The news that Tom King would be departing from Batman came much earlier than expected. Not only had the writer been promised a 100-issue run on the series, but creative change ups aren’t normally announced more than 6 months in advance. However, due to the rumor mill churning at an extraordinary rate in June, we now know that King will depart the series in December, leaving a new writer to take over Batman as it returns to a monthly schedule in January 2020.
This leaves a very important question open to speculation, potentially for the next several months: Who will take over the writing duties on Batman? All superhero comics readers know that it’s fun to speculate on topics like this, being the closest thing we have to Fantasy Football. However, this particular decision also means a lot for DC Comics and there is likely a lot of thought and sweat going into who should receive the offer.
Why It Matters
Following the announcement that Tom King’s run on Batman would be cut short, we dug into the series’ sales numbers. Claiming that Batman is one of the biggest superhero comics around would be understating its significance. Batman is a franchise unto itself. For the past 10 years, across both the Rebirth and New52 eras at DC Comics, it has dominated sales charts, almost always charting as the #1 ongoing superhero series. While sales attrition has slowly diminished those sales across King’s run, Batman is still a force to be reckoned with, especially when you consider that those sales were occurring twice monthly.
If DC Comics were to take all of their titles featuring Batman and spin them off to be a unique publisher, that publisher would instantly become the third largest in the direct market, looming over even Image Comics. Batman as an individual series is the crown jewel of superhero titles and the leader of the entire Batman franchise; Batman as a franchise is the most significant part of DC Comics’ entire publishing line. The influence of this one character over the entire direct market is enormous.
While readers are likely to see the choice of a writer as important because of personal investment in the character, the executives at DC Comics (and above them) are much more likely to be focused on how much Batman means in dollars and cents. Selecting the next Batman writer should be about finding a great storyteller, but it will also be about finding someone who can bolster this essential franchise.
What to Consider
There are a variety of other factors that will play into offering this big role to a new writer, as well. Due to the way that Tom King’s run on Batman was both announced and ended, it’s clear that the writer is leaving early on negotiated terms. It doesn’t appear like there’s much bad blood in public, but it doesn’t change that a well-liked creator is wrapping up a promised 100-issue run in an extended miniseries. Whoever comes next will need to carry some goodwill of their own and be able to provide a fresh face to the ongoing series (as it sounds like there will not be a renumbering).
That raises a second significant point that whoever takes over King’s role will need to have a distinct vision. King’s run was noted for its decompressed style and self-serious tone, telling Batman stories like epic epic poems with just as many digressions. Offering more of the same will likely fail to hurt sales or justify the choice of removing King from the series. Whoever comes next needs to have a clear, new vision for who Batman is.
And here we arrive at the biggest challenge, the next writer needs to be able to offer the appeal of a new #1 issue while still having a book that is in its mid-80s. As we mentioned above, Batman is a truly tremendous sales force and a brand unto itself. Whoever takes over isn’t just tackling a banner superhero comics; they’re taking on the absolute biggest superhero comic of the 21st century.10comments
Our Short List
With all of this in mind, we’ve assembled a short list of writers who are well-suited to take on the series. Each of these writers brings something different to the table. However, they all share a few key traits in common. They all possess experience working in superhero comics, a unique vision in comics revealed through a catalog of impressive work, and they would all certainly bring something new to Batman.
- Brian Michael Bendis: Not only is Bendis doing incredible work across most of DC Comics, but his first Batman story was just brought into comic stores and Batman Universe #1 is one of the best Batman issues in years. If DC Comics wants to go for name recognition, then Bendis has shown he’s the big name amongst DC’s many big names best prepared to offer a fresh take on this classic character.
- Marjorie Liu: Liu is a true dual-threat, having worked on extensive superhero runs at Marvel Comics while also sweeping the 2018 Eisners for her work on the creator-owned series Monstress. Her career shows that she can tackle both gritty, conspiracy-driven stories and offer an epic scope filled with magic. These genre affectations make an excellent match for the complex streets of Gotham City, which often set demons and gangsters together.
- Christopher Priest: Priest has been openly announcing his interest in writing Batman for years, and his interest deserves to be taken seriously. His recent work on both Justice League and Deathstroke reveals a writer who still works well within superheroes and whose style has been updated for the modern era. Priest is an experienced craftsman with stellar new ideas and an idiosyncratic style bound to intrigue new and existing readers.
- Mariko Tamaki: Tamaki has emerged from outside of the superhero scene to reveal how her character-focused sensibilities elevate the genre, rather than clash with it. Multiple runs at Marvel Comics have made it clear that a monthly grind doesn’t diminish the quality of work found in her indie work. Tamaki also possesses great economy in her writing, which would allow for stories to still focus on Batman’s psychology in much more rewarding individual issues.
- Kelly Sue DeConnick: Considering DeConnick’s recent return to superheroes, this idea doesn’t seem as outlandish as it might have a couple of years ago. She is a writer who doesn’t need Batman considering her impressive array of current projects in comics and television, but is someone who would be well-suited for the role. DeConnick has a knack for rebuilding fandoms and discovering the exact right artist for a property, and DC Comics would be wise to trust her with Batman.