[click on the images to go to an exclusive preview of Batwing #6.]So far, the new Batwing title from Judd Winick has been introducing tons of new concepts, establishing new hero David Zavimbe as the African arm of Batman Inc.
Yet the Batwing title's connection with the rest of the Batman books has been limited. That will all change in the coming months as the soldier-turned-superhero will pursue his nemesis straight to Gotham City — and right into the middle of "The Night of Owls."
Winick, who launched the Batwing title in September, has been building the world of the character. From his establishment of Batwing's supporting cast — including Officer Kia Okura and Matu Ba — to the introduction of a mysterious former African superteam called The Kingdom, Winick has been adding to the mythology of Batwing as the hero has been dealing with the brutal villain called Massacre.
But now the writer is hoping to have some fun contrasting the African hero with his counterparts in Gotham, including Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin. And in Batwing #9, the hero will have his hands full as he finds himself in the middle of "The Night of the Owls."
Newsarama talked with Winick to find out more about Batwing's visit to Gotham.
Newsarama: In upcoming issues, Massacre and Batwing both go to Gotham City. What brings them there?
Judd Winick: As we've established, Massacre is killing heroes from The Kingdom. And two heroes of the Kingdom now live in Gotham City. Batwing is now still on the trail of Massacre, knowing that he is several steps ahead of them.This was planned from day one, that Batwing would come to Gotham City. Not just the United States, but specifically to Gotham City, at some point. And in forming the story, the idea was that the heroes from the Kingdom are located all over Africa. And for this story, we find out that two of them are in Gotham City.
So Batwing is coming to Gotham, and of course, he's going to get some help, which is fun. Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batman, Gotham City and in comes Batwing as well. How fun is that?
Nrama: We've seen you write Batman a lot in the past, but what's it like to write Batwing interacting with characters like a young Barbara Gordon and everyone who's in the relaunch version of Gotham City?
Winick: I wish we could do it for five more issues. Their interactions are slight, because the action and story is just barreling forward, and because most of it is really about Batwing. But it was still fun to write them in one story. I know readers sometimes get irritated when they smell anything that smells like marketing. It's like, "Oh, they're just putting Batman in there to sell books." No. I just really like writing Batman, and this is where the story was going, and I think it's fun. Forget marketing. This is awesome.
But while we're in Gotham, it's really, really plot driven, so we don't have the characters sitting down and talking. But the door's open for that. Batwing has now been there, to Gotham, for the first time. This is his first trip there. And he'll actually be there for three issues, right through the crossover.
After spending so much time with Batwing in Africa, it's refreshing to put him in an environment like Gotham City. As a reader and a writer, it feels great to have him there.
Nrama: What's his reaction to Gotham?
Winick: He's wonderfully out of his element, and he feels like he's surrounded by opulence. He comes from very, very humble beginnings.For the first time in his life, he has to put on a tuxedo, because he's at a benefit with his handler, Matu Ba. And there's David Zavimbe in a tuxedo. And he looks devastatingly cool, because he's like 6-foot-4 with broad shoulders, and there are many women admiring him. But he could not be more uncomfortable, you know?
He finds this a little bit repulsive, a little bit opulent. And Matu has to tell him to just relax. "Please try to have a good time." In a sense, David is a lot like Bruce that way. Even though Bruce has to be in the suit, wearing the armor of a wealthy man, I think they're both very, very uncomfortable in that disguise.
Nrama: It's interesting that you call it a disguise. People always talk about how Batman is really Batman, and that Bruce Wayne is his disguise. Is David similar in that way?
Winick: No. That idea that Batman is the real man, and Bruce Wayne is the disguise is something I've always toyed with. But in this case, Batwing is truly the disguise. David Zavimbe is a man who is just trying to figure out who and what he's supposed to be.
Nrama: Judd, you created this villain Massacre. What were your thoughts behind creating him as a nemesis for Batwing? And also as a villain appropriate for a story set in Africa?
Winick: From the jump, because it's a new series and a new character and the New 52, I really to create someone very big and formidable and scary. When you have the opportunity to create a villain from the ground up, you really want someone who feels right as someone who can go toe-to-toe with your hero. And of course, I wanted him to look terrifying, in the fact that he's swinging two machetes, wearing some sort of aggregated body armor which looks kind of realistic, that someone could put this together in our reality.
But also, I was really interested in telling a story that was a mystery. I didn't want it to be a monster of the week, a bad guy doing something and then being hunted down. I wanted something that involved Batwing on many levels. And I wanted something to unfold over a big arc, a big story, in a way that would let the reader learn more about Batwing and his life in Africa.So it was about figuring out that mystery, working backwards from there, and then Massacre just kind of came out of it, right now to the very subtly named "Massacre."
Nrama: Issues #7 and #8 wrap up the Massacre storyline. So does issue #9 tie into "The Night of the Owls" crossover?
Winick: Yeah. And working on that crossover has been a great experience. This is a very clean and intelligent crossover. Not to put down any of the crossovers that have come before, but I think we can admit that we've done some really ham-fisted stuff in comics where books had barely anything to do with what's going on, yet were called a tie-in.
[Batman writer] Scott [Snyder] gave us a opening to tell these stories.
And the timing was perfect for me, since Batwing is already there in Gotham City, so the crossover offered a really great, different story to tell for Batwing.
I don't think I can say too much about the story we're telling in "Night of the Owls," but I think DC has already indicated that it's one night. And Batwing has his hands full, as do all the heroes of Gotham City. So that will be the story in issue #9.
Nrama: One of the things that really sticks out about this series is that it really embraces the reality of Africa — the good and the bad — and it feels like you've done a lot of research and know the issues that many of the countries there are facing.
Winick: Thank you. I appreciate that, because, yes, we put a lot of work into this to get it right. We didn't want this to feel like The Lion King or like Tarzan. It was about taking this very unreal situation, with superheroes, and trying to put it into as real a context as possible that is truly representative of Africa.
Of course, it's still a big, darn superhero story. And we want to be mindful of that. This wasn't a trip through a social studies class, you know? But that said, any good story does show you things, and should transport you someplace. This is a story that needs to transport you to Africa, and for it not to feel phony. We're pretty sophisticated now, especially our readers. That last words says it all — they're readers. On a regular basis, they actually pick up something and read it. So they're a literate and educated bunch. So if this felt like some kind of phony caricature of Africa, it wouldn't fly. So we put the time in. I've been getting information from people at universities in African Studies and speaking to people who have lived in Africa, and even speaking to a couple people who still live in Africa.
Nrama: His origin is also such a huge part of the African story right now, and it's something I've been following closely as the sponsor of a child in Uganda. With more than a million people dying each year in Africa from AIDS, which is just an overwhelming number, the disease is leaving millions of children parentless. A lot of superheroes have an origin that includes them becoming orphans, but this one felt specifically tied to the African tapestry.
Winick: Yeah. In some regions of Africa, it's 20 to 25 percent of people who are living with HIV, and there are scores and scores of children without parents as a result. They're even called "AIDS orphans." And there are orphanages all over Africa to deal with the sheer amount of children who do not have mothers and fathers anymore, because they've lost both of them to AIDS.So it didn't seem like too much of a stretch to give David a background tied to that. And it also set into motion the idea of the boy soldier that he would have to become.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what will we see in Batwing in 2012?
Nrama: Ooo. I'm guessing these are Somali pirates, not "aye matey" pirates?
Winick: Yeah. We'll be diving into the high seas for a little while, and the Somali pirates will lead into a bigger story for Batwing.
We'll also learn a lot more about Matu. I like to think of him as Batwing's version of Alfred. I know a story about Matu might not sound exciting on the surface, but Matu has an interesting background which is very, very different from Alfred and the like.
Batwing will also enter into more of a relationship with his fellow officer, Kia Okura, who we've seen quite a bit in the issues so far.
And we are not done with The Kingdom. There's something with that group that will weave back into the title later in 2012.
- KYLE HIGGINS p.2: Bringing NIGHTWING Back to BAT-Family
- NIGHTWING Brings Circus Back to Gotham for NIGHT OF THE OWLS
- DC Comics' FULL April 2012 Solicitations
- BATMAN & ROBIN Explores Father-Son Dynamic On Way to OWLS
- SNYDER Spills Even MORE on NIGHT OF OWLS, BATMAN's Future
- SCOTT SNYDER Talks New BATMAN Back-Ups, NIGHT OF OWLS Event