In 2016, writer Tom King concluded spectacular runs on THE OMEGA MEN and Vision, as well as his war-torn crime noir THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON. But he also began the most high profile comics project of his career so far when he took over writing duties for BATMAN, which along with continuing to be one of the most popular books on the stands also made the leap to a twice monthly title.
After a tone-establishing BATMAN: REBIRTH one-shot, King catapulted readers into “I Am Gotham,” the first chapter of a three part “I Am…” trilogy that introduced us to two new heroes, Gotham and Gotham Girl, as well as a spare storytelling style that eschews the internal monologs and frequent text boxes that are common in most superhero stories for a subtler, more character-driven approach. The result has been a greater sense of both urgency and poignancy than what we’re accustomed to seeing in Batman comics.
The first Batman trade collection of the Rebirth era, BATMAN VOL. 1: I AM GOTHAM, lands in stores today, offering fans who haven’t been reading a chance to see what all of the buzz is about. But for fans who have, we offered King an opportunity to look back at “I Am Gotham” as well as expand on what lies ahead. Please note that the below interview contains spoilers if you haven’t yet read his first storyline.
Congrats on an amazing first arc. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Gotham and Gotham Girl, but in the end they broke my heart. How big of a role will Claire be playing in Batman’s story going forward?
She’s in it for the long term. She’s in there till the end of these three stories we’re doing: “I Am Gotham,” “I Am Suicide” and “I Am Bane.” She’s the driving force behind them. But unfortunately, she’s sort of out of commission for most of it. She’s been infected by the Psycho Pirate’s fear. She needs to get that out of her head and the only one who can do that is the Psycho Pirate himself. So to save Claire—to save this one last remnant of this hope he has in issue #1—Batman has to find Psycho Pirate, and that mission leads him directly into Bane.
You ended issue #5 with a pretty cryptic voiceover given by Claire. Is that basically what you’re building towards with your story? When will we find out more about what she was talking about?
I am building towards that! At the end of issue #5, Claire talks about how she and Duke get married and that she basically kills Batman. That’s a huge story, and it’s going to play out for a long time. I don’t want to give it a limit because it’s going to be the underlying rumblings of my entire run on Batman.
Grant Morrison said it best. He said during your run you have to give Batman a death and you have to give him a birth. We gave him a birth, that was issue #1, and we’ll eventually give him a death.
I find it interesting that Psycho Pirate has played such a key role in these first two storylines. He’s kind of a fringe character. Was it always your plan to use him? Are you a Psycho Pirate fan?
I don’t think of him as a fringe character. He plays a huge part in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. That’s where I was first introduced to him. He’s the guy who kills Barry Allen! So he’s played a role in the DCU for years. And then Grant Morrison took him into ANIMAL MAN and made him the one character in all of DC continuity who can remember the Multiverse. He remembers what happened beforehand. So he has both those aspects of him—he’s played a key role in this huge crossover and he also has this bizarre memory. He’s this huge character…and he’s a wimp. He’s a nobody! He’s terrible. He’s always manipulated by other people.
After Jessica Jones came out, I think people saw the seriousness of the Purple Man and the idea that one person who could take over a mind could take over the world. That’s what Psycho Pirate can do. I just think there’s a lot there. It wasn’t a tough pick.
Batman is now over 75 years old. There are so many stories that have been written about him before you got your chance at the character. As a writer, how do you tackle a character like that? With respect to everything that’s come before, how do you tell a story knowing how many other great Batman stories are out there?
There are a few things you do. First of all, if you’re not writing from truth or writing from yourself, then it’s meaningless. Everybody’s experienced Batman, but they haven’t experienced my Batman. They haven’t experienced a Batman through the lens of a guy who was in the CIA, who’s seen some crazy, sad, weird, wonderful crap and gone through the experience of my life. So that’s part of it. You put yourself into it.
The other half of it is that you use that 75-year history to make it awesome. That’s not a weakness of this character, the fact that everything’s been done before. That’s a strength. You can build upon all of that. I can have a scene with Kite Man—a one-page scene in issue #6—and it’s so much fun and wonderful because Kite Man’s a character from thirty years ago that fans remember fondly. You take that history and you make it work for you. You show all of that stuff—all of those writers and all of their contributions. You find what’s essential to them and why it stuck.
Finally, of all of Batman’s qualities and attributes, what’s the one that really speaks to you?
To me, it’s his mortality. It’s the idea that he could die—that he’s human. There’s something about Superman and Wonder Woman that says to me that they go on forever. If you came to Earth one hundred years from now, Superman and Wonder Woman would still be here. But Batman’s like one of us, right? He can die. He has that risk factor to him, and every time he goes out at night, he faces that and still triumphs over it. That just makes him the most human character in the DCU to me, the idea that he’s not a god. He lives among the gods and tries to do his best.
BATMAN VOL. 1: I AM GOTHAM
Batman is back in an all-new series from rising star Tom King! The Dark Knight Detective must save Gotham from its newest threatâ€¦another vigilante hero!