By Nick Kazden
Robin may be pissed off at Batman in the first Titans trailer, but the character is still going strong in the comics. A who’s who of DC’s finest, including Joëlle Jones, Bryan Hill, Clay Mann, Tom King, Enrico Marini, Pete Tomasi, Mitch Gerads and Mairghread Scott hit the stage in room 6DE to talk about what’s next in everyone’s books and how some of the Bat-Family is faring looking forward.
The panel started with Scott talking about her new run on Batgirl. Starting in issue 25, Scott is taking Barbara Gordon on a journey that touches major themes from her past. Not only will the character have a revamped costume starting in issue 27, but Scott said she wants the book to take things from both Gail Simone and Babs Tarr’s run on the book. The first arc is slated to reintroduce an unnamed classic Simone era Batgirl villain.
“I’m trying to take Babs Tarr’s Batgirl and put her in Gail Simone’s Gotham,” in a way that still shows “what makes Batgirl feel so young and positive and hopeful.”
In her opinion, Barbara is in a unique position due to her history of being disabled and continuing to thrive. Throughout her career, Barbara’s mind has carried her forward, so Scott wants to explore what happens if she gets to the point where she can’t just “pound another Red Bull” and continue to power forward.
“I don’t think she’s a character who deals with uncertainty particularly well because I don’t deal with uncertainty particularly well, so that’s something I definitely want to explore in the next arc.”
Responding to a fan’s question about whether Barbara will return to the Oracle role – a character King described as DC’s narrative equivalent to Nick Fury- the writer said she would only do it if it would somehow stick around long-term. “I want it to mean something if she does it again.”
Conversation then turned to Bryan Hill’s arc on Detective Comics. Hill, who is a writer on the new Titans show, said he received an email offering him the arc and he eagerly accepted. The arc, which is called “Black Lightning and the Outsiders” He insists that his story has “real consequences and real risk” and that he wanted it to “matter.”
Pete Tomasi, who used to write Batman and Robin and just finished up Super Sons, announced that he will be taking over Detective Comics in December with issue 994. Joined by Doug Mahnke on art duties, Tomasi said they are “really embracing the word ‘detective’ in this.” He described the first arc as “an insane detective story” and said that the character sort of has “to wage war on himself” to wear the cowl.
Batman: The Dark Prince Charming, written and illustrated by Enrico Marini, started with a drunken pitch at dinner. He said he told his publisher he would do a Batman story, and then a few months later Marini found out that he spoke with Jim Lee and got things going. Marini described the series, which follows Batman and Joker fighting over a little girl whom the Joker kidnapped, as very intimate. Since the Joker is such a big part of the book, he wanted to showcase the character’s “clownish and funny parts” instead of focusing only on his scary aspects. Now that the project is over, he said that he misses the Joker more than Batman.
King, who was anxious to discover the results of the Eisner awards held later that night, started by thanking the audience for sticking with him throughout his run. He understands why some people are upset, but he is still moved that people are so attached to his work that it generates this kind of emotional response. In his eyes, the arc was always going to be a celebration of Catwoman as well as Batman. He revealed that if you look back at his first issue, the reason so many variant covers feature Catwoman is because her prominence in the arc was one of the few things he already had worked out.
“You can’t break him physically, he’s been through it all,” King said. “You can’t kill another Robin because it happens to him all the time, he’s used to it. So, Bane broke his heart. It’s a way he’s never been broken before. Anyone who’s ever been in that situation, you know that’s a bigger pain than anyone can give you.”
King teased the intent of the next fifty issues with a simple question: “Can he come back from that?”
Looking forward to the next arc, King said Bruce Wayne will be more in the spotlight. A Gotham City jury is looking at a case revolving around Batman, and Bruce Wayne is using the experience as a way to “interrogate his own techniques” and be the harshest member of his own jury. Batman is dealing with the pain of losing Catwoman, meaning the character may be slipping into darker places, so it’s up to Bruce to keep himself on the right track.
As Bruce is stuck in court, Dick Grayson temporarily returns to the Bat mantle to make sure things are okay in Gotham. Comparing it to when “you break up with your significant other and your best friend sleeps on the couch to make sure you’re okay,” King said Grayson is doing everything he can to help Batman heal. Recognizing that it was Bruce’s guidance that turned Grayson into a productive, positive man despite his tragic childhood, Nightwing decides to return to the favor.
“He has to learn from his father how to heal his father, and that’s sort of the mission we’re going to explore.”
King revealed that at the end of issue 53, Batman returns to his classic Hush costume with the curved cape bottom. As Batman goes through the rebuilding process after the breakup, King said he realizes he “can’t wear the costume [he] wore when [he] was with her.” More than just a costume change, Batman is going through a transformative process that leaves him trying to “remember how [he] built this system” and grow.
Catwoman may have left Batman on the altar, but the character is in good hands thanks to writer/artist Joelle Jones. Jones, whose relaunched Catwoman #1 came out on July 4th, said Batman Returns and the animated series cemented her love for the character when she was younger.
Jones introduced a new villainess to the DCU with Raina Creel. The creator realized there weren’t enough female villains, so she wanted to create someone who is “gross and awful with no redeemable qualities at all.”
When it came to Catwoman’s slight redesign, Jones said she wanted to retain her “really nice silhouette.” She wanted the costume to emphasize the character’s movements in a way that people could pick up on very small changes and gestures.
While King is upset Jones isn’t working with him anymore, he had nothing but praise for her work and the new Catwoman series.
“Her art is so perfect and then you see her write for herself, she’s like a modern day Frank Miller and you can’t stand in front of that.”
Mitch Gerads, who is also nominated for an Eisner for his work on Mister Miracle with King, joked that “somehow I went from the military guy in comics, and then I met Tom and now I’m tjhe relationship guy.” He’s definitely happy with the new role and discussed illustrating some of Bat and Cat’s steamier situations. He revealed that he really wants to do a one page story about Alfred cleaning up the diamonds sprawled out on the roof during one of the couple’s randevous.
“What did you do with these Bruce?” Gerads said impersonating Alfred. “Do you think Bruce would return to that rooftop? There’s probably a million dollars’ worth of diamonds up there.”
The Beat Staff is an elite group of trained ninjas.