Building a Better Batman Team in Detective Comics
Den of Geek caught up with James Tynion IV to talk about his groundbreaking run on Detective Comics.
Don’t call them the Batvengers. In fact, these Bat-themed heroes are closer to the X-Men. With the DC Rebirth relaunch of Detective Comics, James Tynion IV was given the unique opportunity to tell stories featuring all of Batman’s extended family.
What was once a series containing mostly standalone Batman stories is now the Dark Knight’s vey own team book. Batman, Batwoman, Batwing, Cassandra Cain, Spoiler, Red Robin, Azrael, and even Clayface join forces to fight threats too big for just one hero. The result is epic, sometimes hilarious, and always fun. Most importantly, Tynion’s team has thrust Batman into a role that he is not familiar with, that of a nurturing leader.
We sat down with Tynion IV at New York Comic Con to discuss the genesis of the team concept and his take on each of the diverse members of Batman’s new band of heroes.
Den of Geek: How did you land the gig on Detective Comics? Did DC come to you with that concept?
James Tynion IV: Well, before working on Detective, I worked with Scott Snyder on two weekly Batman comics – Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal – and, as we were building towards Rebirth, DC knew and I knew that the book we wanted was the book that was going to continue the stories of the entire Bat family. I had the idea for a while that I wanted to handle that as a team. Not just as series or an ensemble book, but as a literal team.
Originally, they thought it would be a new book. The way that everything shaped out was that they felt that the perfect title would be Detective Comics. For a while, the name on my documents was Shadow of the Bat, but they were like, no, this was a Detective Comics story. They felt that over the last decade the most iconic runs of Detective Comics were the ones that were outside the box. It was the Snyder/Jock run with Dick Grayson as Batman, before that it was the Rucka/Williams run starring Batwoman. Other than being the ones that people remember, they are the ones that keep selling in trades. You need to do something new and different.
Let’s talk about the team. No one has really explored Batman as a team guy outside of the Justice League. Yeah, there was the Outsiders, but he was more of that team’s mentor figure, an outsider to the Outsiders. You’re writing Batman as a leader of his family.
One of the things I’ve always hated was these moments when there would be young upstart vigilantes in Gotham City and Batman would basically say, “No.” He would try to stand in their way and prevent them from becoming heroes. It occurred to me that at some point Batman needed a way to say, “Yes.” If these guys are going to go out and do it, he needs to give them the skills to do it right. That’s where the idea came from to do it as a sort of boot camp. Once we started using the language of boot camp, we realized that Batman doesn’t have the expertise of running a kind of boot camp. But there’s a character in Gotham who does.
Which obviously brings us to Batwoman. Tell us about your take on Batwoman. Where is she now, and what does she want?
Obviously, going all the way back to the Rucka run the key question is: what is her mission? That’s the difference between Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne. He had his life ripped apart by faceless crime, and in that moment he made an oath to build himself into the perfect crime fighter to prevent that from ever happening again. When Kate was only a child, she had her life destroyed by faceless terrorism and decided to build herself into the perfect soldier to fight that and prevent it from happening.
But because of her sexuality, society didn’t let her.
Exactly, because of her history, Kate hit a wall. She was on the path to, you can imagine her rising in the ranks and becoming a Captain America sort of figure, but she was kicked out of the armed forces. That was the only way to become what she set out to do. She stumbled, she became lost. She would be lost in bars. That’s where she met Renee Montoya for the first time.
So you have a character that has a kind of humility that comes with Kate that Batman will never have, and there’s kind of a core realism that says the world can stop you sometimes. But the Batman gives her a symbol for her mission. Part of the Detective story has been Batman letting her in and making her part of the core mission.
Let’s get to my favorite character in the book, a character you took from somewhat of a two-dimensional villain to a really fascinating hero. Clayface. You did an amazing job with this character. You found something in Clayface. What was it that you found?
It’s a sadness. It’ the sense of loss. It’s the fact that he faced something similar to Batman, and something we all face. Life comes at you, and there’s a moment where you don’t know if you’re strong enough to face what life has thrown at you. Bruce Wayne built himself into Batman to cope with that. Clayface, because his accident disfigured him, instead of rising to his moment, it darkened him. Batman sees that. He sees that Clayface doesn’t have to be a villain, he could be more if he wants to be. And he does want to be, but there’s part of himself that worries that at the end of it all, he will fall down again. He’s worried that on the inside there’s a monster, that Batman is wrong.
Seriously, your Clayface is like a Lon Chaney character thrust in the DC Universe. So let’s talk Spoiler. Spoiler fans can be rough on a creator. How have fans received your Spoiler?
There are a lot of people really happy that Stephanie is back. For every fan of every character, there is a definitive run on that character. Which defines their take on it. My Stephanie Brown, my Spoiler, comes from the Chuck Dixon Robin run. That’s the one I grew up with, and that’s the one that informed my take on the character. I think there are same younger fans who focus more on the Batgirl era or when she was Robin for a moment. That’s the stories that matter to them, and I understand that. But it’s something I have deep respect for – for the love of Batman family characters. You can see what characters I love, and that I want to bring back. I’m doing what every writer does, I’m building my iconic DC Universe.
If you could pick one other DC character to throw on your team, who would it be?
I already did it. It was Zatanna.
In our brief conversation, we did not get to talk about the remaining team member Batwing or the shocking return of a lost Bat character. But check out Tynion twice monthly on Detective Comics to witness some truly groundbreaking superhero storytelling.
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