Exclusive Interview: Peter Tomasi on Batman & Robin
Damien Wayne was not always a beloved character. Damien was rude, spoiled, and even mean spirited, Batman’s son was almost as reviled as Jason Todd. But over time, and with some wonderful writing, Damien was embraced and even beloved by the Bat-Masses. Part of that is due to Peter J. Tomasi, the man who wrote the last several years of DC’s Batman & Robin comic book series.
When Damien Wayne’s creator, Grant Morrison, decided to kill him off, fewer people were hit harder than Tomasi. He had a book that featured Robin prominently in the title and inside every issue. But Tomasi picked up the pieces and created a line of fill-in heroes to continue his team book, but there was never another Robin. Cue Robin Rises, a storyline involving Batman and what seems to be the return of his son from beyond the grave.
During my visit to New York Comic Con, I got to sit down with Tomasi and discuss all things Robin.
CraveOnline: The first question is the obvious one. When did you decide to perhaps bring Robin/Damien back?
Peter J. Tomasi: When Damien died, there was talk of just how to bring a Robin back into the fold. Obviously I was writing a Batman & Robin book and so I was curious how I would get an actual Robin into the book book. I also wanted to explore what this was doing to Batman
How do you write from the perspective of someone who has lost a child?
It was key to just start peeling back the layers of Batman’s weakness and strengths, and see how a death like this would effect him so soon after he really started to know this kid. That’s what it boils down to. The relationship was in its infant stages and to have it explode on him with this death, it really allowed us to dive into who Batman is as a character.
What did you find in that exploration?
We got to see Batman do things he’s never done before, like kidnapping Frankenstein and trying to bring back the dead. I wanted people to say ‘Wow, I would never think Batman would do something like that.” It’s been 75 years, you want to show him doing things that might surprise you, and his reaction after Robin’s death is a big surprise. He’s suffered such a huge loss and you want to see a man pushed to and edge me may not come back from.
When Grant Morrison decided to kill off Robin, how hard was that for you?
Honestly it was very easy for me. I was once an editor at DC, and actually brought Grant Morrison on board with Andy Kubert.
How did you swing that?
It was one of this things like ‘C’mon Grant you’re doing All-Star Superman, how awesome would it be if you did Batman too, and he said “I like that idea.” He had always planned to kill Damien, but it kept getting pushed back further and further so it became more a question of when is he going to die, and when is Grant going to feel comfortable doing it. When he finally decided to do it, it allowed us to then explore Batman’s reaction to the loss in a big way.
Before Robin Rises, Batman & Robin became a team book. Was that you biding time or did you want to do these specific characters?
It was me wanting to do those characters. I’d always wanted to write Aquaman, I wanted to write Wonder Woman. Frankenstein I had worked on with Secret Soldier, as an editor, and I loved the character. I got to use these characters to explore the loss, to act as mirrors to what Batman was enduring. Frankenstein especially since he’s somebody who had come back from the dead, and Batman’s interest in using that for Damien.
Will the arc between Frankenstein and Batman be revisited?
No, no more plans on Frankenstein at the moment. I love the character though, I could write a monthly book on him. That would be a lot of fun.
That would be awesome. In this new arc Batman returns to being a loner, even facing off against the Justice League. Is that Batman more fun to write than team Batman?
Yes and no. There’s part of the time you love to write Batman telling people off, especially heroes like Superman or Wonder Woman, but there’s also moments where you show the interpersonal stuff and mutual, equal respect.
When I had Superman meet Batman at Damien’s grave at the back of Wayne Manor, you know Superman knows Batman is going to pull something, especially after Batman trying to reconcile the Bat-Family and telling them all about Apokolips, but Bruce is still Superman’s friend, somebody he cares about who has suffered a terrible tragedy. Batman knows Superman is concerned, but he’s going to do what he has to do to serve his means. That includes pulling the wool over Superman’s eyes, which Supes won’t like.
Speaking of the Bat-Family, you did a great job pushing the first steps of their reconciliation. Was that a tough scene to write?
I rewrote the dialog a gazillion times on that sequence. When I pitched the story of Robin Rises, my main focus was Robin, but my B-story was to bring the family back together.
I wanted to heal that fracture. It was easy to think about the scene but it was hard to write. Really, it comes off as well as it does because I have an artist like Pat Gleason who can pull the emotional stuff off so well. When I write a lot of dialog, and then Pat’s art comes in, I realize that he’s captured a lot of the emotion in the body language. Then I can trim my lines and let the art carry it. It was hard to pull together, but it’s good to have the family on the mend.
Will Batman & Robin continue to explore the healing of the family?
I’d really like it to. I think it is key to use them as touchstones of the loss and keep building on those pieces, bring them together in a firmer way. I mean, they haven’t forgotten everything, so it’s fragile, but as Robin Rises progresses you’ll see that strength really start to come together.
So why choose some place like Apokolips for Robin Rises? It was so out of left field.
To go into left field.(Laughs) If you look at where Batman exists on a regular basis, I wanted to blow that out of the box. To get it out of Gotham was important to me. We had already played with the idea of the Chaos Shard so we had the continuity. I knew we could feed that into the Robin Rises story and use it to get Batman to a grand stage like Apokolips with crazy shit you don’t usually see.
Any Robin secrets you can divulge?
I can blink it you in Morse code. (Laughs) I’m really hoping people are satisfied with how it all plays out. Pat and I are wearing our hearts on our sleeve, and we’re trying to do right by the characters. In the end, when there is a Batman & Robin, we hope the people will think it’s awesome.