SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for this week’s “Batman, Incorporated” #8, as revealed earlier today.
All good things must come to an end.
But even as DC Comics is gearing up for a finale to Grant Morrison’s run with Batman, that doesn’t mean the twists and turns coming in his “Batman, Incorporated” comic will put a stop to other parts of the Batman line. Today, the publisher leaked the news that as part of his “Incorporated” finale, Morrison will kill off Damian “Robin” Wayne — the son of Batman he created when he started this journey nearly eight years ago. But even as Damian is on his way out, it won’t mean cancellation for the monthly “Batman and Robin” title.
As DC writer Peter Tomasi revealed exclusively to CBR News, the future of “Batman and Robin” will not only involve stories dealing with the emotional fallout of the death of its costar. It will also welcome other players from the Dark Knight’s world in a kind of Batman team-up format, starting with Red Robin Tim Drake. Below, Tomasi explains his own feelings at hearing of Damian’s planned end, explains how this was built into his book from the beginning and shares why readers won’t be able to guess what Red Robin’s role will be moving forward.
CBR News: At this point, there’s very little that we know except that Damian will soon die in the pages of Grant’s book. That’s going to have an immediate impact on the Bat line in general, but on your series in particular. What was your first reaction when you heard of Grant’s plan?
Peter Tomasi: I threw my hands up and yelled: “KHAAAAAN!”
Actually, I knew Damian was going to die for quite a while, but my first reaction truthfully was, “Damn, he’s such an interesting character and one I love writing that I hope there’s some way that Grant, over the course of time, will change his mind.” As you’ll see in “Batman, Incorporated” #8, it was not to be.
Obviously, Damian has been as important a character in your book as anyone, but I also get the sense that this series has always been about shorter adventures rather than long term plotlines. Did this twist impact your plans for “Batman and Robin” in any unexpected ways, or was it more fuel for the next set of stories?
Not to put down any other Damian stories that have occurred since the launch of the New 52, but I have to say, that aside from “Batman, Inc.” there were really no other meaningful stories being told with Damian except in the “Batman and Robin” book. If you wanted a book where the emotional relationship between Batman and Robin was front and center, our book was the only place you could get it. And in regard to being about shorter adventures rather than long term plotlines, I’d have to argue that in the end, our story had the longest throughline of all, stretching 18 issues from the get-go of the New 52. As I’ve said from the start in early interviews, our “A” story was always Bruce and Damian and the “B” story was the various action/villain plotlines — it was these two characters emotional arc/journey that I was zeroed in on (along with Alfred). So, since Pat and I knew from the start that Damian was indeed going to die, we took it as our responsibility to put as much emotional meat on the bones between father and son so that Damian’s death would have as much of an emotional wallop as possible, and it did indeed fuel the next set of stories coming up.
You’ve really been with Damian since the very beginning, having been editor of Grant’s first “Batman” run. What’s your memory of being introduced to the character and watching his growth up until you started writing him yourself? It seems like he grew on all of you until he as a vital part of the line.
It’s crazy to think that Damian first hit the books over 7 years ago when I was still an editor of the Bat line. I can still remember that day when Grant said he wanted to bring this wacko kid into the picture and make him a real pain in the ass for Bruce. It added great dramatic tension, and Grant had such an amazing ride planned out, all you could do was get in the roller coaster and hang on as he put the Bat family through some incredible storylines that only Grant could. By the time I was lucky enough to start writing “Batman and Robin,” it felt incredibly comfortable. Those characters voices and actions are like second nature to script, and having an artist of Patrick Gleason’s talent to bring them to life on the page is a wonder to watch. In my opinion, the moment Damian was introduced, he was a huge emotional piece of the line, vital in every way. I do know it took a while for readers to warm up to him, and at cons over the last year and half, it was great to have people come up and thank Pat and I for deepening their relationship and connecting to him even more.
That said, I know Grant has said many places that his original plan for Damian was to kill him very early in the run. In your view of how this whole giant super story has grown, is the death we’re expecting to see in “Batman, Inc.” #8 the character coming full circle in any thematic way?
Since I don’t want to give too much away in that regard, I think Grant sends Damian off in exactly the way he wanted from the start. To be honest, I’m glad he ended up keeping Damian around longer than he expected, allowing Pat and I enough time to explore the father/son dynamic set against a tragic backdrop.
With “Batman & Robin,” how did you approach dealing with the death of your co-star in the pages of another series impact your approach moving forward? What was the first story you knew you had to tell when you heard the news?
I approached it knowing that I had an ending to work towards, and as I mentioned earlier, it gave me the freedom to keep our story centered on the hearts and minds of Bruce and Damian and not worry as much about the villain of the month angle. As long as we focused on that, I felt we were being true to our mission statement (which everyone can read in the back pages of the first collected volume “Batman and Robin: Born To Kill”). Now, as a writer, I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t care that one of our main characters was getting killed off in another series — if Damian had to die, I would have loved to craft that story. But Damian was Grant’s baby, so he deserved, and of course earned, the right to bring his character to the fated doomsday he’d been working on for so many years.
The first story I knew I had to tell after Damian’s death would be Bruce’s reaction in “Batman and Robin” #18. It’s an entirely silent issue; no text, no sound effects, storytelling at its purest form — show don’t tell — and, holy crap, does Patrick Gleason show why, in my humble opinion, he might be one of the best Batman artists ever. He knocks it out of the park.
I think issues #17 and 18 of “Batman and Robin” show just how much Bruce needed Damian and Damian needed Bruce, and the reverberations of Damian’s murder don’t stop there. There are five stages of grief, and we intend to explore it in a very visceral way.The title of the series for the next several issues will change, the first being “Batman And Red Robin,” the second being “Batman And Red Hood.”
With you bringing Tim Drake back to the fore in a major way, how does Red Robin’s joining the cast most impact the partnership at the core of this series and the emotional fallout from Damian’s death? What’s your impression of Tim as a partner as opposed to Damian?
I wouldn’t jump to conclusions that Tim Drake is coming back in a big way. Red Robin is in issue #19, but not necessarily as a partner.
Tim Drake originally appeared a few years after Jason Todd’s murder to make the argument that “Batman needs a Robin.” Does the New 52 version of the character hold the same kind of thematic weight to this story?
I think you’re gonna need to wait until issue #19 to have an answer to that question. I will say that I didn’t want to take the usual road that’s been travelled when it comes to the “Batman needs a Robin” angle.
Overall, I’m sure there will be more than a few readers totally freaking out at this news, even as there’s plenty of story yet to be told by both you and Grant. What can you say about why this story is one that needs to be told for the Batman line at this point?
That’s a tough question at this juncture to respond to, actually. Let’s just say there’s a big, epic picture in view over the horizon, but there’s plenty of lightning storms and hurricanes for myself, Pat Gleason and our partners in crime Mick Gray and John Kalisz to still fly through before it all becomes clear.