When DC Comics announced superstar writer Grant Morrison was stepping away from "Batman and Robin" earlier this year, Morrison's chosen successor was none other than writer Peter Tomasi, the man behind "Green Lantern Corps."
Teaming up with "GLC" artist Patrick Gleason, the two had the chance to define the relationship between Dick Grayson, who served as Batman when their run began, and Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son and the current Robin. After DC Comics' New 52 relaunch, Tomasi and Gleason got a rare second opportunity at defining the new Dynamic Duo, pairing Damian up with his father, Bruce. Under Tomasi and Gleason's pen and pencil, the new Batman and Robin relationship has so far been fraught with mistrust and hostilities -- and according to Tomasi, the friction between his two characters won't be abating anytime soon.
Looking forward to the upcoming NoBody origin story before examining his first year helming "Batman and Robin," Tomasi gave CBR News the lowdown on his comic, spoke about the themes he wants to play with, the crime-fighting philosophies behind Bruce and Damian, and why his first arc truly deserves the title "Born To Kill."
CBR News: "Batman And Robin" #1 set up Bruce and Damian's differences and subsequent issues have explored their dynamic as well as NoBody targeting Batman and Batman Incorporated. How does issue #4 fit into this? Is this the NoBody origin issue?
Peter Tomasi: Actually, "Batman And Robin" #4 has two key factors: the first is the continued breakdown of trust and respect between Bruce and Damian, and this results in a pivotal moment at the end of the issue. The second factor in issue #4 is about peeling away what NoBody really wants from Bruce and Damian and it's also the beginning of NoBody's origin. It's issues #5 and #6 that really go into more depth of NoBody's back-story and relation to Bruce with some wonderfully drawn flashbacks by Pat Gleason. Back in issue #1, Batman Incorporated's emergence overseas was a catalyst for NoBody, a wake up call of sorts that prodded him to seek out Bruce again and question the road not taken with a serious axe to grind.
With NoBody targeting Batman Incorporated and Bruce at home, is Bruce in "Batman and Robin" starting to see the downside of a global Batman initiative?
As I mentioned, NoBody's original mission shifts, going from targeting Batman, Incorporated to being more of a personal mission in nature, going from macro to micro due to a life changing moment from their past that has reverberated over the years and is the true driving force behind NoBody's hatred of Bruce and the reason he took the name NoBody.
Along those lines, what was the inspiration for NoBody? What makes him a threat to both Batman and Robin?
My initial broad idea was sitting in a notebook for a while that simply said: "A vigilante who likes being a nobody, no fanfare or signature. He kills and doesn't leave a trace of his victims." I liked the idea of a character without a name, sorta riffing off the Leone Eastwood westerns and the "Man with No Name." NoBody is a threat because he trained with one of the men that Bruce trained with at an early age, along with his knowledge that Bruce and Batman are one in the same. Also, the timing of his intrusion into our hero's lives is important because of the discontent growing between Bruce and Damian. In Damian's eyes, NoBody may offer a solution to his problems, which leads me to the way I envision Batman and NoBody right now: an angel and a devil perched on a 10-year-old boy's shoulders.
Recent issues also deal heavily with the past -- NoBody seems connected to Batman's past, Bruce is working through Damian's upbringing, etc. Is the past coming back to haunt the present a theme you really want to hit with this initial arc?
I'm happy to see that you locked on the theme I was going for. As they say, past is prologue, and I truly believe that. Bruce, Damian and NoBody's pasts affect their DNA, all their life choices. Some people are haunted by horrible things in their past, others embrace it, some can move beyond it in a positive way. We know how it affects Bruce's life, but there'll be a realization that there was another key moment in his life when things could have gone in a different, and quite possibly, darker way.
Since we're touching on Bruce and Damian, something that interested me in issue #2 is when Bruce tells Alfred he has to "fix" Damian. While having Damian for a son is no walk in the park, is there something equally broken in the way Bruce regards his son?
Absolutely. He's looking at his relationship with Damian early on too close to the surface. Bruce understands the obvious problems of Damian's upbringing with his mother Talia and the League of Assassins, but he's not seeing the forest for the trees. Damian's not a broken toy. There's no simple fixes. It's going to take time and Bruce can't expect Damian to change his ways overnight and bury who he truly is. Damian isn't a light switch that he can flick on and off. They say that by 5 years old we're all who we are, that the die is cast so to speak. That's not to say that people can't change, but let's be honest, it's tough -- how many adults do we know that can truly change? Imagine expecting a 10-year-old boy who's been trained to kill almost "out of the womb" to alter his ways and listen to a father who takes him out into the mean streets of Gotham every night against criminals and psychos. It's a dichotomy that's gonna kick their asses until they figure it out.
What's funny talking about this, is that it reminds me of comments I read/heard from forum readers who were rubbed the wrong way due to my depiction of Damian and what I perceive to be his latent, and sometimes overt, murderous tendencies. Their belief that there's no way he would be killing a bat (as I had him do in the second issue), or harboring those kind of thoughts leads me to believe that they never really understood where Damian as a character was coming from right at the get go. I titled the first issue and the future collection of this first arc "Born To Kill" for a very specific reason. Those three words sum up Damian in a nutshell for me. It doesn't make him a "bad" character. In fact, it makes him a more interesting character in my opinion. The inherent drama in this situation is that Bruce and Damian are at odds over a very primal thing, and wrestling as much emotion from it is something I look forward to doing every month.
Given that, how would you sum up the differences between Damian and Bruce's crime fighting philosophies?
It's pretty basic. Bruce wants to put the bad guys down. Damian wants to put them down for good. So it's about finding a common ground so they can work together instead of being diametrically opposed when it comes to their shared mission statement which, in my mind, is not unlike a doctor's "Do no harm" motto. Bruce's is "Do no permanent harm if possible" while Damian's is "The more permanent the better."
OK, I have to ask, is Bruce's buying a dog part of his attempts to be a "good" father?
Yes, it is most definitely an obvious way for Bruce to try and connect with Damian, but I put the Great Dane into the book for a very specific reason, which I won't elaborate on right now (along with getting a kick out of watching Gleason draw a dog every issue).
At this point you've been writing Damian for a while now, and you definitely have your own take and a flair for the character. To your mind, what's the trick to writing a good Damian?
Actually, I don't consider it that long, since it's only been about a year as I wrap up issue #8, along with counting the previous three issues of the last series before the New 52 launched, so my definition of "for a while now" is a little different than yours, but I really appreciate that you're enjoying my take on him. When it comes to my "trick" of writing Damian, I see him as a little dark prince who's walking down a tunnel filled with a bunch of doors, and in his subconscious he's hoping to come upon one that he can see a sliver of light coming though from underneath. And in the end I see Damian like most kids -- hell, like most adults really: we want to be liked, we want to be accepted for who we are. It's as simple as that. And the first place we look for that acceptance and unconditional love is from the first people we meet in this world: our parents.
As we've mentioned, you're still working with the fantastic Patrick Gleason, whom you've worked with extensively before. To your eyes, how has Patrick's style changed on "Batman and Robin" from past work on comics like "Green Lantern Corps?"
Fantastic is the right word. Gleason is kicking serious ass on the book. I knew he'd be great, but he's blown me away with his take. The big difference between his work on "Green Lantern Corps" is his use of blacks on "Batman and Robin." He's painting with black now, using it to enrich his storytelling in a new way with lighting and shadows. Obviously having only two main characters instead of a freakin' Corps goes a long way to helping Pat embrace a new style and approach. I feel really privileged to have a talent like Pat working on this book with me. He brings so much life to both the big moments and the small interpersonal moments. Pat takes great care in every aspect of the story, and it means a lot when you're writing a book that mainly focuses on the relationship between Bruce and Damian. Also, I never get tired of singing the praises of Mick Gray and John Kalisz, who bring their artistic weapons to bear each and every issue.
Finally, from "Batman" to "Batwoman" there are a lot of Bat books in the New 52. To you, what makes "Batman and Robin" stand out from all the others?
Each book in [editor] Mike Marts' Bat group has a specific approach, tone and theme, so I think we've built them to be distinct and appeal in different ways that give a full and rich experience to anyone who either buys all the Bat titles or only particular titles that appeal to them for particular reasons. Our book, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, wears its heart on its sleeve. Like I mentioned in earlier interviews before the book came out, I'm coming at this series with the Bruce and Damian relationship as my "A" story, everything else after that is my "B" story. I enjoy spending time with these characters out of costume as much as I do in costume, and I hope readers following the book feel the same way.
"Batman and Robin" #4 is on sale now.