[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Batman #7 and Nightwing #7.]With the release of this week's Batman #7, the threat behind May's "Night of the Owls" event has been revealed.
And Dick Grayson's role in Gotham City got a whole new twist.
Written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, Batman #7 revealed more clues about the ancient Gotham City organization known as the Court of Owls.
Bruce Wayne discovers that the Court's soldiers, called Talons, have been historically recruited from Haly's Circus — the same circus where Dick Grayson once starred as a boy.
In fact, Dick Grayson was supposed to be a Talon himself. The character had even been equipped with a compound in his tooth that not only marks all the Talons, but gives them the ability to be reanimated after death into virtually unstoppable killing machines with healing powers.
Now that the "Night of the Owls" event is about to begin, Batman #7 shows the Court releasing dozens of these reanimated Talons into the night. Snyder told Newsarama that the "Night of the Owls" event will focus on the Bat-family's battle against those Talons, with each Bat-book featuring the history of a unique Talon from a different era in Gotham City's past.
Newsarama called Snyder for a late night conversation to talk about the issue, and we ended up having a lengthy interview (presented in 2 parts) about Batman #7 and a slew of other topics related to the series.Scott & the Batmobile Why was the writer able to stay up for hours talking about Batman? "I'm actually building my son the Batman Lego Batmobile," Snyder said as we began our conversation. "I feel terrible leaving for Wonder Con. It's got a billion pieces. He has the Bat Cave, and I want him to wake up to it. So I'm just sitting here doing this. I might as well talk about Batman while I'm building the Batmobile." art from Batman #8 By the end of our conversation, not only had Snyder finished the Batmobile (see the photo he sent as proof), but the writer had walked us through the ideas that informed both Batman #7 and the upcoming "Night of the Owls."
Haly's Circus Revealed
Newsarama: Scott, I think the biggest surprise in this issue was seeing Bruce just haul off and hit Dick across the jaw.
Scott Snyder: I know, right? I know everyone probably thought, "Hey, he can't do that!" But he was actually knocking out that tooth.
Nrama: It's rather symbolic that the news of Dick's family history would come to him like a punch to the face. But Dick being marked as a villain is something you've been building toward since the beginning of this story, isn't it? Were you and Kyle [Higgins] foreshadowing these revelations in Batman #1 and Nightwing #1 when you both implied Dick was a killer?
Snyder: Yeah, this idea of the Talons and their connection to the circus, and Dick Grayson's involvement — it's something we've been building toward since the very beginning of the whole run.
There are more surprises coming, but this was the first giant twist, or reveal. I was nervous people would figure it out, because there are so many pieces of it in Nightwing too.The conversation [between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne] actually appears in both books, except Nightwing has [Dick's] narrative giving his perspective on the whole thing. So it's a little different, so that was tricky to do.
Nrama: Can you explain what effect these discoveries are having on Bruce? And what the revelations in this issue mean to him as he continues unraveling the mystery of the Court?
Snyder: For a long time now, the Court of Owls has been claiming that they're the true legend and true proprietor and almost owner of Gotham, or shaper of Gotham, the lords of Gotham. And that Batman is just a blip on the screen of history.
This story wasn't just about being shocking or sensational. The point was to really continue with that theme in the most devastating way to Bruce. Not only has he seen that the Court of Owls has been around for a very long time and has owned the city more than he could ever hope to, but what they've done in the past has also affected and shaped the lives of people in both his biological family and his adopted Bat-family, in ways that he's just starting to understand.
The things that [have happened around Bruce], even if Dick escaped his fate as a Talon, have all been touched by what the Court was planning or has done. That is the point of the twist here, is to say, not only have we been around a long time and everything you feared about us in that regard is true — all of our resources, all of our knowledge of the city, all of our influence and all of our power — but what we've done over the years has shaped your own mythology and your own lineage and your life and the lives of people you love.
Nrama: Let's talk about your addition of historical significance in this story, as you're looking back at centuries of Gotham City and the circus. There's been a lot of exploration of Gotham's history, especially through the Gates of Gotham mini you did with Kyle. Was that one of the goals, to round out Gotham's history?
Snyder: Well, we tried to give it a sense of depth and history, of the history of Gotham so far. And there's a lot more of that coming.With this issue, we were hoping it would give it scope, in terms of the ramifications of the things the Owls have done in the past, or what they were looking to do — how far their claws were reaching. This issue shows that the Court affected and shaped things that are surprising to us too.
Nrama: So let's talk about what Bruce discovered. The court has been using the circus to recruit these Talons, but they've additionally been imbedding this compound into their tooth?
Snyder: Right. We'll be explaining the Talons more in upcoming comics and how the Court developed this process. But what Bruce and Dick have just found out is that all this time, the Court of Owls has been using the circus as their traditional way, that dated back four to five hundred years. It was part of this antique tradition.
Nrama: Can you explain the process of the Court choosing their Talons through Haly's Circus? Are all these Talons people who were chosen through the circus?
Snyder: Yeah. It's an old, traditional circus, and when it comes to Gotham, they present their young athletes in a big show. In Detective, I hinted at this idea, that the circus would pull out all the stops for their Gotham show.
And when the circus comes to Gotham, one of them is chosen by the Court in secret. And then they're trained to be these amazing killers.
But in more recent times, they were thinking it was more and more risky. So they've been trying to develop this compound that would essentially reanimate the Talons. The ancient Court always thought the trick would be what the ancient Greeks thought, which was, give them these coins in one form or another in their blood, in their hand, in their eyes and under their tongue.
The Court is using a special compound that these bodies have been treated with. It's this material that's been imbedded into their tooth and seeps into their bloodstream in life and allows them to be preserved in a particular way so that they could be brought back to life, through this compound that they've been struggling to make over the years.
Part of how the Court found this compound is going to be one of the issue's stories in Night of the Owls, so I don't want to give it away.
We've now seen that this is the thing that allows them to wake up all the Talons.But I want to make this very clear too: Dick wasn't chosen to be a Talon because they thought he would be evil or because they thought he had some terrible quality. One of the things I think is ironic about it is that I believe he would probably have rejected the notion no matter what they tried to do to him. That's why he could never be one of them.
There's this strange sense of almost a mystical fate, and Dick has cheated that fate, whether it's a supernatural thing or not. Although it could just be coincidence, it could also be something where Gotham has a strange, almost dark, mystical quality to it, to challenge you and frighten you.
So this boy was supposed to be this evil bird, owl, but instead became a good bird under the wing of the Bat.
"Birds" vs. "Bat"
Nrama: That idea of birds versus bat is something you've been threading into your stories for awhile, even during your Detective run, with all the references to birds and the aviary. Now Bruce is beginning to realize he's surrounded by birds, isn't he?
Snyder: Yeah, there's something haunting for Bruce to realize that his closest ally is a bird, even though he was always called Robin. Now that the city is sort of divided along those lines, he looks around and what does he see? Birds of Prey, Robins, the Penguin — all of these make him feel very isolated as a bat.
Nrama: Bruce and Dick react very differently to the Court of Owls being so historical. Bruce is practically blindsided by the idea that he doesn't rule Gotham, but Dick doesn't see it as that important. Is that how you formed these two reactions?
Snyder: Very much. That was part of the fun of writing Dick the first time. I love writing Dick Grayson. I would love to write him again someday, because I just adore that character. He's so different than Bruce, and the things that upset Bruce don't upset him. The things that haunt Bruce's nightmares don't haunt his. But the reverse is true too. James [Gordon] Jr. wouldn't be particularly scary to Bruce, I don't think. Bruce wouldn't be shaken by the notion that such a person could exist and do these terrible things to the people that he's supposed to love. That doesn't touch a nerve for him. But the Joker, on the other hand, doesn't exactly touch a nerve for Dick the same way he touches a nerve with Bruce. And he seems to know the darkest secrets of Bruce's heart. You know what I mean?So it's wonderful to get Bruce and Dick together in a scene like this. The story is really constructed to be a story that, at different points, touches on the relationship between the two of them.
One of the things I've always loved are those versions of Batman stories that take place in the future where Bruce and Dick have had some falling out and aren't speaking anymore, whether it's Batman Beyond or Dark Knight Returns or something like that. It always felt very real to me in that regard, because Dick is probably closer to Bruce than anyone but Alfred, but he's even up there with Alfred in some ways. He has an incredible, special relationship with him. But then I think there's this kind of contention between them, as well, or tension between them that does, when you play it forward, support the idea of them having a falling out. It feels, to me at least, somehow right in my gut. Dick Grayson is kind of like the good son, but he has a difficult father in Bruce, and I feel like, down the line, it might cause some big rifts between them, and I could see it erupting into a big fight.
So that's something I was thinking about and playing with here. Part of the story is about isolating Bruce and making him see how alone he is. And one of the strengths of Dick as a character is that he won't leave you alone.So he comes into the story at a number of points, and this is obviously a really important one. But his line there is one of the things that's going to come back in the series too, where he says, they're just another criminal. They're just another villain.
Bruce needs to see that if he's going to survive what's going to happen in issue #8 and #9.
Nrama: Do you think Dick's line about Gotham not being the city of the bat comes from his experience having been Batman?
Snyder: Yes, definitely. Dick as Batman was facing a very different Gotham, at least when I was writing him, although I think the other writers were approaching it from the same sort of angle. In Detective, the whole story was about how Gotham organically changes, to challenge anyone that dares to be a hero in that city. And that's Jim Gordon as well.
You'll see a line from Bruce that opens issue #8 of Batman, and if you go back and look at my Detective run, you'll see that it's kind of a reflection of something Dick had said. But of course it's different, because Bruce is different from Dick as Batman, in the way that he views Gotham City.
Nrama: Dick has also lived elsewhere, although I don't know how much of that is still in Batman continuity. But even with Dick taking off with the circus and leaving Gotham behind for awhile recently, you can kind of tell that he's less attached to Gotham for his identity when compared to Bruce.
Snyder: Right, he's not. I loved all that material about him being in Bludhaven, and I think Nightwing is going to touch on some of those things coming up, in terms of him re-establishing himself in Gotham. But also exploring some of his history as well.
Dick Grayson is just a wonderful character and I loved working with Kyle on this issue. And I know Kyle has some really great stuff coming up in Nightwing.End of Part 1. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 and an interview with Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins about how this week's revelation about Dick Grayson's history will influence what happens in upcoming issues of Nightwing.
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