After nearly fifteen years on the comic book scene, Damian Wayne finally has a worthy adversary. No, it’s not the Joker. It’s not Penguin or Poison Ivy, and it’s definitely not the League of Assassins (please).

It’s Howard.

Batman and Robin and Howard is a whimsical, middle school-set tale due out later this year from cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, the artist behind the mega-successful Darth Vader and Son and Jedi Academy books. Lifting the veil on Batman’s behind the scenes relationship with his son as they balance their roles as crimefighters with that of being a family, it offers a down-to-earth look at Gotham’s two most famous heroes packed with laughs, whimsy and clever life lessons sure to please fans of Batman and Brown alike.

The still in-progress graphic novel focuses on Robin after the Boy Wonder finds himself benched by his dad and enrolled in a new middle school where he soon strikes up a rivalry with the smartest and most athletic kid on campus, Howard. Damian is used to confronting super-villains and patrolling the mean streets of Gotham, but navigating the pitfalls of middle school social life? Well, let’s just say it’s not his strong suit. Still, how can he possibly expect his father to let him return to being Robin if a non-powered, completely ordinary kid can do everything he can do and more? Isn’t Robin supposed to be the best?

Aimed at middle school readers, but offering plenty for older fans as well, Batman and Robin and Howard is Brown’s first book for DC. Like much of his earlier work, it blends his colorful, kid-friendly art and gentle storytelling style with a franchise that’s better known these days for its darkness and action, resulting in a Batman and Robin book unlike any other. To find out how it came together, we spoke with Brown about the idea, who filled us in on what we can expect from Howard, whether we’ll be seeing any of Batman’s famous super-villains and what it would be like to have the Caped Crusader for a dad.

Let’s start with the basics, what is Batman and Robin and Howard about?

Superhero sidekick Robin is Damian Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne—who is, of course, Batman. Damian has just been transferred to a new school where he becomes rivals with Howard, who’s a natural leader and top student. To top it off, Batman gets captured, but Damian isn’t allowed to go out as Robin by himself on school nights. Howard doesn’t know any of that about Damian, though, he’s just dealing with some hotshot kid coming and upsetting his life at school.

How did you get the idea of telling this sort of story with the characters of Batman and Robin?

I actually had the basic story kicking around for years—two all-star teenagers who start as rivals but end up becoming friends to save homecoming. When I had the chance to do a book with DC Kids, that story finally came together in my mind. Robin seemed like the perfect character to throw into the situation—someone used to being the best, only to realize sometimes they were only second best.

It’s fascinating that Robin would feel threatened by a normal kid like Howard. What can you tell us about him?

Howard is one of the top students at school—friendly, hard-working, popular—but he’s also just a typical kid. Robin’s dad is Batman, though, and that’s a pretty high standard to live up to. Especially when middle school is hard enough!

You get the sense that Batman can defeat just about any villain, but he really struggles with being a father. Did you want to explore that with Batman and Robin and Howard?

I thought it would be funny to see Batman—who in most versions is so ultra-cool and awesome—have to be in situations where no matter who he is or what he does, he is going to be totally awkward. My older son is 14 now and I’m having to come to grips with the idea that I may never be cool again. Unless I can become a cool old person like Alfred.

Let’s talk villains! Will we be meeting any new ones in Batman and Robin and Howard?

There is a new villain, but I’ll leave readers to find out who it is. The biggest threats to the heroes may be themselves in the end, whether it’s Robin being insecure, or Batman having the wrong items in his utility belt.

What do you think is more frightening? The streets of Gotham or the halls of your average middle school?

I still think the streets of Gotham are slightly more frightening. At least in middle school you can hang out with your friends without your grades being decided by Two-Face flipping a coin!

Do you think Batman and Darth Vader would have some good parenting tips for each other?

I think they’d spend less time exchanging advice and more time just complaining about how hard it is being a parent. And they’d do it in those deep gravelly voices, which for some reason I think instead of being intimidating would be completely adorable.

Batman and Robin and Howard by Jeffrey Brown will be available everywhere books and comics are sold on November 9, 2021.

So, what do YOU think Robin was like in middle school? Let us know your thoughts on Batman and Robin and Howard over in the DC Community!