With the end of DC's Battle for the Cowl event came the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Batman as Dick Grayson took over the role in Bruce Wayne's absence.
As part of a relaunch of all the Bat-related titles, Batman #687 had not only a new character in the lead role, but a new writer as Judd Winick returned to the title. He'd previously written the Under the Hood storyline in Batman that resurrected Jason Todd, the second Robin, as an anti-hero in the DC Universe.
In his new Batman run, Winick is currently working with artist Mark Bagley on a story detailing the challenges Dick Grayson faces as Batman. After Winick's current story finishes up with October's issue, writer/artist Tony Daniel will tell a six-issue story beginning in November, but Winick will return to the title next year.
With Batman #689 set to be released next week, Newsarama talked to Winick about why he's taking the six-month break, what he's been exploring in the Dick Grayson/Batman story so far, and what readers can look forward to from the writer.
Newsarama: Judd, you've written the Batman title with both Bruce Wayne as Batman and now with Dick Grayson in the role. Even though he's wearing the same costume, what do you see as the biggest difference now that Dick is Batman?
Judd Winick: I'd say first and foremost, Dick's playing a role. It's been discussed for years that actually, Bruce Wayne is the disguise and Batman is the man. In this case, he's many times removed. Dick Grayson is not Batman. And I think that's what he's coming to grips with. Is he going to merely play the role? Or does he need to embrace Dick Grayson as Batman and truly find out what that is? So it's an entirely different dynamic.
I think that's the biggest difference. Dick became Nightwing. That's who he is. Dick Grayson has an outer life and an inner life as somebody else. Batman is just this full-on, obsessed, damaged, dark individual, this weapon of revenge that Bruce created. Dick isn't like that.
Nrama: They both lost their parents to crime when they were young, so what do you think made Dick different?
Winick: He had the advantage of having Bruce raise him and give him this outlet when he was young. I don't think it's purely something that innately and genetically makes Dick a happier person. When Bruce's parents were murdered, he had no one but Alfred, and had no way to vent this or work it through. He didn't know what would finally solve this for him, which would be to fight crime and attack those who had taken away from him. But Bruce gave that to Dick when he was young. When he was just sort of recovering from this, when he was just coming out of this experience, Bruce gave him the ability to fight back. And I think that probably gave Dick Grayson hope and formed him into the person he became. Instead of becoming another Batman, he became what he was.
But I actually see Dick Grayson as Batman as a person who is playing a role, one that he did not plan to do forever. I think he just sort of sees this as a means to an end for now.
Nrama: So, this smile that we saw Dick wearing in the cowl -- is that symbolic of the difference?
Winick: Yeah. It's absolutely symbolic of the fact that, despite the fact that Dick is playing the role of Batman, he can't help but enjoy himself a little out there. Dick is a born performer. And when you watch him as Nightwing, and I mean separate from what I did with him in Outsiders, which was a very specific thing, but Dick as a grown man still gets a kick out of these things. As serious as things might get, some of this is still exciting for him.
Nrama: At the end of this last issue, it was apparent that readers aren't the only ones who know there's something different about this Batman. Why do you think Two-Face figured it out in particular?
Winick: Two-Face is someone who understands duality. I think he also notices the physical, obvious, less philosophical aspect of it because he's someone who has fought both Batman and Nightwing before. But the flip side of it is Two-Face understands duality and...
Nrama: Ahh... I like how you slipped "flip side" in there.
Winick: [laughs] Unintentional! But there you go. I'll take credit for it. I did that on purpose. Absolutely. But yeah, Two-Face understands the duality of a personality. And I think something in him senses that Dick doesn't have that. There's something about Batman that, those who fight him, those who frankly are as ill as he is, can sense. That's something I always tried to touch upon with Batman is that he's not a normal person at all. There's something very wrong with him. That's why he does this, and why he can do it so effectively, because he's driven. Well, those he chases, who are also obsessive in turn, they all share something. They all sort of sense it. Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, the list goes on. These are all really just damaged people. And I think they know their own kind when they smell them. They sense it in Batman. And even from a distance, Harvey knows something's different, something's missing.
Nrama: Another thematic thread in this story is the role of mentoring. I see Dick and Damian, and Two-Face has Benny, and even Gordon and Pike to some extent. Is that something you were trying to explore in this story?
Winick: Yeah. I wanted to shine a lantern on just that -- the mentor-mentee relationship. Those coming from experience and those who have so much to learn. In this case, Dick is now the mentor. And he has been for many years. But in this case he is Batman to a Robin. The unspoken thing for Dick is that he doesn't exactly feel comfortable in the role. But I think Alfred gives him license to explain that there are times that Bruce had to go it alone, if only because things were so complicated that this isn't a time to be teaching, for a couple of reasons. Let's get nerdy about Batman. Tactically, he doesn't need the help. And two, he's unsure of how he's going to go about this. If he's not sure about every step he's going to take, he can't be dragging someone along. You can't be second-guessing yourself with someone by your side.
And that's the difference, in this case, between the solo Batman title and Batman and Robin. There's times where Batman is going to be just Batman and needs to go it alone.
And with the other relationships you mentioned, that's the same thing. You've got each of them talking to someone who knows a little bit or a lot less. Experience talking to inexperience and how that plays out.
Nrama: How is it working with Mark Bagley on this series? We've had one issue of you working together on Batman, but I'm sure you've seen more, with how quickly he works.
Winick: Yeah, he's practically done. I've written the whole story already, and he's like lightning. He's been great. Mark is a great artist. No, I think I'm doing him a disservice just calling him the artist. He's a great storyteller. Fantastic storyteller. There's never, never any fear of what I'm putting down on paper not coming across in a clean, clear and dynamic way. He's someone you can rely on for that.
Nrama: You'll be leaving the title for six months and then coming back? Are you taking a break?
Winick: Yeah, leaving is sort of a misnomer. I haven't actually stopped. Basically, I'm continuing to write the title; they're just coming out later. Mark is going over to JLA, so there's still some discussion about who's going to be drawing Batman next. But it's not so much that I'm leaving. I know where Tony's going and he knows where I'm going to end up in the next story.
The next major arc I do is somewhat self-contained and quick. It takes place over a short period of time. I'm still working on it, so it's between five and six issues. No, it's not a break so much as Tony's coming in to do his arc while I'm working on the next one. We're getting a major jump on things.
Nrama: Are there seeds planted now for what you're planning to do in the future?
Winick: Yes, there are a few things. But this is a complete arc. Things are resolved by the end of it. There are many seeds planted for the future, but it's a complete arc with a beginning, middle and end.
We're also planning now for some rather big-picture things for Batman that are coming further down the road.
Nrama: Those big-picture things that are coming are for the whole Bat-team?
Winick: Yes. Exactly. But that's all I can say about it.
Nrama: Then the last question, Judd, is what are we going to see over these next few issues?
Winick: The action gets ratcheted up in a very, very big and significant way. And by the end of this arc, we're left with a bit of resolution that this is one of the first chapters of Dick Grayson as Batman. And by the end of it, some decisions have been made. Things have to change. If Two-Face can figure out who he is by him smiling, then Dick actually has not been doing his job particularly well across the board. So changes have to be made, discussions have to be had. It's a learning lesson for him.
Nrama: With a huge beat-down in the Bat Cave at some point.
Winick: That will be the ending, yes. We come full circle to find out who and why and how someone is beating up Batman in the Bat Cave.