With each new blockbuster movie and hit TV series, superheroes are becoming more and more ingrained in popular culture -- and no comic captures the zeitgeist better than DC Comics' "We Are Robin". The ongoing series from writer Lee Bermejo, who also provides covers for the series, truly explores what it means to wear a cape and tights.
Starring Duke Thomas -- a character created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for "Batman" that featured prominently in the "Zero Year" arc -- and a cast of teenaged superhero wannabes, "We Are Robin" #4 featured art from James Harvey and examined the events following the death of one of Gotham's new Robins. The issue also featured a a cameo appearance by Batgirl that left one aspiring sidekick with a far greater understanding of what it means to wear the 'R.'
CBR News connected with Bermejo to discuss recent events in the critically acclaimed series, the TMZ-inspired art of "cape-catching" and Duke Thomas' place in the Robin lineage. Bermejo also teased what the reveal of the central villain's true identity will mean to the Robins and what to expect from DC Comics' upcoming crossover event "Robin War."
CBR News: The big game-changing moment in "We Are Robin" #4 occurs when Batgirl arrives on the scene and legitimizes -- at least for Riko -- what it means to wear the 'R.' For you, what does is it mean to wear Robin's trademark 'R'?
Lee Bermejo: Wearing the 'R' is part of a legacy. A major theme of the book, and I have been saying this from the very beginning, [is that] it's one thing to call yourself a 'Robin'; it's another thing to be a 'Robin.' It's fun to watch bad guys hit the floor, but it really means something much bigger than that. It's the idea that you are part of something bigger than yourself. And not only that but you also have to respect the symbol. In Gotham, wearing the 'R' is part of the city's mythology. The city has seen different Robins over the years and they have also seen different Batmans. The concept is big enough in the public's eye where I thought there should be a moment where one of the "old guard," so to speak, drives that point home to these kids. It is certainly something that we are going to be exploring in different ways in future issues, as well.
I want to discuss Duke Thomas as he is arguably the main character of this series, but the breakout star of "We Are Robin" seems to be Riko Sheridan. While readers don't know yet whether Riko is delusional or is actually hearing the voices in her head, coming face-to-face with Batgirl obviously cements Riko's adventures as Robin squarely in reality. Batgirl actually reaches out to Riko and says, "This is all real." What does this encounter with Batgirl mean to Riko moving forward?
Riko, for me, is the physical manifestation of one's desire to be a superhero. So much so that her imaginary best friend is a superhero. More than any of the other characters in "We Are Robin," Riko is a bit more introverted and the other important thing here is that she comes from a good home. She's not necessarily extraordinary in any one thing and I think that's what makes her most relatable for readers. The other Robins are super-athletic or super-intelligent but for Riko, being Robin is more a fantasy -- and that's a big theme of the book. How does fantasizing about being a superhero compare to reality? I love the fact that not all of these guys want to be Batman's Robin. It's different for each one of them and I think Riko would like to be Batgirl's Robin. We also wanted to explore that element of hero worship. And what it means when you meet your hero and being a really positive experience. That was something that was really important to me to get across.
And not only do we have hero-worshipping in this last issue but we have cape-catching. I have little doubt that if superheroes actually existed that we would have ne'er-do-wells, as well as fans, lighting fires and faking injuries or attacks in an attempt to trigger a response from a caped crusader.
Absolutely. The idea of the cape-catchers is that they can be glorified autograph seekers or people that want to have their pictures taken with celebrities. But getting a superhero's attention may be a little more difficult than an actor or a professional athlete. You can't just stand outside of a hotel and hope to catch a glimpse or a selfie. [Laughs] That's the world we live in now.
We also rely so much on social media and this issue explores people's relationships through and with social media. I really have to give it up to James Harvey on this issue because my idea was to have these characters that wanted to film and record superheroes in these crazy situations for their Klout score, retweets and likes and James really brought the Twitter aspect and feel into play in this book. He really contributed to both the storytelling and the actual dialogue -- a lot of the Twitter dialogue was actually done by him. We collaborated on that stuff in a really fun way. It made this specific issue feel a little bit more like you were in the middle of something that was going down on social media. You could feel the speed in which these things happen and spread.
I hope this fascination with celebrity is addressed in a way that doesn't become overbearing. It's fun to play around with the fact that these are teenagers and they spend a lot of time on Periscope and Twitter and Facebook, so you can't avoid that in the storytelling.
This is a team book but again, Duke Thomas is obviously at the center of your story. He's young and just starting his crimefighting career, but how does he rate against or compare to the Robins of the past like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Jason Todd?
Duke is very cerebral. He's a problem solver and that makes for being a good detective. I think that the other Robins of the past, for the most part, have really relied on athleticism. That said, Dick and Tim were both super intelligent too. Like Bruce [Wayne], they're almost too perfect. With Duke, he can hold his own but he makes mistakes. And it's fun watching him grow into the role and making those mistakes. But Duke's real strength is problem solving and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have really set the tone in "Batman" with what he is capable of. I don't think Batman has had a sidekick yet that is a true detective -- someone that can really or her step up during the problem solving process.
At the end of "We Are Robin" #3, we learned that The Nest -- the one calling the shots and even inciting the Robins -- is actually Alfred Pennyworth. Next month, it appears the Robins are going to come face-to-face with The Reaper, the shadowy figure that we have been seeing recruiting baddies in Gotham's underground, as the teaser copy at the end of "We Are Robin" #4 reads: "FEAR THE REAPER." Who is The Reaper and what is there to fear about him?
That's less indicative of the actual character and more indicative of the concept that we're going to be exploring. But yes, without spoiling it, we're going to find out who The Reaper is and we're going to see what he wants from the city. And we lay out his manifesto over the next couple of issues, and I hope that it's going to excite readers as they figure out who this guy is and the ramifications of his or her presence.
I wouldn't say it's a slow burn, but I'm definitely not trying to shove everything that I can down readers' throats into every issue. I am trying to introduce them to characters in a way that feels organic and comes from story. And it's the same thing with these new bad guys. And seeing as we're dealing predominantly with teenagers, it seems unrealistic to throw them into the fire right away with some huge Gotham City villain. It has to feel more organic, specifically with how this book is structured in terms of overall feel. When it happens, it's going to be a big deal -- especially for the Robins.
Looking ahead, we know from the solicitation copy that "We Are Robin" is going to crossover with the "Robin War" event. What can you share about how this story ties into the upcoming crossover?
Readers are going to get a good idea of the direction the book and that event is going to take over the next couple of issues of "We Are Robin." It's very much tied into "Robin War." Not to say that it's going to be absolutely necessary to read "Robin War" and all the tie-in issues to enjoy "We Are Robin," but there are definitely going to be some interconnections there.
What I can say about "Robin War" is that some of these characters have met Batman and one of them has met Batgirl, but there has not been the presence felt of a Robin. That's the important part of the puzzle. How will the other Robins react to a group of young kids that are more idealistic and inspired without necessarily being ready to handle what comes their way? We'll see that in "Robin War."
"We Are Robin" #4, written by Lee Bermejo and featuring art by James Harvey, is available now.