[SPOILERS for this week's Batwing #19 ahead!]
Ever since Batwing writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti said they were putting someone new in the Batwing armor, fans have been guessing who it could be.
And now we know.
Luke Fox, the son of Batman supporting character Lucius Fox, is taking over the Batwing mantle beginning with next month's Batwing #20.
Who is Luke Fox? He's new to the DCU, although there has been a Lucius Fox Jr. in the Batman Beyond universe (set in an alternate future). But according to Batwing #19, Luke is an accomplished M.I.T. graduate who has had job offers at Wayne Enterprises, but chose instead to become a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Why? To get the attention of Batman, of course.
And to hear Gray talk about Luke, it sounds like the young African-American hero is what a young Bruce Wayne might have been if he actually did enjoy being a rich playboy with crime-fighting toys.
"Batwing is the guy I wish I were as his age," Palmiotti told Newsarama. "Confident, connected and a bit of a flirt.
"Take all of that and give him a multi million-dollar bat suit and watch what happens," he said. "He is celebrating life and who he is. This new Batwing will be a character more people will relate to...or more likely wish they were. We are approaching this with the feeling of 'what if Batman picked me as the next Batman' kind of feel. There is joy, chaos, over the top action and adventure and a lot of romance."
The link to Lucius Fox will not only tie Batwing closer to the Batman universe, but it also provides dramatic tension. Why? Because Luke doesn't know Bruce Wayne is Batman, or that his dad helps him. And Lucius doesn't know his friend Bruce has recruited his son to be Batwing. Only sly Bruce Wayne knows, and he's playing with fire, because Lucius would probably kill him if he found out his son was risking his life as Batwing.
Batwing #19 also explained what happened to the former man who was serving as Batwing: David Zavimbe. He quit the job after his main supporter, Matu, passed away and told him on his deathbed to "take back your life."David quits The departure of David from the Batwing role, and the addition of a Gotham resident who has ties to Bruce Wayne, seems to indicate the concept of Batman, Incorporated is no more. Readers will likely find out more about that organization's future as Grant Morrison finishes up his run on the title over the next few months.
But as Newsarama pointed out earlier this week, Morrison had hoped that all the "toys" he's been using during his seven-year run on Batman would go back in the box. "One of the reasons I did this was to take Batman back to the very beginning," Morrison told USA Today on Sunday. "So when I was finished, all the toys go back in the box and what you've got left is a Batman driven by vengeance, Alfred's a butler, there's a Batcave and that's it."
The potential demise of Batman, Inc., doesn't necessarily mean Batwing will now be a Gotham-only hero, according to Palmiotti and Gray. They have called him an "international" hero, and issue #19 revealed that his first mission will begin in Africa.
Newsarama talked to Gray to find out more about what readers can expect from this new direction in Batwing and the new young hero inside the new armor.
Newsarama: I know you and Jimmy had talked to me about wanting to link Batwing more directly to Batman. Was that the thinking behind choosing Luke Fox for the role?
Justin Gray: Jimmy and I wanted to make Batwing more relevant and important, and we thought this added a very dramatic element to the book. We wanted to come up with a way for Batwing to be more dramatic on its own, and yet still be vital to the core Batman books.
Tying Lucius' family into the story opens up a whole new area of the Batman mythology and the Gotham mythology, and what it means to wear the symbol.
Nrama: When the new armor was revealed, there had been guesses that the new Batwing had a connection to the Batman Beyond universe. And Lucius Fox Jr. does exist in Batman Beyond. Are you thinking of Luke as the same eventual character from the animated universe?
Gray: It's hard within a large corporation to cross-pollinate different mediums. For instance, film stuff doesn't necessarily always make it into comics; comics’ stuff doesn't always make it into films; and video games and so on.
So our core focus was to just be in the "hear-and-now," in the present, and see if we can make people excited about buying Batwing, to be honest with you. And that was our main focus in developing Luke as Batwing, and the direction that we're going with the book.
Nrama: OK, give me a quick description of why Luke Fox, as a character, is exciting in this role. We found out a little about him in issue #19, but what does he bring to the stories?
Gray: Since Jimmy and I started working on him, we've gone through a bunch of different incarnations. The two of us discussed over and over, all the different ways that we can add a different texture to this character to make him separate and different from the formula of, you know, "Bruce recruits an orphan," or "Bruce recruits someone who had a huge tragedy."meet Luke So we looked at it and said, OK, here's a guy who's not an orphan. He has a family. And that can be just as dangerous as someone who's lost their family, because there's always the potential for that loss.
And when that loss is tied so closely to what Batman does, it felt like, here's a guy that would be interesting if we looked at him as, "what if Bruce Wayne didn't abandon that sort of playboy joy he has pretending to be Bruce when he's really Batman?"
So we thought this was an opportunity for someone to wear a Bat-suit who didn't feel the need to exist with this dual personality. At least, at the start.
Nrama: You've already pointed out that he's super-smart, with an MIT degree, and he's a great fighter.
Gray: Yeah, well, you know, the original idea was that he's been trying to get Batman's attention.
Since there's only been a few years of Batman's existence in this current New 52, it made sense that Luke be younger, and it made sense that he would have that boyish enthusiasm for his hero. And he's driven by the desire to be part of that world. For a 15-year-old boy, it's glamorous to look at Batman. He's this really powerful figure.
So the idea behind Luke Fox is that he's an exciting character, but he's a character who's eager to learn. He wants to be part of the Bat-family. He knows how difficult it is, yet he went out of his way to get Batman's attention.
This puts him at odds with his father because we see Lucius as a certain character in a certain light when he's around Batman, but when you look at him as a father with his only son and his first-born son, he has a completely different relationship than he does with anyone else. He puts a lot of pressure on Luke to be what he wants him to be. So they're at odds with each other.the new suit Being a part of Batman's world as Batwing is important, but there's an added danger because there's an implication that it could be very scary if Lucius were to find out what Batman's doing with his son, especially given what happened recently with Batman's son.
And it keeps pushing the idea that, you know, every once in awhile, Batman tends to go a little crazy. And there's always the potential with that character, from when Frank Miller was doing The Dark Knight until now, there's always been a sort of implication that Batman can sometimes be dangerous to the people closest to him. And that's where you get great tension from these characters. And that's what makes Luke such a no-brainer in terms of how to bring a different dimension of drama to these characters.
Nrama: You said Luke has been trying to get "Batman's" attention. So he doesn't know that Bruce Wayne is Batman?
Gray: No, he doesn't.
Nrama: And it looks like Luke's first mission will be in Africa. Might we see David again, either in this storyline or in the future?
Gray: We have been discussing what a great character David is, and what potential he has, and how we might revisit that aspect of David. Jimmy and I have a lot of ideas on what we think would be cool, but for right now, for this first arc, yes, Luke starts out in Africa in Batwing #20 — and there's a good reason for it — but moving forward, our focus is on building Luke and building Luke's world, and his supporting cast and his villains. And making Lion-Mane something different from what he's been in previous incarnations.
Nrama: Now that we know it's Luke, his supporting cast will obviously be in Gotham. Will there be some familiar faces?
Gray: Well, he's got a family, so the cast will include his mom and a dad. And he's got a girlfriend or two.Nrama: Or two? [Laughs.]
Gray: [Laughs.] Well, you know, just because he's single, he doesn't necessarily have to be with the same girl all the time.
Nrama: True, especially if he's a famous MMA fighter.
Gray: Yeah, he's young, he's rich, and he has a big future ahead of him. And the idea of his father not necessarily approving of just about anything he's doing is going to make for an interesting dynamic between the two of them.It's essentially a triangle. It's not the traditional love triangle, but it's like that in that you have Batman on one side and his father on one side, and both are very powerful figures in Luke's life. And nobody knows, with the exception of Batman, how many different ways that line goes.
Nrama: Yeah, there's some potential there for twisted humor. Like, is Lucius going to be the guy who's unknowingly making repairs and adjustments to his own son's armor, noticing the same day that his son has new bruises?
Gray: Right, right. You'll see fun stuff in there like that. But you know... although we said the suit is ever-evolving, that doesn't necessarily mean that suit has to go to Lucius.
Nrama: Ah, true. Luke's a smart guy on his own, without dad. I guess we'll find out more about Luke's skills and supporting cast in the next issue, so to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell to readers?
Gray: Just that Jimmy and I hope people continue to give it a shot if they like issue #19. Or if new readers want to pick up the book with issue #20, it's a great jumping on point. I think you'll see that we really are working with a plan and working to make the book important to people that not only read Batwing previously, but important to people who care about the Batman universe and like those characters. And hopefully they'll grow to like Luke Fox as well.