Damian Wayne is ready to take center stage in writer/illustrator Juni Ba‘s upcoming DC Black Label mini-series The Boy Wonder.

Launching on May 7th, 2024, The Boy Wonder follows Damian as he attempts to make his mark as Robin while Batman is away. Still learning how to be a hero after his former life as the heir to the League of Assassins, Damian confronts exactly what it means to be Robin and explores the legacy of the character throughout the five-issue series.  

The Beat caught up with Ba over email to discuss The Boy Wonder and the artist’s views on what makes Damian such a great character.

NICK KAZDEN: Batman has had a lot of sidekicks and there are a lot of interesting superhero-sidekick dynamics in the DC Universe in general, so what initially made you want to tell Damian Wayne’s story in particular?

JUNI BA: The impulse didn’t even come from wanting to tell a sidekick story, but specifically a story with Robin and Damian, because the story is about the very specific themes of inadequacy, growth and family associated to his particular situation. It’s an adventure story first and foremost, about a kid grappling with who he is and his place in a larger legacy. That works, I think, even without the Batman flavour, and that’s what I wanted to do.

Batman and Robins

KAZDEN: Given The Boy Wonder is presented as a fairy tale, what fairy tales or stories do you think Damian would have appreciated most during his days with the League of Shadows?

BA: Oh boy. We’re dealing with a kid whose every moment would have been a teachable one. So I’m assuming a lot of folk tales with lessons about not trusting too easily, or overcoming your enemies. But I suspect he’d have liked the stories of Sinbad, this great adventurer overcoming impossible odds and coming out on top in wondrous lands. There’s a certain power fantasy aspect to it that I think would speak to his ego and need for recognition.

KAZDEN: The series features a really concise and interesting perspective on Batman’s time as a superhero thanks to the way Damian recounts the tale of each Robin. What are some of your favorite Batman moments and what factors did you consider to determine which character beats should appear in this story?

BA: There’s this scene in Mask of the Phantasm where Bruce puts on the mask for the first time. It’s a great scene because of how it’s put together. The grandiose sadness of it. The horror of seeing his own surrogate father not recognizing him and being genuinely shaken by this new shape he took. I think form is very important with these characters. The way you use visuals and every other tool to convey what you need is pivotal with these larger than life characters.

What decided what should be in the book is what would have mattered to his kids, especially Damian. We’re dealing with people who lean into a legend made to give them a compass to follow, and so they want to adhere, or distance themselves from it. Damian very much wants to adhere but fears he’s not equipped for that. Throughout the book he meets people who found their own way to navigate those pressures. Again this works even outside of the Batman mythos. This is about living up to parental expectations, and your own image of yourself.

The Boy Wonder Preview

KAZDEN: I really love the way you visualize Damian and the other Robins expressing themselves with their eyes. What design elements of the character were you most excited to highlight to help show readers what Damian was feeling in a given moment?

BA: I do love using the eyes to express! It’s a very efficient and visually compelling way to do it, but more so than that I use character design. Their shapes, their colors, they all are designed to convey something relative to the story at hand. For example Jason takes cues from Taxi Driver and the general feeling of alienation and being a drifter. It’s all to give a shorthand into how he feels, to then unpack that and give it context. Everything is story basically. Damian looks like a cute angry potato! And that’s all because despite how abrasive he can be, he has to remain endearing and you must see that it’s still a kid learning.

KAZDEN: Despite Damian’s darker personality, The Boy Wonder feels really whimsical and light. How do you strike a balance between the pain and sense of awe that he feels as he discovers his place in Gotham City?

BA: Hoho the tone is going to evolve A LOT with every issue. It’s going to remain adventurous and fun but the complexities of his situation are going to become even more apparent over time. But overall this is a fun superhero story and it has to remain as such. I try to follow in the footsteps of other stories, superheroes and otherwise, that manage this balance well.

Nightwing and Batgirl

KAZDEN: How has the series evolved beyond the initial pitch and sketches you shared online a few years ago? Did everything line up with what you initially imagined or did you have to rethink some beats after it was officially picked up?

BA: I did have to change a few things but by and large this is still the story I wanted to tell, with the characters I wanted. I think in fact the notes I received ended up strengthening the book. But I did have to get rid of some stuff for lack of space or editorial mandate, or change some things, but nothing too major and this is very much I guess a Juni Ba book that happens to feature Batman characters.

KAZDEN: As a fan of Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series, are you excited for the upcoming Batman: The Caped Crusader show and is there anything you’re hoping it will include that wasn’t in the original series?

BA: I have no expectations! I’m a firm believer that a piece of art is the product of specific people at a specific time, gathered in a specific time and space. Any new version or second attempt is a new thing. I wouldn’t want to taint whatever they’re doing with an idea of what I hope for or think they should do. They already gave me one of my favourite pieces of all ages storytelling. If I end up loving this new thing, great. If not, that’s okay. They have nothing to prove. I just hope to see the thing they wanted to make, as they intended it to be.

Below are a few additional preview images from the upcoming The Boy Wonder

Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl

The Boy Wonder Batman

Robin and Alfred

The Boy Wonder Robin and Alfred

The Boy Wonder #1 will be available at your local comic book shop and/or public library beginning on May 7th.