When all the Batman writers got together to plan their "Rebirth" issues, Batman editor Mark Doyle gave them one sentence to describe what he envisioned for their September crossover: "Batman running across the roof … next to Godzilla."
For one night - with the presumed death of Tim Drake fresh in their minds and a hurricane threatening a major disaster for Gotham City - Batman and his allies will be fighting kaijus created by villain Hugo Strange.
The crossover's story kicks off September 21 with Batman #7, co-written by Steve Orlando and regular series scribe Tom King. The issue, drawn by Riley Rossmo, will follow-up on concepts introduced during King's first few issues Batman, but will also incorporate the current storylines from Detective Comics and Nightwing.
Orlando will continue to orchestrate the event, working with other Bat-writers. After this week's Batman issue, the story continues in September 28's Detective Comics #941 by Orlando and regular series writer James Tynion IV, with art by Andy MacDonald. Next will be October 5's Batman #8, again by Orlando, King and Rossmo; Nightwing #6 by Orlando, series writer Tim Seeley and artist Roge Antonio; and then Detective Comics #942 by Orlando, Tynion and MacDonald on October 12.
Newsarama talked to King and Orlando about the first issue of the crossover, whether the characters will get a chance to grieve for Tim Drake, and what's coming up next.
Newsarama: With the alleged death of Tim Drake (and subsequent imprisonment by Mr. Oz), the Batman corner of the DCU is suddenly very tied to the stories from DC Universe: Rebirth #1. Does the "Night of the Monster Men" crossover deal with any of that? Or at least address what happened with Tim?
Steve Orlando: Yeah, we'll be exploring all avenues. There's the scene you referenced between Oz and Tim, which opens up all kinds of possibilities. But we also get to explore what comes out of Tim's death. Everyone thinks that Tim has died.
The night we're dealing with, I mean, imagine that it's already the worst night of your life emotionally and now we have giant monsters to deal with as well.
Tom King: None of us want to - I think people have seen the beats of Batman being sad about some one of the Robins dying. And those scenes happen, but they're going to happen mostly off-camera. People have read those scenes, and we didn't want to write them again and have people read them. I'm not going to write a better issue than Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason, where they did Batman & Robin after Damian died.
Tim's death will impact everything, but we're going right onto the action, onto the next plot.
Nrama: Let's back up a little bit, because you guys keep talking about "we," and your approach to this event is a little different, because not only is the whole Batman family of writers working on it, but you've also brought Steve into the mix. How did this approach come about?
King: Mark Doyle, who's our genius editor over at the Bat-office, when the double-ship first came on, he sort of drew up a thing where he was like, we want you guys to all start in your home, but "Rebirth" is about building a universe together. So we want to sort of show that, when you guys land at the end of your stories, you're landing in the same place. And then we launch that into an even bigger story.
And then we went around the room, and I can't remember whose idea it was. I feel like it came from James Tynion IV originally. That's what my brain's telling me.
Orlando: It was Mark that said, "Batman running across the roof next to Godzilla."
King: Didn't James, like, write Godzilla on the board, and then Mark was like, "Batman, across the roof, with Godzilla"? I don't know.
But yeah, that was the image.
And then we're like, "Batman vs. monsters." I was doing this Hugo Strange story, which involved the Monster Men. And we just thought, "Oh, this can evolve from Tom's story."
Even before Steve was involved, we were going to bring in what we called a "brilliant writer" to come in and help, and take the lead on it. And then we're like, "who's the brilliant writer?" And it was Steve.
And then we were off to the races.
Orlando: Earlier this year, we met and we talked about what this story could be. And then, because it was created to unify the titles and allow the main creative teams to push forward, as well, with their stories while this was being worked on, once we all sort of came up with this idea - Batman versus monsters - I went back and blocked it out, what I thought these issues could be. And then I sent it to the guys to go over to see what worked, see what could be boosted up, or how they could fit it into their story.
We just wanted to make sure everything was in line with where their characters had to be at the end of this storyline, and that their storylines could then carry on, even though this only takes place during one night.
I would script the issue and everyone would go over it and make sure everything - all the voices, all the development - was on point for what they needed in their stories, whether it's Batman, whether it's Detective Comics, whether it's Nightwing.
Nrama: Let's talk about the story. As you mentioned, it's taking place in only one night, but there is a lot going on. They're in the midst of a disaster, right? Can you kind of set the scene for this week's first issue?
Orlando: When you pick up Batman #7, there's a hurricane moving into Gotham City. It could lead to the worst flooding since "Zero Year."
So when you meet the Bat-family, they're on the scene trying to deal with a natural disaster. So the way we're engaging the presumed death of Tim is in the midst of these scenes. Batman is immediately faced with a new challenge, and one that reminds him of his limitations and pushes him even more.
So as we start off, Batman is already pretty surly, and things sort of escalate. Because he's also just found out in Batman that there's some sort of connection between Psycho Pirate and Bane and Strange. And that's connected to these giant monsters.
So Batman has a lot of his plate. We're laying it on here.
Nrama: One of the things that's fun about this is the design of the Monster Men. Can you talk about what they're like, and how they're different from what people might expect, particularly compared to past appearances?
Orlando: They're unlike anything you've really seen in a Gotham book. I mean, the look of them - there is a thematic meaning to the Monster Men that is slowly uncovered throughout the course of the night. But beyond that, I mean, the look of them, we owe it all to Riley Rossmo. And not only Riley, but Roge Antonio and Andy MacDonald too, who are working on the Nightwing and Detective Comics issues. As a writer, this is where I knew I should kind of step back and let Riley make his mark, and he came through.
We wanted the monsters to be, you know, not just huge, hulking man-beasts like they were originally. We told them to follow the basic prompts of what each monster stood for, which will be revealed, or what the monsters mean, and go wild. And you've seen that in the designs that have been released, and you'll see it more as you see them in action.
It's an Akira style of design that has not really been seen in a Batman book before, I think, or at least in a long time. And I think that's really fun - not just in the design of the monsters, but also the interesting gadgets and tech they have.
King: Steve's being a little modest too. When it was first proposed, we were like, "just do monsters versus Batman." And in my mind, I was like, oh, it'll be like Godzilla but like these original Monster Men from Batman #1 - big old Frankenstein monsters.
But Steve came in - and you know, I'm a writer who rarely, rarely admits I can't do something, but I can't do what Steve did with these monsters. Each of them is a unique creation, and each of them is symbolic of something, and each of them is frightening in their own way. It's like nothing you've ever seen before.
And Batman has to find a way to fight them.
I was so impressed by it.
Orlando: Very nice to hear that, Tom.
King: I lie for a living. [Laughs.]
No, no, I used to lie for a living.
Nrama: Well, you write fiction.
King: I still lie!
Nrama: OK, so what I'm hearing is that this event - instead of being a kind of one-off, month-long event without real ramifications - it continues the story threads that Bat-writers have running through their individual books?
King: I mean, for me, it's an essential thread. I mean, one of the main plot elements from my book is that Hugo Strange set off all these bombs in order to break out Psycho Pirate. And the reason he was doing that, the whole reason he was doing that, was to trade him to Bane to get the venom to make the Monster Men.
So I mean, this comes right out of Batman #1. Batman #1 is a straight arrow to the "Monster Men" event.
You're getting half of the coin in this - you're getting Hugo Strange's plan in that exchange he made with Bane. I'm taking the venom, I'm making Monster Men. And when we get to Batman #9, you'll get Bane's side of that. What did he get out of Psycho Pirate?
Nrama: And from the first few pages, Steve, I can see that you're fitting this into what's been happening in the other Bat-books.
Orlando: Yeah, and if you're doing a huge Bat-family story, you have to start with Batman and Batwoman. And really, you have to start with Batman, Batwoman and Nightwing, which is what we do, because that's the Gotham trinity there - the three pillars of the entire Bat-family.
King: Somewhere Alfred is crying. Just crying, like a forgotten artist.
Orlando: Alfred is maybe like, a tint on one of the pillars. [Laughs.]
King: Oh no! [Laughs.] How horrible!
Orlando: No, but it fits right into what's going on in Detective Comics.
The thing is, Detective Comics has what is probably the most emotional stuff to deal with. That cast at least, because they were the closest to Tim at his death (although everyone's close to Tim in some way).
These characters are having to compartmentalize, I think that's relatable. What happened with Tim was bad, but in the real world, if you're dealing with a death in the family, you've still got to go to work. You still have to manage all of your responsibilities.
And in the case of the Bat-family, their responsibilities involve kaijus. So that's unfortunate for them.
But you'll see that they think they can just go into work mode. And the question is that, as all the plans fail and things get more and more tense over the course of the night, the question is, can they really do that?
And really, they have no idea what they're coming up against.
Nrama: I've got you on the line, so I have to ask. Does Batman really have no idea that there's something more to Tim's death? Surely, someone's going to follow up on this, right?
King: Oh, I can't tell you that, Vaneta! That's part of the spine that's driving the DC Universe story. But yes, that will all be followed-up on at some point. It's a huge story that I can't even tell you how long it will last. But it flows through a ton of books.
King: The question is, he's imprisoned with two other people. Who are the two others?
Nrama: Exactly. And I won't even ask you guys.
Orlando: One of them is Steve Ditko. That's where he's been this whole time.
King: It's Steve Ditko and Bill Watterson. They're just in there drawing incredible things.
Orlando: Somewhere, there's a new Spider-Man comic.
King: For legal reasons, you'll never see it.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything you want to tell readers about the first issue?
Orlando: I just re-read it when I got my comps, and I'm really excited about it. It's kinetic. It moves fast. But I think that's the frenetic type of story, when these types of attacks are happening.
On top of all that, I read it and I realized I had one of my best and most unintended allusions to The Warriors that I've ever had. I didn't even know that happened until I read it, and I was like, oh, that's The Warriors. I guess I should have realized I did that.
But yeah, I'm excited about it. I can't wait for everyone to see it.
King: And I just want to say how happy I am to work with this team. I don't think the Bat-books could be in a better place. I think All-Star, Detective, Nightwing — I just think we're setting the pace, and we're proud of it.