DC's latest weekly Batman and Robin Eternal might have parallel storylines with Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon as Batman, but writer Steve Orlando says the real focus is Robin.
In the first issue, readers were already given a few clues about a mystery surrounding the former Robins. Not only has Dick Grayson found out that the Robins are on a lengthy list of missing children connected to the villain Mother, but Batman appears to have done some dirty work for Mother in the past.
The weekly series, which will run for six months, will feature "parallel" structure; 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 Orlando, Tim Seeley, Genevieve Valentine, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly and Ed Brisson. Artists will include Tony Daniel, Paul Pelletier, Scot Eaton and Francis Manapul.
In the latest of a series of interviews with the writers of Batman and Robin Eternal, Newsarama talked to Orlando about his work on the aries and what's coming up.
Newsarama: Steve, we've seen you write Dick Grayson a bit for Midnighter. But how did you get involved in writing Batman and Robin Eternal? You were already working on a monthly for DC, but what did you think about the opportunity to co-write a weekly?
Steve Orlando: When I first heard it, it was surreal. Getting to work in Gotham… it's pretty damn crazy for a guy who, you know, not too long ago was holding a sign at the DC Booth in Comic-Con International: San Diego that said, "The line ends here." And now I'm writing about Batman. So when I heard about it, I was nervous, but also excited for the challenge.
I think it came about because I've been doing, I think, some of the best action in comic books with Midnighter, and obviously, you want a weekly to be as hard-hitting and memorable as possible. And so, as the guy that killed someone with a T-bone steak in Midnighter, I think they sort of knew where to go.
And that sort of leads into the prospect of working on a weekly. I have my strengths and I have my weaknesses, as has every creator, and that was exciting to me: to get into a room and fly off this story with a bunch of people that do different things better than me, and are there to basically keep us all honest and put together ideas in a way that the final product isn't anything we could do on our own. And I think that's super exciting.
Nrama: Are you guys getting to take the lead on certain characters?
Orlando: No. I know some other weeklies have certain people take certain characters and things like that. But with Batman and Robin Eternal, because we all wrote the story together, we them are sort of divvying up the issues and giving each writer and artist team a two-issue block of content.
Nrama: Yeah, who are the artist/writer teams? Do you know how they're teamed up?
Orlando: Yeah, Tim is working with Paul Pelletier, James is working with Tony Daniel — on the eight-pager and the first issue, and I'm working with Scot Eaton.
Nrama: OK, so it's in the solicitations. Genevieve is with Alvaro Martinez, and Jackson and Collin are with Roge Antonio. Then Ed Brisson is working with Fernando Blanco. So you've got teams that are separated out, but you're all hashing out the plot and basic story breakdowns, as a team?
Orlando: Yeah, so we're all handling all the characters.
But having said that, my issues actually feature a lot of stuff with Tim and Dick Grayson.
Nrama: Tim and Dick Grayson are fighting on the cover of #5, and we've seen them interact in #1. What's it like writing the two of them?
Orlando: It's been interesting. Tim was sort of my Robin when I was growing up — you know, like Tom Lyle and Chuck Dixon's Robin mini-series.
And so working with him in this new context is really fun, and giving a contrast of him against Grayson. I feel like Tim, in the "New 52," is the most secretive of the Robins. Putting him next to Grayson is very interesting because he's essentially breaking the mold that Grayson made, and doing things his own way.
So I think there's tension there, but there's also a great deal of respect, because they are like family. You don't always get along with family, but they're family.
And I'm also getting to work with Harper Row.
Nrama: A new character for you?
Orlando: Yeah, I've never worked with her before. It turns out that she's a natural fit for me, because she enjoys a good one-liner, and so does Midnighter, so it's very easy to slip into that role. It's been fun to discover how much I like working with her as the series goes on.
Nrama: We've seen a few clues about Bruce Wayne's secret, and we know it's the driving force behind this weekly. In Batman and Robin Eternal #1, we saw how these two parallel stories are being told at the same time — one in the past, and one in the present. Does that continue?
Orlando: Yes, but it's all one story. That's one thing that separates it and makes it a little different from the Batman Eternal.
Batman and Robin Eternal may seem like there are a couple things going on, but it's all a celebration of Robin and what Robin means — and that includes Bruce's secret. And it includes the storyline with Mother and what she's been planning.
You've seen that this is something that Bruce considers one of his greatest mistakes, and something that he wishes Dick Grayson never found out about.
Nrama: And yeah, I think it's pretty apparent that it's all connected, even more than the Robins know. And we'll learn more about this secret thing that Bruce did in the past?
Orlando: We'll peel back the layers and find out what Bruce did, and how it ripples through all the other characters — how it ripples through all the other Robins — and how it connects to Mother.
It's all about the idea of Robin. So I think there's a great focus to Batman and Robin Eternal that's really, really special. Even though we travel the world, and we find new places to punch people in, we're digging really deep into what Robin means.
One of the secrets is, when you come down to it, us as readers, us as creators, finding out what Robin really means, especially in the context of Batman as he is today.