SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Batman" #2, on sale this week.
Tom King and David Finch are pulling no punches in their approach to "Batman" for DC Comics; just ask Solomon Grundy, who gets knocked butt over teakettle in the opening pages of the new issue, on sale this week.
A true monster of the DC Universe, Grundy is obviously a formidable opponent for the Dark Knight. However, the original member of the Legion of Doom is only a piece of the series' bigger puzzle as the series thunders towards the first major crossover event of DC Rebirth: "Batman: Night of the Monster Men."
Beyond the Grundy-specific plotpoints, the superstar creative team spoke with CBR News about the mystery unfolding around the super-heroic team flying around Gotham, and the excitement they feel in bringing class Bat-villain Hugo Strange into the Rebirth era, and the true identity of Issue #1's mysterious "Roger."
CBR News: No one is more guarded than Batman, yet he appears to have brought Gotham and Gotham Girl into his inner circle quite quickly. I'm not saying they're supervillains, but is this a classic case of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?
Tom King: Yes, and no. I don't think they are quite in the inner circle -- yet. He's bringing them in slowly. They're not in the cave, they're not his best friends. The point of the first issue, and the reason it will affect the rest of the year, is that Batman, in his head, thought he was going to die. None of us believed that, because Batman always has to have another issue and another run and another toy and another video game, but in Bruce Wayne's head, he thought he was going to die. And when he gets saved, his sense of mortality, his sense that he can't always save Gotham, is driven into him. And then, he is faced with these two people -- these young people -- who are trying to do good using powers that he can't have. He's smart enough to know that if he can trust these people, if he can harness those powers, maybe he can save Gotham in a way that he never could before. It's all part of him hitting his vows and getting crime off the streets.
Dave, since you came over to DC Comics, you've spent most of your time drawing Batman, on his own and in team books. Has your take on the character evolved over the past six years? And what are your thoughts on the look and feel of Gotham and Gotham Girl?
David Finch: Every time I ever start anything, I know exactly what it's going to look like in my head. Then, when I start drawing it, it doesn't look right because I can't ever get on paper what I have in my head. It's a bit of a mourning process, where I have to reconcile that this is what it's going to look like. And then, I start experimenting, and I feel like I'm still there. I'm about halfway through "Batman" #5 right now, and I'm constantly trying different things. I always worry that halfway through the book, or as people go through the book, that it's going to look totally inconsistent, so I don't really know where I am right now with any of the characters. [Laughs] They are kind of, a little bit, changing.
I think with my Batman right now, I'm kind of vacillating between more of a "Dark Knight Returns" with more of a blunter, wider face and something a little bit more Neal Adams-ish. I's all happening without me trying to make major changes. Hopefully, eventually, I will get the hang of it.
[Laughs] Wow -- I appreciate your honesty. I love your Batman, and Gotham and Gotham Girl look great, so if you think you need to keep working on it, I can't even imagine how awesome they will look by the end of the run.
Finch: Thank you. I don't know what the heck I'm doing. [Laughs]
I think the best thing, and the worst thing, about this job is that every day, I have to wake up and draw another page, whether I'm feeling really, really excited about drawing, or it's the last thing I want to do. I have to do it. One way or another, that page has got to get done. That's what keeps me going, and that's my approach.
When we learned that the crossover "Batman: Night of the Monster Men" was coming, I couldn't help but think of Solomon Grundy and Bizarro, even though I guessed this was going to be a Hugo Strange story. But you gave me what I wanted! Batman, face-to-face with Solomon Grundy in the opening pages of "Batman" #2. Does Grundy's arrival in Gotham factor into the "Night of the Monster Men" storyline?
King: My first instinct was, I wanted to see Dave drawing Grundy punching people. [Laughs] I love that take-down line. I know it's stupid to brag about your own writing, but whatever. [Laughs] I love that take-down line that Batman has there: "And that was the end of Solomon Grundy." That's what makes Solomon Grundy cool to me is that really creepy poem. I thought if I could do that poem and turn it into a take-down line, that would be really cool.
Again, the theme of our series is Batman - Hell yeah! And Batman flipping Solomon Grundy over his head as he gives a cool line is, Batman - Hell yeah!
Finch: Drawing characters like Solomon Grundy is always my favorite thing to do, because I love drawing big muscles and torn-up things. Solomon Grundy has got all of that. He doesn't have to be pretty at all, so I can just have fun with it. It's always more difficult for me to draw things that are pretty than it is for me to draw brutish things. I could draw [Grundy] all day long. I had a blast with it; when I opened the script and saw that, I was jumping up and down. I get to do a big splash page of Batman flipping Solomon Grundy over his head? Yes!
It takes me forever to read a script because I am always drawing it in my head while I read it. I actually emailed Tom after I read it and told him "Batman" #2 was the best script I ever got. I didn't know what to say. I couldn't believe it -- it was incredible.
King: Thanks, Dave. I'm now putting Solomon Grundy into every issue. [Laughs]
As to whether or not Grundy is a part of "Night of the Monster Men" crossover event, I can say that he is a piece of the puzzle. This is sort of the beginning of a great mystery that will explode into our first crossover, when the whole Batman family comes together. What makes me excited about the whole thing is that this is not an isolated book. Bruce is still talking to Dick Grayson about what happening in James [Tynion]'s "Detective Comics" and Tim [Seeley]'s "Nightwing." That stuff impacts us, and "Night of the Monster Men" will impact all of the books together. It's a chance to say, this plotline is going to knock everyone out.
Finch: The nice thing about Batman is that there isn't a Batman villain that is not fun to draw.
King: Sweet! My Condiment King arc is going to be huge! [Laughs]
We also learn in this issue that it is, indeed, Hugo Strange behind the Monster Men, which should come to no surprise to readers familiar with the Monster Men's history. Hugo Strange never gets the top billing like Joker or Penguin, but he was right there as the big villain in "Batman" #1, more than 75 years ago. In this issue, he's talking to a character named Roger, who, if you didn't give a name, I was guessing was either The Joker or The Comedian from "The Watchmen." My guess is that this is Roger Hayden, A.K.A. Psycho-Pirate. Can you confirm or deny?
King: That is a very interesting theory. I like how you pinned it down. What made you think that he is Psycho-Pirate?
The name "Roger" led me to him, but also he seems to be dealing with all of his emotions and Psycho-Pirate's weapon of choice is projecting his emotions on others.
King: I was more shocked that people didn't know it was going to be Hugo Strange, because we put him in "Batman" #1 as a silhouette, and we gave him a line that we took directly from his appearance in "Batman" #1 in 1940. I thought it would be all over the Internet in two seconds that he was the big bad villain.
As for Roger, I have no further comment on who he is.
Finch: I love drawing Hugo Strange. I always love drawing characters with those kinds of round glasses. It always reminds me of Mike Mignola; he's the greatest at drawing a shadowed face, and then just showing the glasses. It's so creepy. I actually looked all over to find the definitive version of Hugo Strange. There is the video game version, and there are different comic book versions, so I kind put everything together as best I could. He's my amalgam of everybody's version.
King: I love Hugo Strange. There are so many creepy Hugo Strange moments, with his glasses that reflect people, and he is semi-obsessed with Batman. There are a bunch of different issues where he dresses up like Batman in this sort of weird way. It was great to go back to the original "Batman" #1 and realizing that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Going back to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane and Bill Finger, taking a villain they created, and putting him in our "Batman" #1. We really wanted to bridge the gap between three generations. It's really cool.
"Batman" #2, by Tom King and David Finch, is on sale this week.