Batman Eternal returns for a second season, but this time, we have another leading character at the helm. Relaunched as Batman and Robin Eternal, Dick Grayson is taking center stage, and here to talk about what to expect out of our leading man — as well as the return of leading kickass lady Cassandra Cain — is writer and showrunner for the title, James Tynion IV.
Matt Santori: This is your second go around on Eternal, James. How do you think this time is different with Batman and Robin Eternal?
James Tynion IV: When it’s all said and done, Batman Eternal and Batman and Robin Eternal will be two pretty different books. The first was very much about trying to explore every different corner of the Batman mythos — every different type of Batman story. We had horror stories, world-spanning action. We had crime. We really tried to dive into every different way there is to tell a Batman story. We had 52 issues to really expand out and throw in the kitchen sink.
With Batman and Robin Eternal, the goal is different. We wanted to tell a more singular story. We have 26 issues, which is still a lot of room, but we wanted to tell something a bit more focused and controlled. We wanted to tell a paranoia thriller. That’s the phrase we kept throwing around in the room. It’s the one kind of story we really didn’t get to in the first Eternal.
Something more frightening and down to the core, like Alfred Hitchcock did. We want that feel, all while telling a huge story that has huge, bombastic repercussions. Tonally, this is getting deeper and darker into the characters’ souls, but the ramifications coming out of this story will be monumental — even bigger than last time.
This is not a story limited to Gotham City. If they fail here, the world will fall apart. This is huge. And doing that with a timeline where Bruce Wayne is not Batman, and doesn’t remember what it is to be Batman. It really gets at the heart of Batman’s legacy.
MSG: Describing Eternal as a “paranoia thriller” seems to really fall in line with the tone of Grayson right now. While this book is presumably about all the Robins, Dick is still the central figure. How does the story style you’re preparing mesh with his character today?
JTIV: It’s a perfect time for this kind of story, but it’s also really fascinating what we’ve been able to do with the Dick Grayson character. He has at his disposal, the entire world. It’s something that fits the character so perfectly, but still feels totally new. All of his stories feel that way right now. And moving back into something a little more super-hero centered, getting back that feel, is really, really exciting.
Honestly, it’s always a pleasure to see Dick interact with his “brothers,” the other Robins. There’s a bit of fanboy glee that happens whenever they’re all on a page together. We’re telling a story that utilizes all of them and plays off of Dick as the central figure of them all, the big brother. He’s the progenitor of the Robin line. Robin wouldn’t have existed without him. It was something totally different.
And in a world without Batman, he needs to step into that central role. Frankly, his relationship with Batman has always been rough. Even in the happiest moments, there’s always been a level of distrust. And they need to get past that. That’s right at the heart of this. This story will span the past and the present, and deals with a time when Dick Grayson was Robin under Batman, as well as today when he’s Agent 37 and Batman is gone.
Bruce Wayne doesn’t even remember who Dick Grayson is. So, it’s an interesting time to address all of this.
MSG: We both know what the big question is: Cassandra Cain. You’re writing her long-awaited reintroduction in Eternal. We talked about Stephanie Brown similarly last year, but what’s your history with the character and how does that play into her return?
JTIV: I came up in comics at the same time Cassandra did. Her character was one of my favorites in the entire line. She always just struck a chord with me. She’s a character I’ve wanted to get my hands on since starting to write comics, and having the opportunity to do so on this scale is absolutely phenomenal.
I am such a huge fan of the original Kelley Puckett/Damion Scott run on Batgirl. That’s something that really got me into the character’s head. And it also came down to the really big moments when the entire Bat-family came together. That’s always awesome when it happens.
One of my all-time favorite stories is Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, and Cassandra played a huge role in that. That story more than any other made me love the character, in particular that one issue where she explores Wayne Manor, not knowing Bruce Wayne is Batman. She’s able to put together the pieces and it showed how capable she is.
In the same way we did with Steph, it’s not about bringing back the character the same way they were before, but getting to the heart of the character and reintroducing them so they will have a bigger platform. A bigger home and a bigger audience. If someone has never read a Cassandra Cain story, our goal is to make Cassandra one of their favorite characters. That’s what we’re setting out to do in this story.
MSG: How has it been this time around working with Tim Seeley and Scott Snyder, but also writers new to Eternal like Steve Orlando, Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Ed Brisson, and Genevieve Valentine. What do the fresh voices bring to the mix?
JTIV: It’s been really, really great. Obviously, I’ve had a great working relationship with Scott and Tim — especially Tim for this story. He’s been really, really crucial in building off a lot of the things he’s building in the Grayson book. But to bring in a whole room of new voices and ideas is fantastic.
We have writers like Steve and Genevieve who have been working already on Bat-books, but not on Batman and the core group of Robins. They’ve been working in and around Gotham, but now they’re really able to get to the heart of it. With Jackson and Collin, who are a writing team, and Ed, they’ve jumped right into the heart of it. They all have such incredible voices and are so damn smart.
The story we have to tell here is paranoia thriller, and we’ve brought together the people who are perfect to tell that story. I’m feeling so good about this team, and really can’t say enough awesome things about everyone involved.
MSG: So, any teases to look forward to in the preview hitting on Batman Day?
JTIV: One of the big motivators for this story is to create a new A-level villain for the Batman mythos. Imagine if Batman had his most climatic battle with Ra’s al Ghul, but when Ra’s came back to strike again, Batman didn’t remember him and no one knew how to stop him.
That’s the story we’re looking to tell here, and we’re doing it through the creation of a brand new villain named Mother. She is one of the scariest concepts I feel like I’ve ever worked with.
We wanted to build up someone who could fill that Martha Wayne role to Bruce. I feel like half of Batman’s villains have a bit of Thomas Wayne vibe to them, but this is the character who can play at it from an entirely different perspective. She is terrifying. I think she’s going to be one of the most terrifying characters in the DCU.
I am so excited for everyone to meet her and be as terrified as we all are!
The Batman and Robin Eternal 8-page preview hits comic shops on Saturday, September 26, 2015 — Batman Day — in advance of the weekly series launch in October.