Azzarello Unmasks The Batman of "Flashpoint"

SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers lie ahead for "Flashpoint" #1, which went on sale last week. Consider yourself warned!

Since "Flashpoint" was first announced in the summer of 2010, Geoff Johns and the entire braintrust at DC Comics have been promising some major changes to the DC Universe to spin out of the event.

And they weren't lying. Barry Allen isn't The Flash -- at least not yet. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are battling for control of the planet. And Superman is nowhere to be found.

Fans were expecting much of that based on the previews and solicitation information from the last several months, but when "Flashpoint" #1 arrived in comic book stores last Wednesday, readers were collectively caught off guard when the Batman of this heavily-altered DCU was revealed as none other than Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce.

First introduced in "Detective Comics" #33 in 1939 during the first telling of Batman's origin, Thomas Wayne was murdered along with his wife, Martha by a mugger -- later revealed to be Joe Chill -- while young Bruce watched helplessly. Bruce Wayne vowed vengeance and became the Dark Knight.

In "Flashpoint," however, mother and son were killed in Crime Alley and Thomas Wayne, fueled by hatred, transformed himself into Gotham's caped (and cowled) crusader.

Set to be a major player in Johns' five-issue core series, the Thomas Wayne/Batman character will be further explored in the three-issue "Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance," written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso, the Eisner Award-winning creative team behind "100 Bullets."

Azzarello spoke with CBR News to discuss his take on Thomas Wayne and Batman in "Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance" and also teases what's to come in his and Risso's next series for Vertigo Comics, "Spaceman."

CBR News: The big reveal in "Flashpoint" #1 was that the superhero under the cowl for this mega event is not Bruce Wayne but his father, Thomas Wayne. Was that your idea?

Brian Azzarello: It was Geoff's idea to make Batman Thomas Wayne. Beyond that, as far as the events that occur in "Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance," that's all mine.

Have you had a lot of back and forth with Geoff about this series or are you pretty self-contained within your story?

Geoff and I talked a great deal, going back to last September. There's some things in "Flashpoint" that aren't in the Batman book that he and I discussed, so yeah, it's been cool. This is his entirely Geoff's baby, man. I just picked out a couple of outfits for him.

Was the fact that Batman was going to be Thomas Wayne in "Flashpoint" what brought you to this project? Because you don't normally get yourself involved in these mega crossover events.

No, not really. Eduardo [Risso] and I were getting ready to do "Spaceman" for Vertigo and this came up and we thought this might be a good way to flex some muscles before we actually get into our world building.

Thomas Wayne has been around for 74 years, yet beyond the iconic scene when he's gunned down in Crime Alley, we don't really know too much about him. Did you do much research into the character?

No. This Thomas Wayne is cut wholly out of new cloth.

You've written Batman a number of times, but it's always been Bruce in the role. With it being Thomas Wayne this time around, does that allow you to really make the character your own because you're not dealing with 70-plus years of continuity?

I try to do that every time I touch Batman. I don't do superheroes very often, but when I do, I want to bring out a very specific aspect to that character. With Thomas, you've got a guy who's Batman and he's Batman for a very different reason. It's been explored a little bit lately, with someone else putting on the Batman hood but this is radically different from that stuff.

So Thomas is a different kind of Batman than Bruce is?

Yeah, he's a much more pissed off Batman. Really. [Laughs] He doesn't have some of the moral hangups that Bruce does. Let's say that.

In "First Wave," you had Batman wielding guns. Does Thomas use guns?

He doesn't need guns. [Laughs]

In "Flashpoint" #1, we see Batman interact with Cyborg and the other superheroes. Thomas, it appears, not unlike his son, still prefers to be a lone wolf versus being a team player.

He really doesn't give two shits about anything other than Gotham City. That's his main concern. He's not so much a global character as he is portrayed [in the main DC continuity]. And to me, like running a casino, that's just something that makes sense.

I never understood why Batman is in the Justice League. It just seems to go against the grain. Other than, him thinking: "If these superpowered characters are banding together to fight crime, I think I better be there just in case they fuck up."

Again, Bruce Wayne is considered the greatest detective in the DCU, if not the greatest mind. Does Thomas share these particular skills?

I think his smarts are a different set of smarts. He's smart enough to open a casino to fund his fight. That's something that never occurred to Bruce.

Right -- I love the fact that he's running all the casinos in Gotham, which in effect allows him to fund all of his crimefighting with money, in most cases, from the villains he's trying to pursue.

That just made sense. It's such a simple idea. It's probably why it resonates with everybody. Yes, he runs these casinos because he needs money to fund his war on crime. And that's the best way to get it because then the criminals are funding the war against themselves.

There was certainly a lot of chatter in the forums and message boards about "Flashpoint" prior to its release, But honestly, do you think anyone suspected it would be Thomas Wayne under the cowl?

I don't know what anybody was thinking. But the interview questions were all leaning towards Bruce, so I would just answer them by calling him Batman. [Laughs]

In "Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance," do we see a lot of Thomas Wayne unmasked, interacting with people in the casino and other locales across Gotham?

Oh, yeah. Sure. I think that's important to establish the character. Once you put the cowl on him, they're all the same. Once they're actually fighting crime, one guy uses Jiu-Jitsu and the other guy uses judo. Come on. What's the difference?

Does Barry Allen play a role in "Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance," because it appears Thomas will have a major role in "Flashpoint"?

Nope. He's mentioned. But this is about Batman. This is about Thomas Wayne. Flash is getting enough face time in the other book.

The solicitations for issue #3 were just released and the copy teases Joker will be revealed. I assume it's safe to say this is a different kind of Joker, too.

Sure. But all I can tell you is that he's in there. Gordon's in there. The Penguin. Selina Kyle. You get all my perverse takes on these characters. But I'm not telling you anything about who all of these characters are other than that they are there. You're going to have to read the book, man. But I promise, when you see this book, you're going to be blown away. Really. I hate to say that kind of stuff but this time, I'm going to say it.

Fair enough! And, while we're talking, let me ask you about another project that you mentioned earlier, "Spaceman." Can you give us a tease about what that's about?

We first started talking about "Spaceman" when we were finishing up "100 Bullets," so it's been a while. We wanted to take a little break, which we did. It's been like a year. And now we're working again.

What can I say? You're going to look at it and say, "Oh, of course." It sounds big. And it sounds complicated. And it is. It's world building. It's going to be different from what you expect. But I think after you read it, you're going to say, "Well, yeah. Of course. That's from Azzarello and Risso. That makes sense."

We do what we do.

Who is Spaceman?

That's what you're going to find out in "Strange Adventures." "Strange Adventures" is going to introduce you to the world and you're going to understand the sort of environment that these characters interact within. Yes, you're going to meet him. You're going to see what he's all about. And just what our vision of the future is.

Is it scary?

I don't know. I think it's grim. [Laughs] I don't if it's scary but yeah, it's grim.

"Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance" #1, written by Brian Azzarello and featuring art by Eduardo Risso, is scheduled to be released June 1

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