With his father Bruce Wayne presumed dead and his mother Talia al Ghul emotionally and psychologically unavailable, Damian Wayne has never been more alone in the DC Universe. Your average 11 year-old boy would likely check out at this point, but Damian is anything but average.
In "Robin: Son of Batman," thew new DC ongoing series that debuted yesterday, Damian sets out to atone for a series of horrific events from his past that were designed as tests by his mother and grandfather Ra's al Ghul to prepare him for one day assuming the role as head of the League of Assassins.
In this exclusive first interview following the release #1, writer/artist Patrick Gleason, who spent plenty of time with the character as the artist of "Batman and Robin," told CBR News the new series will serve as a secret origin for Damian as readers actually know very little about him, what he's done and what he's capable of. Most importantly, Gleason will explore whether or not Damian should be responsible for his actions if he didn't know Batman was his father.
Gleason also discussed the possibility of Bruce Wayne playing a role in "Robin: Son of Batman" and why Goliath -- Damian's furry red man-bat 'muscle' -- may be the series' breakout star.
CBR News: When you're the child of a famous athlete or a Hollywood actor and you follow in a parent's footsteps, your career is often compared or even defined by their earlier success. As the title of the series states, not only is Damian Wayne the new Robin, he's also the son of Batman. How's that for expectations?
Patrick Gleason: As if Damian didn't already have a chip on his shoulder. [Laughs] It really just piles on the drama. Yes, he is the biological son of Batman and he's also the son of al Ghul. He's the child of these two dynasties and he's nothing to laugh at. And yes, I think that comes with a lot of pressure. My dad was a cop. And if I got in trouble, they knew me. There is definitely a name to live up to. He didn't always know that he was the son of Batman so in this series, I want to explore where he started and that was the son of an al Ghul and not knowing who his father was. Now that he knows who his parents are, he's at a crossroads and he has to decide, which path he is going to follow. Is he going to follow in his father's footsteps, al Ghul's footsteps or is he going to go his own way. It's a choice that we all have to make. We're raised certain ways and we take different elements of our families and become our own person. And that's what's interesting. Just seeing where Damian is going.
You're right. Because Damian could have just as easily become Batman's archenemy as opposed to accepting the mantle of Robin.
[Laughs] And I think that's what you are going to learn about when you jump into "Robin: Son of Batman" #1. And look, he was a villain. Is he responsible for his actions as a child? He's a little kid and he's already lived a full life. He might have been the worst DCU villain but we just never heard about him.
I guess we don't really know everything he's done. We just know that some of it is pretty bad.
There is a lot mystery. We've seen glimpses of his past in "Batman and Robin" and other books but we don't really know what he's done. We don't know what's been done to him. There are definitely layers. He's a complicated kid. And's he confident that he's capable of anything. And if you think about it, he might be right. He was raised to be an assassin. He's the son of Batman. He's a Robin. He died. He came back to life. Where does he go from there? If he was cocky and confident before, it's only escalating at this point.
Jim Gordon is currently serving as Batman in the DCU, but what can you share about Bruce Wayne's role, if any, in this series moving forward?
You're right. Obviously we won't be seeing Bruce, at least initially. And the first issue kind of answers that question. To Damian, Batman is bigger than just being his father. Or just being Bruce. He's also an ideal and a standard. Batman saved him. Batman is the cowl and the legacy that he has to live up to. And we'll see in this book whether or not he will be able to live up to it.
Talia al Ghul makes a surprise appearance at the end of the first issue. What kind of role will she play in "Robin: Son of Batman?"
We'll see. [Laughs] She's obviously an important part of Damian's life. When we last saw her, she had no memory, so there is that. But yes, there will definitely be more Talia.
The first arc is called "The Year of Blood," which sounds horrific. What is the Year of Blood?
The Year of Blood was this period in Damian's life that was this insane run of tests that Ra's and Talia put him through to initiate him into the al Ghul family and to prepare him for his role as the heir to the line. For one intense year, he was charged with specific tests that he had to carry out every day. We've seen that Damian likes to collects trophies. [Laughs] He takes things and holds onto them. And the Year of Blood was something that he held onto, dearly, for some time. And now he sees it as something completely different. Now that his world has flipped and he is a hero, he sees that it might have been dragging him down. It threatens his future and his own legacy. And now he has set out to atone for these sins. And through that, we're going to peel back the layers and see what he got into in the past and how that all affects him now. The actions of his past are still there in the present and there's going to be a reckoning.
And he's not alone as he sets out to atone for his sins. Goliath, who I think is going to be a breakout character, is along for the ride too, right?
If you haven't read it, the eight-page sneak preview for "Robin: Son of Batman" is a great intro to Goliath. I love hearing the reaction to Goliath from the fans. You know a character works when readers have only seen a preview and they're asking how they get their own Goliath. I think he's great, especially because of the type of character Damian is. He's a stray man-bat but there's more to him than that. He's fiercely loyal to Damian to the end. And he's definitely Damian's muscle. He isn't stable and he can easily swing into beast mode when Damian pushes the right buttons, but he's also very gentle.
We talked earlier about titles and mantles and yours has changed for this series as you are now serving as artist and writer. Was writing your own series something that you've wanted to do for a while or did Damian just speak to you and you felt you wanted/needed to do more with him?
I worked with Pete Tomasi for years on great runs on "Green Lantern Corps" and "Batman and Robin" and since I've been at DC, telling stories has been my job -- visually. To Pete's credit, we have always worked very closely and he provided me with a lot of freedom. Bob Harras and my editors at DC Comics took notice and they're really interested in that artist/writer dynamic and trying new things. They approached me at one time about doing a little writing here or there but it never really worked out because I always had my hands full.
But when we found out that "Batman and Robin" #40 was going to be our last issue, I really felt strongly about doing something with Damian. I pitched it to [Batman group editor] Mark Doyle and he was really excited about it. And then I did some sketches and they got more excited, especially about the ones of Goliath -- seeing Damian with his man-bat monster. And I had all of these other ideas in my head that will come out in future issues and Mark and everyone at DC Comics liked it and now they are giving me this great opportunity to bring it alive and do "Robin: Son of Batman."
I'm working muscles creatively that I haven't used before but it's really exciting. It really felt like the next logical step for me in my career and it all feels really natural. It's a dream come true.
"Robin: Son of Batman" #1 by Patrick Gleason is available now from DC Comics.