This week, a new era dawned for DC Comics’ Dark Knight. With Bruce Wayne’s return to the modern day as well as the public spotlight, the billionaire hero known as Batman set out on a course to expand the Bat-brand globally with a recruitment drive in the pages of “Batman: The Return” and “Batman Incorporated” #1. Of course, that’s only where the story begins.
Parallel to the globe-trotting adventures of Bruce Wayne, several titles in DC’s most popular franchise are keeping the focus on Gotham City and the two Batmen who continue to fight its varied types of crime. That’s why this week, CBR’s ongoing column THE BAT SIGNAL swings its light on the two writer-artists who are helping herald in a new era of multiple Dark Knights: Tony Daniel and David Finch.
In stores this week, Daniel’s new arc starting with “Batman” #704 focuses in on Dick Grayson’s continued fight as the primary Batman of Gotham City with a storyline bringing the hero into contact with Gotham’s dangerous Chinatown neighborhood. In December, Finch launches the all-new monthly “Batman: The Dark Knight” which will show Bruce Wayne’s ongoing battle with the dark supernatural forces of Gotham’s underworld. CBR News spoke with both men about how the broader plans for Batman’s world have affected their titles, the way they view their main character’s roles in a world of multiple Batmen, what villains and threats will be challenging the new status quo and more.
CBR News: When you first heard that there’d be two Batmen in play after Bruce’s return, why did you gravitate towards your specific Batman creatively?
David Finch: The truth is that I had already gone down the path of working on Bruce as Batman long before I was aware that there were going to be two.
Tony Daniel: To be honest, I’d be happy to work with either character. Dick Grayson being the Batman that appears in my book was pre-decided before I signed on for more Batman work. I’m used to Dick Grayson, so right now it feels natural. But I’m sure I’d have fun writing Bruce as well.
More specifically, how does this particular Batman fits your particular pitch?
Finch: Bruce has quite a bit of experience with the supernatural, so I felt like I had a lot of established history to play with in developing stories. He’s very serious and driven, and he has a lot of anger. Those traits play very well with the tone of the stories I want to tell. I want to push Bruce’s buttons on an emotional level, a place where he’s got some fragility. He still feels loss and fear for the safety of his loved ones. I want to see where those emotions can take him in terms of his own self imposed limits.
Daniel: I think writing Dick Grayson as Batman gives you a certain amount of freshness to the stories. Mainly because Dick doesn’t have the same history with the most of the major villains as Bruce had. He was always a sidekick when Bruce confronted Joker, or Two-Face or whoever. So, even though he’s confronted some of these guys before, it was always as Robin or Nightwing, not as Batman.
We know that the way the Bat-office has been working things the past few years is that when the big status quo shifts hit in Grant’s series, the other books help fit to that mold. In what ways did the “Bruce travels the globe, Dick stays in Gotham” angle affect that hook for your new runs, if at all?
Daniel: At the moment, the most obvious effect is that Dick is still Batman in Gotham City. What happens with Bruce Wayne takes place in “Batman Inc.,” so I have a good amount of freedom to work with regarding my stories.
Finch: Every writer working on the Bat line of books is here to tell the best stories we can, first and foremost, but absolutely, this book is meant to support and compliment the current status quo.
While it’s true that Bruce is traveling the globe and Dick has assumed stewardship of Gotham City, I don’t think that Bruce could truly cut such close ties so quickly and easily. Gotham always draws him back. He has too many relationships, commitments and just plain grudges to completely walk away. My stories are intended to showcase that side of the character.
On a personal level, how does the idea that there are multiple Batman in the world affect how Bruce and Dick go about their crimefighting?
Finch: Bruce has always relied on allies, but this has always been, and always will be, his fight.
Daniel: Dick’s confidence is at an all-time high right now. He’s not looking over his shoulder.
In your opinion, how does each Batman view the other in the role?
Daniel: Bruce pretty much ordained Dick as the new Batman for Gotham City while he works on some bigger ideas abroad. Dick knows his responsibility is Gotham City.
Finch: Bruce is a father figure to Dick Grayson, so I’m sure that he has always hoped that he would see him wearing the cowl. But really letting go and trusting Dick completely is not an easy thing to do. That’s part of the reason that Bruce can’t seem to completely stay away.
I think that Dick feels like he has all the experience he needs and he’s proven himself more than up to the job, but there’s always going to be a reverence for Bruce and what he stands for. He’s trying to fill very big shoes and trying to step out of Bruce’s shadow, both at the same time. I think there’s some conflict there to explore.
Speaking of that broader Bat-universe, what can you tell us about how you’ll be playing with familiar elements of the world of Batman from Robin, the support cast and the villains to the iconic, gothic nature of Batman’s world?
Daniel: I think my most important goals for this coming year of stories is to further develop Batman, as played by Dick Grayson. As for the iconic villains of Gotham, I think its important to not change them too much, but adding a new layer or dimension to the characters and villains is something I look forward to.
Finch: First of all, the iconic, gothic nature of Gotham City is what this is all about for me, so I’ll be exploring and showcasing the city throughout my run. Not just its geography, but its history. Gotham has a long, sordid past that stretches back pretty far. The ground its built upon has been cursed more than once. Bruce is a part of Gotham for a reason, and it draws him back.
I’ve been itching to draw so many Bat villains that you can be sure that they’ll all be showcased at some point, but I wanted to bring in some characters that aren’t normally associated with Batman, and who bring a skill set that he needs. I’ve got the Demon playing an important part, and another that I’m going to be mysterious about for now.
Overall, the Batman “brand” within the DCU will be seeing some expansion over the coming months in a few ways. Does the Dark Knight still remain a symbol of fear to Gotham criminals now that his style and ideology has become more widespread? Will the new knowledge the citizens of Gotham have on hand about the Batmen’s funding affect the way they fight crime?
Daniel: I don’t think it will. No one can deduce that Dick Grayson is Batman, for instance, and now, hypothetically, Batman and Bruce can be at the same place at the same time to deflect any suspicions that Bruce is Batman.
Finch: I’m writing and drawing a guy that is smarter, angrier and more determined than the guy facing him off. He may not be stronger, but he never, ever lays down. I think that he’s more than just a symbol of fear. And the criminals of Gotham won’t forget that anytime soon.
Daniel: Time will tell, but I’d gather the criminals would still fear Batman because Dick Grayson will be kicking ass. The broader scope of the Batman “brand” will mostly be the challenge for “Batman Inc.” My book stays in Gotham, so those issues won’t be coming up so much.
Lastly, with each Bat title making its own mark on the DCU, what’s one element, scene or plot thread folks may now know about your series that they’ll only see in your book?
Finch: My book features Bruce Wayne fighting crime in Gotham City against his greatest villains and a few new threats that push him to some pretty dark places. He’s going global, but home is where the heart is.
Daniel: I have a couple of surprises in store that I can’t reveal. I’m trying to tell straight-forward, classic Batman stories, if I were forced to describe what the tone of my book is.
“Batman” #704 by Tony Daniel and featuring Dick Grayson in Gotham City is on sale now from DC Comics. David Finch’s “Batman: The Dark Knight” follows on December 22 featuring Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham.