Christopher Yost Talks Red Robin

Mon, April 13th, 2009 at 12:34pm PDT | Updated: April 13th, 2009 at 2:49pm

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer
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"Red Robin" #1 on sale in June

Since Christopher Yost first arrived as an intern at Marvel Comics back in 2002, his career has enjoyed a meteoric rise that’s seen him become one of hottest young writers working in the business. And while he has penned a string of hits for the House of Ideas like “New X-Men” and “X-Force,” he has never worked for DC Comics.

That changes later this month, when the one-shot “Battle for the Cowl: The Underground” arrives in stores. And that’s just the beginning for Yost in the Batverse. As DC expands the Bat Family of books in June – following the conclusion of Tony Daniel’s “Battle for the Cowl” – Yost has signed on to write the new series “Red Robin” with illustrations by Ramon Bachs.

CBR News recently spoke with Yost about the new title and also discussed his television writing career, as well as, his Image Comics miniseries, “Killer of Demons.”

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CBR: Without knowing who is behind the mask, maybe you can start of by telling us who is Red Robin?

Christopher Yost: The first time we saw Red Robin, I believe, was in “Kingdom Come,” and there he was an Elseworlds, adult Dick Grayson. It was an evolution of Robin. He was kind of becoming a man. He wasn’t Robin and he wasn’t Batman. He was his own thing. And when that costume appeared in “Countdown,” it was worn by Jason Todd. He had some adventures through the Multiverse in that costume. And lastly, it showed up in the pages of “Robin” proper, and was being used by The General, who surprised both Tim Drake and Jason Todd by showing up in that costume.

As to who’s going to wear it now is, of course, part of the mystery. But that mystery will be revealed in the first issue. You won’t have to wait too long to see who is in the costume.

Also by Christopher Yost, "Batman: Battle for the Cowl -The Underground" on sale April 29

So we find that out in “Red Robin” #1 and not “Battle for the Cowl?”

Yes, In “Red Robin,” although there could be some strong hints in “Battle for the Cowl.” In much the same way, it is the evolution of the Robin character. And character that could potentially be in the Red Robin costume most likely was Robin at one point. It’s not Cassandra Cain. I can narrow that down.

So Aquaman is out?

Ooh, that’s interesting. You’re getting into spoiler territory [laughs]. This is somebody who thinks that Bruce Wayne is alive. And they’re going to find him.

If this was a new “Batman” #1 or a new “Robin” #1, a launch would come with a built-in audience. But no one knows who is behind the Red Robin mask, and more importantly, if he is going to resonate with fans.So do you head into the launch of “Red Robin” with excitement or is it more trepidation?

It is kind of exciting, but at the same time, kind of daunting. You don’t have as much to rely on. This isn’t like launching “Superman: World of New Krypton,” that has fans of Superman interested in what’s going on with New Krypton. It’s not like launching “Batman and Robin,” Grant Morrison’s new book. This is definitely something that people are going to take a wait and see approach. And once it comes out who it is, more people might jump in on it.

But I’ve got to tell you, I’m excited by this book. It’s got its own feel and flavor. It does take place largely out of Gotham City. And even though it is a Batman family book, this is definitely a quest book. This character is a very motivated person. And they’re looking for something. And that quest is going to take them all over the world. I guess if we had a model, it would be the something like “The Bourne Identity.” It’s got that kind of action and that kind of international feel to it. You’re going to be running into the same kind of action that you’d expect from a book like “Batman” or “Robin,” but taking it outside of Gotham City. And the main character’s goal isn’t necessarily to help people here. It’s very specifically to find Bruce Wayne.

The first four-issue arc is subtitled “The Grail.” Is Bruce Wayne the grail?

It has a couple of different meanings. The obvious one is that it’s the search for Bruce Wayne. So yes, in some respects, that’s the grail. But as it progress, you’re going to see that while it’s the search for Bruce Wayne, it’s also Red Robin’s quest to find himself. And by the time you get past “Battle for the Cowl” and into “Red Robin” #1, it’s a character at a crossroads. And the search for Bruce Wayne seems like the thing but it evolves into more.

Is the plan to roll out “Red Robin” in four and five-issue arcs, or is there a larger story being told here?

Also by Christopher Yost, "Killer of Demons" #1 on sale now

It is a bigger ongoing thing. It’s actually plotted out for a year. It’s essentially a 12-issue story but we don’t want to scare anyone. [laughs] From #1 to #4, there’s a definite structure to it. It’s almost like the first act. If you pick up the trade, you’re probably going to want to, or at least, I hope you’re going to want to pick up the second one based on the end of the first.

There are certain things set in #1 that are resolved in #4. There is a little bit of closure there. It then spins radically out of control. It’s exciting in the sense that there’s a very particular mission. But that mission gets incredibly complicated, incredibly quickly, because Red Robin is not the only person looking for Bruce Wayne.

If you were to look at it as acts, the first act is basically written at this point. The second act is kind of an action/horror movie. And the third act is what brings it all home.

Is Red Robin successful in finding Bruce Wayne at the end of issue #12?

I cannot come up with a good way to answer that. I think people will be surprised at some of the things that happen in this book.

With the book set outside Gotham City, it looks like we won’t see a lot of classic Bat Family characters like Alfred or Commissioner Gordon. Who is featured in the supporting cast of “Red Robin?”

You will see a lot of familiar faces from Gotham, albeit largely in flashbacks. There’s going to be supporting cast from the past and the present. But it will be kind of surprising who that supporting cast is. And there is going to be a lot of new characters in this book too.

Any classic Batman rogues figure into “Red Robin”? Or will Red Robin face new villains?

Both. I can say no more but both.

Can’t even tease?

By the last page of “Red Robin” #1, you’ll kind of know. It’s a big moment.

At the top, you mentioned this first story is 12 issues. Are you planning to stick with the series past “Red Robin” #12?

I’ll stay for as long as they’ll have me around. After the first 12, it will need to re-invent itself but there are an infinite number of stories to tell.

You’ve been doing most of your comics work at Marvel with bestsellers like “X-Force” and “New X-Men.” How did you get pulled into the new expanded Batverse?

Killer of Demons
Also by Christopher Yost, "Killer of Demons" #2 on sale now

The first ongoing book I did at Marvel was “New X-Men” with editor Mike Marts. So Mike and I knew each other from that book and we ran into each other at a convention and he had moved to DC and was spearheading the Bat-books and it came up. And through a series of conversations, it fell into place.

Is the plan to have the Bat-books thread together like the Superman books of late?

You will see in “Red Robin” #1 the connection it has to the other books, specifically “Batman and Robin,” and then it kind of goes off on its own. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it weaves back into the bigger picture. There’s a few aspects to it that are just very essentially connected to “Batman and Robin” and that universe and even to “Final Crisis.”

Ramon Bachs is the artist on “Red Robin.” What can you say about his work?

I think he’s done a great job. The thing that I don’t like about him is that he is just so incredibly fast. [laughs] I literally sweat. Every single day a new page comes in and I’m like, “Man, I have to get another script done.” I’m looking at art for “Red Robin” #3 right now. And it’s a crazy fight issue. He’s really bring his A-game. It’s very exciting.

You also have the “Battle for the Cowl” one-shot “The Underground” coming too. Can you share any details on that one?

It’s taking place within the confines of “Battle for the Cowl” and this is basically the villains’ reaction. You’ve got Two-Face and Penguin and Riddler and Catwoman and Poison Ivy and Harley and all of them just reacting to and surviving “Battle for the Cowl.” There’s a lot going on from the villains’ point of view. You’ve got what happened in Arkham Asylum, which is definitely big news. You’ve got your gang war going on that Two-Face and Penguin are in the middle of. You’ve got a little army of heroes trying to contain everything. But then you also have Batman showing up with a couple of guns and blowing everybody away. It’s definitely worrisome to the villain community. It’s a lot of fun. Pablo Raimondi is doing the art, which is just fantastic. That will be the very first thing that I’ve ever put out through DC so I’m very excited about it.

Are you a long-time fan of Batman?

Absolutely. And actually even though I’ve been writing a lot for Marvel, I actually wrote some of “The Batman” animated series. So yeah, I’m a Batman fan. Everybody is.

Pages from "Killer of Demons" #2

What was your first introduction to the Caped Crusader?

Definitely “Super Friends.” And then, of course, the Adam West show. And as far as modern day, it was probably Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s book, which was great. It blew my mind.

You must be pretty proud to not only be playing in both sandboxes at Marvel and DC but be writing arguably the two most popular characters in comics: Batman and Wolverine?

You know, I’ve never thought about that until now. [laughs] But you know, it’s pretty great to be able to work everywhere. Obviously, Marvel has amazing characters and DC has legendary characters. I also have my Image book. It’s pretty gratifying to be everywhere. I’m just kind of shocked that I am. It’s a pretty amazing and I’m very grateful to all parties involved.

Can you quickly update us on “Killer of Demons,” your book from Image?

It’s a three-issue miniseries and #2 just came out. And #3 is going to the printers now. It’s a supernatural comedy. It’s about a guy who wakes up one morning and sees demons amongst us. And he’s got a little angel whispering in his ear to “kill them all.” But the demons are things like meter maids, his co-workers and his boss. So the question is, is he just crazy? Did he just lose it? But at the same time, he can’t help himself. He feels compelled to act on these urges. And starts killing people. And they can be just normal people or they can be demons from Hell, you just know.

It’s very much tongue-in-cheek. And it’s hopefully a lot of fun. And I had a blast writing it. The art is done by Scott Wegener, who did “Atomic Robo,” that was nominated for an Eisner. It’s tremendous fun and that’s all it’s meant to be. It’s a lot of fun and I’m very proud of it.

Oh, I guess we should talk about this little TV writing gig you have on the side too.

Right now, I’m the head writer of animated series called, “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” And it is in production right now. We’re 19 episodes deep into a 26 episode order and it’s going to be amazing. Pretty much every single day I freak out about how much I love the show. It’s the Avengers. And it’s not crazy armored Avengers. Or it’s not Teen Avengers. It’s the Avengers you know and love and have always wanted to see. It’s Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Ant Man, Wasp, Captain America, Hawkeye. It’s the Avengers. The premise of the show is literally, Avengers, go. There isn’t any crazy twist like they’re in an alternate reality or in the Negative Zone or some bizarre thing. “There is 40 years worth of Avengers’ stories, start telling them.”

Pages from "Killer of Demons" #2

And does that launch this fall?

It’s a little up in the air right now because it’s probably going to launch the same time that the feature film does, which right now I believe is slated for 2012. But since 2012 is the end of the world, who knows?

And then “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” premieres Friday, April 24. And that is teen Iron Man but don’t be scared off by that. Iron Man can be a lot of fun. It’s one of the most emotionally intense stories that I’ve worked on. It’s basically Iron Man, as a teen, going through all the things the Iron Man we know and love had gone through, but having to juggle a lot of emotional baggage on top of it. It’s big problems, big adventure but there’s definitely love and betrayal and loss and grief and sadness too – the whole nine yards of emotion.

And it’s a villain show too. There are so many villains in it.

Do you love being able to work in both comics and television?

It’s the best because they’re both so different. With the shows, the responsibility is massive. You’re showing these characters to millions of viewers around the world so you’re basically speaking to a broader audience, who doesn’t know the history. Because with the comic books, and trust me, I am a this guy, I am the comic book fan through and through, I know pretty intricately 40 or 50 years worth of these guys’ history. That’s what I like. But with the show, in general, you’re introducing these stories to kids. And there’s a great, great thing about that.

Written by Yost with art by Bachs and covers by Francis Manapul and JG Jones, “Red Robin” #1 goes on sale June 10 from DC Comics.

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TAGS:  red robin, christopher yost, battle for the cowl, dc comics, killer of demons

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