The world of DC Comics’ newest vigilante is in constant upheaval, and later this month one of the biggest heavy hitters in the publisher’s line is looking to flip the table over again.
With the ending of “Talon” #6, writer James Tynion IV revealed that lead character Calvin Rose’s mysterious benefactor Sebastian Clark had more to his background than met the eye. The billionaire behind Talon’s attack on the Court of Owls was in fact the disgraced Grandmaster of the shadowy organization, and unbeknownst to Rose, Clark was angling at a way back into power with the Court. Now as Rose continues to deal with the fallout of the betrayal in April 24’s “Talon” #7, the hero must also contend with steroid-powered Batman foe Bane who heads into the series after a reintroduction at Tynion’s hands in “Detective Comics” #900.
With all these pieces shifting under the surface of the series, CBR News invited the writer to unpack the double cross for THE BAT SIGNAL, our ongoing discussion of the Dark Knight’s world. Below, Tynion explains how the recent shake-ups for “Talon” were part of his pitch on the book from day one, reveals his feelings on what makes Bane a great supervillain and discusses the shift in artist from Guillem March to Miguel Sepulveda as “Talon” enters is next international storyline.
CBR News: James, “Talon” is in a real interesting spot right now. I was struck at WonderCon by Scott Snyder saying on the Batman panel that he felt you’d really come into your own on the book, and I think that assessment goes hand-in-hand with the big twist that hit at the end of issue #6. Where are you taking the book now that the bottom has been pulled out from under Calvin?
James Tynion IV: Well, it’s really exciting to be at this point in the series because this has been part of the fabric of the book since I started pitching it over a year ago. Part of the pitch from the start was this reveal about who Sebastian Clark is and what his real motives are. I think it helps that last summer when I was putting together the bits and bobs for the whole structure of the series and where all that turns would be I was also watching “Breaking Bad.” I rewatched the whole show through the first half of the last season, and I was thinking that the best thing that show does is make you feel like it’s in a status quo, and then it immediately shatters that status quo and walks in a totally different direction. So you can never get a handle on what that series is and what it’s going to become. That’s part of what really draws me into that show, and I wanted to play with that idea in the last few “Talon” issues in particular.
I wanted to make sure to show that Calvin thought he knew where all this was going. They’d been winning! They’d been winning battles against these monsters like Felix Harmon. And right now, we’re at a huge critical juncture where Sebastian totally misjudged what they should strike next, and in that sense, he accidentally revealed himself to the people he’s been working with. That’s thrown his entire plan in jeopardy. Now on top of that, we have a major figure coming into the mix in this next issue which is Bane. And he’s going to throw a few wild cards into the mix as well.
I really wanted this to be a series where you can’t guess what’s going to happen next, and I wanted to keep it exciting to myself in the same way. I don’t want these characters to feel comfortable. I want them to be really pushed to the limits by the story, and I’m really glad we’re finally at this point in the story. I think I’ve said in a few other places that starting in issue #3 when Casey Washington came in, I feel like the book really found its voice and that I found the book’s voice as well. Now that we’re in the midst of all this action and all these pieces are moving, I couldn’t be happier. It’s all coming together now and heading towards the big, final moment that was part of my original pitch from a year ago. It’s incredible to see it all unfold. This was my first attempt at telling a story of this scale. Before this, I’d just been working on backups, so this was my first shot at telling a longer story, and I’m thrilled at the response to the end of #6. I’d been waiting for it, and people seem to really enjoy it and be really interested by what comes next.
Let’s talk about that Bane addition and how it shakes up the world. You’ve done so much world-building for the Court of Owls over the series, but Bane has his own world and his own cast of characters coming with him. How do those two halves butt up against each other to create some new tensions?
We’re going to see how they connect in the next story. In the little backup story I wrote for “Detective Comics” #900, you could see that the Court of Owls is definitely in Bane’s crosshairs, and we’re going to see why and how that’s happening. It’s hard to talk about before #7 comes out, but this is a massive status quo shift. We’re going to be getting out of Gotham City itself and really America. We’re heading down to Santa Prisca — the Caribbean island where Bane has been building this army.
Bane is a character who has a definitive origin back in the ’90s “Vengeance of Bane” story, but in the New 52, he’s only made a few appearances. What do you view as the core elements of his characters to use in this story?
The aspect of Bane that I find most interesting is that he’s this kind of folk hero in the same way Batman is. He’s this man who was born in a prison and rose up. The system was never able to break him down. And one of the big strength of the Court of Owls is the system. They use the status quo, and they use Gotham City or the government to wield their power. They need the system to stand in place for them to rule. So in a way, Bane is the most dangerous thing that they could face because he’s a force of nature. He’s more than just a man. He’s the breaking point of the whole system.
In approaching the character, I wanted to keep everything about his origins pretty much in tact, which is why we’re going back to Santa Prisca. We’re going to be delving into the Venom process a bit and seeing what that is in the New 52 continuity. I think there’s a lot to say about how he’s this incredibly powerful character. It’s intimidating to write this character because he is this force, and it’s easy to fall into a trap where he sounds like your standard supervillain, but if you think of the weight of his intelligence and how he plans andÂ how he’s entirely self-made, you see that no one has ever been able to break him down. No one can make him question himself or go against what he believes he is. It’s an incredibly powerful idea.
And I think putting him up against Calvin Rose makes for an incredibly interesting dynamic because Calvin is consistently doubting himself. Over and over, he says that he doesn’t want to be a hero. He just wants to save the people he loves, and he’s just trying to save himself. Over the last seven years of his life, he’s been on the run trying to get some normalcy, but his life doesn’t work like that. I think the two of them together when they come face-to-face will be really interesting because Bane is really able to get under Calvin’s skin. He shows him that you can’t have these doubts. You can’t question what you are. The only way through is force. And it’s force of will and force of mind, not just brute force.
Bane’s an incredible character. He’s one of my favorite villains, and I couldn’t be more excited to be playing with him, especially now that he’s in the spotlight after “Dark Knight Rises.”
I was going to ask: obviously, the comic Bane is different than the movie one, but is it possible for you to write him without hearing Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in your head?
[Laughs] It is a little hard. Especially when I started telling my friends I was writing Bane, they started calling me up on the phone and doing the voice at me. I wish there was a font that implied that voice that I could use on the page to give us that extra added weight. That voice just gets into your head. I loved that aspect of the movie. I know some people thought it was a little goofy, but I thought that was an incredible choice of Nolan’s to make him distinctive and interesting right off the bat.
The other DCU element coming into the book soon is this crossover with “Birds of Prey” between issue #21 of that series and then “Talon” #9. Strix from that team is also an escapee from the Court of Owls. What’s been your take on that character’s development, and how does she represent a different side of Calvin’s experience?
I’m very excited for this. Ever since I heard about the plans to bring Strix into that book as a recurring character and not just a one-off like several of the other Talons we saw in “Night of the Owls,” I knew these two characters needed to meet. Strix is basically going through now what Calvin went through several years ago when he decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the Court. He needed to escape because he couldn’t live with his soul being darkened by that anymore. Now Strix is trying to be saved and trying to live her own life.
The crossover itself is dependent on what happens in the next couple of issues of both “Birds of Prey” and “Talon,” so I have to be careful about what I say about why these two characters come face-to-face. But it’s not going to be the friendliest of encounters at the start, which is interesting because I think at their core they’re very similar. And they’ll find that in each other, but Calvin because he’s older than Strix and a bit further along than her, he knows she can survive it and that she has to. This crossover is the start of a friendship that I think can last a long time.
Issue #7 is the wrap of the first big arc of the book with Sebastian’s plans, but it’s also the farewell for artist Guillem March on interiors. What’s it been like transitioning from his look to Miguel Sepulveda who has a cleaner line to his work?
It’s been really good. I think that Miguel’s work has been incredible. One of his first pages shows the Felix Harmon character, the Gotham Ripper, and when I got that in I was really thrilled because he played up the grotesqueness and the horror of the moment. Someone who has those kinds of skills and who can draw these incredible monsters is the exact kind of style I want to be working on a Bane storyline. As we saw in the “Detective” backup, I’m also introducing a number of Bane’s lieutenants down in Santa Prisca who are also failed Venom Project people where the process didn’t work perfectly on them. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of those characters: Wolf-Spider, Malicia, the Professor and Brute. And Brute is a bit of a play on the “Batman and Robin” version of Bane — this grunting oaf of a big, powerful monster. I wanted to have that guy who’s probably bigger and stronger than Bane, but Bane would still be able to beat him any day of the week because he’s a thousand times more intelligent.
But it’s been really good working with Miguel, though I’ll miss Guillem. Guillem brought this series to life. He’s been an incredible partner, and while I’m sad to see him go, I’m excited about the work he has coming up. He’s going to be doing a bit more creator-owned stuff. And he also did a cover for an upcoming issue of my “Red Hood & The Outlaws” run, so I’ve still got some Guillem in my life. But I’m excited to see what Miguel does. Now that this world is established, it’ll be fun to see a new take on all these characters.
“Talon” #7 goes on sale April 24 from DC Comics.