Interview: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Take Off with BATWING

BATWING_Cv20_inbi56d28c_The writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray has been a staple in DC Comics’ New 52, co-writing All-Star Western starring Jonah Hex and a series of mini-series starring reinterpretations of the classic Freedom Fighters — and now they are taking over the Batwing ongoing series with April’s issue #19! Jimmy and Justin generously took time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions about the new man behind the mask, what kinds of changes we can expect in the title, and why you’re going to want to run to the comic shop for this book!

Matt Santori: Congratulations on the new series, Jimmy and Justin, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Rumor has it you brought a pitch on Batwing to DC. What drew you to the character initially?

Jimmy Palmiotti: We were looking to work on anything Batman since we spending so much time in Gotham city in the past in All Star Western and the opportunity came for us to pitch a new take on Batwing. We didn’t expect to actually get on earlier than planned, but issue #19 gave us a great chance to end some open storylines and work our new ideas into the issue as well.

Justin Gray: Thank you. We’ve been enjoying Batman Incorporated and the over the top joy that made it different from the main line, and Batwing in particular. This isn’t a condemnation of the book — it is simply our preference to take the character in a different direction. Being a part of the Bat titles, it was and is important to show exactly how they’re related and make it important for Batman fans to feel it is worth investing in.

MSG: David Zavimbe was a character that didn’t have much exposure before getting an ongoing title, and it seems your plans are to launch a different figure behind the mask. How is it different writing for a character without much background than one, like Jonah Hex for instance, that has a ton of history and characterization to build upon?

JP: Both are extremely enjoyable, but with Batwing — although there is a whole new ball game taking place — we are also integrating the character more into the Batman books then what has been done before. We are enjoying the other titles so much, it’s really exciting for us to be part of the titles right now.

JG: Obviously we spend a fair amount of time putting out creator-owned comics with original characters that require world-building, so doing it with the rich mythology of the Bat universe isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Even with Jonah Hex we took a position that every issue is potentially someone’s first. The same applies here when we begin with issue #20.

BATWING_Cv19-c8ql1sexulMSG: Another way in which Batwing has distinguished itself from other comic titles is being primarily set in the Democratic Republic of Congo and on the continent of Africa. What kind of research goes into writing in such a different locale and representing characters from a culture so unlike what the largest body of readers are used to being presented?

JP: Well, so you know, Batwing will not always be in Africa. This new Batwing will be more of an international Bat character and travel the globe. With issue #19, we did a ton of research, especially with the changing locations all around Africa. We did everything from researching the environment, all the way to timing flight between cities and so on. If something is off, the fans let you know. And after writing a historical drama for the past six years, research comes second nature to us.

JG: Batwing will be dealing with some unfinished business in Africa, but he’s going to have strong ties to Wayne Enterprises, allowing him to be global at times, as well as sinking his roots into Gotham City.

MSG: With so many books featuring Batman in the market right now, Batwing seems to be at both an advantage and disadvantage — the book can benefit from the Bat-family sales draw, but may get lost in the shuffle with so many other Bat-books. How do you plan to make Batwing stand out in the current market?

JP: Batwing will stand out because of how integrated it will be in the world the other books have created. Yet, at the same time, the new character has such a distinct voice that fans will be enjoying this fresh take on someone in a batsuit for the first time. There is a lot of energy in this new take on the character and we plan on going out there and making noise about the book. We are so excited to be doing this, it’s hard to contain ourselves and not ruin the big surprise that comes with issues #19 and 20.

JG: There’s a style and, like Jimmy said, a voice to Batwing that we’re hoping will distinguish it as a different take on someone in the batsuit. This person is coming from a different perspective on what it means to wear the bat symbol on your chest.

MSG: The tech behind Batwing’s look appears to be changing radically. Was that part of your pitch, a decision made by artist Eduardo Pansica, or a decision between the three of you? How has that collaboration been working out?

JP: We approached the idea of a new Batwing with a logical look at what the character should be wearing. Both Justin and I are very much into modern technology and what is happening in the world around us, and we apply this to the new suit…and will be each and every issue. Because with tech, things change and this suit will also be changing as we go along. Modifications are only natural when you see who is wearing the suit. We pitched the idea and look of the suit but a few artists have done their takes on it and the people at DC decided on the one they wanted to go with.

JG: We wanted the tech to be so integrated into the suit that it worked on a dermal level more so than a suit of bulky armor. We have many incarnations of armored batsuits and other armor wearing characters, that we wanted to streamline the suit in a way that allows it to evolve much the same way Apple evolves their products.

BATWING_Cv21_1h80tsluce_MSG: Your DC work, from the fantastically energetic Ame-Comi Girls to the surprising series of Quality revamp titles (The RayPhantom Lady and Human Bomb), seems to exude adventure in a way that reminds me a lot of comics from my youth. They’re also some of the few titles that seem appropriate to share across many age groups. What are your thoughts on the current atmosphere for straight-forward adventure and how to craft stories for all-ages that don’t get labeled too childlike?

JP: We write for everyone, for the editors, and especially for what we think the audience is looking for. We try to create new ideas all the time and yet understand there is a feeling that a lot of fans like the familiarity of past ideas and characters. We go for the best of both worlds and see what happens. The idea of all ages is always in the back of our minds, but more important is the age group that has an interest in the character that we try to aim for. It’s different with each project.

JG: I know it is a dirty word, but comics should have an element of fun to them. There are dramatic moments and intense character needs, but you also have to blow off steam and feel that there’s an excitement you get reading super-hero comics that you can’t get anywhere else. Ame-Comi Girls, as an example, needed to feel like a rocket ride through the DCU. The Quality characters needed to feel like they belonged in the world and yet retained the joy behind their initial creation. I guess that’s a word I keep going back to – joy — you should feel that when working on these characters. We definitely get that from every project and Batwing is something we’re extremely proud to have the opportunity to work on.

MSG: Any last words or special teases you can share with the Comicosity audience about your upcoming work?

JP: Yes, first for the retailers, please make sure you order Batwing #19 and 20, because they will be selling out in a day. We have things going on in both books that will bring a ton of new readers to the title and I hate the idea of people getting caught short. As well, once everyone see’s who the new Batwing is…well, lets just say that this title will become key to the Bat universe and you won’t want to miss a thing.

JG: You’re going to see some great villains. You’re going to see a different kind of Bat. Hopefully it will bring some joy to the people we’re lucky enough to have read it.

Batwing #19, the first issue by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Fabrizio Fiorentino, arrives in comic book shops on April 3, 2013.

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