DC Rebirth is giving their comics a bit of a face lift, making their books more accessible to new readers and getting back to the core of what makes the company's characters great.
Batman returns to Gotham City, but this time, he's not the only hero fighting to be its savior. Writer Tom King (Vision, Omega Men) is joined by artist David Finch (Wonder Woman, Batman: The Dark Knight) on this brand new series. The duo talked to us about their upcoming series and what we can expect to see.
Comic Vine: What's going on in the new Batman series?
Tom King: I went over this, back and forth. "What's my great theme going to be?" I was thinking about this. I did these very artsy kinda key comics with Sheriff [of Babylon], Vision, and Omega Men. I did these big themes. I don't want to do any of those themes. Really, it's "F*** yeah Batman." I wanted to do something about how amazing Batman is as a hero. What makes him awesome? What makes him cool?
I think the best thing a Batman book can do is take you out of your day for 15 minutes and give you that buzz you had at 11 years old. When you read a comic, you put it down, and you felt like you could punch a bully, he'd fall back, and everyone would cheer. That's what the series is about. Bringing back that classic Batman and making you cheer for him.
David Finch: I agree. That's great.
A big part of any Batman series is that Gotham is this living, breathing city. David, what inspired you for your designs of this city?
Finch: I have a few. I got a whole bunch of art deco buildings from New York. There [are] some amazing ones from all around the world. It's pretty cool. Also, Mike Mignola is a huge influence on me and his [book] Gotham by Gaslight has buildings that had so much character in them. That's a big one. Tim Sale is a big one for me. I could go on all day.
Greg Capullo did some beautiful stuff with Gotham City. He took a lot of that classic and some modern and really put it together in a nice way. So it's a mixture, for sure. Jordie Bellaire, the colorist [of Batman], made such a huge difference when it comes to Gotham City, making it vibrant and spooky and put it in a really interesting place.
Tonally, what are you aiming for in this new series, aside from "F*** Yeah Batman?"
King: This is my first time playing with Batman. I wrote on Grayson for two years, so I know the side characters, but I never wrote Batman. There are so many things I wanted to do. I wanted to draw out the humor in the Alfred and Bruce relationship. I wanted to introduce romantic elements to Bruce and why those work or don't work.
I wanted to do some redefining of classic villains, which you'll see over the next two years. I wanted to bring back some of the crazy, C & Z-level villains, like Calendar Man, and make them as frightening as The Joker and Riddler can be. I feel like a lot of people start their runs creating a new villain or rogue gallery. I wanted to come off that and start my run by creating a new hero or heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl, rather than creating a new villain.
Finch: This is my second shot at Batman. It's my first time ever going back to something. I never really believed in going back because you're better off looking forward than back. Batman is an exception for me. He's my favorite character, and I just didn't have enough. I think I would have been reluctant to do it except that I'm working with Tom King. It's a whole other thing for me. The stories are incredible and I think it's bringing out a lot of things in my art.
Writing is one of the defining things in any comic. It all comes down to the story. When that's there, and that's strong, and the characters are real, it's a different experience. It's really all about that for me, just trying to get it all across, visually, as well as I can.
King: That's definitely not true. Writing is not the defining part of a comic. At the least, they're symbiotic to each other.
Finch: Without a good story, it's just a bunch of pictures. Not only is it a bunch of pictures... I'll draw the same picture of Batman on a gargoyle, each and every day.
King: [laughs] We've got our opening splash for issue ten.
Finch: [laughs] It is a part of the story. That's what I'm excited about.
King: That's the challenge with Batman. Comics are a super-visual medium, and I never get sucked into the words of it, but every visual of Batman has been done over the past 75 years and finding different angles and different ways to look at it is what makes it fun.
Finch: Issue one, especially. It's incredibly inventive; things I've never done before and things I really had to stretch to figure out how to do. I'm so glad we did it, but there were times I would shake my fist because it was hard to draw. That's what you want. You want something that stretches boundaries a bit.
King: Jim Lee called me after we sent him the script and said "This one is going to be a little bit of a challenge for Dave."
Keeping in mind that Rebirth is all about being new reader friendly while maintaining the core readers, what challenges do you have for reaching both those audiences?
King: Batman's one of those characters that lives in the folds of America, possibly the world. I have a two year old who knows who Batman is and his powers, which is ridiculous because he can barely talk. Somehow we're just born with that knowledge, so anyone can approach a Batman comic and basically know the facts. People know who Alfred is. They know [Batman] fights crime and his origin story. It's nice to go in and not have to explain everything.
When I wrote Grayson, I had to explain who Dick Grayson was, but with Batman, people get it right off the bat, so you have a leg up. I think the challenge is that you have to respect that and put him back to where everyone knows he is, which is basically Batman: The Animated Series, the first season. You can't keep him there though because that's not how stories work. You build tension by going away from that and coming back to it. It's how far away can you stretch it before you lose the core without losing tension in the story. I think that's doable, and that's what makes him cool. He can be stretched and always tends to bounce back.
What can you tell us about Gotham and Gotham Girl, the new heroes that want to be the saviors of Gotham?
King: The basic idea was that everyone says, "Batman's the hero Gotham deserves." That's the classic cliche. The idea is that's not true. What if Batman deserves someone better? What if Gotham deserves a Superman? What if Gotham deserves a Supergirl? Wouldn't they be better at saving Gotham than Batman? Batman's fantastic. He can defeat whomever he wants, but if an asteroid is headed to the city or a train, there's a limitation to what you can do with a batarang. That's the central question we reach at the end of Batman #1. "What makes Batman the hero Gotham City needs and deserve?"
David, what was the process for the character design of Gotham and Gotham Girl?
Finch: There are times where I'll spend hours and do a bunch of different designs. It can be really tough. I think those times I don't really know who the character is. Then there are times that I can just see them in my head. It's very clear. When I read the script, it was so clear. I knew who they were and what they were about. It's Gotham City, so I wanted them to be a little dark. They're supposed to be a positive presence so I didn't want to make them evil either. I could just see them. I drew them, and in a way, I didn't really have a process for this one. I didn't really draw a lot of loose sketches for this one.
Is it challenging working on an antagonist that's a positive force for the people of Gotham?
King: That's a great question. First of all, there are a lot of twists and turns, and I'm not about to give stuff away. There are other antagonists, and there is a villain that is going to run through the entire year that's going to lead to the greatest battle in the history of Batman, if David and I can pull it off. There are these huge villains that are still at work. Batman fights villains. That's what Batman does. The question is how does the existence of these two heroes affect that dynamic? Do they make Batman a better man, a better fighter? What does it bring out in him when honest Gothamites, with super powers, try to save the city?
For both of you, what's the most exciting part about working on this new series?
King: Honestly, the moments that make me laugh are the most exciting to me. I didn't expect Batman to be so funny. I was thinking I'll write him dark and dank, but there's so much humor in this character. When I looked back at the stuff I liked from the movies and the cartoon, he's got his moments that were so serious, and you have this atmosphere where there are these little jokes that have such an impact. Those moments exist in Batman and can make you gut laugh.
Finch: Certainly it's the chance to be able to draw Batman again, a main Batman title. I think it's rare, as an artist, to be a part of something that people remember that has an impact, long-term, and that's always my goal. I think all the elements are there with what Tom's doing, so I'm excited about that.
Thanks to David Finch and Tom King for answering our questions. Batman #1 is currently on sale.