We know that April is meant to be a month full of crazy happenings in the DC Comics titles. Little by little, we've been seeing the gatefold cover reveals for those issues. It was announced earlier that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray were taking over BATWING. What we later discovered is they plan on introducing a new Batwing into the title. Who is this character? We have no idea except for the cover images that have been released.
We got the opportunity to talk to the two and tried to pry as much information out of them as possible. It all begins in BATWING #19.
Comic Vine: How did you guys get involved writing BATWING?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We were asked to pitch our idea. We were asked if we were interested in the book, what would we do? We just figured we'd hit them with the craziest concept we could. Dan [DiDio], Bob [Harras], Mike [Marts] and all those guys loved what we pitched to them. And then we got the gig, which was awesome. It sounds really simple but it's a long and involved process.
CV: What can you tell us or tease about this new Batwing? Is it a new character or someone we've seen?
Justin Gray: It's a new character but you may have seen him. I know that's a half-assed answer and we're being vague and ambiguous about the whole thing but it's a new guy. It's not David Zavimbe. With issue 19, essentially we wanted to make sure we respected all the fans that have been reading the previous 18 issues with David as the star. We felt that with the way the book was going, it just needed a different approach to it. It's a different take on how we would do the character and it's important to pull him in tighter to the Batman Universe. We're making his connection to Batman stronger than just being a 'chosen one.' Which is obviously an honor in itself and we do play on that with the new Batwing.
The idea was it's not just the Batman of Africa or the Batman of Paris. It had to feel like it was important to the character. There had to be something of a risk, which we haven't discussed. There's a measure of risk with this character for Batman himself and other people. That's one of the things we really like about the story. It's not just about a secret identity as a necessary tool for the superhero. In this case, the secret identity is vital to the character, his superhero life and his personal life. It felt natural and exciting for us to work on that.
JP: And who doesn't want to see Alfred in the Bat-suit?
JP: I'm kidding, of course.
CV: How much concern do you have over fans of the previous version?
JP: We were always very concerned because you don't want to lose an established audience. We have a respect for our fellow writers. With issue 19, what we did is we kind of took the book and David, the main character, to a logical place. Meaning, it's not a left field ending. It's a very logical wrap up to what David's been going through and at the same time it makes sense to where the book is going to go in the future. It was a very difficult issue to write in a way because we had to make sure we were not only respectful but we're also tying up all the stories that have been going on.
We know there are a certain numbers of fans that have been reading it and we don't want them to go, "Ugh, I've been reading it for this long and now look at what happened." We wanted them to be like, "Oh we've been reading it for this long and how cool it is that this is happening to the book." It was important for us to consider the history of what's been going on and also taking the character to the next step. I think we did it gracefully in issue 19 and with 20, it's a whole new ballgame of madness going on.
CV: Will David be in the book at all?
JP: David's in 19…We wanted to have an open door policy with that character. The way we leave him, the world's open to that character. I will say it's not the last time you see David. How about that?
CV: Will the character have the knowledge to repair the suit if it gets damaged?
JG: Hmmm….that's an excellent question. Maybe the suit repairs itself. That's a possibility.
CV: Will we see new villains, old ones or a mix?
JG: A mix.
JP: We wanted to use Lion-Mane, we had used Lion-Mane previously in HAWKMAN. I think the whole theme of this is the next version, the next progression. With Lion-Man we really loved the character. We did what we did with Hawkman but now maybe, since we have the opportunity, maybe we could do the next upgrade on who Lion-Mane is, visually, personality-wise and make him have even more of a presence. He won't just be a dude that looks like a lion in a loincloth.
CV: What about a base of operations?
JP: The book ties in a lot more with the Batman Universe. We do have him in Africa but we're thinking of the character in a more global sense and less in a specific locale. Maybe we'll call him the international…
JG: We have the ability to be local in Gotham or global in anywhere in the world
JP: He's not going to be specific to Africa but we're not going to say he won't be there either. It's going to take a different step than the previous issues in where we're going to put him. It's going to be for a reason. It's not like we're just throwing him someplace else. It actually makes sense with who the character is. The shift is going to be more on who he is and who Batwing is and less of where he is.
JG: We want it to be more character driven than worrying about if he's the Batman of Africa or the Batman of Timbuktu or the Batman of the Moon. We really need to establish this character and why he's important to Batman and the Batman Universe.
JP: I so want to do Batman of the Moon now. I think Moon Batman would be the best Batman ever.
CV: How much of Batman or other Bat-characters can we expect to see?
JP: Oh, we're going to see plenty of him.
JP: The Batman Family, you're going to see them very involved.
JG: He's his own person but his relevance to Batman and the situation he puts Batman in and Batman by sort of choosing this person, Batman basically puts his own ass on the line by doing this. There are things that if they go wrong, there will be huge repercussions. That was one of the things we loved about this character and about the book in moving forward.
It's exciting to not only have the secret identity thing, which is usually just a formula or window dressing for superheroes, here it means something. It's not a throw away line, "I don't want my friends to get hurt." His secret identity has to be protected otherwise there could just be a storm of problems that impact everyone around him.
JP: This book, if anyone ever felt it was outside the circle of the other Bat-books and Gotham, in any way, as of issue 19 and 20, that's gone. It's right in the heart of everything going on.
JG: And we didn't want that Batman's Club feeling to it. We didn't want them going, "Oh okay, let's meet at Batman's place and get our marching orders." We wanted it to feel like this character is his own person and is part of that group. He's wanted to be part of that group and now has the opportunity to and desperately doesn't want to screw it up.
Who is the new Batwing? We'll have to wait until April 3, when BATWING #19 goes on sale.