Batman Eternal: An Interview with James Tynion IV
We’re celebrating Batman’s 75th Anniversary all year long, but look for things to shift into a new gear next week with the release of Batman Eternal #1, the first issue of the brand new weekly comic series focused on the Dark Knight and his friends and foes in Gotham. As you can imagine, it’s not easy producing a weekly comic book series, and the challenge is even greater when the series stars one of the most popular super heroes ever created. But with a creative team that consists of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Jason Fabok, John Layman and Tim Seeley, it’s safe to say that you’re going to look forward to visiting this corner of Gotham week after week.
We’ve heard the Batman Eternal creative team speak about the series on a variety of websites and on convention panels, but we thought it would be fun to give them each a spot here on DCComics.com, to discuss the new series and share what Batman means to them. Up first is writer James Tynion IV, who is no stranger to the world of Batman, having contributed both to the monthly Batman comic, as well as related titles like Talon and Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Batman Eternal #1 cover (art by Jason Fabok)
James, let’s start with the obvious question. What are you most excited about when it comes to Batman Eternal?
Gotham has to be the best toy box in the entire comic book industry, and having the chance to tell a story of this scale, where we get to dig into all of Gotham’s strangest, darkest corners, with a humongous cast of characters is just incredible. When we set out to write this series, we knew that we had to come up with a story that not only explored the city, but completely reshaped it. Scott and I had the chance to show people a glimpse of the world we’ve been building in Batman #28, and I think everyone can see we’re drastically shaking up the status quo of Gotham City. In comics, a lot of people talk about things readers have never seen before, but that is absolutely the goal of this series. We want to build a radically different Gotham that’s true to what it’s always been, but something that can unlock a whole new generation of stories, with a whole new generation of characters.
What’s it like working on a weekly as opposed to a monthly? You’re a part of a larger creative team. How’s that going?
When I took on this project I kept joking that basically I just ruined the next year of my life. I was so excited by the story itself, but a project of such a massive scale just seemed like it would be a never ending anxiety attack! But the Eternal team has been hard at work since September of last year and in complete honesty, it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in comics. All of the collaborators, Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, and Scott Snyder… These guys are some of my best friends in the entire industry. We’re constantly on the phone with each other one-upping our ideas and making this beast better at every possible turn. I’ve always enjoyed working with Scott, but this is collaboration writ large and I couldn’t have ever guessed how much I love it.
How much will Batman Eternal tie in with the other Bat-titles? Will you need to be reading Batman and Detective Comics to understand Batman Eternal, and vice versa?
Batman Eternal is absolutely a standalone story that will be explored in full in the book itself, although there are definitely ramifications for all of Gotham City that will be reflected across the line, particularly as the year moves forward. Our goal isn’t to disrupt people who read the other Bat-titles, or hamper those stories by forcing them into our narrative, and the teams on Batman, Batman and Robin, and Detective Comics all have incredible stories running in their books this year. It’s the 75th Anniversary of Batman! Everyone in Gotham is bringing their all and writing stories that will shape the character for years to come. Just talking to Brian and Pete about their plans outside of Eternal makes me excited on a fanboy level. It’s a good year to be reading any and all Batbooks.
Would you call Batman Eternal new reader friendly? Often, weekly titles will focus on characters who may be well known to regular longtime readers, but not to people newer to comics. Will we see this in Batman Eternal?
People have seen from what’s been solicited that we’re bringing in a lot of Gotham City’s incredible supporting cast, but I promise that at every turn we want to introduce you to these figures as though you’ve never met them before. People who have been following these figures since the New 52 began will get a little bit extra context, but we’re dedicated to making this series new reader friendly. You might have also noticed some characters from Batman’s past who’ve gotten name-dropped in solicits and panels over the last six months… Stephanie Brown, Vicki Vale, Jason Bard… These characters are going to be major players in Gotham over the next year, but if you’ve never read a comic starring them before, we’ll be introducing you to them from scratch. Fans of the characters will be glad to see them back, but we want to create a whole new generation who want to read about these guys month-in and month-out.
Interior from Batman Eternal #1 (art by Jason Fabok)
What’s your history with Batman? At what age did you discover him and become a fan?
I saw Batman Returns when I was waaaaay too young, and it warped my young brain into a fan of all things creepy and all things batty... I was four years old when it was released in theaters, and I think I saw it two or three times. Not to mention grabbing all the happy meal toys. But the real pinnacle of Batman goodness that made me a lifelong fan was the animated series. I would watch that series religiously, catching every episode I could whenever it was on the air. It wouldn’t be until my later childhood that I dove into the comics, but the Kevin Conroy Batman is still the voice I hear in my head when I write and read the character. The series distilled everything great about Batman to its purest essence and introduced me to a whole world of heroes and villains that I’ve never stopped loving.
What is it about the character that you enjoy the most?
That’s an incredibly difficult question, because there are so many different incarnations of the character that I’ve been reading and watching and loving since I was a boy. In a lot of ways, my answer has to be his relationship to Gotham. That’s always been what’s captured my imagination. The way the city shapes itself in response to him, and he reshapes himself right back. Everyone always talks about Batman’s greatest villains, and there’s The Joker, Ra’s Al Ghul, The Riddler, and they’re all incredible. The best rogues gallery in the comic book industry, hands down… But then there’s the villain that nobody talks about. Gotham City. The greatest Batman villain of all… And it’s the one thing he cares most passionately about in the world. He’s trying to save a city so wretched it keeps trying to destroy him and everyone he cares about. The Batman/Gotham relationship is one of the most interesting relationships in fiction.
If you had to recommend one Batman comic or graphic novel to readers, what would it be?
Well, there are the standards that are standards for a reason. If you’re a Batman fan and you haven’t read Year One or Dark Knight Returns, you’re missing out on some of the greatest examples of comic book storytelling in the history of the medium. But a personal favorite of mine has always been Bruce Wayne: Murderer? The story explored the true nature of Batman so well, as well as the relationship between that demon at the heart of the character and the man under the mask. But as a humongous fan of the Bat-Family, it’s also probably the story that best utilizes them as a unit, working together despite Batman’s orders. I read it straight through once or twice a year. It’s an incredible bit of storytelling, and a too-often overlooked entry in the Batman Mythos.
Finally, Batman celebrates his 75th anniversary this year. Why do you think the Dark Knight has proven to be so enduring?
He’s simply one of the greatest ideas of all time. It’s that easy. The man who loses his parents and in that moment becomes something more and dedicates his life to become something impossible and insane and perfect. It’s something we all want to do on some scale when we feel like we’re wronged, reshape ourselves into something that could prevent that from ever happening again, and Bruce was wronged in such a huge way that what he became is phenomenally powerful. It’s a timeless idea, and one I think we’ll still be exploring 75 years from now.