THE BAT SIGNAL: Palmiotti & Gray Turn to Africa with "Batwing"

DC Comics' Batwing, the Batman of Africa and solider of Batman Incorporated, heads in a completely different direction starting in April and May thanks to brand new writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.

The "All-Star Western" scribes are joined by artist Fabrizio Fiorentino, taking over the comic from writer Fabian Nicieza who himself replaced original writer Judd Winick. Thus far in "Batwing," hero David Zavimbe has tackled the villains and real world issues of Africa, from police corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo to bad guys like Massacre and the Jackals. However, with a new creative team comes a new outlook for the Congolese Batwing -- and a new person taking up the mantle.

Hopping across the ocean to Africa, THE BAT SIGNAL met up with Palmiotti and Gray to get the lowdown on why the two asked to write "Batwing," their goals for the comic and their plan to put a new character in the Batwing armor.

CBR News: Jimmy, Justin -- we recently spoke with Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase and they mentioned you guys came to DC with the pitch for writing "Batwing." What drew you guys to the character and why did you want to tackle this book?

Jimmy Palmiotti: We really enjoyed the book, but Batwing was getting the least attention of the Bat line. We hope with changes and additions, Batwing can be a very exciting book in the Batman universe.

Justin Gray: We felt Batwing was missing a direct and important connection to the Bat Family. Speaking from the outside looking in as a reader and a fan, the differences between "Batman Incorporated" and Batwing (in his own book) felt disconnected, almost as if they were two different people in the same uniform. As a result, we instinctively began looking for a new way to present Batwing -- and as it worked out, we settled on a new person inside the uniform.

Palmiotti: This new Batwing is dangerous, fun and a wild man in and out of the suit. We saw this as a chance to take the book in a new direction and have major fun with it.

Along those lines, what is your take on Batwing, David and Tinasha?

Palmiotti: Issue #19 deals with the main characters. There is a death in the Batwing family that has an effect on the main character. David has had a lot going on and those closest to him have been pulling him in many different directions within the series. In #19, David deals with each of these things and steps to a place where he can finally look at who he is and try to get everything around him to make sense. There is a lot going on in this issue and change is the key word.

We know Batwing's losing his old costume and getting a new suit that looks to be more heavily armored. Was the idea of giving the character new armor one you guys had, or something artist Fabrizio Fiorentino already had in the works?

Palmiotti: It's less armor and more of a new function suit made for someone else.

Gray: We discussed a number of ways to make Batwing different from the other Bat titles and one of those is the uniform. Technology plays a role in the story as well as the character's origins, but we're working from the angle that Batwing needs to keep modifying the uniform to suit his needs and not the other way around.

What can you tell us about your first arc on the book?

Palmiotti: Issue #19 is all about David dealing with his issues and Batman himself. Issue #20 is about -- damn, I can't say yet, but it's not what you may think. Everything on some level is new and for a good reason. This is not a reboot, it is a natural progression and Batman himself is there to help.

Gray: That's a good way to put it, not a reboot, but a logical progression. The uniform is going to an unexpected person, but when it happens, it will make perfect sense.

Are you utilizing existing supporting characters like Matu, or do readers get a whole new supporting cast?

Palmiotti: Issue #19 sees a death in the Batwing series that is part of why things are changing. Lets just say issue #20 exists because of the things that happen in #19.

We've seen a lot of new villains introduced in the pages of "Batwing." Do you plan to continue the trend of presenting a new rogue every arc, or do you want to build upon bad guys already introduced?

Palmiotti: We never throw good things away and at the same time, we like to give our heroes new problems. We are taking what works best and running with it, but at the same time introducing some new conflicts.

Gray: We've had numerous discussions about the craft, format and style of superhero stories -- what works, what doesn't and it isn't enough to just introduce a threat. The threat has to be personal and exists in order to make the hero better. This book is going to take a change in direction.

Writers Judd Winick and then Fabian Nicieza focused much of their "Batwing" stories on real-world issues, from David's child-soldier past to the corrupt Tinasha police force. How focused on the real-world problems of Africa is your approach to "Batwing?"

Palmiotti: The book focuses on real world problems and the problems in the Bat Universe of titles. We plan to move the character at a break-neck pace.

What do you two see as your goals on the book, both in the short term and beyond in regards to Batwing and his world?

Palmiotti: Short and long term is to triple the audience for the book, open up the world that Batwing exists in and write a character that not only is a key player in the Bat Universe, but the entire DCU. We really have something up our sleeves here and plan to go places no one sees coming.

Gray: The short term goal is to get people excited about Batwing and the new direction the book is taking. The long term is to help build and solidify an important member of the Batman mythology.

The beginning of the end for David Zavimbe begins in "Batwing" #19, on sale April 3

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