Talking Comics with Tim: Christopher Yost

By now most folks will have read Red Robin 4 (which was released on September 9), but if it's still in your reading pile from this past week please make sure to read it before reading this interview with series writer Christopher Yost. (Consider that your official spoiler warning.) In addition to discussing the events of the issue, we delve into the plans ahead for the book and the life of Tim Wayne (formerly Drake), as well as the premiere of the new series artist Marcus To as of issue 6.

Tim O'Shea:  Issue 4 is now out and had a fairly big reveal in the hunt for Bruce Wayne. This has been building up for four issues, did DC tell you exactly how they wanted the reveal to occur--or did they give you some creative levity to structure the reveal in your own way?

Christopher Yost: [Editor] Mike Marts and I had been talking about this from day one, and it was something that I wanted to do from the start. Tim's incredibly smart, incredibly driven... if there's evidence and clues out there, he's going to find it. And as you saw, he did. We still haven't revealed what put him on that road, of course... but I knew I wanted to tie Red Robin into the end of Grant's Final Crisis super-early on.

But to answer the question, DC has given me nothing but freedom and creative levity. It's pretty great.

O'Shea: The Leagues of Assassins call Red Robin "Tim Drake" fully knowing he had become "Tim Wayne". The whole name distinction seems to parallel Tim's own struggle for his identity as he finds himself allied with Bruce's greatest enemy (who also happens to be the grandfather of the boy who replaced him as Robin), Ra's al Ghul. Was this first arc partially a quest for Tim to find his own identity, while at the same time searching for Bruce?

Yost: Yes. The first 'arc,' as much as you can call it that, was really Tim at his most unsteady. His entire world has been turned upside down, his foundation is gone. And as amazing as Tim is, he's still human. And a teenager. He's lost everything, and he's allowed to flip out.

But he knows Bruce is alive now, to a certain extent anyway. Even though he may not be.

So while he found evidence of what happened to Bruce, the more important thing is that he's getting his foundation back, back to where he was even a year or two prior to Bruce's 'death.'

O'Shea: The Tim that stars in Red Robin is an intentionally different Tim than what he's been before. How much did you have to go re-reading the Robin run to get a grasp of the character in order that you could transform him into his current conflicted character?

Yost: I read Batman back in the 'Lonely Place of Dying' days, and the original Robin mini-series(es), as well a few years of the ongoing. And then I picked up the last couple of years on the book when I took the job.

Tim had gotten really, really grim. My goal, as much as it may not be apparent so far, is to lighten him (back) up, while making him his own man. To find a place between Batman and Robin, somewhere Tim can grow into his own person. Time will tell. Well, the fans will, I suppose. :)

O'Shea: Much of the first four issues deal a great deal in flashbacks, how hard was it to structure the shifting timeline without negatively impacting the pacing of the drama?

Yost: At the outset, I wanted to hit the ground running with Tim on the road, in action. But there was a lot of gap to fill in, some of which wasn't as visually exciting. A lot of talking, explaining, etc. Thus, the flashbacks. Issue 4 is the last issue of Tim flashbacks. Starting with issue five, the flashbacks are focused on the Council of Spiders' leader, the Wanderer.

O'Shea: As you write the dynamics of Tim searching for Bruce, struggling to succeed without the aid of the world's greatest detective, in your mindset--do you envision that Bruce assumed (as calculating as Batman always is) that Tim would be the one least likely to believe he was dead?

Yost: I think Batman would hope that everybody's priority would be Gotham, and not him.

O'Shea: In the first three issues, you had Tim distancing himself somewhat from his Bat-family as a means to seemingly convey his instability. Having laid that foundation with the first three issues, do you think it helped intensify the drama/tension between he and Dick in issue 4, where Tim pleads with Dick to "let [him] go" (seemingly to go on the quest for Bruce)?

Yost: Both of them see both sides of it. Batman's just a man. He's not an alien, not a god, he's just a man. And the god of evil came down from above and killed him. Superman himself recovered the body. There's every reason to believe that he's gone.

At the same time... it's Batman. If anyone could cheat death, it's him. They've seen it before.

In this case, pretty much the entirety of the DC universe had accepted it. It's almost like they knew this day would come, the day when this man who walked among the gods got killed.

And it's just as easy to see that they might think Tim had lost it. I can't think of a character in recent history that's suffered more losses. Dick has nothing but sympathy for Tim, he only wanted to help Tim. It really took Tim saying, 'I've earned the benefit of the doubt,' that Dick took pause. If there's a chance Bruce is alive, Tim will find it. Dick will hold down the fort while Tim exhausts any and every possibility.

O'Shea: How did you decide to bring Tam Fox into this arc?

Yost: There's a very specific reason she's sent to recover Tim, which will be the focus of the last third of the year. But she's also some fun in a grim environment. Ninjas and killers and all the insanity that's about to go down, she's the human element.

O'Shea: Do you care to talk a bit about Vicki Vale's presence in the book in the upcoming months

Yost: She's got some theories, and she's following through on them. You'll see more of her in issues 9-12.

O'Shea: In two issues, Marcus To comes onboard as the regular series artist. Have you gotten a chance to see any of his pencils yet?

Yost: I've seen pencils for issue 6 and 7, and they're flat out incredible. I wanted to make sure Marcus has something great for his first issue (6) and tried to make it as action packed as I could. And Marcus knocked it out of the park.

O'Shea: Back when CBR talked to you about the series a few months back, you said that after the first act (of issues 1-4) readers would see going forward that "The second act is kind of an action/horror movie. And the third act is what brings it all home." Can you tease folks with some of the horror to come? Also, the book has offered folks scenes in Berlin, Moscow and Baghdad to date--care to reveal some of the other locations that the story will go to in the coming months?

Yost: There's a group of people out there hunting down and killing assassins. They've targeted Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins. You've met one of them, the Widower. Get ready to meet the rest.

As far as locations go, yep... more to come. Istanbul, London, Athens... it's a global hunt for the Council of Spiders. But first... is Tim alive? Is he dead? Is he taking a dip in a Lazarus Pit? What does Ra's want with Tim? All in issue 5.

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