When James Tynion IV launched the Batman spin-off title Talon in September 2012, the title character, Calvin Rose, was completely unknown to comic book fans — a significant disadvantage in a market where familiar and beloved characters drive sales.
Yet this month, as the title passes the one-year mark, Talon's sales have been consistently higher than the pack of other comics that launched at the same time (some of which have already been canceled). The title's been impressing both fans and critics ("I didn’t expect this comic to be as good as it is," one said after reading Talon #2). And there's something to be said for having a likable main character like Calvin Rose, who's entrenched himself into the Bat-mythos enough to be hailed by Newsarama as a possible replacement for Batman (at least temporarily during Forever Evil).
Tynion's decision to pitch the concept for Talon to DC — and his subsequent work on the title — have also led the company to put him on other comics. He recently took over writing duties on Red Hood and the Outlaws, and this month, he's writing two Villains Month issues.
In December's issue #14, Talon will be reaching an important turning point, as the story that's been building over the last year comes to a climax. It's the end of a year-and-a-half of turmoil for Calvin, as the Court of Owls have attacked him and the people he cares for most.
In the latest chapter in the build-up toward December, Calvin was last seen rushing toward Gotham City to try to stop the Court of Owls. But when he gets there in October's issue #12, Calvin will be confronted by Batman.
Newsarama talked to Tynion about the title, Calvin's encounter with Batman in issue #12, and the big showdown with the Court of Owls in issue #14.
Newsarama: James, your comparison between Bane and Calvin in Talon #11 was surprisingly accurate. Did that strike you before you started working on this story? Or was it something you realized as you began to develop it?
James Tynion IV: From the moment we began discussing Bane coming into the series, I knew it was important to build the two characters off of each other, and thankfully it was a very easy fit. An Escape Artist, whose defining moment was breaking out of a cage and running away as a boy, up against a brutal dictator who runs his country from the prison in which he was born and raised. Bane never escaped the Prison, he simply became too strong for the prison to handle, and ultimately overthrew it for his own benefit. It always made sense to play those elements off each other, and it was a lot of fun to do it.
Nrama: But didn't Bane have a bit of a point about Calvin? Do you think it's his nature to run? Or is that just the smart thing for someone in his situation to do?
Tynion: I think Bane’s understanding of strength is a bit shortsighted. Calvin could be seen as cowardly, since he tries to get out of trouble rather than face it head-on, but that is where his strength ultimately comes from. He knows sometimes he can’t win, so he does what he can to survive. He’s not looking to be the strongest or the best; he’s simply fighting to be free. Any battle that ends up with him free is a battle he’s won. Bane would consider that weakness, but Calvin knows it’s his greatest strength.
Nrama: In issue #11, it looks like Bane tries to kill Sebastian, but it's not made clear if he's truly dead. Since this is comic books…. I'm thinking he's not. Will we see more of Sebastian?
Tynion: This is absolutely not the end of Sebastian Clark, although he’s certainly not happy about having been shut up quite so violently. I think it’s a fair bet that he’s not going to take part in what Bane and The Outsider have planned, which means he’s going to have to go back to the drawing board in terms of his plans against the Court of Owls.
Nrama: You mentioned the Outsider, and at the end of issue #11, Bane is being recruited by him. Does that mean the Talon series in October and beyond takes place concurrently with Forever Evil?
Tynion: The series takes place in the weeks before Forever Evil. We’ll touch on the fact that Bane is off planning what will happen in Forever Evil: Arkham War, but the book is going to move back to the central story of Calvin Rose, Sebastian Clark, and The Court of Owls as we move closer to the end of the year, and the end of the story we’ve been building to since Talon #0.
Nrama: We're going to see the Batman #23.4: Bane issue on Sept. 25th by Peter Tomasi and Graham Nolan. Does it tie into what's been happening in your series at all?
Tynion: Bane’s story in Talon is over as of Issue #11, and continues out into the larger DC Universe in the Bane one-shot, and in Forever Evil: Arkham War.
Nrama: You're also writing two "Villains Month" issues. Do they tie into the work you're doing on Talon?
Tynion: The Court of Owls issue [out this week under the title Batman and Robin #23.2: The Court of Owls] definitely plays with some of the major concepts and settings we’ve seen in Talon over the last year, but is designed to stand alone. I wanted to write a story that could introduce people to the core concept of The Court of Owls in 20 pages, while we tie into what’s happening in the DC Universe at large. My Ra’s Al Ghul issue [out Sept. 18th as Batman and Robin #23.3: Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins] has a similar relationship to my other book, Red Hood and the Outlaws, in that it’s a standalone issue about Ra’s that offers history and context for what I’ve been doing in that book.
Nrama: Now that Talon is racing to save Gotham City in October's Talon #12, what comes next? The cover to issue #12 features Batman and Talon. How does Batman take to the events unfolding in "his" city?
Tynion: Batman’s not thrilled about how everything’s been going down. He’s not a guy who likes to be out of the loop, particularly when warring factions of a secret terrorist organization are battling in his city. Calvin’s on the side of the good guys, but Batman doesn’t know him or trust him. We’re going to see how that plays out over the next three issues, but it definitely doesn’t go well for Calvin.
Nrama: Issue #14 sounds like it ends the current arc. Is this a finale of sorts, or a turning point, for Calvin?
Tynion: Issue #14 is where everything I’ve been building since the beginning of my run, and to some extent, some of the beats running all the way back to "Night of the Owls" will come to a close. This is the ending I outlined all the way back in my original pitch document, and it will be very, very painful for Calvin.
The only way to see what’s going to happen to him next is to stick around and check it out. These issues are being tackled by Emanuel Simeoni, and he has been knocking it out of the park with each page he turns in. I can’t wait for folks to see what we have in store for all of our characters.