Tom King is at a liminal point right now - he's finishing up his run on Batman, and prepping for what comes next with Batman/Catwoman and Strange Adventures. Outside of comics, King is working on Ava DuVernay's New Gods movie and developing his own original television series.
Sounds like a great time to sit down with the writer - and Newsarama did, digging into those projects and where King's head is as as he goes forward.
Newsarama: First off, Tom, congrats on co-writing the New Gods movie with Ava Duvernay. How is that going?
Tom King: It’s been a joy so far. Ava is one of the modern American geniuses and working with her, it's just a pleasure. She's as brilliant as I thought she'd be. She's even better. My fear is that I have to write good. If I can write good, it'll be okay. If I can't, it won't.
Nrama: How is writing a screenplay different from writing for comics?
King: It's not that different. Technically, there's obviously differences and stuff, but the basic thing that makes it good is the same. It's that same feeling when you're a kid and you're on your floor with your G.I Joes or your Power Rangers or whatever, and you're making up a story and you're like, "Oh, this guy punches. Oh no, that doesn't work." So, you rewind it and you play it again and you rewind until you find the one where you're like, that makes sense.
It's that same muscle. So, it's just a matter of sort of closing your eyes and, and seeing these characters and listening to them and knowing where they'll go. It's actually not that different.
Nrama: How do you feel like you're added your comic adaptation into this movie or are you doing something completely different?
King: It’s all about Jack Kirby, sort of his vision for what the New Gods were. Everything Jack had done up to the New Gods, and he was in his 1950s, was a compromise. This is one of the greatest imaginative minds in the history of our country. And this is the first time he was free to sort of be himself. It’s like the Beatles' White album.
So, to me this is his masterpiece. This is like his, Picasso's Guernica or something. As a nerd who's embraced this, it's my job to bring the energy of that Jack Kirby and that connection to it and introduce it to another modern genius like Ava. And if I can merge that sensibility and get these two people who've lived these unique American lives, we can make a unique American movie
Nrama: Would you want to work more on the New Gods in comics?
King: No, comic wise I'm done with the New Gods. My first and last statement was Mister Miracle, if you want some New Gods from me that's where to go. That book opened and closed and it should stay closed. And saying that 10 years from now someone will offer me a bunch of money and I'll betray everything I just said. So, 10 years from now, Tom, I forgive you. It's cool. I’ll have three kids in college by then. Dude, do what you got to do.
Nrama: As you wrap up your Batman run, do you believe Batman and Catwoman should be married?
King: You've stumped me with this question. I have known married couples that are not in love with each other and I've known people who are in love with each other and not being married. I think Batman and Catwoman should love each other for the rest of their lives.
Nrama: You've mentioned this briefly before, but let me ask you squarely Why did you switch from Batman to Batman/Catwoman?
King: When we wrapped up “City of Bane” we wrapped up the bad guy part. Someone was tearing down Batman and bringing them back up and if you see with the latest issues Batman and Catwoman are in a healthier space now. Where they’ve acknowledged who they are and what they've lost and what they've risked and then they’ve now come back together.
The final arc of this was always planned to be about what that relationship is and what it could possibly mean to them. And by doing it in its own book, the way I've done Vision, the way I've done Mister Miracle, the way I’ve done Sheriff of Babylon - it gives me more space to do something super special, to have this be as meaningful as those books. To make it not another Batman issue, even though I love writing Batman issues.
Not that I could, but I want to do something like the Dark Knight Returns. Where you sort of step back from the universe in order to give the universe more power. Those are the comics like - Long Halloween that both define and redefine the character for a generation, and that's our ambition. I don't know if we're going to do it, but I think we can do it with what we have.
Nrama: Would you want to work on a Batman supporting character book? Especially a female-led character like Batwoman or Batgirl?
King: Yeah. It's funny. I mean Batman/Catwoman is very Catwoman-driven. As I’m writing I'm surprised at how much of a Catwoman book it is. I've written enough about middle-aged white guys feeling anxious. I'm ready to move on to something different.
Nrama: Speaking of middle-aged white men, what can you tell us about your upcoming Adam Strange title?
King: That's exactly the point is part of Strange Adventures is looking at exactly that issue and then undermining it because at this point people expect that. So now I can throw them a curve.
Nrama: How do you plan on redefining Adam Strange? Like you’ve done with many of the characters you’ve worked on in the past.
King: The thing with Adam Strange is he’s from this long tradition of Flash Gordon and these sort of characters that live on our planet and they're normal people and then they go off to another planet and they're incredible people. Right? John Carter from Mars - it was like a common trope and it's a metaphor obviously for colonialism. It’s that idea that the second son goes to India and becomes a king.
I wanted to look at that metaphor and look at what it means to live these two lives - your fantasy life in one place and your real life in another place. And use that as a metaphor to look at where we are as a culture now, where our reality is clashing with our fantasy of ourselves.
Nrama: Since Catwoman played such a heavy role in Batman and Big Barda in Mister Miracle. What supporting characters are you going to have for Adam Strange in Strange Adventures?
King: Well Lana, his wife, is a big supporting character. I've only written one comic where it's not about a relationship or a marriage. For super nerds, Adam Strange obviously was not the star of Strange Adventures. He was the star of Mystery in Space back in the early sixties.
And this is not a book about Adam Strange.
It's about Adam Strange and another character and the other character hasn't been announced because it's a twist in the first issue. So, Adam strange is only the co-star of this book in the same way Mister Miracle is the co-star with Barda. We haven't announced the other character, but it's someone different and someone who wants to come in. We have hints. If you look closely at Heroes in Crisis and Mister Miracle and a little bit in Batman, you could figure it out.
Nrama: You are working with Mitch Gerads again on this book. What’s your language now that you’ve worked on so many titles together?
King: We're like best buddies. I’m the godfather of his kid. We hang out all the time, I’m having dinner with them tonight. I think our language works, but what makes this special is that we're bringing in one of Mitch’s best friends. Who I’ve worked with once before, Evan “Doc” Shaner, who draws in a completely different style than Mitch.
Mitch is very grounded. That's what I love about him, is he takes superheroes and makes them real.
So that the stakes of the superhero lives are raised and Doc goes the exact opposite. He invokes that sort of magic of comics. He's the guy, if you want to draw a classic Superman Golden Age, you get a Doc Shaner.
So, putting those two together - and it’s not like one is drawing one issue and then one is drawing the next. They're drawing the same issue. it's something new. The essentially there is to push Mitch and I. We don't want to just write Mister Miracle 2 or Mister Miracle Returns or whatever. We want to do something new and artsier and try to stretch ourselves because if we just rest, we'll die. We're like sharks. I can't wait for it.
Nrama: To wrap, what can you tease about the end of your Batman run and how do you feel about your journey on the title?
King: I feel horribly depressed. I'm sad that it's ending. I'm going miss Batman. It's kind of like he's been a friend of mine. I know I still get him in Batman/Catwoman, but it's been three, four years of my life now that every two weeks a Batman issue of mine comes out. And to not have that, it's going to be weird.
The weirdest thing is going to be in real life, people ask me what I do for a living and I say, "Oh, I write Batman." They kind of understand it, you know? And they're like, "What do you do for a living now? Oh, I write Adam Strange."They'll be like, "Oh, you do not seem like a legitimate person."
Nrama: Once they read it, they'll know Adam Strange’s name.
King: Exactly! I'm going miss working with Mikel Janin. What can I tease about the ending? I mean, it's going to break your heart and hopefully make you smile. Yeah. It'll do both at the same time. Batman #83 - you're going to be in tears. Batman #84 you’re going to be really angry, and Batman #85, you’re going to be in tears again, but hopefully for a different reason.