There's a pretty simple reason why Damian Wayne returned from the dead in this month's Batman and Robin: writer Peter Tomasi and artist Pat Gleason wanted him back.
There might have been a couple editors involved too, but Tomasi's desire for Damian's return is representative of the wishes from most readers of Batman and Robin, which has established Damian as a beloved character in the DCU. As a reviewer on Newsarama put it, "People will cheer because they have their Robin back."
The story of Damian's return kicked off in July with Robin Rises: Omega and finishes up next week with Robin Rises: Alpha. But it was the final scene in this week's comic that saw Damian look at Batman and say, "Father?" — simultaneously bringing joy to the hearts of loyal Batman and Robin readers everywhere.
The science/magic that brought Damian back can be traced to a story from Batman/Superman that established that the Chaos Crystal (and its broken pieces, or "shards") can resurrect the dead. In a blockbuster battle that took most of the Bat-family to Apokolips — including Damian's dog Titus — Batman recovered his son's body and used the Chaos Shard and Omega Beam energy to bring Damian back to life.
So what comes next? Does Damian really have superpowers? And why is DC using a promotional image of Damian fighting the New God Kalibak? Newsarama talked to Peter Tomasi to find out more.
Newsarama: Pete, I have to be honest that, after all the turmoil Bruce has been going through since Damian died, I let out a little cheer when he said "Father." But let's step back a moment from this issue and look back into the planning for this moment. Can you give us a sense of your thinking as you guys were deciding to do this? Why is Damian back?
Peter Tomasi: Because we sure as hell wanted him back. [Laughs.]
Nrama: That's the real reason?
Tomasi: Yeah, it really boiled down to that. It's one of those situations where, I thought, Batman needs a Robin, as did Pat. And obviously Rachel [Gluckstern] and Mark [Doyle], the editors of the Bat-group stuff.
I really thought it was important to bring this kid back. To have a child dead and gone in such a way… it just seemed like enough time had passed.
I know it wasn't a lot of time, and I'm sure there are going to be people who think it was not long enough, and maybe some people who are really kind of bummed that he's back.
But during cons and the interaction I've had with fans, it just really seems to me that people are glad to have him back.
As much joy and cheering as you did, seeing him come back in the issue you just looked at, it was the same on this end, seeing the pencils come in from Pat and seeing the script visualized. It just, it felt right.
When he's hugging him and the rest of the Bat-family's looking on, it just seems right, you know? How much freaking grief can you keep pouring on Batman over and over? He needed this, and to be honest, the readers and even I — I think we need that light at the end of the tunnel.
And having Damian around, I think, is that light.
Nrama: That said, the end of the issue looks dark again. Or at least, Damian has some work cut out for him, as he needs to step up and help his father, right?
Tomasi: Yes, he does. Obviously, I can't talk too much about it.
Nrama: There's a teaser image at the end of the issue of Damian hitting Kalibak.
Tomasi: Yeah, so you know Damian's going to go hellbent on kicking some serious ass.
Nrama: And we've also been told, in that page and in solicitations, that Damian has some kind of superpowers. Was the idea that you've told the story of Damian the troubled kid, and now this puts a different twist on the story you'll be telling now that he's back?
Tomasi: Basically, yeah. We wanted to have some residual effect after all this. You want something that will come out happy, you want a nice, satisfying ending, but at the same time, we're talking periodicals and drama. If there's no conflict, there's no drama. If there's no inner turmoil, there's no drama.
So the one thing that comes out of this is, Damian has powers, as a residual effect of the Chaos Sliver and the Omega Beams, and also Batman's own hope and wishes that he's poured into the Chaos Shard when he does indeed bring him back.
So the world will discover that Damian has superpowers, and now, obviously, that's a wrinkle in the father-son relationship.
He's just gotten Damian back, and obviously, they worked really hard to grow as a father and son and try to understand each other. And now, as all kids who have that feeling of immortality when they're young, to have superpowers on top of that, for someone who's come back from the dead, is definitely going to be an interesting dynamic between Bruce and Damian.
Nrama: I would assume Damian's history might rear its ugly head a bit too, if he's feeling that invincible.
Tomasi: Yeah, yeah. I mean, obviously, Damian is a headstrong character. Bruce will obviously have to put the brakes on it, or at least try to put the brakes on it.
Nrama: Will there be lots more Titus? Because you took him to Apokolips, Pete. The dog saved the day. I think he's a fan-favorite now.
Tomasi: I've got to give all the credit to Pat. There's a part of me, when we were coming up with it, I just wasn't sure I wanted to have Titus in the mix. It's funny… you start to question yourself. I was like, oh, why would Titus be on Apokolips? What can we do with a dog on Apokolips? And then you have to say, all right, look, we've got guys called Batman and Robin on Apokolips, and a character called Darkseid and Glorious Godfrey. You know what? Titus can go to Apokolips.
You know, you've got to step back and remember this is comics. I mean, I love the realistic grounding of a character like Batman. But sometimes you just really have to embrace the comic form — not just the outlandishness of it, but just the wild, cool stuff that you can bring into it. You can't throw yourself into a box and keep yourself too locked down in reality.
And Pat was, like, dude! Just put Titus in there! Do it! Do it!
So I bent to the will of Pat Gleason and tossed him in there. And of course, usually, I just say, "Pat, Titus is here in this scene. Just have him do whatever you want to do."
We always knew, though, from the beginning, with Titus, that we wanted at least a moment where Titus finds Damian. He's the one who initially sort of sniffs him out. So we have that one shot, I believe it was in #36.
Nrama: OK, so we've got Robin Rises: Alpha next week. And that's going to be the resolution of the story, where Damian fights for his father?
Tomasi: Yeah. [In the beginning of Robin Rises: Alpha], we'll see a little rewind to issue #37. Andy's going to do a segment of his return through the Boom Tube, then take off from there and go balls to the wall with the insanity now in the cave and everything else. And Damian with his powers. And Batman down for the count. And seeing where all that goes.
And then following all that, naturally, right through to the ending of the story. This was our big epic journey. The end.
And then… wait, he's got powers.
Nrama: Then we pick up again with Batman and Robin #38, where you'll kick off the storyline about Damian's superpowers. I assume that takes us through to the Convergence break? Anything you can tell us about what's coming up in 2015?
Tomasi: Yeah, the issues #38 through #40 is entitled "Superpower." Batman and Robin: Superpower. So it will be dealing, for those three months, with Damian and his superpowers. From there… who knows?