When Grant Morrison realized he would be leaving "Batman and Robin" to make way for his new Batbook, "Batman Incorporated," he handpicked veteran writer Peter Tomasi to take over the monthly series, which features Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as the dynamic duo.
Before leaving his staff position at DC Comics in 2007 to return to his writing roots , Tomasi served as the editor of Morrison's run on "Batman." Since then, Tomasi, currently co-writing "Brightest Day" with Geoff Johns, has delivered the publisher and its readers a steady stream of high quality books, including a year-long run on "Nightwing."
So Tomasi the writer is no stranger to Dick Grayson -- the superhero formerly known as Robin who is now protecting Gotham City as Batman. Riding shotgun in the series is Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and the supervillainess, Talia al Ghul. For the new Robin, Tomasi says he'll channel his own eight-year old son, who shares Damian's combination of exuberance, boyishness and devil-may-care attitude, though not the younger Wayne's love of extreme violence.
Tomasi, who began his run on "Batman and Robin" today with his creative partner from "Green Lantern Corps," artist Patrick Gleason, told CBR News that while he plans to introduce new characters to the Batman mythos in the coming months and years ahead, he's doesn't want to miss his chance at utilizing some of the biggest bad guys from the Dark Knight's past -- even if his Batman has a new caped crusader under the cowl.
CBR News: You have a long history with Batman and Robin, dating back to your years as editor of the Bat-books, but what was your initial, childhood introduction to these characters?
Peter Tomasi: I remember my dad bringing me home some Batman comics many moons ago, and I definitely loved "Super Friends" and reruns of the Adam West TV show. My first Halloween costume was a Batman costume, so Batman was definitely the first superhero who entered my consciousness and my sub-consciousness.
What do you consider to be the quintessential Batman run?
The Denny O'Neill and the Neal Adams stuff was really the first run that got me drew me into the character as a kid along with "The Brave and Bold" book with Bob Haney and, one of my personal favorites, Jim Aparo, who has to be one of the most underrated artists in the history of our business. Aparo kicked ass on not just Batman, but Aquaman and The Spectre, too. But I do have to say that [Frank] Miller's "Batman: Year One" still knocks me out each and every time I read it, and I think that particular story is my favorite of all-time.
Despite Batman's long history, there is a new hero under the cowl. How has the character changed now that Dick is Batman?
Dick Grayson is simply a different personality than Bruce, so based on who's under the cowl changes things up a bit right from the get-go. Dick's outlook, his perspective, everything that makes him tick, gives us a distinct feel. And as the old saying goes, change is good. Dick's not there to simply put on a Bruce and Batman mask; he's his own man and he comes with his own specific baggage. Dick's approach to being Batman will be uniquely his, as will his approach to dealing with Damian. This is an older brother/younger brother dynamic while with Bruce it's a father/son thing, and we all know how different and complicated that can be.
You wrote Dick during your run on "Nightwing." Has he changed since you last worked with him?
No, to me. Dick's still the same guy, always emotionally open but obviously at a new stage of his life; he's walking down a different path than expected. It's a familiar path, but it's the "walk a mile in my shoes" bit that he has to do to truly understand what it means to be Batman 24/7 for the unforeseeable future. He doesn't simply become the same Batman that Bruce was and is; Dick's psyche is completely different. Dick's Batman is Dick's Batman, and that's how I'm trying to approach it. Dick will say and do things on patrol that Bruce wouldn't. But another important factor to consider now, too, is that Bruce, in my opinion, has changed due to his experiences in Grant's run, and it'd be a shame to ignore those changes. These characters have evolved over the course of every era and it's fun as a writer to embrace these changes and kick it around.
What does Damian add to the storytelling palette?
Damian brings a lot of youthful energy and out of the box uncertainty. Having an eight-year old son myself, and having this 10-year old wacko named Damian Wayne running around, is a lot of fun. Damian brings a dynamic to the book that is really unique. He's a "bounceable" character, too. You can use Dick to bounce off of him and use Damian to bounce off of Dick. The relationship between Dick, Damian, Alfred and even Gordon, creates a lot of drama that can be played, tonally, in many different ways. Especially with the history of Damian and his blood ties with Bruce, Talia, Ras and the al Ghul name as a whole.
I tend to forget, and you just reminded me, that Damian is not a twenty-something or even a teen, but a 10-year old. Does having an eight-year old son help you get into his head?
Absolutely -- it influences my entire approach. The combination of exuberance, boyishness and devil-may-care attitude is going to be coming straight from my son. But also, Damian is obviously not your average 10 year old due to his "gestation," so to speak, and his training, life experiences and other assorted "lessons" that his mom, Talia, immersed him in colors his entire being. He doesn't talk like a 10-year old but at his core he is definitely just like all the other 10-year olds I know, which is, they think they know everything and want to be independent so they can do everything. That's Damian in a nutshell.
Did you get a chance to speak with Grant about where you're heading with the title?
No, it simply began with Grant saying he'd like me to take over the series, and that was it. He enjoyed my work and next thing I knew, the Morrison sword blade was tapping each of my shoulders and I found myself being Dark Knighted. I have a feeling after that joke he may just want to swing the sword and lop off my head, but I'm hoping that he digs what I do from here on out.
Here's a cool little sidenote, though. It's been an interesting full circle getting here because when I took over "Batman" when I was an editor on staff, one of the first things I did was get Grant on the book. I was going to edit "All-Star Superman," but being that I was doing all things Bat, they moved the book over to [Bob] Schreck. So before I lost any chance of working with Grant, I said to him, "How cool would it be if, while you're putting your stamp on a great Superman story, that you also put the Grant stamp on Batman as a monthly gig, too." He was hesitant at first, and I spent the next hour on the phone trying to convince him he could do it without blowing a gasket. The next thing I knew, I was down in Dan [DiDio]'s office saying, "I think I just got Grant to agree to do 'Batman.'" And he was like, "What?!?" [Laughs] And it worked out pretty well for all involved.
What's your long-term plan for "Batman and Robin?" Will you continue with short three-issue arcs like Grant did, or will you be telling larger stories over more issues?
I'm planning on sticking with Grant's template, but for God's sake, don't hold me to that. If a story feels bigger, I'll probably give it a little room to breathe, but right now, the first few arcs are three issue stories with an underlying über-thread that will pay off later. My roadmap is simply cool character beats and heavy action. Every three months, you're getting a beginning, middle and ending -- Bif Bam Boom! -- and then right on to the next adventure.
In this first arc, Batman and Robin face off against the White Knight. The solicitation hype of "perhaps the strangest Bat villain yet" is really saying something when you look at Batman's rogues gallery. What can you tell us about him?
The White Knight has a very distinct vision of what he wants this world to be, and he has no problems in trying to shape it to match this particular vision. He sees himself as a hero that is desperately needed and he will use whatever means necessary to dispel the growing darkness he believes is eating away at humanities soul.
Will your next arc feature a classic Batman rogue or will you continue to introduce new villains to the mythos?
For the next two arcs, I definitely have two new villains I'm introducing but there will be many familiar faces, which you'll see especially in "Batman and Robin" #21. The Batman Rogues bench is so deep it'd be crazy not to bring them up to the plate now and again.
While playing with some classic rogues like Joker and Penguin would be any fanboys' dream, it must be equally exhilarating to be adding toys to the sandbox when you get to introduce new characters to the 70-plus years of Batman mythos.
I've said it before at some con; these characters at DC are all diamonds. They're not diamonds in the rough. These are mythological diamonds, pure and simple, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to play in the DC sandbox, especially with Batman. I take a lot of pride in my work and I just want to keep adding luster, shine 'em up and keep it going for generations to come, so that years from now people can build on what I've put down just as we're continuing to build upon what others have left behind. It's a cool circle of life kind of thing, without the eating-each-other-up, of course.
Finally, are fans going to be wowed when they see what Patrick does with Batman and Robin?
I think they will. Pat's a great talent, and he's got a very specific style and a specific vision of the way he takes on characters and books. I'm incredibly lucky to have him as a partner on this title. After "Green Lantern Corps," I told Pat I wanted him to be the artist on "Batman and Robin," and aside from being incredibly excited about diving into Gotham, the thought of not having to draw 80 million GL Corps members any more was a big relief.
Pat's one of those artists that I think as years go by, people are going to look at his runs on titles, and say, "Wow, he brought a lot of energy and dynamism to everything he worked on." When you look at "Green Lantern Corps," which was no walk in the park to draw, he had something like 26 issues in a row without a fill in. There are not many artists today that you can look at and say they had that kind of duration, hit those deadlines month in and month out and still delivered at the high level of quality that he does.
The first two issues [of "Batman and Robin] look great, and I couldn't be happier. I also want to mention what a great job Mick Gray is doing on the inks, along with Alex Sinclair who's rocking it on color. Mick has a great line and texture to his work and I think he and Pat are an amazing team.
"Batman and Robin" #20, written by Peter Tomasi and featuring art by Patrick Gleason, is on sale now.