To help celebrate 80 Years of Batman at San Diego Comic-Con, some of the current creators handling the Caped Crusader for DC got on stage to talk about what makes the character so great. The conversation touched on everything from the Adam West series to what they currently have cooking for Gotham City’s protector.
Tom King, whose current City of Bane arc caps-off nearly four years worth of buildup, remembers exactly when he was first exposed to Batman. At just eight years old, King received a copy of The Dark Knight Returns from his parents. Since his parents weren’t too familiar with the story, they had no idea just how dark and violent Frank Miller’s work was, meaning King was introduced to an intense version of the character right off the bat.
When the conversation later turned to villains, King revealed that he initially thought Bane was somewhat lame. As he put it, Bane is “the background character in the worst Batman movie” and it took a conversation with editor Andy Khouri about the villain’s real origin for the writer to realize how epic Bane truly is. After he heard about Bane being imprisoned and forced to tread water with only random fish to eat for 17 years, King came to see willpower as the character’s core tenent. Just like Batman himself, Bane is willing to bide his time and do anything to come out on top.
“You have two immovable objects who are going at each other,” King said, comparing their battle to Zod and Superman’s balanced rivalry in Superman II.
Former Batman and Robin scribe Pete Tomasi just started a run on Detective Comics and decided to reintroduce Damian Wayne to the book. The writer, who grew up a dedicated Dick Grayson fan, slowly fell in love with the character as Grant Morrison developed him and ultimately gave to Tomasi to manage. A “fan of the banter and the backbone that Damian throws” at Batman, Tomasi believes the presence of a Robin, especially Damian’s, “adds a little spice” to the title: “He is kind of the perfect Robin if you want someone with all those extra skills and talents that can justify having a ten year old out [there].”
Brad Walker, who is handling art duties on Detective Comics, said he inundated himself with Batman material to prepare for the project, which is also celebrating 80 years of Batman. The artist said he falls asleep to Batman: The Animated Series and listens to Danny Elfman’s score whenever he works. A comic fan in the late ’80s, Walker said he can’t really remember a time when he hasn’t been inundated by the character, with The Dark Knight Returns and Death of the Family dropping just a few years before the animated series first hit the silver screen.
When it comes to Damian’s role in Detective Comics, Walker is happy to have a Robin in the book, especially one who challenges Batman in different ways. Walker said, “It’s interesting watching Batman trying to soften someone instead of harden someone.”
Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl is another essential part of the Batman mythos. Writer Cecil Castellucci, who just started writing Batgirl, admires the character for how independent she remains in the Caped Crusader’s shadows. She believes that Batgirl has a “unique relationship with Batman,” something different from what the Robins have, and that she has the ability to stand outside the shadow of Gotham’s primary protector.
“Even though she’s derivative from Batman, she’s pretty much her own person and she’s very independent,” Castellucci said. “She’s really resilient.”
The writer is taking over for Batgirl as the DC Universe enters the Year of the Villain and she insists Barbara Gordon is “really gonna be challenged and shaken to her core.” Even though there was art teasing a mysterious robotic character that resembled Oracle, a former alias of Godron’s after being paralyzed by the Joker, up on the wall, Castellucci was mum about just how Batgirl would be confronted in the coming year.
Greg Capullo has drawn some of Batman’s most epic stories over the last few years, but the comics pro still considers himself a fanboy, and he loves geeking out over partner in crime Scott Snyder’s work. Capullo laughed off the suggestion that there’s nothing new to do with Batman and professed his love for the Court of the Owls in particular.
“Batman is very overconfident that nobody knows Gotham better than he does, he’s arrogant, to a fault as Scott proved,” the artist said, explaining there’s always something new to explore when it comes to the Caped Crusader.
Snyder and Capullo are once again working together on Batman: Last Knight on Earth, their supposed last Batman story. While Capullo is happy he just gets to finally draw beefy characters like Bane, Snyder insists the story brings all of their work together full-circle: “I really do believe it’s the best thing we’ve done and I’m really really proud of it.”
The writer, who believes the simple idea of “using trauma as fuel to win” is so relatable that the character can work in any realm. Whether he’s an ax-wielding warrior fighting monsters like in Metal or a campy bachelor like in West’s series, Snyder thinks the character’s simplicity easily leads to “so many different interpretations.” Comparing the character to a folktale, Snyder understands fans may not love every version of the Caped Crusader, but it’s that adaptability that makes him such a fundamental character.
Batman has defeated Darkseid and saved Gotham countless times, but writers King and Snyder agree that Batman’s greatest accomplishment is saving Dick Grayson and creating the Robin mantle. The two have essentially the same origin, but, as King explains, Dick avoids “the darkness that Batman is haunted by.” Instead, he’s “the ultimate optimist of the DC Universe” and someone everyone can rely on.
“The difference is Dick had Bruce in his life and Bruce was able to share that pain with him and sort of guide him through,” King said.
Bruce Wayne’s lack of powers arguably makes him one of the most relatable characters in comics, so it’s touching to hear that the writers who are guiding him forward in his 80th year find his most precious victory to be something as intimate and relatable as just being there for someone in need during a dark time.