Ra's Al Ghul gets the spotlight in Red Hood and the Outlaws, as writer James Tynion explores the villain's shared mythology with Jason Todd.
Although Ra's is a fan-favorite Batman villain, the character was only recently introduced by Tynion to the New 52 during September's Villains Month event. And in the final page of October's Red Hood and the Outlaws, Ra's Al Ghul was revealed as the one who's been manipulating much of what's been happening to Jason, Roy and Kori in the last few issues.
Since Tynion took over with Red Hood #19, readers have seen Jason Todd struggle with memory loss while working with the League of Assassins. As Ra's joins the story, Tynion promises that the mystery of Jason's memory loss will be explained, and readers will see the culmination of the team's efforts to overcome the challenges they've faced since Jason joined with the League.
While Tynion is leaving his other ongoing series, Talon, after December's issue, the writer is still listed as the regular writer on Red Hood, despite the fact that he's one of the writers involved in the new, weekly Batman: Eternal series that's set to launch in spring 2014.
In this first part of our conversation with Tynion, Newsarama talked to the writer about what's coming up in Red Hood and the Outlaws, why he wanted to use Ra's Al Ghul in the title, and what this all means for the individual characters of the book.
Newsarama: James, let's just get the first, most important question out of the way: How do you pronounce Ra's? Do you say "Rahs" or "Raysh?"
James Tynion IV: You know, I always float between "Rahs" and "Raysh." I've heard that Denny O'Neil pronounced it "Raysh." But I grew up saying "Rahs." So now I'm trying to train myself that it's the other way.
Nrama: If Denny says it that way, I suppose we've got to accept it as the real name. And now you're getting to introduce him to the New 52, first through the Ra's Al Ghul Villains Month issue, and now in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Why did you want to use Ra's as the main villain in your first major storyline for the book?
Tynion: The relationship between Ra's and the Bat-family has always been incredibly fascinating to me, just the weight of the relationship he has with Batman — and it's also fascinating when he comes up against Batman's protégés. You know, they have the potential to become a man like Batman, but they're not there yet. So it's something where he's equal fascinated and unimpressed by them. And I think that's right at the core of this story.
But there's an added element with Jason, which is Talia's role in Jason's resurrection, which we've been playing up in this run. It will take a central role as we move forward.
We wanted to play with both the facts that Ra's has never really understood why Talia made the decision to intervene in Jason's life, and he definitely doesn't know why Talia, at the point of her death at the end of the "Leviathan" story, that she would leave her League of Assassins to Jason rather than turn them back over to him, where he feels they rightly belong.
Those were the pieces we wanted to play with and slowly build toward, as we've been establishing the core pieces of how Red Hood and the Outlaws are tied to the League of Assassins and Ra's. And the fact that Ra's trained with Ducra, just like Jason did. And that she entrusted him with the Well of Sins, which was the thing that gave her her powers, and also the Untitled their powers. And also happens to be the original Lazarus Pit in the world.
We wanted to tie together all these elements in the mythology, and bring them together for a really big, magical story that would run across the DCU.
I'm very happy with what we've been able to pull together.
Nrama: Why is this fitting for a character like Jason, and how does it tie into who he is as a person?
Tynion: The question of Jason's identity has been at the core of this whole arc. I think one of the controversial things we did right at the start of the arc was rip his memories away. There were hints right at the beginning that that might not have been for reasons that were entirely clear, that it might be something that was more guided by Ducra's hand than something that Jason went into willingly.
So we're going to see a lot of that play out, and have Jason really come face to face with the questions of who he is and who he wants to be in the future.
That's going to bring us into the end of this story. We have a little "intermission" of sorts with the Zero Year issue coming out [in November]. And then we're going to dive right into the big finale, where we're going to resolve the whole storyline with Jason's memory and bring him face to face with Ra's Al Ghul, for the big, final blowout that's going to have repercussions that'll rumble out from this little corner of the DCU.
Nrama: Will you give us more information about why his memory had to be wiped out in order to bring about this eventual outcome?
Tynion: We will absolutely be explaining that. And that's the heart of issue #26, right after the Zero Year issue.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about the Zero Year issue, because you've tied that story from the past into what's happening now. We found out that "what Jason did before in Gotham" is important to what's happening now. What story are you telling in Red Hood #25?
Tynion: Well, I mean, one of the opportunities I saw when they started talking about the Zero Year tie-in is that Scott [Snyder, Batman writer] has introduced an incredible new addition to the Batman mythos with the Red Hood Gang. And it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to tie up that thread that's left from the end of Batman #24 about what happens to the Red Hood Gang after the Red Hood leader falls in the vat of acid.
And also, tie into, like, what was Jason's first encounter with the Red Hood Gang? And how did that shape him?
The issue's going to deal with a lot of questions regarding Jason, like what sort of person he's going to be when he grows up. And the Red Hood's going to play very heavily into that.
The thing that's always been very interesting about Jason is that all the little details in his life should have led him to a life of crime, but he ended up becoming Robin, and going on this path toward heroism. And even though that plan didn't exactly pan out the way he expected. He has this inner battle between the light and the dark that we really wanted to play with very heavily in this issue.
And then there's also the looming figure of — I think we all know what happens to the Red Hood leader once he falls into that vat of acid. So we might be touching on that a little bit.
Nrama: And obviously, he's a character who's very connected to Jason.
Tynion: Right, yeah.
And then there's going to be another character that helps tie it all together to the storyline we're doing in the present day. And I want to keep that character under wraps for the moment.
This is a stand-alone story, but it's also a stand-alone story that will add depth to what's happening in the present. It set up what would eventually come to happen in this series.
Nrama: What about Roy's status in this story? He wasn't in a very good place at the beginning of the last issue, until he saw Kori. What journey have you been taking him on during this storyline, and what can you tell us about what we'll see for Roy in the issues going forward?
Tynion: The key thing that I wanted to do with the Outlaws is sort of break down the relationships between them in a way that would scatter the team. And I always new that Roy would be the one that's most affected by it. Roy, more than Kori and more than Jason, needs the Outlaws. He doesn't think he's strong enough on his own. He thinks the good that he's done in his life recently was only possible because of his friends, and it's not something that he's inherently capable of. And that's his own insecurities. It's the sort of thing that we showed Hugo Strange has been planting in his head since back when he was a partner of Green Arrow.
So I knew that this story was going to hit him the hardest, once Jason no longer recognizes his face, when he tries to get Jason back, he loses Kori for a little while. He's willing to cross lines that he normally wouldn't to try to bring everyone back together, and it comes from this very deep place of love and friendship. But he screwed up in a big way, and he knows he did. And now we're at the point in the story where he realizes how bad he screwed up, and he's willing to make amends.
Now we're in these final chapters where we're going to see some reconciliation and building back towards the friendship that's the core of the book.
Nrama: Not only for Roy, but for Kori as well?
Tynion: Right. Kori is the one who sees the strength in both Jason and Roy that sometimes they don't see in themselves. She was the one that was the most skeptical about either going with the League of Assassins, or the Untitled.
Now we're going to also see her character arc come to a head, leading into these final issues as she helps draw everything back together.