For the second time in as many years, Batman will get a weekly series from a rotating cast of star creators. This time, though, Bruce Wayne himself will take something of a backseat to Dick Grayson and a cadre of Robins from throughout the character's legacy.
What brings them together? Well, it's a case that Bruce and Dick worked on in the earliest days of the first Dynamic Duo -- and one that Bruce has done his best to bury and to hide the truth about, even from Dick.
Co-writer James Tynion IV joined ComicBook.com to discuss the series, which launches today.
You were one of the creators who carried over from Batman Eternal to this story. What's different this time around?
Batman & Robin Eternal is a very different animal from the first one, frankly. I think in the first one, we wanted to do is really explore every kind of Batman story that can exist. From horror to science fiction to world-spanning adventure story to grounded crime fiction. We wanted to sort of touch on all of that, show how dexterous the character of Batman is and why he is so "eternal."
With this one, we wanted to do something a little bit different. First of all, instead of going the full 52 issues, we are a 26 issue story -- which is still so many issues, but at the same time, we wanted to tell something a little tighter, a little more focused. The kind of story we decided we wanted to tell was a grounded, paranoid spy thriller -- something where you don't know who to trust, you don't know who's on your side and who's not, and really get into what the legacy of the Robins is to Batman.
And that's especially interesting in this moment because we don't have Batman there in the present as Bruce Wayne to be able to really comment on that. All the Robins are going to have to figure that out on their own as they come to grips with what the real shape of Batman's legacy is.
Is part of this story told in flashback?
Yes. This story has two halves...well, not two halves. It's the past interacting with the present in a very interesting way. Part of the story is told during Dick Grayson's tenure as Robin and basically, it's an entire case that Robin thought he was investigating one thing but Bruce was actually investigating something much bigger, much more dangerous, that he was trying to protect Robin from for reasons that become clear later in the series. When that larger threat emerges in the present day, they no longer have Bruce to go to in order to help them figure out what this mystery is and what Bruce did to bring this threat down all those years ago. They're going to ahve to figure it out alone, at a moment when they're not sure if they can even really trust each other.
We're going to be playing with all of the relationships between all of the core Robins in the present, but also their relationships to Bruce and most of all, Dick Grayson's relationship to Bruce Wayne.
You've said that Dick and Harper and Cassandra were going to be three of the main characters in this series. Is it easy to play on Dick's spy backstory and we don't know much about the other two, relative to what we think we know about the rest of the cast?
Absolutely, and one thing I'd like to point to is that particularly in regards to Harper Rowe, there's this mystery that we've been building in her stories in Batman and in Batman Eternal. There's a reason she's always been on Bruce Wayne's radar. She didn't come out of the blue; she's someone who Bruce has always been kind of aware of and kind of keeping tabs on. And we've never fully understood the reason for that. This is the story that will get to the heart of the mystery.
And then the larger mystery for these characters will be the emergence of Cassandra Cain. This is her first appearance in the current continuity, and so this will be a Cassandra that none of these characters have met before and we're taking her back to core, back to the beginning where she's not someone who can express herself as verbally as the other characters can. This is a character who was trained to learn body language before human language. So she might have the keys to this mystery but she can't simply explain them to the rest of the team.
So there's a lot of mysteries going around and there's no one better to put at the center of all of those than Dick Grayson in his new role as super-spy of the DCU.
The fact that Dick is such a key part of this story is interesting; we haven't really got to see his post-Flashpoint career. Was that part of the desire to do the flashbacks?
Oh, absolutely. And it's extra fitting because this is the 75th anniversary of Dick Grayson and Robin. The fact that there isn't an in-continuity, defining Batman and Robin story with the Robin that frankly the most people in the world are familiar with as the Robin character, we wanted that to be absolutely core to this story. For the 75th anniversary of Robin, we wanted to tell the definitive Batman and Robin story.
Where do you think Tim Drake fits into a story like this? It's been sometimes difficult to suss out his role in the Bat-family in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.
That's something we played with a lot in the first Eternal, was making sure that he is an active and ready member of the Bat-family. It's one of those things where we didn't get to see his tenure with Batman but what's core to the character remains core to the character. His relationship with Bruce is still very much modeled on the relationship we've always known and understood him and Bruce to have.
So when he comes into a story like this, when he's interacting with all the other Robins, particularly Jason and Dick -- those three characters, ever since I was a kid I sort of had a theory of how they relate to each other and to Bruce. And that's that Dick Grayson is his compassion, Jason Todd is his rage and Tim Drake is Bruce's intellect. And each of them, they lean into one of the core central parts of how Bruce operates as Batman, to an extreme, and together, they're capable of being an even stronger version of Batman when they're working at their absolute peak together. So that's something that we're definitely playing with in this story in terms of bringing them all together and finding ways to rip them all apart, because this is a big, epic storyline. Everyone can't just be friendly for the whole thing. Tim is very central to the story; all of the Robins really are.
Will this threat that we are building toward be something that DC fans will recognize, or is this something new to the mythology?
The goal with this story was to reat ea new A-list villain for the Batman corner of the DCU. Someone so terrifying that when Bruce faced them years ago, he had to protect everyone in the family from knowing what this threat was because what he had to do to defeat them pulled him into a darker place than he's ever been before. That's something that's weighed on him for years but it also puts the family at a disadvantage in the present.
If this character had re-emerged when Bruce Wayne had full control of his mind, he would be able to point them toward what he was able to do last time but now they have no idea the extent of this threat, or how Bruce dealt with her last time.
The character is a figure named Mother, and she's one of the most terrifying creations I think I've ever worked on and I am really, really excited for fans to met her as she makes her debut across the Batman line.
Batman & Robin Eternal #1 is on stands today. You can get it at your local comic shop or online via ComiXology.