THE BAT SIGNAL: Fabian Nicieza

Fabian Nicieza has already carved himself one heck of a path through the Batman Universe. Most recently, the veteran comic book writer took "The Road Home" in October with various members of the Bat-family, plotting events and masterminding a story that bridged the gap between the time traveling Bruce Wayne's return to present day and his global launch of Batman Incorporated. However, even after all that, with his continued work on "Red Robin," Nicieza's journey through the streets of Gotham and the world of Batman still hasn't yet come close to completion.

From Avengers to Alpha Flight, from "Action Comics" to practically every X-Title under the sun, Nicieza stands as one of the most prolific and well-known creators in the comic industry. For the last few years, the 48-year-old scribe took to the rooftops (metaphorically speaking) to pen the adventures of Tim Drake, first in the ongoing "Robin" series and currently in the more colorfully titled "Red Robin." Although Tim Drake separated himself from the rest of the Batman family for a while in order to search for clues proving that Bruce Wayne did not in fact die during "Final Crisis," with his mentor and adoptive father now returned, the youngster's back in business as the lynchpin to his own global crime-fighting organization.

CBR's weekly column THE BAT SIGNAL lit up the figurative skies of the internet, Nicieza answered the call and spoke with CBR News about his thoughts on the global expansion of the Bat-Brand, the upcoming adventures of the Red Robin and Tim Drake's hyperactive libido.

CBR News: Fabian, you're coming off masterminding the October event "The Road Home." We talked about what it was like putting all that together in our last interview, but now that it's over, what's your current mindset? Are you now looking forward to simply focusing on "Red Robin"?

Fabian Nicieza: I'm glad to be concentrating on "Red Robin." I get to write one of my favorite characters in comics and work with an absolutely great, committed, exciting regular art team of Marcus To and Ray McCarthy. I'm very proud of every issue we've done on this book so far. I think we hit the target in a more consistent manner than most monthly superhero books do.

I wanted to touch on the concept of "Batman Incorporated" and how you mentioned before the way it's kind of a broader version of what you were planning in "Red Robin." That said, what are your thoughts on the whole idea of Batman Inc? How do you think it changes the dynamic of the Batman Universe?

I think it's really exciting. It speaks quite nicely to the Bronze Age style of Batman stories that Grant Morrison has sort of been modernizing. It is a logical extension of what Bruce should consider doing as he gets older, combined with a nice end-result of everything he's gone through, from "R.I.P." to "Final Crisis." I honestly don't know how it will change the dynamic of the Bat-family until I see what kind of creative choices different writers make. I think Grant's ideas create great opportunities that expand the storytelling options for the Bat-titles.

Shifting over to your current ongoing, what can you say about your plans for "Red Robin" in the coming months? How does "Batman Inc" play into those plans, if at all? Is Tim going to be staying on the international path or will we be seeing him popping up in Gotham more often?

Batman Inc. really doesn't change a single thing I'd planned for Red Robin. If anything, it just provides a more cohesive operational foundation for Tim's plans. Tim will continue to operate in Gotham and use his new HQ as "the hub of the wheel" with spokes reaching out to all parts of the world, using contacts, friends, maybe even enemies to handle things in a much more proactive, carefully thought and thorough manner all over the world. The second Tim decided he was going to be Red Robin as both a career and a life choice, that decision meant he was all in. I joked in "Red Robin" #17 when Tim told Bruce that he "thought of it first," meaning a more cohesive international method of operating, but it's also true. It is a very natural progression of what I'd begun in "Search for a Hero" to end the Robin series, flowing into Chris Yost's first year of "Red Robin."
You also created a new character named Lynx - a might be, might not be villain. In the most recent issue of "Red Robin," Tim broke her out of custody and even acknowledged the Catwoman-like relationship he's begun with her. What is it about a character like that and her relationship with Tim that appeals to you?

I introduced a new Lynx to the "Robin" series before it ended. I loved the name, but I didn't want to resurrect a character who, I think, died at least twice, so I just introduced a new version of the character who would use the same name in basically the same manner: gang leader of an Asian gang in Gotham. The twist I wanted to do (but didn't get the chance to do until I was able to accidentally push Chris off a cliff and be given the Red Robin assignment) was to make her - maybe - an undercover Hong Kong cop. Whether she's telling the truth or not will unfold slowly over time.

It's no accident I reintroduced a plethora of females for Tim to play off of, combined with keeping characters involved that Chris had brought into play. Two police officers, Jamie Harper and Hayley Xue, a sort-of girlfriend in Tam Fox, antagonists in Lynx, Scarab, Shiva, Prudence and coming in issue #18, a vigilante named Promise. I think Tim has become a very confident, sometimes too confident, character, but he's still a bit of a dweeb when it comes to women. That creates more entertaining interactions for him. I also see Tim as a very lonely character, so combine that with the fact he's a 17-year-old virgin, no matter how intelligent and focused he is, well, those hormones have got to be doing a caffeinated lambada in his loins. I like to see his cool exterior crack once in a while when he gets all hot and bothered. So, basically, Lynx will continue to be a part of the book, on and off, but we'll have plenty of other female characters bounce in and out to make Tim's life hell.

In February, you're participating in a crossover with "Teen Titans." What can you say about that particular storyline? What's it like working with JT Krul on the crossover and what are you most looking forward to exploring?

The storyline picks up from the ongoing story threads that will be happening during "The Rabbit Hole" arc in "Red Robin." That story deals with Tim's growing interest in the Unternet, the villainous communications grid that Grant introduced in "Final Crisis." Red Robin's attempts to explore what it is and what it does to the people who use it draws the interest of lots of people and quickly requires Tim to ask for help from the Titans. It was a lot a fun to write the scene where they reunite but quickly have to go after someone who's done a lot of damage to the team - the Calculator.

As for JT, he's been great to work with. I've been the pain in the ass (as usual) during our proceedings, but I had to juggle some crunching of my timeline because we missed a month of "Red Robin" during the October month, which threw off the pacing of some things I wanted to do. JT really gets the Teen Titans and I think he'll bring an excitement and life to the book that it's deserved for a while.

You touched on this a second ago, but what's it like for Tim reuniting with his old friends and what are his thoughts on Damien taking his spot on the team?
You misspelled Damian's name and I almost chose not to answer this question because of it. It's a pet peeve of mine. C'mon man, show some pride.

Okay, I'm better now. I think Tim is very happy to be reuniting with his friends. They've all gone through some really hard times, but I think they've all come out of it in a better place, more mature, so it's good timing for them to reunite. Hopefully this means they get to hang out more often.

Speaking of the plethora of women currently in Tim's life, what about his old flame and current Batgirl Stephanie Brown? What are the chances of a story with her or even a crossover with her ongoing series? I imagine her having some issues with Lynx and Tim's new relationship.

I'd love to do a crossover with "Batgirl," even make it a regular thing. It all depends on Bryan's logistics. I still plan to have consistent cameos where Stephanie appears in "Red Robin." There's actually one in issue #20. I think they're friends now, and there's a mutual respect which should make their interaction more comfortable. There is also no new relationship between Tim and Lynx. At least not yet. For now, it was only brief rooftop post-prison break making out, which as we all know is the best kind of making out.

To close out, Fabian, you've been working in the Batman Universe for a while now and with the new possibilities found with the current status quo, I can't imagine you'd want to leave anytime soon. So is there any other aspect of the Batman World you'd like to explore beyond Red Robin? What more can we expect from you in the future?

Well, I'm on record as making preliminary plans for "Red Robin" #300, so obviously I would be perfectly happy writing Tim Drake forever (it's gonna be a killer issue! Get your toll free holographic touchpad app loaded so you can vote on who lives or dies). And there are lots of characters in the Bat-family I love. After 30 years, literally, since I saw his first cover on the stands of a 7-Eleven, I finally got the chance to write a Ragman story, which is currently appearing as the "Streets of Gotham" co-feature with phenomenal artwork from Szymon Kudranski. I know it sounds odd for a writer who has written everything from X-Men to Superman to say writing Ragman is a dream come true, but there you go. I'd love a chance to tell more stories for the Ragman, since my approach tries to combine the more mystical elements introduced by Giffen/Fleming and merge that to the simpler, sadder stories of poor people trying to get by in life, which was the staple of Kanigher's original creative intent.

Other than that, opportunities in the Bat-family are dependent on the editors wanting me to do something rather than me lobbying too much. Mike Marts knows that eventually, someday, I'll outlive every other writer in the universe and get a chance to write a regular series with Dick Grayson in it, no matter what you want to call him. Mike is just waiting until there are no other writers left. [Laughs] There's also lots of stuff I'd like to do in the DCU, too, not just the Bat-titles. And Vertigo, too, for that matter. Comics are only a small part of my regular workload now, but that's come to mean that when I write comics, I enjoy it more than ever. I'm in a good place creatively, I'm young by the standards of how archaeologists measure time and I'm patient, so I know that eventually, I'll get to it all.

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