Exclusive Interview: James Tynion, Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs on Batman Eternal

Batman has celebrated 75 years in 2014. Essentially this breaks down to 900 months of Batman stories. Add in the other Bat books, the Justice League, The Brave And The Bold, World’s Finest, and all the nooks and crannies in the DCU where the cape and cowl have made an appearance, and you’re looking at thousands of stories. So, how do you shake that up? How do you reignite Batman again?

Writer Scott Snyder began planting the seeds of this shift in his work on Detective Comics, by introducing an old character that had never fully been fleshed out, Gotham City. Now, in 2014, Gotham becomes not a backdrop, but a key player in Batman Eternal, a weekly series that features one of the biggest stories that DC has ever told. Using several writers and artists, Batman Eternal looks to be, like Zero Year and Death Of The Family, a defining moment in the Batman Universe.

Driving this train off its rails is James Tynion, one of the co-writers of Batman Eternal. Tynion, fresh off of his run with Talon, is throwing everything but the kitchen sink into this book. I caught up with Tynion, as well as Batman Eternal artists Dustin Ngyuen and Derek Fridolfs, to get the scoop on the eternal.

CraveOnline: So was the idea of doing a weekly book for a solid year terrifying to you?

James Tynion: Absolutely. The whole idea of working on a weekly book, I thought it was just going to take over my life and be the worst decision ever. I wanted to tell this huge story that Scott and I wanted to put together, and it seemed like such a daunting task. The amazing this is, once we actually got into it, it became a seamless machine. We are so on top of it that we’re almost done. We have five issues left to write until issue 52, so we are actually really ahead of the game.

How did you swing that? Most eight issues series get backed up or come out late

Tynion: A lot of it has been editorial. I thankfully don’t have to deal with those production problems. It comes down to being ready. I mean, the first three issues were written before NYCC last year.

How about for you and Dustin?

Derek Fridolfs: When it comes to me, as long as the writers are done on time and I get the scripts on time, it’s really easy. It’s a huge cast so I might work on one issue one month, then it’s six or seven issues until I work on another one and so much will change. The writing team has really figured out where the characters are so they give it to us and we go from there.

Dustin Nguyen: When I came on I didn’t know it was going to be a weekly book, they just said they had this Batman thing they wanted me to do. I’m the guy who when they need somebody to draw Batman they say ‘Hey lets get Dustin”. I got the first three scripts and thought wow they are really ahead. Nope, it’s a weekly book.

What is Batman Eternal going to do for the Batman mythos?

Tynion: Gotham is the best toy box in the entire comics industry, and as part of the New 52 there is an opportunity to tell stories that we’ve never seen before. We wanted to take all of our favorite toys out and break them a little, move them around, and really set the groundwork for a new generation of Batman stories. It’s still Batman, it’s still Gotham, but the groundwork has shifted so that you can’t tell stories you’ve already seen anymore. We wanted to do something that caused massive shifts in Gotham. That’s why we started with the big bang of Jim Gordon being taken out as Commissioner. We wanted to show people from the start that this was a different thing.

Is this a reboot of Gotham City?

Tynion: There are elements of that, but we also wanted to highlight all the different corners of Batman that exist. We have supernatural stuff, lowbrow crime, highflying action, we have sci-fi, we have all the different types of Batman stories all running together. This is Batman’s 75th anniversary and we wanted there to be something that is a real celebration of Batman.

What’s been the most exciting thing for you to work on?

Fridolfs: Probably reintroducing Stephanie Brown. Dustin did a great reimagining of her costume and it’s great to see her coming back. Hush was fun. He’s a character we worked on before the New 52, and to see what he’s been up to since then was great.

Stephanie’s Spoiler outfit is different, but it wasn’t a dramatic change. Was that intentional?

Nguyen: I really wanted to keep true to the original one and not piss off any fans. I kept to the idea of Brian Miller’s concept when he drew her. I just moved things around. I wanted it to be recognizable but also new. It was just fun man. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. I just wanted to make sure she was this independent hero on her own.

With something like this did you and Scott put characters together, or did the pairings happen as the story was being written?

Tynion: It was a bit of both. From the very beginning we wanted to do pairings of characters that we hadn’t seen a lot of. That’s why we have the Barbara and Jason storyline. They don’t have a lot of history of interaction in the comics. That means we have the opportunity to define a relationship. Even the stranger pairing of Jim Corrigan and Batwing, it was all introducing new relationships into the story. We’ll see more of that as some of the bigger bat-characters enter Batman Eternal. We’ve seen a cover solicited that has the Riddler on it, so we know he’ll be there. That happened organically.

What was the most surprising thing to come out of doing this book?

Tynion: The introduction of Julia Pennyworth. When Ray Fawkes brought up the idea of bringing that character back from the far back of that Toy Box, we literally thought he was joking.

I was surprised too. I’ve been reading Batman for decades and I had no idea she existed. Why run with such an obscure character?

Tynion: It was the image of a young woman at the Bat Computer with the same poise as Alfred, but a different military background. It also brings in a great dynamic as Alfred raised Bruce, but not his own daughter. She is part of this large family, so bringing her to the forefront was part of changing the game.

How will Batman Eternal fold into the rest of the current cannon?

Tynion: It’s hard to say. Endgame is after Batman Eternal, so some of the effects of Batman Eternal will be felt there. How it folds into Robin Rises and the aftermath of that is something I can’t really comment on.


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