By Gregory Paul Silber
[Very mild spoilers below]
Saturday, September 21st, 2019 was Batman Day… or Earth, Wind, and Fire Day, depending on your pop culture persuasion.
It’s fitting that both holidays fell simultaneously this year, because it was a beautiful afternoon in New York City’s Union Square, where a special Batman Day discussion and signing was hosted by Barnes & Noble. DC publisher Dan DiDio moderated the panel, featuring writer Scott Snyder (All-Star Batman; Batman: Last Knight On Earth), artist Brad Walker (Aquaman; The Demon) with his recent Detective Comics collaborator, writer Peter J. Tomasi (Batman & Robin; The Bridge), and the freshly-crowned Batman writer for 2020, James Tynion IV (Detective Comics; Batman & Robin Eternal).
Purchase of the new, exclusive Barnes & Nobles hardcover edition of The Batman Who Laughs–by writer Snyder, artist Jock, colorist David Baron, with additional contributions by Tynion, Eduardo Risso, and Dave Stewart--was required for entry. However, the Caped Crusader’s jokerized doppelganger wasn’t the focus of conversation. What followed instead was a warm, laid-back honoring of Batman himself and each creator’s personal connection to him.
Given the huge announcement that kicked off the event, special attention was paid to James Tynion. Fans couldn’t help but hang onto his every word, although he expressed difficulty avoiding spoilers, especially with his “boss” Dan DiDio sitting right next to him.
Nonetheless, he provided some hints about the direction his Batman run might be taking. While he’d written and co-written (especially with his former teacher, Scott Snyder) many Batman stories already, starting with a backup in Batman #8 during the New 52, he noted that most of these have focused on the characters “around Bruce Wayne.” His upcoming run on the primary Batman title, with art by Tony Daniel and colors by Tomeu Morey, will be his first time “telling a Bruce Wayne story.”
Asked about which supporting characters we could expect in his run, Tynion mused about the importance of Gotham City as a whole. “It’s so important that Batman is in a fictional city, rather than a real one,” he said. He also namechecked Lucius Fox specifically, implying an elevated prominence for the supporting character moving forward following the tragic events of issue #76.
James Tynion stressed that his run will be an easy jumping-on point for new readers that will also be rewarding for long-time readers. “Even though it picks up all the big threads… it’s going to be a moment that’s singular. The family won’t be in the first issue because I don’t want to rely on my old crutches… there is a major rogue from (Batman’s) past who is now very close to him.”
“The Alfred Who Laughs!” Tomasi laughed – referring to the events in issue #76.
A question from DiDio to the panel about the importance of Batman’s gadgets lead to more hints of what fans might expect from Tynion’s run. “It’s something I learned from Scott,” Tynion explained, suggesting that each issue might introduce a new gadget or trick up Batman’s sleeve. “There has to be something novel in every issue.”
The other creators’ eyes lit up talking about Batman’s signature penchant for ingenious, often ridiculous gadgets. Tomasi giddily reminisced about some of his favorite Bat-gadget moments, including a recent Detective Comics issue in which he had Batman shoot Bat-shark-repellant out of his ears. Earlier, he reminisced about how happy “little Petey” would’ve been to find out he’d grow up to participate in multiple milestone celebrations of his favorite superheroes, for both Batman and Superman’s 80th anniversaries.
Walker took the opportunity to explain his thought process behind his recent tweak to Batman’s costume, adding a strikingly believable reflective quality to the Dark Knight’s eyes inspired in part by Bruce Timm’s design in Batman: The Animated Series.
For all the laughs, Snyder underlined his gratitude to Batman fans for sticking with them, adding that even when readers complain about what he and his collaborators do with the character, he’s happy to know that it means so much to them that they’d react so strongly. Referencing his horror background, he claimed that one reason why Batman means so much to him is how Batman allows him to explore his greatest fears, especially as fatherhood has been at the center of his life throughout his various Batman comics throughout the decade.
Additionally, Snyder maintained that his current Batman miniseries penciled by frequent collaborator Greg Capullo, Last Knight on Earth, will indeed be their last–at least for the foreseeable future. “Nothing is forever in comics,” Didio said.
Even after DiDio was informed that they had to wrap things up, he allowed a few questions from the audience, and the last one should be of particular interest to Bat Family fans. Acknowledging that DiDio, somewhat infamously, isn’t the biggest fan of the character, he asked when Dick Grayson (and, perhaps implicitly, his beloved butt) would make a proper return to the pages of Nightwing. The publisher didn’t deny the accusation, but he did promise that this was something that’s being worked on currently, and that fans could look forward to big things from Batman’s original protege.