Beginning this week in Batman and Robin Eternal, Dick Grayson, Cassandra Cain and the rest of the Batman family will be faced with the possibility that "there's some kind of conspiracy behind the formation of the Robins," according to Tim Seeley, one of the weekly series' writers.
Readers have already been shown, in the "Batman Day" preview released by DC in September, that a key component of the story will be a thumb drive that contains secret information about missing kids — information that Batman didn't want Dick Grayson to learn. A villain named Mother will be the big bad of the whole series — that there is no secret, unknown adversary, but instead this frightening new villain who's related to a Batman and Robin adventure from the past.
The weekly series, which runs for six months after this week's #1, has "parallel" structure, with a Bruce and Dick story from the past running alongside a current-day mystery being pursued by the younger generation of the Bat-family. The idea was conceived by James Tynion IV and Batman scribe Scott Snyder, with the series being co-written by Seeley, Genevieve Valentine, Steve Orlando, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Ed Brisson. Artists will include Tony Daniel, Paul Pelletier, Scot Eaton and Francis Manapul.
Seeley comes to the series as what he calls the "Dick expert" — a term not intended a crude joke, but instead a reference to his ongoing work on the monthly series Grayson, where Dick Grayson serves as a secret agent with the spy organization Spyral. Because Batman and Robin Eternal will feature the same espionage/conspiracy approach, and since Dick Grayson lies at the heart of this weekly series, Seeley getting to bring his expertise to the creative team.
Newsarama already found out about the important role Cassandra Cain will play — and that the book will feature just about every teen hero in Gotham (even the We Are Robin kids). But now we check in with Seeley to find out more about the possible Robin-related conspiracy at the center of Batman and Robin Eternal.
Newsarama: Tim, when Batman and Robin Eternal was announced, one of the initial obvious differences between it and the prior Batman Eternal weekly was this focus on Dick Grayson. As one of the writers on Grayson, how would you describe his role in this comic?
Tim Seeley: The way we approached Batman and Robin Eternal was that it should be a celebration of 75 years of Robin, but also to make it a different kind of story that isn't usually told about Robin, so we approached it as doing, like, a globe-hopping thriller.
And Dick's new situation gives him the perfect reason for that. So it's a combination of an old Batman and Robin story with a new-style Grayson story.
That allowed me, since I get to write new adventures every week with Tom [King, co-writer on Grayson], to ask, well, how can we use this to expand what we already have?
So this weekly series is kind of a perfect fusion of those two things.
Nrama: Because Dick's been away for awhile, there are these new heroes running around Gotham that I don't think he's even met, and there are others that haven't seen him for awhile — save that one meeting in Grayson #12. What's this adventure like as the Bat-family comes together? Does it include some of the newer heroes? Like I know Cassandra Cain is in there — and Spoiler too?
Seeley: Yeah, you get to see everybody in this one. And we'll see Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Harper, Dick, and to some degree, we'll see some of the other peripheral characters like Damian and others.
But the story is about this realization that they're on the same list. And they don't know what the list is.
So it's about them — and each of their relationships with the title of Robin.
Nrama: I know one of the things you're playing with is this thumb drive that reveals a secret to Dick Grayson that Batman hid from him years ago. Is one of the central ideas that Batman hid something from the Robins — particularly Dick Grayson when he was Robin?
Seeley: Yeah, the story explores how they all react to the news that there might be this conspiracy that they're all involved in. For Dick, he's probably the one who trusts him the most, of all the other ones. Or actually, he wouldn't believe that Bruce had ever done something to endanger them, or do anything but protect and teach them.
That's Dick's impetus to try to solve this because he can't believe that ever happened.
The other Robins had different experiences. Obviously Jason holds a bit of a grudge toward Bruce because Joker hit him in the head a bunch of times with a crowbar. And Tim's sort of been the outlier. And we get to see how that works with the other characters, like Harper Row, who, as far as the other Robins are concerned, was never a chosen one, but kind of forced her way in there. So we get to see her relationship, how she would feel about there maybe being some conspiracy behind the formation of the Robins.
Nrama: Other writers I've spoken to have said the style of Batman and Robin Eternal is a lot like Grayson. Are you coming at this series as a sort of spy, detective, mystery story?
Seeley: Yeah. I think when we first talked about what this story would be, we decided that it should be a sort of, I think the term was "Hitchcockian mystery story" with a modern conspiracy story weaved through it. And I think that works perfectly for the spy world of Grayson too.
We deal with paranoia and back-stabbing and distrust in Grayson between Dick and Sypral, but in this case, he's facing it from his mentor and family. And that's a new thing for him, to understand this mistrust and deal with it.'
Nrama: You're one of the few writers on this weekly who was also a part of Batman Eternal. What do you think are the main differences between that series and this one?
Seeley: Well, the main difference is that Batman Eternal is more a celebration of that entire world, when it comes to Batman and all the genres that he can be in. It was a big story, trying to involve every element that we thought made a great Batman story.
In this case, the story, comes first. We're also paring it down, I think. It's a lot tighter. It's half the amount of issues, and it's very specific. We know exactly what's happening in each issue. I think in the last one, you could probably tell, without looking in the credits, who did what. I think this one has a more specific voice overall — the voice of the series overrides the voice of the writers.
Nrama: I think most comic readers are pretty familiar with the kinds of things you can bring to the table in a weekly like this. But I've been asking some of the other writers what they bring to the team and the creation of Batman and Robin Eternal.
Seeley: I think in this one, I come in as the, "Dick expert." I know exactly what we're doing in Grayson and what we need to maintain. And then, you know, when we sit at the table, I think my job is always to come up with the weird stuff and then we figure out how to get to that. So I think, I tend to throw out weird stuff and then try to make it work — that's my job. And it's fun to work with the other guys too — the guys and girl (Genevieve, that's for you) — to make some crazy ideas fit into this great spy story.
Nrama: Is there anything else you wanted to tell readers about Batman and Robin Eternal?
Seeley: You know, DC is being really cool about letting us do this story to celebrate the long-term impact of these characters. And as a reader, if you have an affection for anything about Batman or anything about Robin, this weekly is a great way to get it all. You can do so much when you get to do four times, basically, what a monthly series gets to do. So you get to cover so much ground and cover so much stuff. So I encourage people to check it out if you're interested in the Batman and Robin world.