Tom King has been on a long, strange journey with the Dark Knight, and it's not quite finished yet.
December sees the release of Batman #85, King's farewell to the comic series he's led as writer since DC's Rebirth relaunch in 2016. But with King and his collaborators moving on to make way for the run by James Tynion IV and Tony Daniel, the planned 100-issue epic isn't finished. In the new year, King will team with frequent artistic partner Clay Mann to wrap the story that began in Batman and ran through its controversial "wedding issue" with the 12-issue Batman/Catwoman.
CBR recently caught up with King to learn how his master plan has changed. Below, the writer explains in detail how his Batman run is delivering an epic finale with "City of Bane's" conclusion while making way for a Batman/Catwoman run more in line with his previous year-long series like Vision and Mister Miracle.
CBR: "City of Bane" has drawn a lot of pieces from across your Batman run on the page, and you've also been able to write for a big lineup of artists. Did working with guys like John Romita Jr. change the way you told this story that you've been planning for so long?
Tom King: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. One of the first things that change is "OK, now we're in torrential rain." Because one of the things John does is that he draws rain better than anybody in comics. I wanted that sort of sick, Kirby, "This Man, This Monster" rain, which John draws better than anyone. I wanted everything drenched and drippy.
And this was the first comic that I had done [plot first] because John works Marvel-style. And I have no idea how to write Marvel style. [Laughs] So I just wrote in the script, "Look dude, you know how to do this better than anyone since Kirby. And I don't know how to do it. So just take this script and treat it as if it's Marvel style. Change anything you want." And he changed some stuff because nobody knows how to lay out a comic like John Romita Jr. It all made it better. It was a different experience.
And it was incredibly intimidating because some of my favorite comics of all time are John Romita comics. He had that amazing X-Men run, and the Mark Millar Wolverine stuff. I think of his Daredevil he did with Frank Miller and... I went to school at Columbia in New York, and I went there because of the way he drew Columbia in that comic. I swear to God, that seems weird, but I thought, "If Matt Murdock went to Columbia, I'm in." And Klaus Jason did the inks! I remember reading him on an old What If? Iron Man comic, and that was like 40 years ago. And now I'm working with him?!? So, yeah, it was intimidating and cool. Almost like a bucket list item.
How are you viewing the whole end of the story? Because you're doing Batman/Catwoman next as a wrap to everything you've done, but "City of Bane" feels like the finale of a big phase of the whole story. Is the fact that you're going to have to do this over multiple series change a little bit about the tone you want to go for? Are you going to wrap things to come in fresh in the new book?
I've had such a big debate about this, and I haven't written the last issue of this run on the series. I have three different artists, and I haven't figured it all out yet. I mean, I know what happens in it, but I haven't figured out how to write it yet. And I concluded that I wanted Issue 85 to feel like a conclusion to something. I just think it would be simpler 10 years from now for people to pick up these 85 issues and get some meaningful answer here. Not just "To be continued ..." So I want you to get a conclusive feel.
That said ... Bat/Cat, which I'm doing with Clay Mann, it takes takes off from there and builds upon it. For me, it's like how Batman: Year One and [The Dark Knight Returns] talk to each other a little bit. It's a birth and rebirth for the character. I wanted it to feel like that ... except what Frank did in four issues I did in 85. [Laughs]
But there's something similar to the relationship in those two works, where they complement each other, but each one can have a beginning, middle and an end.
We've talked in the past about "Knightfall" and how much an influence as that story has had on you. You've brought all the villains onto the table in "City of Bane" too, but it's not the classic version of "bad guys run amok." Did you want to work in a moment for every villain in this, or is it more about filling out the action with the case of thousands?
I wish I had the space for all of that. I would have done a whole 12-issue miniseries on "Joker and Riddler: Detectives.: But I did it differently than Dixon did, because I had the Psycho Pirate mask. So the villains not themselves. The villains have been taken over. They're gathered up, and the have to swear their loyalties to Bane. They all love Bane. That emotion's inside them. So they're all sort of extensions of that, and they're definitely the tools in the system – with the exception of the Ventriloquist, who is the wild card. He's the one guy that can't be controlled.
And that's one of the dominoes you set up really early on. Is the joy of this story that as it comes together everything is where it needs to be? Does that pure payoff idea appeal to you, or is it more stressful to pull off the landing?
I think everything is where it needs to be. If you go through Issue 84, it all lines up and looks like what it's supposed to be. And the theme comes through from right at the beginning – that moment where we're getting on the plane and him saying, "Is this a good death?" The answer to that question is what this whole thing is about.
So no, it doesn't feel intimidating. The one thing to me to get to is the Bat/Cat moment of what this is going as mean to their relationship. I have to get that moment right. But it's fun to see how this all comes together – to see how Button effects the "I Am Suicide" arc. But it really does feel like one big story ... it all crashes together, even if that seems impossible.
Though now you have Clay as a partner for these 12 issues straight, which must cut down on some of the anxiety about this story in particular after the kind of response the wedding issue brought you.
I always have a little anxiety. I mean, I'm moving into a phase of my career that is a much happier phase. [Laughs] In the comic side, I mean. I feel like as this is getting happier the TV show and the movie stuff is becoming more yucky. It becomes real. But on the comics side I love Batman, and it's almost like I feel I never got to do something as elevated as Vision or Mister Miracle with Batman. Because it was double-shipped and because we had the artists who had to ship monthly and just because we all had regular life, it's a book that had to be a kind of sprint/marathon.
And I'm super proud of it. But we never got to go super deep like I did with those 12 issues minis. And then now I get to sort of do that with Clay on Bat/Cat. We get to do, like I said, a kind of Dark Knight Returns standalone thing. And those are the things I loved writing. I'm three issues into Bat/Cat now, and it's writing incredibly smoothly. It's super-fun and super-ambitious and deep.
And it's got to feel great to say at the end of the day you'll have a shelf with Vision on it and Mister Miracle and Omega Men, and then here's this one right next to them.
Exactly. I don't know what you'd call my run on Batman. Like, I guess it's one big novel. But to me, I feel like I wrote one novel called Omega Men. Then I wrote two novels called Vision and Mister Miracle. And now I'm gonna write a novel called Batman/Catwoman and one called Strange Adventures. Like, I'm writing for the complete story. I don't know what Batman is or was. I'll have to let other people decide for me.
Batman #85 arrives in December from DC.