We’re back! And despite the fact that James Tynion dropped a thirteen-page pitch document along with additional notes detailing what his original plans were for Batman #86-100 in the latest “Thinking Bat Thoughts” including what Tynion traded for Batman, we’ve managed to find a few extra tidbits from past Bat-Book writers to fill out this week’s column! So sit back, grab your popcorn, and enjoy this week’s Inside Batman.
Kicking off this week’s entry with thoughts from James Tynion:
1) I knew that my run needed to serve as a bridge to a new status quo on the other side of 5G. What that meant, effectively, was that I needed to end the year with Batman leaving Gotham City, I needed him at odds with the Bat-Family to reflect each of their positions in different corners of the 5G status quo, and I needed to end the relationship between Batman and Catwoman. I knew the Fox Family was going to be playing a key role in 5G, so I thought it would be a good idea to elevate Lucius Fox and remind readers of his relationship with Bruce Wayne and the Batman mythology.
Thoughts: This is a very interesting list of demands, and what it reveals about DC’s plans. Batman would leave Gotham (which is now happening at the end of Fear State, per Josh Williamson’s Twitter announcement). Batman needed to be at odds with the Bat-Family (which was true at the beginning of the run, particularly in the frustrating and painful Batman: Pennyworth RIP #1), but doesn’t seem to be the case going into Fear State. The Fox family, of course, appears front and center in Future State: The Next Batman, Second Son, and now I Am Batman, but of course the focus has shifted from Luke Fox to Tim “Jace” Fox (no official statement has been made about why, but my speculation abounds, from theories that the Batwoman television series dictates that Luke Fox can’t be seen as Batman when they’re introducing him as Batwing, to the idea that John Ridley decided to use Tim instead of Luke because of the lesser need to reinvent him given how few stories Tim is in compared to Luke – but I digress). Finally, the “need” to end the Bat/Cat relationship demonstrates just how much meddling editorial made in Tom King’s run, that they so clearly communicated to King’s successor that he needed to undo the chief focus of that run.
2) I remember one meeting where I asked if there was anything else the bosses needed to happen in BATMAN, and I was told that they wanted me to drive sales on the book up. I remember asking the bosses what they saw as helping to drive sales. I was told that in recent years the biggest sales drivers had been the death of Alfred Pennyworth, and the wedding of Batman and Catwoman… Salesy moments that could get national press outside of the more insular comics press… I was also told that the other thing, historically in comics, that tended to be a sales driver was the creation of new characters.
Thoughts: Interestingly, in all of these questions about “what increases sales”, no one mentioned that “using Joker and main villains” is a good way to drive up sales. And given that Batman was estimated to sell about 125,000 copies to shops (not necessarily to customers) by Comichron in July, it seems that Tynion has figured out part of the trick. (Another part of the trick, unfortunately, is a glut of incentive covers that boosts sales in my opinion artificially and in the long run, can be catastrophic to the series, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens if and when they stop printing so many covers for their flagship title which should be selling in these numbers without such tricks. But that’s not really germane to what Tynion is talking about here.)
3) I knew that, effectively, I was going to have 15 issues. I was being told it was only going to be 12 issues, but that meant that we were going to end on Batman #97, which didn’t make any sense to me, so I expected at some point they were going to realize they wanted three more issues to get the sales out of an Issue #100. The plan was for those issues to come out Monthly, with Tony S. Daniel on art.
Thoughts: Interestingly, here are details that don’t seem too important right now – the fact that DC only gave Tynion twelve issues, leaving three issues to Batman #100 for no good reason. But the fact that the series was supposed to be going monthly is fascinating, and perhaps the most intriguing piece of what Tynion promises to deal with next week.
4) The Last Robin Story
As discussed, Pete Tomasi and I would like to do a Robin backup series that runs through both Batman and Detective Comics in 2020, starting with Batman #86 in January. This will give us a definitive Damian Robin story. At the start, we’ll give the run another title, but ultimately, the goal would be to package it as “The Last Robin Story”.
I have not figured out how to tie these two disparate threads together, but I think this story will be an international mystery…I think this should be the last big Ra’s Al Ghul story. If Ra’s is in play and we can’t use him in a big way, we’ll bring back his father “Sensei” as Damian’s Great Grandfather. I also think this story should bring all the Robins together, somehow.
Thoughts: This, quite obviously, didn’t happen. However, it’s interesting how many pieces of this we can see floating around. Tomasi’s attempts to use Damian in Detective Comics can be seen as fragments of this original idea, the original appearance of the Robin title as a backup in both Batman and Detective (despite it only being a two-part story rather than an epic run of backups), and the importance of the world of Ra’s al Ghul and the international world all came together for the current solo series. However, you could also argue that Damian’s nature and history require the use of these pieces – Damian is a creature of the world, not of Gotham, and most of his solo stories in the past six to seven years have been international and al Ghul focused, from the brilliant Patrick Gleason series Robin: Son of Batman, to the recent one-shot story in Truth and Justice #6. So one can’t be sure that Tynion’s plans were any kind of driving force for what’s happening with Damian right now – they could just be parallel lines of story development, given the logical nature of Tynion’s analysis of the character.
5) I would like to return to the “Hush” era Batman logo…It doesn’t seem worth designing a whole new one for just one year, but it’s a great logo, and evokes a great era with the character.
Uniting the Line
If we do all of the above, there’s a simple visual language that will unite the line starting in January. Gotham is under construction. There are a few key new landmarks which we should reference across the line. Everyone who is on good terms with the Bat-Family should get some new gadgets from Lucius. Everyone should be coping in some ways with the death of Alfred. Even just doing all of that will do a LOT to pull our stories together and allow them to feel like they are standing together.
…beyond the story level, I think there are other characters we need to address. Red Hood and Batgirl have gotten a little left of center to the point that they aren’t immediately recognizable as the characters people know and love. And I do think we want Tim Drake in his classic Robin suit one last time, whether that’s in the main Batman title, or the Robin back-up series.
Thoughts: Tynion had a lot of thoughts about how to unify the line – ultimately, though he was able to get the Bat-Books to line up AFTER Joker War, his plans kind of fell apart in the first year of his run, quite possibly because of the double shipping problem. As for the idea of the new logo – I, too, would like a new Batman logo – Detective Comics got a new one, and we’ve had the current Batman logo design for a full ten years now that September 2021 has come around. I don’t know if returning to the 2003 design is the way, but it would have been a welcome change. The pushing that Tynion, Tamaki, and now Williamson have done to return the black and yellow Bat-oval to the costume clearly shows a sense of keeping a foot in the past as well as pushing the story forward to new places.
6) Act One – Rebuild
Act Two – The Death of the Joker
Act Three – The Last Batman Story
…what I was actually asking permission for:
I wanted the four most iconic Batman villains… The classic Batman 66 “Underworld United” of Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman (which I got)
I wanted to give The Joker Bruce Wayne’s fortune (which I got)
I wanted to put The Joker into a coma, or kill him (which I did NOT get)
I wanted the core Bat-Family on the table for the story to help resolve each of their individual relationships with Batman (which I did NOT get)
I wanted to determine the role of Arkham Asylum in the future of Gotham City (which I did NOT get… in my first year, at least)
There was one request I made before writing the document that I decided it probably wasn’t worth fighting for. I had been told that Harley Quinn was locked into Suicide Squad and I would not be able to use her. So I didn’t push right then… I was more interested in getting my hands on the Bat-Family.
I wasn’t going to get the Bat-Family as a supporting cast here because they played a key role at the climax of City of Bane, and I wasn’t going to get Arkham since it had just been featured in a key Detective Comics story.
Thoughts: The whole pitch document is amazing – thirteen pages including five lengthy script treatments for the Rebuild first arc, and strong paragraph treatments for the next two five-issue arcs. While I have really enjoyed the most part of Tynion’s run, in a lot of ways, the changes between the detailed almost-script pitch document really makes me mourn for what we didn’t get. Losing the scene with Selina and Bruce at the opening party especially hurts, given how it would have really shown Bruce in a different context, when in fact we got a ten-issue arc leading into Joker War that was all Batman all in one night, never leaving the suit. The promise of Batman out of a tuxedo or suit, wearing all black, with Selina on his arm from those first few pages of pitch document (which were a huge part of Tynion’s early newsletters), is so tantalizing. The frustration with the Bat-office and editorial in general with dictates like “You can’t use the Bat-Family because Tom King just used them, you can’t use Arkham because Tomasi just used it” makes very little sense unless they have some kind of real sales data that indicates that “overuse” of the Bat-Family decreases sales.
This pitch was submitted in September 2019, a bare three months before the first issue hit the stands, indicating that DC was really cutting things close to the wire with their flagship title, since it generally takes at least three months, usually between four to six, from pitch to print for a comic – and Tynion wrote the first issue two weeks later, changing very little.
You can see the pieces of Joker War in this Death of the Joker pitch – Joker’s stolen Batman’s fortune, Joker controlling people, Joker wearing a Batman suit, Riddler and Penguin being major parts of the plot, callbacks to the first times that Batman and the Joker fought, the meta nature of the fight. The huge difference we see is Selina or Jason using a taser to lobotomize Joker. The “last Batman story” ending with Bruce alone, fighting Jason – Bruce vs. his legacy, all leading to a new Batman – we’ll have to see how much of that makes it into Fear State, which we know WILL lead to a new Batman.
Next week, Tynion promises his Joker 5G pitch, along with more of the genesis of the red herring that is the Designer, the changes that double shipping makes, and chaos.
Scott Snyder, also on substack, wrote a bit about his time writing Batman in the New 52:
I didn’t know what was going to be the New 52. I didn’t know it was gonna be Batman #1, and I started working on The Court of Owls and found all that out. So, I kind of lived in abject terror for the first couple years on Batman. I literally almost ruined my marriage, where all I could do is work all the time to try and show myself that I wasn’t a total fraud and had something to say on my favorite character…
[Grant Morrison] told me the thing I needed to do with Batman was to create a birth and death for my version. And so, I actually came up with the death first, which became Last Knight on Earth, me and Greg’s last Batman story. But Zero Year, I came up with after…
I wanted Batman to be something different than he’d been before for them. Instead of being someone who scared bad guys into the shadows, I wanted him to be someone who inspired good people into the light in frightening times—someone who wasn’t responsible for the villains creation, necessarily, but instead was someone who would draw their fire and take on these kind of big, iconographic metaphorical monsters, to make us brave in ways that would allow us to face real monsters, real systemic problems, and entrenched issues that make life really difficult now.
Thoughts: Scott Snyder’s “death of Batman” appears in Detective Comics #27, with the story of Batman setting up an infinite cycle of Bruce Wayne clones, all brainwashed into becoming Batman in a world with ever-increasing threats – which eventually became Batman: Last Knight on Earth, where those clones face a world destroyed by the original Bruce Wayne, who has now become Omega, the great evil, while the clone Bruce teams up with an unrepentant Joker as his new “Robin” (a concept which horrifies and disgusts me, given Joker’s obsession with slaughtering the brave and bold young men and women who put their life on the line to save others). His “birth” of Batman takes place in Zero Year – inspired by his son being terrified in a school shooting drill during kindergarten – where Bruce faces a Riddler who becomes like a terrorist hijacker, and a Red Hood with the nihilism that shoots children for fun. At the end of that lengthy reimagining, Snyder writes that Bruce decided to become Batman just as he almost uses electroshock therapy to erase his memory of his parents’ murders, but instead commits his life only to being Batman, claiming it makes him happy, and completely rejecting the promise of Julie Madison and a future of kind parenting of children.
At the beginning of his own run on Batman, Tom King gave an interview where he dealt with the same advice from Morrison:
Grant Morrison said it best. He said during your run you have to give Batman a death and you have to give him a birth. We gave him a birth, that was issue #1, and we’ll eventually give him a death.
Thoughts: Tom King’s “death of Batman” appears in Batman Annual #2, in which Bruce, having married Selina, fathered Helena, and maintained relationships with nearly all of his children (Dick, Jason, Tim, Stephanie, Damian, Duke, Carrie), dies in his sleep, surrounded by those he loves. In an eerie similarity, his “birth” of Batman appears in Batman #12, in which Bruce nearly commits suicide by cutting his wrists, but instead swears his famous oath to make war on crime, and in his letter to Selina, declares that Batman is his own death.
While King and Snyder start at nearly the same place for their “births” – fascinatingly, their births are basically “deaths” (repeated by Snyder in Batman #50, and many times in King’s run), when it comes time for their actual deaths, Snyder puts Bruce in an endless loop of clones brainwashed into becoming reactive members of a death cult that ends in them becoming the worst evil in the world (not to mention Snyder’s obsession with evil Batmen in his Metal events), King ends with Batman dying having rebuilt what he lost – a family. One may, perhaps, be more dramatic, even, perhaps, more realistic, depending on your philosophical view of the world and what Batman means, but I know which one means more to me.
It’s extremely interesting to note that as far as I know, Tynion has not mentioned Morrison’s advice in writing Batman, but you can easily see him meditating on Batman’s birth in the flashbacks of Joker War and Their Dark Designs, and building towards a kind of “death” in Fear State, which will send Bruce out of Gotham for the foreseeable future.
Former Bat-Book writer and upcoming writer of Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf in Gotham, Bill Willingham, has also created a substack and posted recently about his experience drawing a Batman and Huntress storyline for Showcase ‘93. The piece contains many humorous anecdotes about editorial mismanagement (refusing to allow Huntress to wear a warm costume because that would require more money paid to the artist for a “redesign”, thus making Helena look like an idiot, and THEN requiring an expensive redraw payout when they insisted that Batman be changed to Azbats, despite the fact that everyone knew Bruce would be back soon). Willingham also may be sharing information soon about his upcoming Batman vs. Bigby crossover miniseries starting this month.
Editor’s Note: Inside Batman is an article series from TBU intended to bring you the behind-the-scenes scoops from the world of crafting the Batman Universe. If you have any comments, insights, or interesting elements we may have missed, send us an email at email@example.com with ‘Inside Batman’ in the subject line. You can find all of our past submissions for the Inside Batman series here.