If you thought the Batman Who Laughs was the most twisted version of the Dark Knight ever, wait until you read the origin of the Grim Knight.
In March 13's The Batman Who Laughs interlude one-shot The Grim Knight, writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV show off the origin of a darker Dark Knight - one who shoots to kill, and has turned Gotham into his own proverbial weapon to fight crime.
With arresting art from 100 Bullets' Eduardo Risso, The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight shows why DC calls this new character the "most dangerous Dark Knight of all." And it all begins with one small but shocking tweak to Bruce Wayne's childhood. For more, Newsarama spoke with James Tynion IV.
Newsarama: James, so just who is the Grim Knight?
James Tynion IV: Honestly, the Grim Knight is one of the Bruce's worst nightmares.
It's a concept that goes all the way back to when Scott and I were working on Dark Nights: Metal. When we were conceiving of the Batman Who Laughs, there was a second idea we never touched; the Batman Who Laughs was a blend of Batman and the Joker, but there was an idea for another character lurking in the shadows that didn't make sense for that story. In Metal, the Batman Who Laughs was building a team to take down the Justice League, so each member had a Justice League element.
So the Grim Knight is this idea of Bruce who when his parents were shot down in front of him as a child in Crime Alley, he picked up the assassin's gun and fired back. The single twist of that moment creates and entirely different Batman. That is the horror of his world he's from.
Nrama: The idea of that scene is haunting - is it depicted in this one-shot?
Tynion: Yes. That scene is in the first 10 pages.
This issue serves both as a step forward in the larger Batman Who Laughs story Scott and Jock have been telling, but it also cuts back into the Dark Multiverse into the life and origin of the Grim Knight. It's modeled after those Dark Nights: Metal one-shots like the Batman Who Laughs one; it has a forward-moving storyline tied directly into the event, but the larger arc is the origin of a particular Batman.
For this one, it's that - and revealing who the Grim Knight's biggest villain is.
As you can imagine, a Batman who kills has a very different rogues gallery. The first time he met the Red Hood, for example, he shot and killed him - so he never faced the Joker. But he did face another villain who is dangerous in and of themselves, who we will reveal in this week's issue.
Nrama: Is Grim Knight what he calls himself, and what Batman Who Laughs calls him?
Tynion: On his world he calls himself Batman, but his nickname there is the Grim Knight - the Grim Reaper of Gotham. Just as here Batman is the Dark Knight, there he is the Grim Knight.
Nrama: So this idea for the Grim Knight has been percolating for some time, put on the backburner and it stewed more until now. How did it evolve?
Tynion: There was a point, when Metal was on stands and successful, that Scott would bring up the Grim Knight at conventions; sort of his way to kind of nudge DC to think about doing more specials that revealed other Dark Nights.
The idea had been sitting with us for some time, and in the planning of Batman Who Laughs he realized that Batman Who Laughs needed an agent in this world, so that's when we brought in the Grim Knight.
Once that came, up we spoke with DC about doing a one-shot in the center of the run - like was done with Metal - to spin out this character. Grim Knight's story needs to be told on his own, but still as part of this.
Through some crazy bit of lunk, we managed to get Eduardo Risso to sign on and tell this story. It's absolutely gorgeous, and deeply unsettling.
Nrama: Replicate for us how you reacted when the idea - and even the availability - of Eduardo Risso to draw this one-shot came about?
Tynion: [Laughs] Honestly, it was an email with our editor at DC. We were sort of spitballing who to bring in; sometimes in those conversations you throw out a few wildcard names who you know you're never going to get. Our editor suggested Eduardo, and I said something to the effect of "Yeah, of course. I'd be 100% on-board with that" but it was one of those things where it didn't occur to me it might actually happen.
But Katie got back, and said Eduardo was excited about the project and looking forward to it.
Really, there are certain moments in my career where I just can't turn the 'fanboy' off. I told everyone I was allowed to tell, and a couple people who maybe I wasn't, and said "Guess who I got?" It was quite the moment - even more so when the pages started coming in. The thought that Eduardo put in the work from page 1, the way he differentiated between present-day and past-day storylines.
We laid out in the script specifically what happened, but the way he illustrated is so him and I am just in awe of it.
Nrama: Any particular moments you can tell us about?
Tynion: There's a lot of moments in this one-shot fans will remember from Batman's history, but it's now twisted through the lens of the Grim Knight. We go into the fall of the Grim Knight on his world, and tracking Jim Gordon through Gotham's sewers. And how he connects with the Batman Who Laughs.
This is a deeply atmospheric issue cast into some really dark corners of the Batman mythos.
Nrama: Readers have seen a well-stocked Batcave with our main universe Batman before. What makes this Grim Knight version even more loaded?
Tynion: The most frightening thing we wanted to illustrate with the Grim Knight that with him, in a very real way, all of Gotham has become his Batcave. He has ammunition stores, devices, and death traps in every corner of the city.
He has fully turned Wayne Enterprises into an arsenal fueling him. Not just guns and knives, but Wayne Enterprises puts a special microchip in every weapon they make that allows the Grim Knight to shut down or take over those weapons. He has tapped into every surveillance system in the city, and can turn it against the populace. Everything is a weapon, and he uses it to wield in his war on crime. He is without the restraint we've all known in our regular Batman and his world.
Nrama: Could you see doing more with Grim Knight outside of this in your own solo stories?
Tynion: Absolutely. I had the same reason as we were doing the original Dark Nights: Metal - The Batman Who Laughs one-shot. The second I finished, I could write a 12-issue arc which charted the rise of the Batman Who Laughs.
In this one Grim Knight issue, there's hits at all of these stories we want to tell. Just the entire Grim Knight "Year One" would be a lot of fun. I'm not sure if I will get to tell that story, but it's there.
Nrama: This could be veering into spoiler territory, but do the Robins show up in this one-shot?
Tynion: No, we don't tap into that side of the mythos... but it'd be very interesting. That is a definite story, but not part of this one-shot.
There's another viewpoint, the story of Barbara Gordon, that we will find more out about this week though.
Nrama: You, Scott, and Eduardo have 28 pages planned. What are your big goals for this, personally?
Tynion: That's a really great question, and a tough one.
I think obviously our biggest goal is that we want to write something very compelling that drives the Batman Who Laughs story forward. This is very much plugged into the overall miniseries, and dives deeper into an entire corner of the next year of the DC line. It's another crucial step.
With this one-shot, fans will start to see the larger shape of what we're spinning up in the shadows. When people finish reading this issue, I want them to have the exact reaction you and I just did here: asking about the Robins, asking about Barbara, etc.
I want people to speculate, and build an entire terrifying world in their minds. If they have that kind of reaction, it means we did our job. We built this core of a new universe and we want people to want more. I think that's what we did for the Batman Who Laughs, but the Grim Knight is now the other darkest nightmare of Bruce Wayne.
I want people to feel and live in that nightmare as well... and enjoy some great Eduardo Risso pages.