Right at the beginning, when I started doing interviews for this site, there were a few creators I just knew I had to try to speak to. But I didn’t want to focus too much on Batman and I wanted to make sure I was asking questions that they wanted to answer and that you’d want to hear answered. Long story short, it’s two years later and somehow I still hadn’t talked to James Tynion IV!
It feels like it goes without saying at this point but James Tynion is a core player in the modern comics industry. It’s technically accurate to say that he’s a future superstar, as I suspect he’ll be an essential writer for years to come, but that ignores that he’s already made it, overseeing both of the Batman Eternal weekly series, each one the core of comics’ most profitable brand.
But perhaps what’s most interesting about Tynion is that he’s not just writing a main Batman title, he’s also filling in the corners of DC’s universe and turning out multiple independent books that are wonderfully experimental and real. He manages to give the impression of a seasoned professional and the up-and-coming rebel out for his job. His work at Boom! has been a huge part of their success in establishing themselves as the place for fresh creator-owned comics.
As such, Tynion was rather busy this year at New York Comic Con, but I was able to find a few minutes to talk to him about his plans for The Woods and what we can expect from Batman and Robin Eternal.
My first question is about The Woods. Since we’ve kind of been seeing more and more different moments in time being transplanted, what’s the process of research like for that, figuring out how those cultures kind of clash and work together?
I know pretty much which society has come every hundred years going back about 2,000 years. Y’know, there are some things that are a little more wishy washy, but [for] the key ones I was definitely like, “Okay. I’m going to sit down and make sure everything is appropriate for this era.”
One thing that people actually haven’t called us out on, which is an important story point, is the fact that the Japanese Imperial Army is from the Thirties and Forties, not from the Teens, like everyone else. And there is a reason for that. And that is going to be, important later on. So, uh, we’ll see what happens.
But I mean, it is just knowing. Like, for Michael, it’s looking up the technology of every era. With everything else, it is just looking up, ‘okay, what cultural things would come into that’ and me giving cultural touchstones for Michael to build the visual world around.
You just got optioned for a TV show. Congratulations. Is there anything that you’re really hoping for the TV show, aside from it running for five seasons and making you millions.
What I want is a really, really good show. What I want more than anything out of the TV show is for them to take a look at the characters and the world that I built and improve upon the story. Because a comic book is paced very different from a TV show, the last thing I would want is a direct adaptation. What I want is something that brings these characters into a huge, epic story that could last for seasons and seasons. I would feel, like, if they tried to just go lock-step with what I did, that would be the absolute wrong move. So, y’know, once I’m confident that they really know the world, then yes, yeah, I want them to do something better than I ever did.
Now that you’re starting on Batman & Robin Eternal, what are the lessons of the first Batman Eternal that have really guided you guys in doing the second.
Uh, I mean, the first one was such a strange animal in how much it sprawled out and how big and crazy it got, to the point where I think there were certain parts of the center of the story that lagged a little. But, even though we brought it together in a huge bombastic ending that we’re all incredibly proud of, making it leaner and meaner was something that we wanted to do right off the bat. Doing a twenty-six issue series that’s just going to be- it’s the story. It is the direct story. It’s not going to meander off into strange corners. We are going to tell you a twenty-six issue story that needed twenty-six issues and no more. That was the goal.
We already somehow got Cassandra Cain back. Every one is thrilled. But obviously she’s not Batgirl, she’s not Black Bat. Do you see her going into another role in the future, if you can say?
I mean, she is definitely going to have a role in the Bat mythos coming out of this. It might not be a familiar role or it might be a very familiar role. You guys are just going to have to wait and see. Y’know, we’ve got twenty-five more weeks of story to go and Cassandra Cain’s right at the heart of all of them.
Alright, and the last thing I wanted to ask is that obviously this series is really looking at the Robins, especially since Bruce is literally not even there. What do you think Robin means to each of them? Like how does that fundamental concept of Robin change between the boys?
I mean, it’s always the light to Batman’s dark. And it’s always about the concept of legacy. It’s about being the next generation and being the kind- These are all kids who have been through different, varying levels of trauma. And they became something new through Bruce. And through that they all have a very different relationship to Bruce ‘cause they were all very different Robins. So really Robin is the concept of legacy. It is the concept of being the son, being the one to carry forward the ideas.
And the second generation, the person that didn’t have to bear the brunt of the trauma, like Bruce did, they get to live their own lives in a way that maybe he didn’t. And they’ve gone in different directions. Jason’s obviously fallen off that path and is trying to get back on and it’s a strange balancing act. But Robin, really, it’s the dream of ‘what if we can be better than our parents’. Like, what if the legacy can be a brighter more optimistic one than that of their predecessors.
And obviously you’re doing so much. I didn’t get to ask you at all about Cognetic or Constantine: The Hellblazer.
Is there anything that you wanna quickly pitch?
Uh, Cognetic is the second part of of an apocalypse trilogy that I’ve been developing with Eryk Donovan for the last few years. The first part was Memetic, for which we were nominated for a GLAD Award and, y’know, has gotten a lot of great press. That’s coming out in trade later this month. Cognetic is also coming out, the first issue arrives later this month. The story starts: a psychic walks into the Empire State Building, takes over the minds of everyone inside, and then starts spreading. That’s where it begins. And it just gets crazier from there. So I really hope people check it out.
Alright. Well thanks so much, James!