Last year, the child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul — known to readers as Damian Wayne and to the DCU as Robin — died in writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham’s “Batman Incorporated” #8. Damian’s end came at the hands of Heretic, an artificially aged clone of the young vigilante’s, created by and working at the behest of his mother.
Since his son’s death, Batman has been searching for Damian’s stolen body in the pages of “Batman and Robin,” written by Peter Tomasi and illustrated by Patrick Gleason. The elder Wayne believes he can resurrect his son in a Lazarus Pit, which are commonly used by Batman’s nemesis and Damian’s grandfather Ra’s al Ghul for their restorative powers.
In this past summer’s “Robin Rises: Omega” #1 and “Batman and…” #33 and 34, Batman confronted Ra’s in an epic battle, securing Damian’s body only to see it stolen once again by Glorious Godfrey, a member of Darkseid’s Elite. Godfrey boom tubed the body to Apokolips, and now the hunt for Robin continues on the home turf of the villainous New Gods.
CBR News connected with Tomasi and Gleason to discuss the year-long story, and early on in our conversation, the pair said that the book’s title will be returning to “Batman and Robin” by the end of 2015 — though they stopped short of confirming it will be Damian under the mask.
Tomasi and Gleason also shared details about Damian’s relationship with Bruce and how the loss of a son has affected the Dark Knight. The creative team also handicapped Batman’s upcoming battle with Darkseid and his cronies and broke down the functionality of the Hellbat suit, which Batman has developed with Lex Luthor and the rest of the Justice League to heighten his chances of delivering Robin from evil in Apokolips.
CBR News: Can you really have Batman without Robin?
Peter Tomasi: Absolutely not. [Laughs]
No, obviously you can as evidenced by what’s currently going on in the Bat-Books. But it is one of those times when a character does something to another character. When you put one with the other one, it changes into two and it plays into different dynamics. It creates another aspect of Batman, an emotional one, which makes him more interesting.
Obviously, you don’t want to spoil whether or not we will see Damian at the end of this storyline, but will “Robin Rises” end with a Robin featured in the series?
Tomasi: There will be a Robin, yes. In December, there will be a Robin in the DC Universe. It’s Batman’s 75th anniversary, but Robin’s anniversary is coming up (in 2015), so we couldn’t let the DCU go Robin-less for very long.
Growing up, which Robin was your Robin?
Tomasi: Dick Grayson is mine.
Patrick Gleason: I grew up with Tim [Drake], but I think of Dick Grayson as Robin, too.
When Damian came onto the scene, readers didn’t really accept him as Robin. But during his, by comic book standards, brief life, he did gain acceptance from both fans and those in the DCU. What is it about the character that works?
Gleason: I have kids myself, and I think having Damian as the son of Bruce Wayne creates another way to relate to Batman. But you can relate to Damian whether you have kids or not. Personally, whenever I drew Damian, I imagined him as that 10-year old brat inside of me. That made it easy to think about his body language and his mannerisms. He is so accessible because you can relate to him in a million different ways. He creates so many touchstones, either as Batman’s son, or any parent with a son, or a character that has a mean streak, or just that brat kid.
Tomasi: If you’re honest with yourself, everybody knows that when you were a kid, you had to have done something wrong. Nobody was perfect. Nobody was a complete angel. I certainly had idiosyncrasies. I may not have crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ or listened to my parents 100 percent of the time. The good thing about Damian is that a lot of people come up to Pat and me at conventions and say how much they really didn’t like the character and then he grew on them as we tackled him in our book and really focused a lot of attention on him. We added a lot of layers to what Grant had already established, which was great.
Damian is one of those characters that we were really happy to see grow. I think those are the best characters — the ones that you can love to hate and part of that is the work that Pat and I did. If you didn’t love him, at least you grew to understand where he was coming from, especially based on his upbringing with Talia and the League of Assassins. He’s a character that we grew to love ourselves as we approached his stories.
While there is always going to be a DC versus Marvel debate, I think there is another two camps, specifically with DC fans: Batman versus Superman. I have always been a Superman guy, I think because I gravitated more towards the lighter, positive character versus the doom and gloom of The Dark Knight. Seeing him as a father and mourning the loss of his son has placed him in a different light for me — he has become more human.
Tomasi: It does. We are portraying him as a mixture of both. We are really dealing with both sides of the coin. Father and The Dark Knight. Those two come at odds with each other, obviously, at certain times, whereas, at other times, him being Batman allows him to go on this journey and attempt to resurrect his son. I like a Batman going through a lot of emotional stuff. I love him when he’s a dark vigilante and he’s calm, collected and kicking ass and in full detective mode, but the great thing about the DCU, and especially the Bat-Books, is that we have the opportunity to do different types of Batman. Rght now, we’re exploring more of the emotional aspects of Batman. That’s what makes all of these books really great. With Scott [Snyder] and Greg [Capullo] and me and Pat and Brian [Buccellato] and Francis [Manapul], everyone is doing different takes and approaches and coming at him from different angles, which makes the character even stronger.
Green Lantern has his ring. Flash has super speed — and Superman and Wonder Woman are Superman and Wonder Woman. While Batman’s physical attributes exceed that of any Olympic-level athlete that has ever competed, does he really have what it takes to face off against Darkseid and the New Gods?
Tomasi: I will answer that question with one word: Hellbat. [Laughs]
That’s what’s great about Batman: He can cross over to different genres. He can down to the docks in Gotham and kick ass, or he can go to Apokolips and kick ass. You can put him in every situation, and he works. Especially when you are working with an artist like Pat, who can draw him in any situation.
Gleason: Ah, thanks. Leading up to “Robin Rises,” we were exploring the five stages of grief and put Batman in different locales all around the world, from the Tropics to Paradise Island to up in the Arctic. But I’ve really been looking forward to drawing him in Apokolips with all of the craziness that’s going to be there.
Looking through all of the reference books, including all of the New 52 work that’s been done with the New Gods, it’s really exciting. I want to bring my own take to it — it is a Batman book, and that’s how I am approaching drawing it, but I am definitely feeling some of my old “Green Lantern Corps” engines firing because I am drawing so many otherworldly things. It’s pretty neat.
Pat, can you talk about the Hellbat suit and its design?
Gleason: Early on, when Pete and I were talking about the story and where it was going to go. As you said, Batman being just a mere mortal, in my mind, it was almost like he needed a mythological advantage. He needed this armor. Obviously, the Justice League helping him construct it, and the story behind it, helped me design the visual, but it had to look like Batman. And knowing where it was headed, the suit had to fit in and be functional in that environment. What you’ll see coming up looks pretty cool, in my humble opinion, but it’s also highly functional. It’s Batman, so it’s not just pretty to look at.
Tomasi: It has to be functional, because he’s going up against characters that are otherworldly. He needs a little extra oomph in his arsenal.
Can you talk about the legacy of the New Gods, which Jack Kirby created? They’re not exactly A-list characters, but they have featured in some major story arcs in the DCU over the past 43 years.
Gleason: It’s just pure comic book visuals to me.
Tomasi: They’re the kind of characters that make comics great. It’s what makes comics distinct. You have a character like Batman, and then you have characters like the New Gods. It’s the mythology of today. It’s what a lot of people have been saying over the past couple of years. People that aren’t into comics right now are missing out on some incredible, mythological stories that run the gamut from so many different angles. There is some amazing stuff going on right now in every genre.
And it’s pretty cool when you look at Pat drawing Kalibak or Andy Kubert drawing the Parademons in the attack with Glorious Godfrey in “Robin Rises: Omega” #1. There is the awesome splash of Batman in the Hellbat suit descending on Apokolips that Pat drew. You can go all over the place with the New Gods. You can point the camera in any direction in this world, and the artists get these awesome images that they can bring to the table. I am lucky to have Pat along for the ride on this stuff. We go through the stories together and we try to add it all up to make it as exciting and emotional as possible.
Gleason: And that’s what great about working with Pete, because if the heart isn’t there, the visuals don’t mean anything. They’re really hard to sell. The way Pete writes the emotion and tension and the determination of Batman and the Bat Family and all of these other players that we have coming up, it’s really great to sit down and come up with images to go along with them.
“Robin Rises” continues on October 15 in “Batman and Robin” #35, by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.