With this week's Batman #6, writer Tom King has set up the motivation for Batman to form his own Suicide Squad when the story continues in October.
Why would Batman choose a group of villains - hand-picked from the inmates at Arkham Asylum - for a mission under the direction of Amanda Waller herself? According to this week's issue, it's because of Gotham Girl, the character who was introduced in King's first issue of Batman back in June.
In fact, this week's Batman #6 focuses on Gotham Girl, as she grieves for her brother and parents - a grief that Batman can understand, being a fellow orphan. King had already revealed that the character is going to wed Duke Thomas, and the writer told Newsarama that Gotham Girl ties together his three-part run on Batman over the coming months - linking King's first arc, "I Am Gotham," with the second, "I Am Suicide," and third, "I Am Bane."
Of course, Batman will first be involved in the "Night of the Monster Men" event this month, which crosses between the Bat-books for a story orchestrated by Steve Orlando.
But with October's Batman #9, King's "I Am Suicide" arc will begin with art by Mikel Janin, who worked with King on Grayson.
Now that the covers for November's chapters of "I Am Suicide" have been revealed - along with apparent team members - Newsarama talked with King to find out more about the writer's love for Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's approach to Batman's Suicide Squad and why the hero is working with Amanda Waller in the first place.
Nrama: Now that we know why Batman's putting together his Suicide Squad, surely he doesn't trust Amanda Waller. I mean, this has to be a kind of last resort, to work with her in order to accomplish his goal of getting Psycho Pirate.
Tom King: Yeah, the idea is Santa Prisca is its own country. It's a sovereign state. I think of it like, you know, Doctor Doom's country, Latveria, in the Marvel Universe.
Just because Batman wants to go in there, he can't just take the Justice League and go and bust in Bane and take Psycho Pirate back. It's illegal. It's an act of war. And it would be condemned and everything.
So he can't go in as a good guy and do this. This is kind of a bad guy thing. He's breaking into a sovereign country. He's doing something utterly illegal.
And that plan comes from Amanda Waller, the idea of, like, "I know how you can do this."
Another aspect of it is, Bane's the one man who beat Batman. Joker has tortured him and Riddler has confused him, but the only one who's ever beat him is Bane. And Batman knows that he can't do this on his own. He could do it with the Justice League, but he can't bring the Justice League in.
So he needs some extra firepower. He has to invade a country, go into Santa Prisca, go into the prison that Bane grew up in and knows better than anyone else, and take the thing that Bane most wants away from him. It's just an impossible task and Batman needs help.
And Amanda Waller says, "Well, the Justice League won't help you. But I will."
And so in his moment of desperation, because he cares so much about Gotham Girl, he says "Yes."
As happens with Amanda Waller… her manipulation often serve her own purposes more than serve the good of the DCU.
Nrama: We've seen the covers for the November issues, so we know some of the people Batman is going to choose for his Suicide Squad. Can you talk about the team that's going to make up Batman's Suicide Squad?
King: I'd love to, but I kind of want to hold back a little bit. I know it's out there on the cover. I haven't been tweeting about it. I'm kind of ignoring.
Batman #9, which is Mikel Janin's first issue, and he just kills it — I want people to go into that fresh and be surprised. Even if you know who the team is, what their role is and how Batman gets them to do what they're doing, I think, will be surprising.
I think it's safe to say that we're using these team members as they've never been used before.
But I just don't want to comment on each individual member until it comes out.
Nrama: Well, maybe you can just clarify what the "Rebirth" version of these characters are. For example, Catwoman, who's right there in the front on the Batman #10 cover - Batman had quite a history with her in the "New 52." Does that history still exist? Just using her as an example, are you starting fresh with these characters? How would you describe the relationship between Catwoman and Batman as we see them in this story?
King: OK, I think that's fair. I mean, we've talked about this before - if you look at my series, I think of the greatest continuity influence being Batman: The Animated Series. So I think of that being their standard relationship.
As you're seeing these… not two universes merge, but you're seeing the reveal that the "New 52" and the DC continuity that came before - I guess you'd call it post-Crisis continuity - were actually one continuity.
So I think their relationship, in my mind, is what it was in the Batman universe – two people who have chemistry and on some deep level love, but can never find a way to get together.
And what we're going to do with…. well, I can't comment on it.
Anyway, we're going to take that relationship and put it on another level that you've never seen before.
It's some of my favorite things I've written. But… ah, I'm talking around myself. Ask me in two weeks.
Nrama: That will happen. But let's talk about the influence of Batman: The Animated Series. The tone you've taken so far, in the first arc, has been this mix of lighter moments, dramatic and touching moments, and these really, really dark moments. I mean, Batman keeps facing his own death, and Gotham was killed by his own sister. Was that just the first arc, or are you continuing that into the "I Am Suicide Squad" arc? I mean, the Suicide Squad concept can be both dark and fun.
King: I'm going to have fun, but I don't want anyone to be silly. If you've read #6, I think that's the perfect epitome…. I mean, #6 has the silliest of silly Batman villains and they're doing silly things, and you'll laugh at it. But then behind each one, there's kind of this hint of menace.
I mean, there's a guy trying to kill his brothers because he thinks they're Batman. And at first, you're like, funny! But then they're you're like, wait a second, that's kind of twisted.
And all that silly and all that fun you get out of laughing at those characters, it's fun and it's silly because it's matched by the seriousness of what Gotham Girl's going through.
So I think the comedy has to come out of the tragedy and the same, vice versa.
Like, I don't want people to ever read Batman and think that I'm sort of, I don't know, making fun of these characters or something. I think by treating them seriously, the comedy will come out naturally.
Nrama: One of the funniest moments, I thought, in the first story arc was seeing Alfred in the Bat-suit. You've been really showcasing the relationship between Batman and Alfred. In the first issue, you had that moment where Batman asks Alfred whether his parents would be proud, and in this week's Batman #6, Batman asks for Alfred's advice on dealing with a young person's grief, since Alfred raised Bruce after the death of his parents. I feel like you have this love affair going on with Alfred, right from the beginning.
King: Yeah, I absolutely adore - huh, adore is such a soft word, but… yeah, I love Alfred. I love the dynamic between those two characters. I think Batman's such a self-serious character that you need someone to take the stuffing out of him a little bit. Traditionally, that's been Robin, but that dynamic doesn't work for me as much as having Alfred do it - just somebody who's going to always call Bruce on his crap. I think it's great.
And it makes me laugh. It makes me laugh every time.
Yeah, my favorite parts of Batman are writing the Alfred scenes, and I think that's coming through.
Nrama: So if Batman gets his hands on Psycho Pirate, and Psycho Pirate remembers past continuity... could something be coming soon regarding Batman's investigation of the revelations from DC Universe Rebirth #1?
King: [Laughs] In issue #9, you're going to start to see some DC Universe: Rebirth #1 stuff leak into Batman.
The little parts that are there are going to expand out until we come to this bigger story of the three Jokers and what that pin in the wall meant in DC Universe: Rebirth #1. That starts to leak into Batman with issue #9.