Batman and Robin Eternal put a name two its main villain the first issue, but Mother only actually appeared in full for the first time this week in the finale of the weekly book's first act.
The weekly title, which began in October, has been building the case for a mystery about the dark past of Batman and the way he may have obtained his Robins. Central to the story is the villain known as Mother, who apparently creates orphans so they can be molded into her servants — and Batman allegedly helped her at one point, as issue #1 showed the hero surprisingly killing a child's parents in Cairo.
At the end of this week's Batman and Robin Eternal #7, the table was set for a present-day meeting between Mother and Dick Grayson, as well as some answers about what happened several years ago when Batman first met Mother.
With a story by Batman scribes Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, the weekly series is being scripted by writers Tim Seeley, Steve Orlando, Genevieve Valentine, Ed Brisson and Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly. Newsarama talked with Tynion to find out more about the end of the first act in Batman and Robin Eternal, the development of Cassandra Cain (and Tim Drake)'s history, and what new-to-the-"New 52" characters might show up next.
Newsarama: James, a lot has happened in Batman and Robin Eternal, but it feels like the comic is turning a corner now that Mother has shown up in the present day. You're one-third through the series. How would you describe where you are in the story?
James Tynion IV: We've definitely seen the act turn over. Everything came to a head in Gotham City. They're aware of the threat that Mother is posing, but they still don't know the depth of the threat.
So what's happening right now is now, Jason Todd and Tim Drake are off on their adventure that's going to end up bringing in characters that no one's expecting to show up in the series, and I'm very excited for people to finally find out who we're bringing in here — Cassandra Cain's not the only character who's coming back to continuity in this story.
With Dick Grayson, Cassandra Cain and Harper Row, now they're back where Batman and Robin were five years ago, when Batman first started investigating Mother.
So this is the start of the big second act of the story, as the characters come head to head with Mother for the first time and learn exactly the scope of the threat, and also exactly what happened five years ago — what Batman did, and the events that led to that moment in the alley in Cairo that ended the first issue.
I'm very, very excited for fans to see what we've got in store, because there's a lot of big fireworks coming up.
Nrama: This series obviously deals with the history of Dick Grayson as Robin, but I feel like it also deals a lot with the history of all the Robins, and even several other Bat-characters. I know a couple issues ago, you reminded readers of Tim Drake's history and how he's not an orphan. Was that important for you to remind people about? And how much does the story hinge on understanding the history of these characters — particularly the Robins?
Tynion: This is a story that definitely taps right into the idea of what it means to be a Robin, but also how were these young men chosen to become what they became? I think that's a key to everything moving forward.
With Tim Drake's back-story, it's one of those things where, you know, we're operating in "New 52" continuity, and Tim Drake's origin is the one that sort of shifted the most in terms of pre- and post-Flashpoint. And that was something that, originally, we were like, "oh, should we do this?" But it was a moment in the story that seemed so perfect and the perfect place to really dig into the growing suspicion between the Robins. Why did Batman trust Dick to do this over the others? And what was the heart of what he did all those years ago? And Tim's backstory is the one that has the most holes in it, simply because it hasn't been explored, so we wanted to see exactly where the Drakes are in this version of continuity, in a way readers have never seen before.
Those are the fun moments in "New 52" continuity. We're doing the same thing with Cassandra Cain, in that obviously her history is no longer dominated by the League of Assassins and Ra's Al Ghul. So now we have the opportunity to do something that's still true to the core of the character, but allows for a brand new story that can introduce her to a new generation of readers.
Nrama: I assume we'll learn her new history? And if David Cain is part of her history, we might see that character?
Tynion: Oh yeah. Her history is right at the heart of this book. You may have already seen David Cain and you might not even know it yet.
Nrama: Oh, you just confirmed some suspicions with that sentence.
Tynion: There are a lot of big mysteries that are going to unravel over the course of the next few months. Actually, the issues that deal directly with Cassandra's origin are the ones that are going to the printer right now. And so I've been going over those as they've been heading out, and I think readers are going to be very, very excited to see what we have in store.
Nrama: Another character a lot of people are guessing resulted from that list you had, when Dick saw his name and other Bat-characters. The name Jean-Paul was on there. Could we look toward that name meaning something?
Tynion: If eagle-eyed readers caught that, they might see something connected to that question play out over the next few weeks. So stay tuned in the book. There will be some surprises in store for you.
Nrama: You talked about how the first third of the book took place mostly in Gotham City. It feels like Act II will be more international. Is that the way it's going to continue?
Tynion: Yeah. That was one of the things we wanted to do when we were putting together this series. The first Batman Eternal, while it left Gotham here and there, especially toward the beginning of the book, it was very much a book about Gotham and about the people of Gotham, but this is an international book about Batman and all of the Robins, both in the past and the present, up against a villain who has a very international reach.
So yeah, we're going to be traipsing all over the globe for this story.
Nrama: We talked a little bit about the history of Cassandra Cain and the history of Tim Drake and other characters — and how things have changed a little in the "New 52." There are some still some questions about the history of Batman and his Robins. Do you feel like you're filling in some blanks for readers about the "New 52" history of the Robins?
Tynion: Absolutely, and that's part of the fun. There was a moment early in planning for the first Batman Eternal where we realized things like, we were bringing back Carmine Falcone, and we were talking about having Catwoman in the story, and that she's the illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone — but then we realized that hasn't been established in the "New 52," and we could do something totally new that would serve this story and could open up a whole bunch of new stories that readers have never seen before.
And it was the same with bringing back Hush, bringing back Stephanie Brown — these are characters we were able to reshape to, rather than fill their old roles in stories people have seen before, put them in new positions where they could really live more vibrantly within the universe as it stands today.
That's something I'm very proud of us doing. And obviously, we're continuing that here in Batman and Robin Eternal.
Secret histories are always fun. Digging into the past of these characters, as a long-time Batman fan and a bit of a continuity freak, I love things that play with the facts that you assume you have, and then being able to shuffle the deck and be like, you don't know anything. That's an exciting moment as a reader.
Pretty much anything is possible.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what's coming up in the book? You talked about where the characters were when #7 ended. Anything you can tell us about Batman and Robin Eternal #8 and what's coming next?
Tynion: The next issue is going to play off the situation in Prague in both the past and the present, with Bruce Wayne encountering Mother for the first time, as well as Dick Grayson encountering Mother in the present.
These are definitely treacherous times for our Bat-family members.
In the two issues that follow, which are going to be written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, we're going to be heading down to Santa Prisca and seeing Bane, and seeing a new organization that may have ties to Mother and her larger plot. And it's an organization that's going to be very familiar to long-time Batman fans.