When Robin: Son of Batman launches in June, artist Patrick Gleason will be taking Damian Wayne on a globe-hopping adventure, as the boy faces his past and tries to justify his future.
The artist is hoping to continue the type of fast-paced thrills that readers experienced during the last year of Batman and Robin, when that series traveled throughout the DCU, from Atlantis to Nanda Parbat, to Themiscyra, and even to Apokolips. With Robin: Son of Batman, Gleason says he wants "to keep that flavor going and get even crazier."
The release of Robin: Son of Batman #1 represents a new adventure for Gleason as well, who will be venturing into writing after years of working as a DC artist — most frequently with writer Peter Tomasi. After stints as penciller on hit comics like Green Lantern Corps and Batman and Robin, Gleason is trying his hand at writing while getting to continue drawing one of his favorite characters, Damian Wayne.
As for Damian, the young character is currently without a father — since Bruce Wayne is assumed dead after the events of Batman #40.
So how does that influence his new adventures in a solo Robin book? And who's the huge red creature that keeps showing up on the covers for the new series?
Newsarama talked to Gleason to find out more about Robin: Son of Batman.
Newsarama: Pat, first of all, who came up with the idea of you sticking to Damian, but writing? How did the project come about?
Patrick Gleason: It's funny, actually friends and co-workers have been talking to me for awhile about writing a Damian book! My Batman and Robin editor Rachel Gluckstern, along with Doug Mahnke and Pete Tomasi to name a few. It's a really great feeling to have that kind of supportive consensus from friends and co-workers.
DC also knew I was really in love with Damian from my run with Pete on Batman and Robin. They had approached me about doing some of my own writing last year. They seemed very interested in growing the artist/writer dynamic, and obviously I was too. But I was so invested in Batman and Robin that the timing for me to do another project on the side would have been tough.
Later, when Pete and I learned that Batman and Robin #40 would be our last issue, I had new opportunities presented to me to work on as an artist, but I really wanted to try something new and tell stories. It was really exciting to see lots of other creators taking risks and going new directions with their new books. and I was hearing about all these big ideas and concepts coming up at DC — it only threw fuel on my fire! I wanted in!
Soon I was talking to Bat-editor Mark Doyle about the future and a new solo Robin book. I really loved what the books under him were doing, so I asked Mark if I could pitch him a few crazy ideas for Damain and he said yes!
So I did some sketches (one of which turned into the cover for Robin: Son of Batman #1) and a pitch. Once it was in, the response from Mark and DC was very positive and exciting.
Before I knew it, I was traveling to New York and attending a Batman writing summit with amazing Bat-creators and editors and on my way to writing and drawing my own comic book. It's like a dream come true.
Nrama: It sounds like you've wanted to write for a while?
Gleason: Yes! There's always a part of me as an artist that wants to lead characters into situations that intrigue me or make me say "What if..." I also listen quite a bit to what fans say (I'm a fan too, after all). I like interacting with them and their enthusiasm is so contagious that my imagination just takes over.
I also know that these are characters that people love, or love to hate, and I take that very seriously. I just want to make good comics that deepen the relationship between fans and the characters — and naturally have lots of fun and surprises along the way too! If that results in toys or fans cosplaying at cons as giant red bats, all the better.
Nrama: You mentioned Pete encouraging you to try writing. But how much of an influence has he been as you've transitioned to writing as well as drawing?
Gleason: Pete and I spent hours and hours over the years on the phone and at cons talking about comics, story and art. I really appreciate his insight. We worked very closely together on Batman and Robin, so I would say that he definitely has influenced the way I see many things about how comics are made — especially his attention to detail and careful crafting of characters. That's something I love about Pete's style as a storyteller, and it's a legacy I hope to continue.
I've also been influenced by other writers and artists that I've met or worked with recently like Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Brian Buccellato, Francis Manapaul, Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs — and lots more that I'm meeting all the time. I know I left somebody out, but that's what it's like; there's been so much support for what I'm doing with Robin: Son of Batman, it just blows me away.
Nrama: So… you're a few months into this. Still like writing? Have you run into any challenges?
Gleason: Yes! I love writing. I've been doing it in one form or another for a while now, so I'd say it's come along quite naturally. It feels like the next logical step for me as a creator and I really enjoy it.
The challenges are mostly just technical limitations, page counts, panel counts, etcetera. So that pain is mostly self-inflicted now. I used to be able to blame my writers if I got a nine-panel page (which hardly ever happened) but now it's all on me.
Also, having tons of new ideas and not being able to keep up with myself is challenging. I'm already on a second sketchbook!
Nrama: How do you write for yourself? Full script? Thumbnails?
Gleason: Frequently on Batman and Robin, I'd get large action scenes that Pete would have me handle on my own, with him adding dialogue afterwards. He also would let me restructure page and panel counts to find my own pacing on the pages, which was great. Through that, I developed a system of thumbnailing and scripting at the same time.
I don't know if it's a good way to work for others, but I can switch gears pretty easily between thinking of a scene visually and scripting it. I'm not a detailed thumbnailer either, just little indications of stick men, mostly to figure panel size and shape out.
I like keeping that energy in until I can get to the actual page, I find that that kind of spontaneous approach allows me to add depth in the final art that I might miss in thumbnails.
Nrama: OK, let's talk about Damian's state of mind as you pick up his story in Robin: Son of Batman #1. We learned in Batman #40 and Divergence that Batman is assumed dead, and the "all-new" Batman, Jim Gordon, is attempting to take his place on the streets. What has this done to Damian personally, and how does it contribute to the story you're telling?
Gleason: Obviously, with the events spilling out of Batman #40, things are definitely going to be different for everyone in Gotham! But for Damian, we'll focus on his world that stretches far beyond the city. Also we'll look back into his past to see what it means to his future.
I'm interested in unwrapping the layers about how Damian sees himself and what it means to be the "Son of Batman." Talk about pressure! Think about it. No one else can claim that legacy. It is what truly defines Damian and makes him unique as a Robin.
No matter what, there isn't any other Robin that can claim that. I think that's a really fascinating lens through which to view him.
Nrama: Does he have any contact with the all-new Batman/Gordon?
Gleason: Not initially.
Nrama: What's Damian's goals as he begins his journey in Robin: Son of Batman #1?
Gleason: Damian is at a crossroads — like everyone is at one time or another. He's proven that he's the best Robin to his father and others in the Bat-family. But now, once and for all, he's going to have to prove that to himself.
Even though Damian has found a new life in Gotham, he still had a whole other life before he ever set foot in the Batcave. There are many far reaching secrets that fester beneath the surface and threaten the new life he's found.
When Grant Morrison first wrote young Damian, he was being thrown into his father's lap by his mother Talia Al Ghul. We saw a little boy assassin on a journey that eventually led to him taking his first steps away from his old life and down the narrow path that Pete and I tackled as he was becoming the Alpha and Omega of Robins.
Now the question is, where does he go from here? In #1, Damian finds himself at a new precipice, and he has to make the choice to step out on his own and risk the unknown yet again. Only now he has his father's voice, and others, ringing in his ears.
Damian is on the next leg of his journey to find out what his future holds and whose legacy he'll ultimately inherit.
Nrama: Despite the sadness that I'm sure comes from losing his father — and from remembering his life with Talia — Damian has always added an element of fun to the world of Batman. Is that part of this series?
Gleason: Yes absolutely. That's a huge part of what I want to bring and continue on in this book. That's not to say I won't be dealing with serious emotional issues, but I'm not focusing on the ramifications of what happened in Gotham and Batman at all in the beginning. It's more about expansion and Damian finding out if he can live up to the new life and calling that Batman has given him.
After all we've been through recently with Damian's death and the grief that followed with Batman, I feel this book is perfectly timed for some fun and adventure — and who better than Damian to lead the charge?
Nrama: So how would you describe the overall tone you're going for with Robin: Son of Batman?
Gleason: How about "Punch-you-in-the-face fun! with a dash of 'Awww?'"
Seriously though, it's going to be real high-flying — literally — globe-hopping adventure with Damian and co.
Nrama: Does he have any help in his journey? Who else play a role in the series, either as supporting cast or otherwise?
Gleason: Well, it's obvious Damian doesn't play well with others, but he'll find he can't outrun his responsibilities. Part of the fun is watching him figure out how to deal with other people. There's going to be a lot of new faces! Right off the ba... (do you see what I did there?) we'll get to meet a huge, red, wooly Bat-creature named Goliath. There will be others too, but I can't say any more right now.
Nrama: What type of villains does Damian run into? I know he's dealing with his own personal journey, but will there be villains?
Gleason: There will be villains! I'm really interested in expanding Damian's rogue'ss gallery.
And we'll find he's made, rightly or wrongly, enemies along the way. Some will be familiar faces to Batman and Robin readers as well as lots of new and exotic ones that I'm really excited to debut.
In the first issue we'll meet someone who knows at least one of Damian's dark secrets. Ultimately though — cue dramatic music — Damian may find out that he is his own worst enemy!
Nrama: That's not a surprise! Okay, let's talk about the art. We're obviously familiar with your depictions of Damian from Batman and Robin. Does this series have the same visual tone, or have you changed it at all for this series?
Gleason: Yes and no. I work very closely with my fabulous art team of Mick Gray and John Kalisz, and so much of the tone of Robin: Son of Batman comes from collaborating with them.
If you read Batman and Robin, you've seen us globe hopping all over the place — from Atlantis to Nanda Parbat, Themiscyra, and even Apokolips. I want to keep that flavor going and get even crazier!
I'm going to be asking a lot of those guys in upcoming months, to really stretch us into other worlds. And I trust them completely! Once you see the pages you will too. They turned out great.
Nrama: OK, for people who might be newcomers to this, how would you describe your style in this series?
Gleason: "Punch-you-in-the-face fun with a dash of "Awww." Oh wait, can I use that again?
Nrama: I think it's a good enough descriptor to use a few times.
Gleason: Really, my style has been to always grow as an artist. I love looking for opportunities to surprise readers and myself visually or hit them over the head with every emotion.
I've looked at each new series that I've started on, whether it was Aquaman, Green Lantern Corps, Brightest Day, or Batman and Robin, as a chance to up my game. I'm not going to stop. I always want to get to the next level.
Nrama: How would you describe your artistic process as you draw the stories that you write? Are you relying more on digital these days?
Gleason: I've played around with digital a little bit and I really am inspired in that area by what people like Cameron Stewart, Becky Cloonan, Babs Tarr and others have put out there. There are lots of other guys and gals who make me insane with jealousy at how good they can work those pixels.
But aside from quick color mock-ups for covers or sketches, I haven't had time to get familiar enough to incorporate it into any of my DC work. Which is fine, because I like getting my hands filthy dirty and grinding away on real physical paper.
Nrama: Can you describe one of your favorite visual moments that's coming up in the series?
Gleason: One word: Goliath.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about Robin: Son of Batman?
Gleason: Well, I'd say anyone who has read Batman and Robin will have a leg up on new readers, but I really wanted to make something that first time readers can pick up #1 and go "Wow! I'm hooked! I wish this was on Netflix so I could binge-watch!'"
And I must say a huge thank you to everybody who has given their support for us on the book. It's so great knowing you guys are all out there, and I can't wait for everyone to check out Robin: Son of Batman!