With the evil mastermind behind the Court of Owls expected to be revealed in “Batman” #10, on sale today, the true might of the villainous secret society was demonstrated last week when DC Comics announced, less than one year after the concept was introduced to the 70-plus year-old mythology of Gotham City, a spin-off series titled “Talon” debuts in September.
For the three people not reading the bestselling “Batman” ongoing series by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, Talons are the vicious assassins empowered by the Court to destroy its enemies in Gotham (and beyond its borders) not unlike the sharp claw an owl uses to kill its prey. The only Talon to ever escape the clutches of the Court is Calvin Rose, the main character of the forthcoming “Talon” series by “Batman” writer Snyder, who is co-plotting, and relative newcomer James Tynion IV, who is co-plotting and writing with art by Guillem March.
Tynion, a former student of Snyder at Sarah Lawrence College, has been co-writing the “Night of Owls” back-up stories in “Batman” since the release of the eighth issue in April and also co-wrote last month’s “Batman Annual” #1, which is not only the first “Batman” annual in 50 years but was also the fifth highest-selling comic in May 2012, amassing estimated sales of more than 100,000 (101,394) copies.
CBR News connected with Tynion, who shared that Rose, like all Talons, was a member of Haly’s Circus during his childhood and his acrobatic training will be as important to his development (and safety) as his schooling by the Court. Tynion also revealed Rose never let the Court break him like they broke the other Talons because he’s made of “sterner stuff.”
CBR News: James, I’m sure you’re jazzed about this new “Talon” series, but I’d like to discuss how it came together. Were you and Scott spit-balling ideas and/or did this series grow organically from what you were doing in the “Court of Owls” backup features in “Batman?”
James Tynion IV: Well, right around the time I started working on the backup features in “Batman,” DC asked Scott if he thought it was possible to spin a title out of the incredible work he had been doing in the “Court of Owls” story. Scott and I talked about it, but neither of us really thought an ongoing “Talon” series was something that could work. And we moved past it — but the idea of a “Talon” series kept bouncing around in the back of my head.
Over the course of a few weeks, the idea for the series coalesced and I started putting together the first draft of the pitch. Mind you, at this point my first backup story was still months away, and I was still convinced that at any moment they were going to realize that I was a kid who had no idea what he was doing and kick me out of Gotham City. But for years, my comic-reading friends and I have always killed time talking about: “How would you do a series about X” or “How would you fix Y?” I was approaching “Talon” with the same kind of mindset. How could you build a series out of this new piece of DC mythology without damaging the epic story that Scott has been telling in “Batman” for a year? How do you create a figure that has enough depth and story potential that you can see it going not only until issue #12, but issue #75? I really felt like I was finding the answers, and I sent what I was thinking over to Scott. Thankfully, he loved it. He helped me shape it and improve it, and together we sent the concept over to [“Batman” group editor] Mike Marts to see what he thought.
There were a few more rounds of refinement, and some brilliant ideas from Scott and the editorial team that helped shape it into something truly awesome, but a month or so later I got the final call. “Talon” was coming to life. And after all those weeks and months of thinking and talking it through, it was time to actually start writing. I’m working on the second issue right now.
Why do you think the “Court of Owls” storyline, and specifically the Talons, have resonated so well with readers since the launch of the New 52 — enough so to generate a spinoff series so quickly?
Part of it is the iconography created by Greg Capullo over the last year. The simple white masks of the Court of Owls are creepy as hell, and all of Talons are these sleek, intimidating killers. But the big thing is what they add to the world of Batman and Gotham City, in particular. For decades everyone even remotely familiar with comics has known that Gotham City belongs to Batman. Gotham City is Batman. What Scott did tremendously was ask the question: “What if it isn’t his city after all?” He pulled the rug out from under the character and shook his foundation to his core. I think any threat that can do that to Batman so effortlessly — a threat that can pull it off simply by existing — is just so instantly awesome and engaging. Batman’s supposed to know everything, so pointing the flashlight to what he doesn’t know is a pretty incredible story to explore, and I think that’s part of the reasons fans have latched on to them.
The story in “Batman” is framed a lot like that. He learns things about the Court, but the story is ultimately about Bruce himself and the internal struggle. Because of that, there’s a lot of depth and history to the Court and their Talons left to be explored. And these new figures, drenched in mystery and secret history, absolutely deserve some further exploration.
By kicking things off with a #0 issue, you get to essentially do a prequel before the series actually starts. Will the #0 issue be set years prior to the events of “Talon” #1 or do we pick things up right after the conclusion of the title’s “zero issue?”
The zero issue takes place roughly five years ago, and sets the groundwork of the relationship between our dashing protagonist, Calvin Rose, and The Court of Owls. We’ll learn his story and get a strong sense of where he’s been before the story proper begins in the first issue.
“Talon” #1 will put Calvin on a mission that will put all of his talents to the test. He’s spent his entire life escaping from certain death, but he never thought actual freedom was in his grasp. “Talon” #1 puts it in his reach, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get there. It’s going to be a fast-paced/action thriller kind of book.
“Talon” #0 sets the tone and introduces the character. “Talon” #1 sets the story in motion. I think it works out pretty nicely.
At this point, what can you share with us about the secret origin of Calvin Rose?
Calvin Rose is the only Talon in the history of the Court of Owls to turn his back on the organization and run. He’s a tremendous liability for them — an organization that has operated in secret for so long can’t afford any rogue members. When we meet him for the first time in “Talon” #0, we’re going to see a man who has been running for years, and who needs to keep running as long as he lives if he wants to stay alive. Thankfully for him, getting out of sticky situations is pretty much his expertise. Like all of the Talons, Rose was a member of Haly’s Circus during his childhood, and his training there will be as important as his training with the court.
What differentiates him from other Talons?
In general, I think it’s that Calvin never let the Court break him like they broke the others before him. He’s made of sterner stuff, although his former masters would probably view it as a kind of weakness. Because of that, he’s got a bit more of a personality than the Talons we’ve seen so far. There’s a lot more that will make him stand out from the pack, but readers will have to wait and see when the story begins this September.
What is his personality like? And do we get to see Calvin Rose when he is not a Talon, not unlike how we get to see Bruce Wayne when he is not Batman?
Giving Calvin a vibrant personality was always my top priority in developing this series. Otherwise, he definitely wouldn’t fit in with the other Bat Family members. He’s been through a lot, and has a rough sense of humor that helps him get by. He genuinely likes people, but has spent most of his adult life knowing that any person he gets close to will only become a target for The Court. All of this has taken its toll on him, but Calvin doesn’t give up easy. The more I’m writing Calvin, the more his personality is coming to life for me, and I really think readers are going to love him as much as I do.
Based on what we know of his backstory, one would assume Calvin Rose is a bit of a lone wolf. What does mean in terms of a supporting cast for this series?
He’s been a loner for much of his life, but it’s been out of necessity. It hasn’t been safe to get close to people, so he hasn’t. But there are people important to him who will play major roles in the series, and we’re going to start building the supporting cast of friends and enemies right out of the gate.
What role does the Court of Owls play in the series and are there particular members of the Court — Talons or otherwise — featured in “Talon?”
With the finale to Scott’s “Court of Owls” storyline coming to an end over the next month or so, I think I’m going to have to say, “Wait and see.”
While the Court of Owls and the Talons have been introduced as Batman villains from the announcement, it appears their reach expands far beyond the city limits of Gotham? Are we going to see Calvin operate outside Batman’s home turf and if so, will the series feature superheroes and supervillains from DC’s other major city centers like Metropolis, Amnesty Bay, Coast City and Fallville?
So far there aren’t any concrete plans for other superheroes/supervillains to guest star in the book, but our story is going to take Calvin all across the DCU and to some of the cities you’ve mentioned and there’s always a chance he might run into someone or another if the story calls for it. But like I said, we’re not planning on anything major right out of the gate. This story is about Calvin and I think the most crucial thing is establishing him and the world he’s interacting with before we start thinking seriously about crossing over with other titles.
What else can you tell us about the series, especially your collaborators Scott Snyder and artist Guillem March?
I will never, in my entire life, be able to properly thank Scott Snyder for everything he’s done for me. He was one of my best writing professors back in college, and he’s become one of my closest friends over the last few years. The trust he’s putting in me to do right by these phenomenal characters and concepts is incredible. He’s right there next to me, helping every step of the way to make sure this book is one of the best titles coming out from DC. And I promise to each and every person that reads this that I’m going to work my ass off to try and make sure that is the case. Working with Scott makes me a better writer day-by-day, and I’m still in disbelief that I’ve been given this tremendous opportunity. I am eternally grateful to him.
And from what I’ve already seen, I think it’s fair to say that Guillem is going to make this one of the best looking books on the stands this fall. Every day that I get to see a few more sketches makes me more excited for the finished product. He’s got a style that’s entirely his own and I can’t wait for him to bring Calvin and this whole crazy corner of the DC Universe to life.
Finally, I know that some folks might be a bit skeptical of a spin-off series coming so soon after these characters’ introductions, but I really think we’re going to pull off something special. I can’t wait until September. I really can’t wait for people to meet these characters and see what we’re planning to do with them. It’s going to be a long few months for me until people can finally check it out and see why I’m so excited to sit down tomorrow and keep writing this story.
“Talon” #0, written by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder and featuring art by Guillem March, is expected September 26.