Editor’s Note: Today marks the beginning of a new article series that TBU plans on bringing Bat-Fans weekly. One thing that tends to get the TBU Staff chatting is whenever a Batman Universe comic book writer divulges inside information on how things get planned on how things can change from an original pitch. It is always interesting to hear the plan and what actually came of it. So our new article series will take a look at Inside Batman, derived from the phrase Inside Baseball, where we will gather up interesting tidbits from different writers who have worked or are working on Batman comics and how things work behind the scenes to get those comics on the shelves every New Comic Book Day. This all started with James Tynion dishing on Batman and 5G in his Substack newsletter, but we are going to be searching far and wide for information to share and comment on. If you have any comments or insights you would like to see in future articles, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Inside Batman’ in the subject line.
Before we begin with the new stuff this week, let’s do a brief catch-up on last week’s newsletter! Here is a breakdown of the things that stood out to me.
1) And when I got there, I went to the bathroom, looked myself in the eyes in the mirror, and said out loud, “My name is James Tynion IV, and I am a comic book writer.”
Thoughts: Tynion has told the story of how Snyder invited him to co-write the backups on Batman for the New 52 before in these newsletters, but this has a lot more personal details, including his ambitions to write the Big Book himself. Highly recommend reading through the archives of the newsletter and subscribing to get these kinds of details, which provide so much interest, even if they’re not what all the news sites will be yelling about every Wednesday when he drops a new newsletter.
2) One week the book was going to be coming out monthly, the next week it was going to be coming out twice a month, and then it was going to be monthly for part of the year, and twice-monthly the rest of the year, and then fully twice-monthly again. Key story pieces I asked for kept getting taken away, and some of the decisions of where they wanted to take the character of Batman and his relationship with the characters around him ran fully counter to everything I believed about the character. I had to work on the fly, because the goalposts were shifting as issues were written and turned in and were being drawn.
Thoughts: This really explains the frustrating feeling about “Their Dark Designs” to me. That book had a focus on characters who couldn’t really evolve that much, giving it a meat and potatoes feeling, but the fact that all ten issues took place in one night, and all of the cool ideas that Tynion wrote about in his first few newsletters as seen below:
“Even Bruce Wayne is a figure of the shadows. He is a billionaire industrialist, but he is strange and a little reclusive. The last vestiges of his more conservative style would have gone out the window with the death of Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred laid out clothes for Bruce. With him, he would have dressed a bit more like his father. More sweater vests like the old money he is. Without Alfred, Bruce is pure practicality. He wears BLACK. So does Selina… They go to a different type of Gotham City gala. The Old Money Gotham is corrupt and broken. Instead, Bruce goes to the young money of the city to help finance its reconstruction.
With Selina on his arm, the “Playboy” Bruce is dead. Every waking minute is dedicated to the rebuild of Gotham City, both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman. He is in control of every room he enters, and people are a little frightened of him. He is one of the richest people in the world, and he has experienced so much loss. But it’s clear he’s trying to make the city better. People admire him, because most people in his shoes would have LEFT Gotham a long time ago.”
We never got to see this. There were hints of it, but it was swallowed up by preparing for Joker War in an overlong arc weighed down by expectations.
3) I’ll talk about what I was planning on taking over before I got the Batman gig. I’m going to show you the things I pitched for 5G, and the reasons I stopped pitching things for 5G, and what I pitched instead (Hey there, DC vs Vampires!). I’ll show you the different iterations of my Batman pitch, and how I came up with The Designer and his original secret identity.
Thoughts: All extremely exciting, and hopefully we at TBU can show the differences between what Tynion pitched, and what we got, in some detail!
4) And I’ll talk a lot about everything I’ve learned about Batman and Gotham City over ten years of working on the character and his world.
Thoughts: Someone who has demonstrated his love of Batman and Gotham for the past decade, and contributed as much if not more to its shape in that time, is one of the best placed to offer this kind of insight. If only that insight didn’t come at the price of losing his continuing story.
And now, for this week’s offering! Tynion spends most of his time talking about his first year writing backups and then the Batman annual (the infamous Mr. Freeze story) and then laying out his approach to Batman’s continuity. Tynion stresses that this approach is not DC’s official approach, either in the current editorial or in the dead 5G concept, but that it underlies the way he approached writing Batman when he thought about pitching to write the main book in summer 2019, in the middle of the publication of City of Bane, long after King’s exit was known, indicating that DC did not have a plan for quite a while about who would take over Batman even though King’s final issue date was set.
1) I started thinking about the voice of Batman as this kind of three-dimensional plot chart. I don’t know what the axes would be… Maybe one would be how much of a sense of humor he has on a spectrum between him being dead serious, to him smiling and joking around with the Bat-Family. Another would be how much he’s driven by altruism vs obsession (Is he trying to help people, or is he just doing it for himself). And maybe the third is how controlled he is vs how emotionally impulsive. (The cold calculated Batman vs the Angry, Rage-filled Batman lashing out). There are probably better axes, but I bet you could plot the voice of every appearance of Batman in every media on that 3D plot chart… And somewhere on that chart would be a dense cluster of dots, and at the center of the cluster is the “REAL” voice of Batman.
So, ultimately, you basically pick the voices that most reflect your thinking of the character… For me, it was one part Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series, one part Scott Snyder’s voice for the character, one part shaped by his recurring appearances in Chuck Dixon penned Bat-Family stories from the 90s and early 00s, and one part shaped by his appearances in Grant Morrison penned JLA comics from the same era.
Thoughts: Here Tynion lays out his biggest influences on how he sees Batman’s voice directly, as well as the kind of methodical thinker he is when he approaches character construction. He tries to get into the character’s head, in comparison with other versions of the character, and how people respond to things in real life. This section of the newsletter, and the next, really show the influential pieces of “who is James Tynion’s Batman”, and provide a fascinating look at some of the potential drives towards not just how Tynion writes Batman, but also the Bat-Family members he chose to use a lot.
2) I think there are five distinct eras in Batman’s character history. Each of them have their own distinct themes, casts, and lessons. In my head, they each took up approximately 5 years in continuity, making the present day Batman about fifty years old, but a very fit and active fifty (a few dips in Lazarus pits have probably helped).
ERA ONE: BATMAN vs. THE MOB
Bookends: Batman: Year One & Batman: Dark Victory
ERA TWO: BATMAN vs. COLORFUL VILLAINS
Key Stories: Robin: Year One & Batgirl: Year One
ERA THREE: BATMAN vs. THE WORLD
Bookends: Batman: The Demon’s Daughter & Batman: Son of the Demon
ERA FOUR: BATMAN vs. HIS LIMITATIONS
Bookends: Batman: Death in the Family & Batman: Under the Red Hood
ERA FIVE: BATMAN vs. HIMSELF
Bookends: Batman and Son & Dark Nights: Death Metal
Thoughts: Here we see the skeleton of Tynion’s Bat-history, as well as some potent commentary on things Tynion sees as rich areas for storytelling. There are a lot of the usual suspects – Year One, Dark Victory, Batman and Son, there are also very specific events that Tynion thinks either exemplify or epitomize his “eras” of Batman. Tynion mentions he thinks that the Colorful Villains era – the era most associated with the Silver Age, is the least mined because people tend to be embarrassed about the goofiness of that time period. As a commentator, I also think that it’s interesting and perhaps a bit sad that even as the scope of Batman stories has expanded – from Gotham to the world to the universe – the themes of the story have contracted until Batman is firmly focused on his own flaws or villains who are more and more mirrors of himself. Though I would argue that the sign of a good Batman villain is the exaggeration of one main trait or element of Batman’s character – Two-Face and Batman’s dual identity, Joker and Batman’s sense of isolation from normal society – the explicit emphasis on this to the exclusion of Batman having a real impact on the outer world seems like a bit of a downgrade. But that’s entirely this reader’s commentary, not hinted at by Tynion himself.
Tynion’s comment about Batman being about fifty years old indicates a specific age that’s a lot older than most people are willing to say (outside of Morrison, who clearly thought of Batman as at least in his forties). Mitch Gerads did say to Tom King that he saw Batman as a fifty-year-old, but King never committed to any specific age. Functionally, because of things like the end of Endgame by Snyder, Batman is more like a twenty-eight to thirty years old, but Tynion’s been writing a Batman who is a lot more tired and a lot more weathered than most writers are willing to openly acknowledge – likely because DC has at least an internal understanding that Batman should be considered in the middle of his 30s at the oldest.
3) But it seemed clear the job of taking the main Batman book would effectively be the writing of the last Bruce Wayne Batman story in core continuity.
Thoughts: Though Tynion does stress that DC made it clear that while a new Batman would take over the main book, Bruce would still be around – there’s still a sense that DC’s original plans for The Next Batman were a lot bigger. And now that November solicitations have revealed that Bruce will be gone after Fear State concludes, perhaps that impulse to replace Bruce, in a different form from 5G, is coming around again. We’ll have to wait and see!
Conclusions: Like the first newsletter, Tynion focuses mostly on the background to his pitches starting in 2019 (and I personally hope that he’ll take some side trips to Batman Eternal, Batman and Robin Eternal, and his Detective Comics run), but not a whole lot of new information about DC’s firm plans or future directions are revealed. Nonetheless, this is an incredibly enriching read, and The Batman Universe definitely recommends subscribing to read the whole thing (and support Tynion).