King: Dave called me at the very beginning and we discussed what we wanted Batman to look like, and I feel like we were on the same page — maybe you'll correct me — but we were both like, let's go back to the classic. Let's go back to, like, the classic images. Batman doesn't need super-modernization. Batman needs to just connect the past with the present.
Finch: Yeah, I feel like the older I get, the more I like the classic vision of things. And there's a way to do that and keep it modern.
Nrama: Tom, before we get into that airplane scene and all the rest of the story you introduced this week, how would you answer the question I just asked David. Can describe who your Batman is?
King: I've been struggling with that, because… comic book characters are easily summed up in a few words. I could say, you know, my Batman's about focus or justice or obsession or all that kind of stuff.
But I want my Batman to be slightly more complicated than that, where you can't quite figure out exactly what it is, and you have to go to the story to find something deeper.
But where I started was, he's a man, he made that vow, he got down on his knees after his parents died, you know, by candlelight, and he's crying — I keep seeing that Bob Kane panel over and over again. And he just swears to fight criminals for the rest of his life.
And he knows that's impossible, and he knows he can never get it done. But he'll do whatever he can to keep that vow.
Which is not to say he can't have a family and he can't have a life, but he sees those as supporting this mission. He's smart enough to see that he needs Duke, he needs Alfred. And that those support his mission.
But he's willing to do whatever it takes, whenever it takes it, to do that — and I think you can see that in this issue. I mean, by the end of the issue, he in his mind believes he's going to die. And to me, he knows he was going to die from like Page 6 when Alfred comes back and says, "Hal Jordan and Clark aren't available. You have to do this on your own." He's like, OK, I'll save the city.
At that moment, the moment he pushes the button on the ejector seat, he's like, I know I'm going to die when I get on that plane, because he's run through every scenario. The only way to do this is to die. But he doesn't hesitate. There's no hesitation.
It's like, yeah, I'm willing to give my life for my city; I'm willing to give my life for that vow.
And what that means to him, and to Batman, that will play out throughout the whole year.
Nrama: I think it's kind of obvious that the guy in the airplane, the one who says, "Oh no —we're in Gotham, the place where we don't have a Superman or a super powered hero." Obviously, Batman does his absolute best to save the airplane, but after that guy on the plane says that, Gotham and Gotham Girl show up. Is this going to play on the fact that, even though he made that vow, maybe Gotham needs more than what Batman can do?
King: Yeah. I think that's some penetrating insight. That's exactly what it is. When we enter issue #2, Batman's sort of seen that there are threats that, if he deals with them, he can deal with them, he can fight them, but he may die at the end. And he knows that, if he dies at the end and Dick takes his place, then Dick dies.
And so maybe he's not, in his mind, the hero Gotham needs or Gotham deserves. Maybe they need someone like Superman, someone that powerful, someone that good, that pure.
I feel like Batman, if someone told him, like, you can solve all crime by retiring, he'd retire the next day. The vow's not about the fight. The vow is about the vow.
And so these two heroes who are deserving, who come from Gotham, who are super powered — what they mean to him and how they challenge his sense of his place in this world, that's the first arc of the trilogy.
Nrama: And the figure who said, "Observe the clock, Batman" — that will play a role in this story?
King: Observe the clock, Batman? That's a solvable mystery. If people know their Batman hard enough, they might be able to figure that one out. That's all I'm going to say.
The fun part about Batman is the villains. You have to play with the villains. And that character is one of the main villains. And behind that character, there are more coming.
Nrama: Will your Batman series tie into what we found out in Rebirth — all those mysteries that Batman is investigating?
King: Yes. I mean, that story, that huge twist at the end of Rebirth and also the three Jokers in the middle of Rebirth, are forming the backbone of a huge DC story that's going to play out for some time.
And I'm not allowed to talk about a lot of it, but we want to build toward something that's amazing. We want to build toward something like you've never seen before. And to do that, you have to start small.
So those pieces are coming together, and they're coming together in Batman.
Nrama: We saw Duke a little bit in Batman #1, but there wasn't a clear indication of his mantle, or what he'll be called. Can you talk about your plans for Duke?
King: Yeah, the way Duke's going to work in the main Batman title — this is a very Batman-focused book — I loved what they did with Tim when I was a kid, where he was around for about a year before he became Batman's partner, training and sort of getting to know the lay of the land beforehand. Batman didn't just hop out with him in the middle of a Joker war or something.
And so Duke is going to be in the cave in the beginning. And the story of his training, and how he becomes that character, is what All Star Batman is.
But the story of how his presence in the cave and in Batman's life — that story will be told in this book.
And then once All Star Batman concludes, his new role in the Bat-universe will play out throughout all the books.
Nrama: Anything else you want to add?
King: Well, this is a blatant plug, but if anyone wants to read any of my other work, I have a free story on comiXology — my Eisner-nominated story, Black Death in America. So if you want to just try out one of my stories, this is a free way to do it.