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THE BAT SIGNAL: Winick Zeroes in on the Past in “Batwing”

by  in Comic News Comment
THE BAT SIGNAL: Winick Zeroes in on the Past in “Batwing”

In September DC Comics will roll out 52 zero issues, many of which will tackle the origins and back stories of the DC Universe’s New 52 characters — including David Zamvimbi, the African hero know as Batwing.

The first arc of writer Judd Winick’s “Batwing” gave readers a large chunk of David’s past as a child soldier, which put him on the road to becoming a police officer and vigilante. Now a soldier of Batman Incorporated, in recent issues David fought the villain Massacre and discovered the hidden history of The Kingdom, went toe-to-toe with the Talons in “Night of the Owls,” and is slated to join the ranks of Justice League International to fight more global threats. Winick, who also pens the “Green Arrow” zero issue, and his protagonist team up with artist Marcus To for “Batwing” #0 in September.

As Batwing continues to battle in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo, Winick took time to speak with CBR’s THE BAT SIGNAL about David and his upcoming #0 issue, the research that goes into his stories and what unseen part of Batwing’s past the origin story will reveal.

CBR News: We’ve already seen a lot of David’s past as a child soldier in “Batwing.” How does your #0 issue fit into the origin story mold?

Judd Winick: It’s sort of the opposite of what we’ve had with [the #0 issue of] “Green Arrow.” For the first eight issues and change on “Batwing” we told his origin and a lot of it: we know he was a boy soldier, how he basically rescued himself from being a boy soldier and then seeking help and going to the child rescue compound where he was raised. So that piece of the puzzle is there. After that the missing pieces are — although we saw him running around as a vigilante a little bit — how does he go from being a boy who was a boy soldier to being a vigilante and then in Batman Incorporated? So we’re kind of going from the opposite direction than “Green Arrow.” This is very similar in tone, this is a very similar character who we’ve seen on this road of being this vigilante in Africa, but not how it happened.

Like “Green Arrow” this is about a catalyst moment where he went from being a boy soldier to where we pick up and he’s a cop, a police officer in Tinasha, which is the way he thought he wanted to give back for all the wrong he had done as a boy soldier. But it’s not working because the police force in Tinasha is pretty new as they’re post-revolution, and they are very corrupt. They take bribes and it’s accepted but that’s not working for him. Tragic things happen because he is a Batman, which has him decide to become a vigilante, to make a difference in a different way. And then comes Batman and Batman Incorporated and it’s about him becoming a vigilante for the first time. This is the missing chapter. This is what got him from here to there.

There’s a lot of tragedy in David’s history already — sounds like with these #0 issues you’re putting your characters through the mill again!

For all of us I think we have this inclination that the hero is born out of curiosity, or, “Hey, I’ve got all these powers, let me go do some good with this.” But that makes for less deep characters. We want them to have a reason for becoming heroes, to have something in their life that inspires them for good or for bad. Usually it’s the latter, and it’s the nature of these two characters. I think none of us really like the idea that Green Arrow is such a showboat that he wanted to go out there and be a vigilante. Batwing was never going to be created with the idea of being happy-go-lucky! He’s a Batman and that by the superhero DNA means you come from a pretty dark place.

While we will see the filling in of David’s life between soldier and vigilante, will we see any of Matu’s role in David’s life pre-vigilante?

Yes, Matu is very much a part of it. He was basically the one who raised him since he came to the child rescue center, and is part of this catalyst moment. He’s been right there since the beginning.

Do you see this #0 issue as a place to jump on for new readers?

If you’ve been reading the story up to now this will fill in the gaps in a very entertaining and adventurous way. If you’ve never read “Batwing” before, this is a great jumping on point. It tells you how he got there; you will learn a lot in these twenty pages, and when you come back to issue #13 you have a better understanding of the character who you will be reading from there on in.

From our talks before I know you put a lot of thought and research into the real world aspects of “Batwing.” Was there a specific police officer group or department you molded the police force in Tinasha after?

Yeah, the police force the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Kinshasa, and that’s what Tinasha is based on. They do have an enormously corrupt police force, to the point that the general public does not count on them or look to them to be any source of protection. There’s an expectation that they’re going to rob from us. Bribes are just commonplace. You get pulled over at a traffic stop, you’re not paying a ticket, you’re giving a cop money. That’s the way it works. There’s also the presence of the military police, which is also equally corrupt; it’s bad, it has one of the highest crime rates in any of the Western cities of Africa.

Leading up to the #0 issue “Batwing” seems to be taking on a more international feel, teaming up with Nightwing and Justice League International. In the news recently there’s been a lot of talk about African “war orphans” being adopted away from their families and Africa politics in general — are those things that might influence your issues following this origin story, or that you’re filing away for later use?

Yeah, I mean it’s the spine of the book, the realities of Africa and everything that’s going on the continent as a whole. Just like in this past issue where one of the catalyst moments in this arc, it takes place in Nigeria, and there’s a discussion about Nigerian oil. If I have my numbers right Nigeria provides about 3% of the oil for the world, and for a small nation in Africa it’s a lot of money, but none of the money goes to the people, it’s just to the upper class and these invading Western oil corporations making money.

That’s like a boring Social Studies class moment, but its true and it’s the backdrop to this massive superhero story that will involve Batwing enlisting his teammates and JLI to invade a small country that is led by a meta-human dictator and his honor guard of meta-human wackos. It’s about bridging that gap and making sure we tell a story that’s entrenched in realities of Africa but at the same time still tell big honking superhero stories!

Marcus To is on the art for the book and the #0 issue, and he’s got a big but also very clean superhero style. That combination seems to sum up a lot of the artists you collaborate with — is that something you specifically look for in an artist, that it matches your brand of storytelling?

I wouldn’t so much say that it works for my brand of storytelling so much that I try to write to the artist as much as I can. This is Marcus’ wheelhouse and it’s a really awesome wheelhouse. He just does really terrific superhero comics. What we have him do in “Batwing,” as we did so much of his origin, we wanted to really break out into telling larger super hero stories, things that harken back to things I grew up with. I really like seeing a lot of folks, a lot of villains in costume in the book, keeping it busy and moving along, and we do. It’s just jam-packed with lots of characters and Marcus is very good at that. He has a really straightforward approach, he has great acting, the characters always look incredibly individual. It’s not like Barbie dolls where the heads are interchangeable, its not like different wigs! [Laughs] That’s something we say, a wig artist, where everyone looks the same just with different hair. You don’t see that with Marcus. Everyone’s a character, and I dig that. It really works for the story.

While you’re filling in the gaps, does the issue also forward the plot or set up the next arc of the book at all?

I’d say in both cases they do, in both cases characters who show up in the book will show up later.

Finally, what do you hope readers will get out of the #0 issues you’re writing?

I’d say first and foremost, I always try to tell a great story. That is what we’re striving for, but you never tire of new readers coming to the book and this is a good opportunity for that. This is a good place to jump in and jump on. But lastly and most importantly, the two stories I did, and really all the #0 issues, are all about getting greater insight into what made these characters. For comic fans, especially myself, I love that. I always love knowing how they came about. I think everybody loves a good origin story, and that’s what these are. The two I’m working on as well as everybody else’s floating around, watching these heroes get born, and that’s fun.

“Batwing” #0 goes on sale September 5.

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