Dini Cuts Into "The Heart of Hush"

Add another name to the list of would-be Bat-successors as DC Comics hurdles towards the conclusion of "Batman R.I.P." With Hush making his long-awaited return to Gotham City in an upcoming five-issue arc of "Detective Comics" (beginning with issue #846 on July 9), veteran television and comics writer Paul Dini ("Batman: The Animated Series," "Countdown to Final Crisis") wouldn't rule out the man also known as Thomas Elliot as someone who could don the cape and cowl should the DCU be shopping around for a new Batman.

"You know, I'm not at liberty to say how the final issues of 'Batman R.I.P.' will play out, even if I was certain," Dini told CBR News. "I can say Batman is still the same old Batman at the end of my story, though mine takes place slightly before Grant [Morrison]'s."

Dini said bringing Hush back to the fold has been in the works for quite a while. "I was asked last year to think about exploring the character more in depth, and when I'd get what I thought was a good idea for him I'd jot it down in my Bat-notebook," said Dini. "Yes, I actually have one. I keep it next to the Bat-shark repellent."

The writer continued, "The more DC kept posing the idea of bringing Hush back, the more I'd start thinking about him and getting excited about what I could do with him, both as Thomas Elliot and as Hush."

Thomas Elliot was originally created by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee for their best-selling 2002 story titled "Hush." A childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, Thomas Elliot wanted to kill his parents and cut the brakes in their car causing the death of his father. When Dr. Wayne saved Elliot's mother, he was denied the inheritance he'd hope to receive in the aftermath of their deaths, and was of course hugely jealous of young Bruce for inheriting a fortune when his parents died. Elliot grew to hate Wayne, and along with the Riddler returned years later as the villain Hush, to destroy Batman once and for all. The character later appeared in "Batman: Gotham Knights," but when the series was cancelled in 2006, Hush's story ended too.

"The original 'Hush' is one of the seminal modern Batman stories," said Dini. "In fact, I reread the story in depth to pick out nuances that Jeph and Jim Lee had planted about Hush's personality and his origin. I wanted to deal with Hush/Thomas Elliot on a purely emotional level and create a story around what makes him tick, to look behind the bandages and delve into his mind and maybe even his heart. In fact, the entire five-part story is called 'The Heart of Hush.' That said, this is no Valentine."

Dini called Thomas Elliot "the anti-Bruce Wayne" and said this contradiction in style is what makes Hush an interesting character for a writer to explore. "Though Thomas Elliot and Bruce Wayne came from similar backgrounds, there the similarity stops," explained Dini. "Whereas Bruce's parents were loving and nurturing, that was not quite the case in the Elliot family. I wanted to show that as a boy, Tommy had motivations other than greed for the crimes he committed. His mind for strategy, for setting pawns against each other and playing on other characters desires and fears, were survival tactics he was forced to develop at an early age. He was also a kid who took a gamble on freedom, lost and wound up spending ten years paying a very terrible price. My goal is that in the vein of villains like Mr. Freeze and Mad Hatter, it will be possible for readers to have a small bit of empathy for him."

Comparing him in one regard to Ra's Al Ghul, Dini said Hush creates a real challenge for the Dark Knight because he is one of a select few villains who knows just about everything there is to know about Batman and Bruce Wayne. "As Tommy Elliot's life soured, he enviously watched as Bruce succeeded, even while confronting adversity and dealing with the murder of his parents," explained Dini. "The fact that Bruce later went on to become Batman just made Tommy hate him even more. 'He's handsome, he's rich, he's got the world at his feet and he's Batman! Man, do I hate this guy!' Now that Hush is in a position to bring as much misery as he can upon Batman, he's going to do it, and he's not going to let any other villain beat him to the punch."

Dini said he would be touching on what happened at the conclusion of Hush's unfinished story arc in "Gotham Knights," but that it isn't the major motivation for the action in his "Detective Comics" tale. He also confirmed that this arc is a stand-alone story. "If you only know Hush from Jeph and Jim's original, you'll be able to follow along just fine," said Dini, who added "Heart of Hush" doesn't tie-in to "Final Crisis" or dovetail into "Batman R.I.P." in "any crucial way," though the stories are happening around the same time.

"If anything, 'Heart of Hush' takes place slightly before the big action in 'R.I.P.' kicks in, over three or four incredibly awful nights in Batman's life," said Dini. "Also, even though Batman is certainly present in each issue, this is really Hush's story, with a lot of it told in flashbacks from his point of view. I can also say those sequences will feature some surprising Batman-related characters at earlier points in their lives."

Dini wouldn't say if Thomas Elliot survives "Heart of Hush" but he did reveal what he has planned for the conclusion in the landmark "Detective Comics" #850 should knock readers' socks off. "I'm looking forward to it [#850] more than anyone," said Dini. "It's going to be a big issue and it's going to wrap up a big story. Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs and I are pulling out the stops for this one. I think we'd be delighted if by the end of #850, the readers say 'Wow! Now that's a Batman story!'"

That story starts in "Detective Comics" #846, on sale July 9 from DC Comics.

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