As DC's Rebirth embraces characters who were absent from the "New 52," Detective Comics is putting a renewed focus on a team of Bat-characters that includes fan-favorites — and a new, classicly-inspired costume for Tim Drake.
Written by James Tynion IV, one of the key architects behind Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal, Detective Comics teams Bruce Wayne Batman with his cousin, Batwoman, as they take on a team of young heroes in an attempt to "train" them while battling a new threat to Gotham City. Included in the team are Spoiler, Red Robin, Cassandra Cain and Clayface.
Featuring art by Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez, Detective Comics launches its new direction this week by returning to its original numbering — starting back at #934. Newsarama talked to Tynion about the new approach, how Watchmen might play into the series, and what readers can expect from such a unique team of characters.
Newsarama: James, you're getting the chance to return Detective Comics to its original numbering while also writing it on your own after years of co-writing the two Eternal books. Excited for Wednesday's release of #934?
James Tynion IV: I'm equal parts incredibly excited and incredibly nervous! I think excited is winning out, though.
Nrama: It's certainly part of the DC Universe you know well, so there's that, right?
Tynion: Yeah, yeah. Gotham City is the best toy box in the entire comics industry, and I am thrilled to be still working in it.
Nrama: The characters on this team are also some you've worked with before. Did you get to choose your team?
Tynion: I definitely had some say. Basically how it all happened was we knew we wanted to do a team book in Gotham. That would be the perfect angle to really distinguish Detective Comics in Rebirth so it would just be the other Batman book. That was the last thing I wanted.
The best runs of Detective have been the runs that really distinguish themselves, that have their own flavor, their own unique quality.
And I've wanted to do a Gotham-centered team book for ages. And finally, this was the chance to let loose and do everything that I've ever wanted to do in Gotham City in a single book.
Nrama: Let's talk about the team. Can you run through the characters who will be starring alongside Batman in Detective Comics? I assume you wanted to return to Stephanie and Cassandra, since you were so instrumental in bringing them back to the DCU?
Tynion: Yeah, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are two characters that I've spent most of the last two years bringing back into the fold. And I'm thrilled to be able to really bring their stories to the next level, because in Batman Eternal, we introduced Stephanie, but it was bringing her to the point where she was a hero. Then with Batman and Robin Eternal, it was bringing in Cassandra Cain so she's ready to take the shape and the position that I felt she deserved in the DC Universe.
This is finally the book where I get to pay all that off and bring them forward. And I get to do it, also, side by side with Tim Drake, Red Robin, who is literally my favorite character that exists in all of comics. Every single issue of this run, I think, will show how much I really love the character, because he's right at the heart of what they're building here.
But the real core of the relationship, and the thing that got everyone excited internally, as we started talking about it, was the relationship between Batman and Batwoman. It's been established in continuity they are cousins, they have very similar goals and aims. There really hasn't been the big story since Batwoman's introduction that really gets to the heart of their relationship. Like, what is the different in how they view the world?
And a team book is the perfect place for that. Batman works with people and he trusts people, but he's always been wary of teams.
Batwoman came from military training. She's always been about how to work the best as a unit.
Those are two very different ways of thinking that have similar goals but different methods. And being able to play those different methods off of each other is the driving force of this.
And then on top of that, the character I've left out is Clayface, and I think people are going to be really excited about what we're doing with Clayface in this story. I don't think there's another character who has the same balance between having one of the most fun powers in all of comics — he's a big, hulking mass who can transform into anything; there's a lot of really fun stuff to do with him — mixed with the fact that he has a tragic background.
He didn't have to become a villain. He wanted to be an actor. He wasn't on a path to become the greater crime lord in Gotham City or anything like that. He wanted to win a Tony and an Oscar. That was his goal. And he got shunted down this side path. And he succumbed to it.
And that kind of has him worried — is he, deep down, good? Did he have the potential to be good? Or was he always going to be on the path toward bad?
Nrama: Do you get to play with that question in the book?
Tynion: Yes, that's part of the character's role in this book.
And we get to play off the real sense that Batman wants his villains to get better. He doesn't want them to just stay locked away. He wants them to reform. He does see the best in them.
And in Clayface, we'll see whether or not he's right over time.
But the interesting thing about using him is Clayface is just as terrified of the answer as anyone else on that team. Like, he's terrified that he's going to screw up and he's just going to prove once and for all that there's no good to him.
So that's what he's working against, which is a selfish thing. He's not doing this because of altruism or anything. He wants to see if he has the chance of being a good and ordinary man again.
Nrama: The villain is the Colony, and I know we're going to find out who the leader is eventually. Can you tell us more about this villain you chose for this new team?
Tynion: This is an idea I've had for awhile. Going back, while working on Batman and Robin Eternal, I had a little notepad document on my computer where I started jotting down my ideas, if there were to be a third Eternal. What would the threat be?
And the Colony really came out of those ideas. It's something I've wanted to do for awhile. And you see echoes of it in some of my work, although I'll wait until we learn more about them before I'll point that out.
The thing that excites me about the Colony is that, when Batman first emerges, he is a single man who trains to be a one-man army. And in the course of a few days, over the events of "Zero Year," he managed to wrestle a city back from terrorist control, as a single man, in a way that the military could not.
In that moment, you have to imagine that somebody, somewhere was like, this is a new model for warfare that has never been seen before, and we need to embrace it and we need to do it bigger and better than Batman did.
And so that's really what this has been built to be. That is the heart of Colony. This is a Bat-army inspired by Batman that has now come to Gotham City because something is lurking in Gotham that they feel that they need to take care of because Batman can't.
The heart of that mystery is going to be what drives us forward in the whole next year of storytelling. But this is the big, first arc that really cuts right to the heart.
It's also interesting because a military Bat-villain feels like the perfect counterpoint to the relationship between Batman and Batwoman. It allows me to explore what they're really fighting for and what they're trying to do.
And an army of Batmen is just pretty cool!
Nrama: And it makes sense for a group to go up against a group.
Nrama: Is this title pretty much separated from what we learned in DC Universe: Rebirth #1? Are you dealing with the Watchmen characters at all?
Tynion; Long-term, what happened in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 will play out across the DC Universe for awhile. So I can't really comment on whether or not that will touch this book as we move forward.
But the heart of Rebirth was the idea of reclaiming the past while building a new and powerful future. And that is right at the heart of this book.
I mean, we put Tim Drake back in a much more familiar costume!
Nrama: Something I think fans appreciate.
Tynion: And it's a lot of fun.
But this is a book that I hope that, 20 or 30 years down the line, when there's a whole new generation of writers and artists debating the contents of a DC relaunch, that these are the elements, this is the Gotham City, the one that starts being built in this book, in Detective Comics, that they want to go back to.
We're trying to create a new classic era for these characters, and doing it with brand new villains, brand new settings.
In our second issue, we're introducing a new secondary Batcave that's going to be in Gotham City. It's called the Belfry, and it is the – honestly, I got to sit down and design my own Batcave from scratch. And it's honestly one of the coolest things. When I saw the pages come in from Eddy Barrows designing it for the first time, I was just floored. This feels like a new iconic setting in Gotham City, and I can't wait for people to see it.
And a lot of it does come down to, I am working with some of the best artists in the industry. I mean, the first few issues are being done by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas. And together, they've put together such a beautiful package — it's very classic superhero but it's also new and dynamic.
My editor Chris Conroy pointed out that it always seems to be dark with lightning, and sometimes snowing — "thunder-snow" I think is the actual term for it. And yeah, it is. Gotham is a weird and frightening place. And nobody in the public has gotten to see what Alvaro Martinez and his whole team is doing later on in this arc. We have some of the best artists in the industry working on this book. So I couldn't be more thrilled.