With DC’s Rebirth, Scott Snyder is leaving Batman - but he’s leaving him with the writer he hand-picked to follow in his footsteps, former Grayson co-writer Tom King. Though King has big shoes to fill – he calls Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman the “greatest run of all time” – he’s drawing on his own espionage background and his ability to tell a larger than life, epic story to, in his words, honor Snyder by one-upping him.
Along with David Finch and Mikel Janin, his artists on the twice monthly book, King is looking forward to a long run redefining Batman’s relationship with Gotham City, bringing him close to the brink of madness, and doing his best to seize an opportunity he compares to winning the lottery.
Newsarama: Tom, let’s talk about Batman .
Tom King: Batman? What’s that?
Nrama: Yeah, have you heard about this? You’re taking over on the core Batman title! When it was announced that Scott Snyder was leaving the title, even before we knew about Rebirth, a lot of us at Newsarama were immediately expecting you to take the reins. After redefining Dick Grayson, does taking over Batman feel like the next logical step for you?
King: Writing Batman is never the logical next step in your life! It’s an opportunity. It’s crazy to say this, but it’s like winning the lottery. When you win the lottery, are you like, “Oh, this is the logical next step, that I won a billion dollars.” No! It’s an amazing step, and it’s wonderful, but it’s not logical.
I’m a super fan-boy. I read Newsarama and other comic book news sites. I grew up with comics, wanting to write comics. And to be on Batman, you never expect your dreams to come true. I’ve seen a lot of Disney movies and they tell you that, but you don’t think it’s actually gonna happen. So no logic at all is involved in this. [Laughs]
Nrama: Let’s talk about your vision of Batman.
King: Vision? That’s Marvel!
Nrama: [Laughs] It’s a huge part of your work and your career that prior to writing comic books, you were, for lack of a better term, an espionage agent in the C.I.A.
King: Espionage officer. How dare you?
Batman being the world’s greatest detective, those things obviously go hand in hand in a lot of ways. How does your background play into your take on Batman? Feel free to divulge as many secrets about your past as you like.
King: Yeah, this is the place for that! To me, what makes Batman special, what makes him amazing, is that he doesn’t have powers. He’s you or me. All he has is what happened to his parents and his family, and his obsession, and his will, and his wits. But what makes him a superhero? What makes him someone who can do what nobody else can do? And to me, it’s that he can get into the gutters of Gotham and not go crazy, not be driven insane by it. And sometimes he’s right on that edge.
And I relate that a little bit to my C.I.A. stuff. Cause that’s what it’s like in the C.I.A. You want to get as close as you could to the horror without becoming the horror. And I tried to do that, and sometimes I didn’t do it right, and sometimes I slipped up, so I’m trying to bring that experience, of seeing the other side and both being empathetic to it, without being destroyed by it.
Nrama: What horror is Batman getting close to in this story? What’s he going up against that will drive him to this brink?
King: In the first issue, it deals right those themes. We start with classic Batman – this is Gordon on a roof, this is Alfred in the cave, we’re seeing a Robin-esque figure, Duke Thomas, who is his new ward. He’s going through the clock, pressing 10:48. The new Batmobile is a take on the classic Batmobile. The whole theme of this book is using every modern storytelling technique I know to connect with classic Batman stories.
So we start with Batman and Gordon on a roof, but then a missile blows the back off a plane, and the plane is about to crash into Gotham City. But what can Batman do? He’s a dude. He’s on a roof. And he’s got 8 minutes before a 747 plows into a building and kills thousands of people. And that’s the third page of the first issue, he has to deal with that. And the consequences of that first issue, what he has to do, play out over the entire year of the book.
Nrama: So, with a story that takes place over the course of a year, are you doing what Scott Snyder was doing with those longer arcs, or are you doing shorter stories that build to something larger?
King: I’m joined in this endeavor by David Finch, the modern master, and Mikel Janin, who I worked with on Grayson, and Jordie Bellaire on colors, who is one of, if not the best colorists working right now. So what’s gonna happen is, it’s gonna be a trilogy of trades, three trades in one year, that will add up to one bigger story, but each trade will be self-contained. It’s basically a Star Wars model of three huge, action packed adventure movies that test the limits of what comics can do, all climaxing in the hugest battle in the history of Gotham.
Nrama: Is this a year-long project for you, or are you looking at it long term?
King: This is indefinite. I’m following probably the greatest run in the history of the book with what Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done. I’m utterly intimidated by that, and humbled by it, but the only I can do is to honor it by trying to outdo it. And speaking of the devil…
[Editor's Note: At this point, Scott Snyder sat down to join in on the interview.]
Nrama: Scott, welcome. Long time no see.
King: Scott and I have never met! [Laughs]
Snyder: Hi Tom! Nice to meet you!
Nrama: Who would believe two Batman writers at the same convention. Small world!
Snyder: We got married in Vegas last night! [Laughs] I actually did try and convince him to go to Vegas.
Nrama: Scott, Tom, now that you’re both here, let’s talk about the unified direction for Batman. Tom, you’re writing Batman, Scott, you’re writing All-Star Batman, and they’re kind of exploring different facets of the character. Will your books touch at all?
Snyder: We’re not gonna cross over, but we’re gonna work really, really closely together. The story that Tom’s doing is just phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about this dude. When they told me they were gonna look at him to take Batman when I left, for me, there was no other choice. I told Batman Editor Mark Doyle, “This is the guy.” I was joking earlier that part of you always wants someone who’s gonna do a horrible job to come after you on a book that you took a lot of pride in, but you care about the character too much for that. To me, it was about picking out the best writer, and Tom’s the best up-and-coming writer in comics. The best writer in comics right now, in my opinion.
King: Take that, Snyder!
Snyder: No, I’m serious! So for me, it became very much about coordinating. I’ve shown him everything I’m doing and it became very much about being good friends. I run all the story by him, and he runs stories by me, but we’re trying to give each other enough room to deliver very different Batman books. He’s doing Batman in Gotham, in a really big, epic way with a new threat you’ve never seen before, something really fun that redefines Batman’s relationship to Gotham. I wanted to do something that reinvents the classic villains in ways you haven’t seen, so those villains will be really different in terms of the ones he’s using, and the ones I’m using. We wanted it to be something where, it’s the same Batman, but everyone has enough room to do something really special. And I can promise you Batman is in good hands. It’s gonna be really special.
Nrama: Scott, you just said you guys have worked together to plan the new direction for Batman. When you found out that Tom was taking over the main title, and you said he was the only choice for you, what do you think is the most important lesson you passed on to him? What piece of advice did you give him about following what he himself just called the “greatest run on the title ever”?
King: Shh! What are you telling him that for?
Snyder: Wow, thank you. We talk a lot, so we’ve given each other a lot of advice. He’s given me as much advice as I’ve given him, believe me, both as friends and as writers. I look up to him a lot, both as a writer and as a person. I’ve given him a lot of advice – probably too much – but one thing I do remember saying early on is, remember that part of the fun of Batman is that he always wins. Not in a corny way, but ultimately he takes this tragedy in his life and he turns it into fuel to become this hero that he knows he can be. So he does always win because it’s a lesson in triumphing over the things that feel systemically impossible to overcome in your own life. Remember to have fun with that. He’s awesome. He’ll always come out on top.
Nrama: Tom, same question. What is the piece of advice or the thing that Scott said to you that let you know you were the right person for the job?
King: I think what he just said is the most important advice, cause I’m kind of a dirge-y writer. I write books like Vision and Omega Men and they’re definitely written in a minor key, of like, what a tragedy life is. So I have to remind myself that, when I was a kid, I read comics for the heroes. And I think the most noble thing comics do is, they give someone who’s had a tough day five minutes away from that tough day. And they give someone an adrenaline rush and show them that, in the end, the good guys win.
But in all honesty, the thing I most remember that he said is – it was at a convention, it was like three in the morning, we were inebriated, and just like two Batman nerds being like, “What haven’t we seen before?” And I think what Snyder and Capullo brought to Batman was so much stuff you haven’t seen in the 70 years before that. So it’s important to surprise your audience, keep them on their feet, make them gasp out loud. So that I really took to heart.
Nrama: So Tom, what you’re saying is, when Alfred becomes Batman, we have Scott to blame.
King: Yeah, when Alfred kills Batman, you can thank Scott.
Snyder: [Laughs] Yeah, anything you like you can blame him, anything you don’t like you can blame me.
But seriously, let me echo that really quick, because I think that’s really great about what Tom is doing, is he is doing something we’ve never seen before, and on top of it just being something really original, it’s personal. And one of the great things is, even though Batman can win, both of us like showing the dark side of the character. And what Tom’s been able to do in this arc is a really different sentiment, and a really different realization about Gotham. It speaks to a lot of the themes of his work, and I recognize it as uniquely Tom King, with all the things I love about his work. I’m very proud to stand next to him.
King: And we’re doing an issue together! Batman: Rebirth. We’re co-writing it.
Snyder: This was probably all supposed to be about that… Oh well!