It’s a special New Year’s gift for all of his fans: Damian Wayne is alive and back in the red, green, and yellow for good in today’s Robin Rises: Alpha — thanks to Batman and Robin scribe Peter Tomasi and co-creator of the boy wonder himself, artist Andy Kubert. Tomasi and Kubert sat down with Comicosity in advance of today’s issue to chat about what it was like to bring Bruce’s son back to life, what motivated giving a ten-year-old super-powers, and just how badass a guy Alfred really is.
Matt Santori: Let’s start off with the hard stuff. What was the most challenging aspect of bringing Damian back into the book?
Peter Tomasi: It wasn’t really difficult. It was really just a question of wanting to bring him back, and pitching it as “Damian is the perfect Robin for Batman.” With the relationship between father and son, and the history Damian has growing up with the specific talents he possesses, the challenge was just to make sure we could come up with a really cool story — something that would peel away all the emotional layers of Batman as he went on this journey to get his son back. Then it was just about trying to write scripts that Andy and Pat [Gleason] would have a blast doing.
The challenge was just to make it good. [laughs]
Andy Kubert: [laughs] My challenge was just to not mess up Pete’s script!
It was just about having him come back and have it look exciting, having the images jump off the page and having people like it. Damian is a character I started off with in 2006 with Grant Morrison, and not that I wanted to go out with a bang with him — because who knows if I’ll do stuff with him down the road — but in bringing him back, I wanted it to be something special.
Pete and I both just got our printed copies of the book and we’re both really happy with how this turned out.
MSG: Andy, you’ve had a couple of opportunities to draw Batman at these really critical moments. What’s at the core of representing him for you?
AK: It’s hard to put your finger on it. For some reason, characters like Batman just come out of you. You don’t even think you’re drawing it. It’s more like an extension of you.
There are some characters that are just harder to do. I can’t draw Spider-Man. I’ve tried and for the life of me, I’m not geared for that. But characters like Batman, I’m totally geared for. Anytime I have an opportunity to work on a Batman project, I am there. And working on a project — creating a character like Damian that resonates with Batman and has longevity — it just doesn’t get better than that.
MSG: Speaking of critical moments, Damian didn’t just come back to life, but he also brought super-powers back with him. Can you talk about how you developed that idea and why that was important for the next storyline?
PT: It really boiled down to making sure there was a result or repercussion that came out of this journey. One of those is Robin now having powers, which changes the relationship again between Bruce and Damian. I mean, obviously he’s been resurrected, but now he has these powers, and that would change anybody’s psyche. And having your father there to help you deal with that means the drama is inherent in that aspect of the story.
Now, we’ll really get to have some fun in having these two characters deal with each other. Damian himself, too, will have to deal with having these powers at this time of his life. This ten-year-old boy wants to prove he can step up. Little kids always try to be adults. They think they know everything and want to do everything. That aspect is universal, and it’s no different for Damian. Now he has super-powers and it ups the drama even more.
AK: With that, having a ten-year-old boy lift up giant pennies and smash Batmobiles was it. I didn’t make him look any different, but maybe I had him look a little different — jumping out on the page a little more, infusing a little more dynamism in the character.
But I think the most interesting aspect of all that is having this regular looking ten-year-old kid do all these special things. That’s pretty much how I approached it.
PT: He certainly doesn’t have muscles upon muscles. He’s just a regular ten-year-old boy that has these special talents.
MSG: Looking back at the whole story, can you talk about why you chose Apokolips and Darkseid as the backdrop for Robin Rises, as opposed to another method of resurrection?
PT: It kind of all tied into wanting to do something big and epic. It was simply embracing the comic book itself. Do we keep Bruce and Damian in Gotham for this big story — the place we see quite a bit of, but they’re really interwined with — or do we put them in this “fish out of water” type scenario? That angle appealed to me.
Playing into how the chaos shard works, its powers, and what it could do, it all fell together. Why have it take place on the mean streets of Gotham if we could have it take place on the mean streets of Apokolips?
MSG: SPOILER ALERT. We do get a tease at the end of the issue with the return of a second character as well. What can you say about Talia’s relationship with Damian and Bruce moving forward?
PT: Well, obviously there’s a lot of mistrust, hatred, bile tied up into that mother-son relationship, as well as in her relationship with Bruce. It was important to touch base with her and show Mommy is still around. Who knows where that story will take us?
MSG: We also once again get to see Alfred as a badass here. Best thing ever?
AK: You know, I drew Alfred exactly as Pete has written him. You’re right. He is a badass. A disheveled badass.
I wanted to give him a stance. I wanted to give him stature, when he’s first holding that gun. I wanted to give him weight. He’s not somebody who’s screwing around. He’s ready to go into battle. He’s going to get that kid back.
Maybe he feels a little bit responsible for what happened? I don’t know. I tried to inject all kinds of things into him at that point. But it’s fun to see that type of character do different things all the time, like be a badass — holding that big gun and battling these villains. I think that makes it all interesting.
PT: The way Andy draws him, Alfred goes from a guy who’s exhausted to being a super badass. He’s emotional when Damian comes back, but then he’s also serving tea at the end. That’s the great thing about Alfred. He’s as great a character as Batman to me. You can do anything with Alfred, put him in any scenario, and it still works. His dialogue and how he reacts to things is just so easy to write. And the way Andy drew him in this issue is just awesome.
There are characters, like Andy said, that just come off the pencil when you’re drawing them. And then there are characters you write whose dialogue you always need to catch up to. They’re already going and you’ve got to let your fingers dance across the keyboard to catch up to them.
AK: I always find that the major characters like Batman are only ever as good as their supporting cast, and Alfred is that supporting cast.
PT: That’s the key to great characters. You get to find out more about them by how they bounce off other characters.
When you speak of responsibility, Alfred is the one that let Damian go out that day [he died]. Bruce told him he didn’t want him let out of the cave, and Alfred was trusting that Damian’s skills would help save Batman. And then he goes out there and gets killed by the Heretic.
In Batman and Robin #23, we dealt with that head-on. For him, this wasn’t just Bruce’s journey. When he sees Damian brought back to life, all that guilt and stuff he’s been harboring deep inside makes it a big moment for Alfred as well. He’s feels as much like a father to Damian as Bruce.
AK: Right. Even the emotion Alfred is showing with Damian, it just gives that much more dimension to Alfred. I think that worked out really well.
PT: It’s a big hug! That’s why we held on for that one extra beat. We can see Alfred is feeling it at that moment. After all that bad stuff he feels responsible for, we get that moment of silence that says, “Thank God.”
MSG: One last question. You called Damian “the perfect Robin.” Is he Batman’s final, permanent Robin?
PT: Who knows? 75 years from now, somebody could be answering that question very differently, or they could be sitting here with the same characters still right there on the page. At that point, I’m dust in the wind.
But to me, they are the perfect Batman and Robin. They are the perfect dynamic duo in my head.
Damian Wayne has returned in this week’s Robin Rises: Alpha, but stay tuned for his ongoing adventures monthly in Batman and Robin starting next month!