Classic Batman villain Professor Hugo Strange will be one of the key villains for writer Tom King's first few issues of Batman, but there's "more at play" in the first storyline, which continues this week with Batman #2.
Relaunched in June with an opening issue that questioned the Caped Crusader's ability to effectively serve his city, Tom King and David Finch's Batman #1 also introduced two new heroes named Gotham and Gotham Girl. As King told Newsarama in a post-game interview about the first issue, "when we enter issue #2, Batman's sort of seen that there are threats that, if he deals with 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."
The first issue also introduced a mysterious villain, who appeared to be scheming behind the scenes. And after King gave a few clues during our interview and on his Twitter feed, Newsarama took an educated guess that Hugo Strange was the unknown bad guy from Batman #1.
Why would King choose Hugo Strange? And what other villains might show up in the creative team's first storyline? Newsarama talked to King and Finch to find out.
Newsarama: Tom, have you seen reaction to your first issue? Do you think people got the right idea about what you were hoping to achieve?
Tom King: Yes, I saw way too much reaction to the first issue. I'm used to writing these… I write, like, The Vision and Omega Men — these sort of boutique comic books that people come to. But to get to Batman and to have, you know, the best-selling comic in the world just for a little while, it was crazy watching all the reactions, watching like, live Facebook rants of people saying how awful I am, and other people saying I made them cry. It supported my ego and blew it up at the same time, which is probably healthy for a writer.
But yeah, I mean, people got what we were going for. I mean, it was a very simple issue. We wanted to show Batman as a hero, and we wanted to show what a guy without superpowers would do in a superhero situation.
And I think people got it.
Nrama: Did anything about their reaction surprise you?
King: Yeah, what really got to me is I thought everyone would be sort of like talking about all the Batplane moments or this or that, but the thing everyone's repeating was the moment where he asks Alfred about his parents and whether his parents are proud of him. And for the most emotional moment in the book to have hit the hardest, I mean, that's what you want to do.
Nrama: Heading into issue #2, some people may have figured out who the "Observe the clock" villain is. I think maybe we did?
King: You were the first one! I thought that would be all over the internet — I was so excited when I saw someone finally post it. I was very happy.
Nrama: So I can assume I was right about the villain?
King: Yeah, Newsarama was the website that got it right.
And it's Hugo Strange.
Nrama: Why did you pick him as the villain in your first issue?
King: When I first got the Batman gig, the first thing I did was read that original Batman #1, because I knew I was going to have to write it again, and read Scott [Snyder]'s Batman's #1. And I really very much wanted to pay tribute to it. And the most obvious idea to pay tribute to that original issue was to take the villains that were in the first issue — Catwoman, Joker and Hugo Strange — and somehow incorporate those into the first arc of Batman.
And you see that pay off right there.
To take words that — who knows who wrote them; some combination of [Bill] Finger, [Bob] Kane and [Jerry] Robinson wrote those words — and put them into my Batman #1 and sort of say, "I understand that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants and I'm going to try to stand a little higher because of them" was an honor. And I think it's cool.
Nrama: So, if you're confirming Hugo Strange this soon, I'm thinking there's more at play here than just Hugo Strange.
King: There's always more at play here.
Nrama: David, can you talk about what we're going to see in the second issue? I mean, in the first issue, as you and I discussed, you had to draw some interesting action sequences. Is this a little different?
David Finch: There are definitely some great moments. There's a splash page toward the beginning of the book with Batman and Solomon Grundy, and it's the exact kind of stuff I'd love to be able to draw. It's my kind of thing.
It was actually, strangely, a bit of a challenge.
Nrama: Why? Because of the character?
Finch: No, it's that, you know, Tom is really not a writer who's going to just put together a scene like "this guy punches that guy, and that guy punches this guy, and they fall over." That's just not what he does. It's...
Finch: Yeah. [Laughs.] But his action scenes are much more thought out. It really makes me have to think when I'm drawing, to try to make sure it carries across the way that it's supposed to.
So it's a challenge, but it makes it a lot more fun.
Nrama: Is the second issue as action-packed as the first?
Finch: There's action, but I think issue #2 is a more emotional issue. There's some slower paced moments and some faster paced moments.
It was my favorite issue by far. I loved it. I think people are really going to freak out.
Check back Wednesday for our spoilery discussion with Tom and David about Batman #2.