Superstar artist Tony Daniel has a long history drawing and writing the world's most famous sidekick over the past decade, so it makes perfect sense that he would land the gig as lead artist on DC Comics' upcoming weekly series "Batman and Robin Eternal."
Daniel is the illustrator of the first, sixth, fifteenth and final issue of the 26-issue weekly series celebrating Robin's 75th anniversary, as well as a few important midpoint chapters and the already completed eight-page sneak peek.
A long-time fan of Robin, dating back to his time as a youth watching reruns of the "Batman" live action TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, Daniel spoke with CBR News about his artistic passion for three of the main characters in the series: Dick Grayson, Harper Row and Cassandra Cain.
Confirming that Cassandra, not seen in present day DC Universe continuity since the launch of the New 52, will not be featured as Batgirl in "Batman and Robin Eternal," Daniels does promise a "new design" for the fan-favorite character. And while Dick won't be donning his trademark Robin suit for the modern storyline, he'll be back in the red, green and yellow for the series' flashback sequences.
Written by showrunners James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, as well as Tim Seeley, Steve Orlando, Genevieve Valentine, Ed Brisson, Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, "Batman and Robin Eternal" #1 lands in stores on October 7.
CBR News: When "Batman and Robin Eternal" was announced at Comic-Con International, James Tynion IV said the series would "honor the legacy of Robin." Arguably the world's most famous sidekick, Robin celebrates his 75th anniversary this year, making him one of the oldest superheroes in comics. Did you grow up with Dick Grayson as your Robin, or were Tim Drake or Jason Todd your entry point to the character?
Tony Daniel: It was Dick Grayson, of course. Watching the old Adam West/Burt Ward "Batman" TV series, Dick was the Robin we all grew up with. He is the definitive Robin because he was the first. He's like the Sean Connery of the James Bonds. [Laughs] He's always been my favorite Robin. Since then, he's transformed into a hero of his own as Nightwing. And I love the character Nightwing, too.
When I started to work with DC Comics, early on with Geoff Johns on "Teen Titans," Robin was Tim Drake. I really enjoyed Tim Drake as a character. I was a fan of "Teen Titans" before I started working on it, and Tim Drake as the leader made for a really cool dynamic for the team. Tim serving as leader shows that he was a great Robin, as well.
For me, in a nutshell, Dick Grayson is my favorite, followed closely by Tim Drake, but all of the Robins are cool in different ways. Jason Todd is another character that I have a history with because of "Batman: Battle for the Cowl." I always have a soft spot for him too because he's a really cool antihero and very different from the other Robins.
Since the events of "Forever Evil," Dick has been represented as a superspy sans super-suit, primarily in the pages of "Grayson." On the cover for "Batman and Robin Eternal," which you drew, we see Dick back in his Robin suit. Will we see Dick back in his traditional Robin suit in this series?
The cover was challenging. One half actually depicts the past, which features a younger version of Dick Grayson in the Robin suit, and the other half depicts the present. We won't be seeing the present day Dick Grayson donning his old Robin uniform. Instead, we'll see Dick as Robin opposite Bruce Wayne as Batman in flashbacks. That was the challenge of that cover, how to make it look like one piece while understanding that the split down the middle separates an older, mature adult Dick Grayson from a younger, not quite built one.
Looking more closely, I do see that now.
Good, because it was very hard to pull off. [Laughs] It was almost impossible. There is going to be a lot of Dick Grayson, obviously, in this storyline and I have a lot of fun drawing him again. I'm in the middle of drawing a really cool fight scene with him set in present day. It's a real blast showing his abilities and competency-level as a fighter with him as an adult.
Tim Drake and Jason Todd are featured prominently on the cover for Issue #1 as well, and we've talked about them already. I want to ask you about Harper Row, whom I think has an awesome look. The blue mohawk rocks!
I love drawing Bluebird. I am also drawing a scene with her right now for "Batman and Robin Eternal" #15, which I am partway through, that shows her going up to Jim Gordon, who is wearing his Bat-suit. It's a really funny scene. It really shows off her personality. She has lots to offer on a character level. And like you said, she looks cool, too. I really look forward to doing more scenes with her -- the mohawk and everything. It's a lot of fun drawing a character like that.
Obviously the big hole in this series -- and Gotham -- is, as you mentioned, that we currently have a DC Universe without Bruce Wayne as Batman, at least in the present day. Can you talk about drawing Dick opposite Jim and what the feeling and look of that initial contact in "Batman and Robin Eternal" is like?
I actually haven't worked on any scenes with the two of them together yet. That may change as the series progresses, but everybody is dealing with [the loss of Bruce as Batman] in their own way. The current scenario is on everyone's mind and during their interactions, it's front and center to what's going on.
She's not on the cover, but it's been revealed that Cassandra Cain will be featured in this series, as well. Now, we haven't seen her in the present day DCU since the launch of the New 52. What can you share about Cassandra Cain in the series, and most importantly, will she be suiting up as Batgirl, or possibly Black Bat?
She's also one of my favorite characters. I loved her in "Batgirl," and I loved working on her with Geoff Johns as she was in our "Teen Titans" towards the end there. This is my first time doing any artwork with her since then.
I can tell you she has a very strong impact in the first issue. It's going to be fun to see her again, but she's Cassandra Cain. She's not going to be wearing her Batgirl uniform or anything like that, but everyone knows who Cassandra Cain is. I think readers are going to get a real kick out of it and enjoy seeing her back in action. I hope people like the new design and the cool action that we have planned for her.
"Batman and Robin Eternal" #1 arrives October 7.