Tomasi Brings ROBIN Team-Up, BATMAN Uber-Story to BnR
Batman & Robin #12
It's time for all the Robins of the New 52 to gather together. And Damian Wayne might not be very friendly to his predecessors.
In next month's Batman and Robin #10, writer Peter Tomasi and artist Pat Gleason will begin their second story arc in the title they relaunched as part of the New 52. And according to Tomasi, it's all building toward an "uber-story" he promised in our last interview.
Batman and Robin just finished up this week's "Night of the Owls" issue, which followed a critically acclaimed first arc. In their debut storyline, the creative team added another thematic layer to the comic as Damian and Bruce Wayne adjusted to their roles of father and son against the backdrop of a villain named Nobody.
The father-and-son story is resonating with readers, who have made Batman and Robin one of the top-selling DC titles since the company's relaunch.
Now that the title is heading toward a team-up (and likely psychological showdown) between the New 52 Robins, Newsarama talked with Tomasi to discuss the storyline he just finished up with issue #8, and what's coming next for the title.
Newsarama: Peter, your first storyline on this title has really defined how father and son work together as Batman and Robin. What have you learned about the characters as you've written the story, and what do you hope readers have taken away about the dynamics of their personal/professional relationship?
Peter Tomasi: That's it's fluid. That it's ever-changing like all relationships in life through the course of time. You never know when another roadblock or life altering situation will occur that will make you view the dynamic between two people in a different way. Batman and Robin will see each other through their distinctive prisms so to speak, but the biggest difference for them at this stage is that they want to get closer, they want to connect as father and son, and only time will tell if they can bridge the gap between them in a long lasting and meaningful way.
Nrama: Obviously, the action Damian took against Nobody at the end of this storyline comes from the differences between Bruce and Damian. But it also represents a choice by Damian -- or maybe even two choices, doesn't it -- as he chooses Bruce's side and a chance at walking the moral line, yet chooses to get there via a method his father doesn't condone?
Nrama: How has this experience changed or further defined Bruce? He's obviously still dealing with those ever-present parent issues, but he seems to have realized some other things about himself, hasn't he?
Tomasi: Learn as we go, right? One of the great things that being a father does is illuminate your life in ways that you couldn't have imagined before. It gives you a whole new perspective about not only your relationship and responsibility to your own son/daughter and the world at large, but it shines an all new and all different light on you, opening doors of self-realization that you may not have been sure existed or even wanted to open before. That's the way I'm seeing Bruce at this juncture of his life.
Nrama: How much does Bruce's approach to this relationship build upon things he learned from the former Robins?
Tomasi: Every former Robin was a distinct individual with specific traits, personalities, and even world views, so Bruce, being the intelligent man he is, most definitely absorbed in a direct and indirect way due to the former Robins ages, what it's like to be a father-figure/mentor/guardian for very different kids and is now applying what he's learned with the most difficult kid of all, Damian Wayne, his own flesh and blood.
Nrama: What did Damian mean by saying "protect our castle" and "our kingdom?" Is that simply a boy's view of the mantle they carry? Or was it related more to the triumph of the "house of Wayne" over the "house of Ducard?"
Tomasi: It was a combination of both actually. And also in that moment of extreme duress I used it to peek into Damian's psyche a bit to show that there is a part of him that considers himself a boy-warrior-poet-king due to the way he was raised by his mother, Talia, who saw him as sort of a new Alexander the Great.
Nrama: Last time we talked, we discussed what the dog's name represents. You said you considered naming him Ace (nice touch), but you instead chose the name, "Titus," referring to Shakespeare's most violent play. Can you touch upon why the dog's name popped into Damian's mind at that moment in issue #8 when he had just killed Nobody, and was practically bleeding to death? Was it because Damian felt his family had "won" against the other family, just like the battle between two families in Titus Andronicus? Or was it simply that a boy wanted to go home to his doggy?
Nrama: It's a good sign that a boy who enjoyed killing animals is growing attached to a dog, isn't it? A first step?
Tomasi: I never looked at Damian as someone who enjoyed killing animals such as the bat and the firefly we saw during the course of the story. It was simply something he did, a release valve in a strange way, not something he took any pleasure in. And you can see that thought carried through in Pat's drawing where I asked him to have Damian looking detached, matter of fact about it, somewhat in a clinical way like the way he flicks the bat's broken neck and the way he examines the firefly's glowing blood on his fingers.
Nrama: You know, this comic had my eyes filled with tears at a couple places. Bruce's reaction to seeing Damian on the table, his pained words toward the painting of his parents, the conversation Damian had with his father. Did that level of emotion get to you at all as you wrote it? Or did you know exactly what you wanted this final issue to be?
Tomasi: It means a lot to me to hear that you were affected in a deeply emotional way in the journey of characters I care about and spend a lot of time with, Vaneta. And the readers I've spoken to have also said how they teared up when reading issue #8, so trust me when I say that a writer is walking on air when he hears comments about his work like that. And yeah, I get emotional when writing scenes like that even when I've know for a year how that issue was going to read. I beat out that issue pretty early in the run, so it was the emotional goal post I was working hard towards.
Nrama: You're really pushing Pat Gleason's art to a higher level with everything from intense action to emotional conversations. How has your collaboration with your artist contributed to your approach to this comic?
Tomasi: We're simply Butch and Sundance at this point in our working relationship. Hopefully we're both growing and getting better as artists as time goes by. Pat has always had the ability to do great emotional and action stuff. If you don't believe me go check out his amazing run on Green Lantern Corps. It may sound mercenary, but I knew what Pat was/is capable of, and it was his visuals I saw in my head that would make this book soar like I wanted and needed. I'm so proud of our first story arc and Pat, not to mention, Mick Gray and John Kalisz, getting to do all 160 pages of it was phenomenal. To have the same team keep the aesthetics at such a high level gets me pumped when writing this book. I hope that first volume has a long shelf life and gets great critical reviews and word of mouths because I think it deserves it thanks to the artistic crew that brought my scripts to life. I feel they have been sorely overlooked amidst the New 52 launch and I hope the hardcover collection finds an even wider audience and rectifies that.
Nrama: The final image in #8, after the game of fetch, was packed with symbolism: a boy, his baseball, his dog, the bright spark of light in a firefly — all overshadowed by the looming bat-signal and the graves of the boy's grandparents. You weren't trying to say something, were you?
Tomasi: I'm always trying to say something, Vaneta, and what I've got to say will become more apparent as the next few months go by! I'm always glad when readers pick up on the symbolism and also bring their own emotions and life experiences into a story. Nothing like a firefly perched on a baseball to give readers a little hope.
Tomasi: You're so hooked into the story, Vaneta, that you're answering your own question. I had that last sequence between Bruce, Damian, and Alfred at the back of the manor pop into my head pretty early on when building the story, and that final image was something I tried very hard to earn in my own twisted way. I like to ask myself at certain times if I earned a specific story beat, and it keeps me honest and as objective as I can possibly get with myself. My favorite part of writing Batman and Robin is getting the chance to humanize these great characters, play with them emotionally out of uniform as much as in uniform.
Nrama: You've made it clear in our past interviews that you wanted the relationship between Bruce and Damian to be the main dramatic focus of this comic, which was obviously the case in this first storyline. Will that continue to be the central theme going forward?
Tomasi: Yes it will, but I'll also be escalating the action scenes in the upcoming issues and placing Batman and Robin into some intense situations that will showcase their relationship in a big way.
Nrama: You said in our last interview that "people will look back at this first arc and see how integral it was to the Batman uber-story in the months to come." Now that we've finished this first arc, can you give any indication of what you meant by "uber-story?"
Tomasi: Actually, I can't, Vaneta. The only thing I can say at this point is to keep reading and by the end of the year the uber-story will be revealed and if I can play the commercial card for a moment which I don't usually do, all manners of life forms will flock to the comic shops and bookstores to purchase the collections of Tomasi, Gleason, Gray and Kalisz's Batman and Robin.
Nrama: Before you get to that uber-story -- just to warn you, I'm totally stealing that term from now on...
Tomasi: Feel free. As long as I get a royalty for every time you use it, I'm cool with that
Nrama: You just had your one issue for the "Night of the Owls" event this week. The Talon in Batman and Robin #9 was from 1778, but what was striking about the comic was that it took place outside of Gotham, in the Barrens. Why was that?
Tomasi: I felt that it'd be cool to change up the environs a bit since all the other books would be in Gotham and place the battle between "two birds" so to speak into a woodland area where they can proceed to spill as much blood as possible. And Damian's reaction was right on line with all the other Bat family members who get a serious call such as this one from Alfred -- follow orders and get the job done.
Nrama: We talked a little before about how much Bruce's experience with the other Robins has influenced his relationship with Damian. But we'll find out more about Damian's relationship with the other Robins in issue #10. Who's involved in that issue, and what can you tell us about the premise?
Tomasi: Issue #10's got our usual cast of characters along with Nightwing, Red Robin, and Red Hood. The premise is about a character called Terminus who wants to inflict some special pain on Batman and Gotham while the interaction between the former Robins is based on Damian wanting to prove something to them.
Nrama: Issue #11's solicitation indicated Damian isn't exactly friends with the former Robins. Is it safe to say Jason Todd and Damian are at odds in that issue?
Tomasi: Damian's most definitely not friends with the other former Robin's, especially Jason and Tim. I would say that he has respect for Grayson since they spent some time together as the dynamic duo. Damian's out to prove that he's the best Robin not only physically, but mentally. And he's prepared to make them jump through his own hoops.
Nrama: Will this Robins storyline continue for awhile? (And is this your uber-story?)
Tomasi: This 'Robin' aspect of the story is on the table for issues 10 and 11 along with some of 12. It's not the uber-story per se, but it's a piece of the big picture that I'm constructing to delve into how Damian sees himself in relation to the other members of the Bat family and what his role/place in it is.
Nrama: Thanks for not charging me a royalty for that. Well, to finish up, Pete, is there anything else you can tell us about what's coming in 2012 for Bruce and Damian in Batman and Robin?
Tomasi: Something wicked this way comes, Vaneta. Something very wicked.
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