For the last few issues of Batman, series writer Tom King has told a story about how the Caped Crusader forms his own version of the Suicide Squad to attack Bane. But the story has specifically been exploring the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, as she is among the team Batman formed to infiltrate Bane's Santa Prisca Prison. At the end of Batman #11, Catwoman surprisingly betrayed Batman after his team of hand-picked villains gets to Bane.
The current storyline in Batman, titled "I Am Suicide," is the second in what King has called a trilogy. Next up in 2017 will be a confrontation with Bane on Batman's home turf. According to King, this week's Batman #12 will not only reveal Batman's reaction to Catwoman's betrayal, but it will feature a unique visual structure from Janín.
Newsarama talked to King about this week's Batman #12, how this storyline leads into December's Justice League vs. Suicide Squad launch and February's Justice League of America, and when readers might see more about Batman's investigation of the Watchmen button from DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Newsarama: Tom, we got quite a shock at the end of the last issue about Catwoman, and that came after another surprise concerning her incarceration. Do you have a specific vision for your version of this character? How would you describe the Catwoman you're writing - who she is?
Tom King: To me, she's Batman without Alfred. She's someone who got broken as hard as Batman got broken - an orphan who had to raise herself - but instead of sort of relying on others, she had to do it with her own willpower and put herself back together.
So I think her story is as powerful as Batman's and maybe even more powerful, because she had to rely on herself in a way that Batman never had to. She's not the rich kid, she didn't have the privilege he had.
But the truth of Catwoman is not to think of her in terms of Batman and how she foils Batman, but to think of her as a separate character on her own. At least I think so.
And I think that makes her something special in the DCU, because when you build yourself up like that, you realize that you don't have time for all the rules everyone else has.
You have to cheat, or else you die.
When there's no food and you steal for food, you realize that some of the obstacles that are put in the way of you are obstacles of willpower and obstacles of law. And I think she sort of sees through the law and sees through that stuff, and she sees a more perfect justice than I think even Batman sees. That makes her a unique character.
Nrama: She is unique, but I hear within your description that Batman and Catwoman are similar - and maybe that's where the attraction lies - even if they had to climb out of their childhood pain in different ways.
King: Yeah, I think that's right. And I think what makes them just a perfect romance for the DCU is that, because they're similar in that way, they see through each other. They kind of see through the bullsh*t that everyone else sees.
That's why I have them call each other "Cat" and "Bat" in this. It's sort of a tribute to the fact that, like, Selina's smart enough and she knows enough to know that Bruce Wayne and the whole act - that's all an act, that's all it is, and that what's at the core of Batman is Batman.
Batman's smart enough to see that same thing in Catwoman. What's at the core of Catwoman is not this Selina identity she was born with, but the Catwoman identity that she adopted to get through the pain.
And they see that in each other, and they respect that in each other.
They're uniquely the only two people that see it in each other, that sort of see each other through the masks - that see the masks under the masks. I think that's the way I put it in this issue.
And I think that's what makes great soul mates - it's the people who see all your faults and love you still. And I think that's what they have in each other. Someone's like, "OK, you see right through me. You see all the things that I'm afraid everyone's going to judge me for. They're out on the table. And somehow, you like that about me. And you even love that about me."
That's what makes them unique, and that's also what makes them uniquely vulnerable and makes them fight - the fact that when they're standing in front of each other, they are so vulnerable that their defense mechanisms kick in.
Nrama: Being interested in exploring that as a writer, is that why you chose the structure of these issues? The narration switches around a bit, and some are written in the form of letters, right?
King: Yeah, I mean, anyone who knows me knows that I have these structure-y things. I mean, it's five issues, right?
King: Issue #1 is a comic, issue #2 is a letter, issue #3 is a comic, issue #4 is a letter, issue #5 is a comic.
So they're purposely there to mirror each other.
You see Catwoman's take on herself and her relationship to Batman, and her explaining a decision she made that came from her pain. And then you get the parallel of that - Batman sort of responding to her and explaining a decision he made, based on his pain.
It's a chance to get inside the characters and get to know how they feel about each other.
I like that idea that they can see that pain in each other, and when they kiss, the pain goes away, because they're just not alone for a second. Because I think, when you're really sad, when you're really in a bad place, your big thought is, "I'm by myself." And that's the first thing you have to overcome, is to realize that you're not by yourself.
So when they're together, when they feel that they're not alone, that the pain goes away. There's something there that's important.
Nrama: Let's talk about the way you've chosen to have this team come in from all different directions to attack Bane, without revealing the plan to the reader. I've seen that before in your writing. Is that something you like to do with mission-type stories like this?
King: Yeah, I do, yeah. Batman readers are the smartest readers in the world. I don't have to hold their hands. I don't have to give them the training scene of the team coming together. They've seen that in a thousand things. They can just assume that's there.
I want to skip to the action and the tension.
I think you see the intelligence of the readers in the reaction.
I mean, the reaction to Catwoman was vitriol. Like, I got people who hated it, saying this is out of character. This is terrible. This is not who this woman is.
And I was like, "Yeah, you're exactly right. I agree with all of you. And thank you for complaining. And you know who else agrees with you? Batman agrees with you."
That's what you see in Batman #12, is that Batman has that same reaction to her.
I wanted my readers to be exactly where Batman is, because that way they can related to him. They're as frustrated with Catwoman as Batman is, and they're as frustrated with this decision that seems out of character as Batman is. And their love for the character mirrors Batman's love for her.
I think that takes you into a story and makes it more real for you, as the reader.
Nrama: We've also found out that Batman is forming the Justice League of America when it launches in February 2017. Were you at all in on that decision? Is this meant to lead up to that, because I know he hand picks that team?
King: Yeah, I was. Steve [Orlando, writer on the new Justice League of America title,] and I are good friends, so we went through that step-by-step. He led me through that.
Now, I don't need to tell Steve how to write a comic book, so I was more, like, listening and saying, "Yeah, that's awesome" than really contributing to it.
But it's all part of this great plan. We've got the DC Universe planned out past 2019 now. And there's sort of this spine of stories that's going through it.
You've seen it in Batman from the beginning - in Batman #1, Hugo Strange appears, and that's connected to Amanda Waller, you find out in Batman #3. And that leads to Suicide Squad.
And in Batman #13, which is coming out in just a few weeks, you'll see how Amanda Waller and Hugo Strange, how that leads directly into the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad story, and that's going to lead into the JLA.
So it's one thing leading into another. That's how great shared universes work, because we're all obeying the same rules. We're all on the same page.
Nrama: Dan DiDio also wrote a letter to readers within last week's Direct Currents #1 that said the Flash and Batman are working together to forensically analyze the Watchmen button. Is that something that's going down in your Batman title at all?
King: I can't say too much about the long-term plans, but, like you saw in issue #9 with Saturn Girl, these story threads are still continuing.
The Flash/Batman thing - yes, that's going to play out. They're both great detectives.
Nrama: Maybe the two best forensic detectives in the DCU?
King: I don't know about that.
Nrama: I suppose you think Flash can't hold a candle to Batman.
King: You know what Batman is? He's on time. That's all I'm saying.
Nrama: OK. That's true.
King: You can't be a great detective and show up late.
Nrama: There's a good chance Psycho Pirate gets captured soon, and you've already told me that he remembers past continuities. Can you reveal anything that's coming up? If not related to Psycho Pirate, maybe to your "I Am Batman" trilogy in general? You said this part is five issues - how does that lead to what's next?
King: Yes, this is "I Am Suicide," and then we'll get a post-script to this story where I'm bringing in Mitch Gerads, who did Sheriff of Babylon. He's going to come on for two issues and do the after-action of this huge story.
And the focus of those issues will be on Catwoman and Batman.
And then we'll launch into "I Am Bane," which is so simple. I don't want to say how this story ends, but at the end, Bane and Batman are not happy with each other. And that plays out in the next arc, which leads to this huge confrontation between these two characters, where both of them sort of decide that one of them has to live and one of them has to die.
Nrama: OK, so answer me this - did Bane break Batman's back at the beginning of this storyline? Or what happened there?
King: I think he had his back dislocated. That's what I think. And he re-fixed it.
Nrama: And this arc will finish up the work by Mikel Janín? This week's issue really shows off his work.
King: Yes, Mikel is killing it. He's going to be everyone favorite artist, especially after issue #12. I mean, I changed my credit, because Mikel was doing so much brilliant art, I changed it to "storytellers," because I just had to credit the transcendent work he's doing on this comic.
Batman #12 is a special issue – it's eight to 10 splash pages. There are no panels in the whole thing.
And to tell a story that way is something utterly unique, and I think it's something only Mikel could do. And I'm just crazy proud to be working with him again.