Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's "Batman and Robin" is about to take a nightmarish trip to the zoo courtesy of the "Death of the Family" crossover event. Throughout the post-New 52 issues of "Batman and Robin," the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damian has been tested by the villain Nobody, a $500,000,000 bounty placed on Damian's head by his mother Talia al Ghul, and plenty of other difficulties, yet, somehow it's managed to grow into something almost resembling a normal father-son dynamic...well, as normal as it can be when that dynamic is made up of the current Dynamic Duo. Now, in "Batman and Robin" #15, that growth might be further challenged by a purple, green, faceless, threat in the form of The Joker.
I spoke with Tomasi about "Batman and Robin's" tie-in to "Death of the Family," the humbling of Damian, and who, exactly this Joker is.
MTV Geek: "Batman and Robin" 15 is the first title that is tying into "Death of the Family," I have some preview pages here and see that Damian is going to go looking for Alfred. Can you tell us about that and give us an overview of what’s going to be happening?
Peter J. Tomasi: At this point everybody is out and about dealing with their own kind of private hells with The Joker and Batman is out there looking for Alfred and dealing with the Joker himself. At this point in time, Damian has been sequestered to the Cave and Bruce has said, "you gotta stay in the cave." He’s got a ransom on his head from Talia as we’ve seen in "Batman Inc." as well as "Batman and Robin" in the last couple of months. But Damian being Damian decides he can’t just sit idly by and not go out there and look for Alfred. So he takes it upon himself to go looking for him and it points him in a direction that leads him to the Gotham Zoo and the horror that unfolds there with the Joker is pretty intense.
GEEK: Aside from Bruce being worried about the bounty on Damian's head, at the end of issue 14 we see that Bruce is also worried about re-experiencing the tragedy of losing Jason Todd. Can you talk about how you’re tying that into this story?
PT: These two issues that I’m doing with that tie into "Death of the Family" are really deep psychological kind of aspects about the characters. So it’s really boiling down to, Bruce of course always has that fear, especially when The Joker takes the stage, he doesn’t want a Robin in the Joker’s sight so he’s trying to keep him out of it. It’s tough not to give away, there’s a lot of heavy stuff coming in. We all know that the Joker is going to get his hands on Robin, so to speak, so there is going to be some real crazy psychological stuff dealing with the Joker’s perspective on what the Robin stands for in "Batman and Robin" and how he sort of looks at it as a pure negative factor in Batman’s life and how he wants Robin to realize just what a burden he is to Batman.
GEEK: Also, at the end of issue 14 we see Bruce and Damian’s relationship is growing in kind of a sweet, interesting way. Can you talk about how their relationship is changing over the course of this book?
PT: Yeah. It was just organic, taking it from a point where they just didn’t understand each other and didn’t see eye to eye on anything. A real father-son relationship of two people just butting heads at every step of the way. I wanted, through the course of at least the first two years really watch them be at complete ends of the spectrum and then slowly bring them together in just a way that made sense, and not rush it, and it’s really important to just play that in a natural way. And I think just putting these things like Nobody in the mix and the rest of the villains that have come to pass along with the Joker, now it’s all kinda of solidified this tight bond that Bruce realizes he needs and that Damian realizes he needs. They come to that realization that they both need each other and they both love each other.
GEEK: Damian seems like he’s been humbled recently, is that your intention?
PT: Absolutely. It’s a ten-year-old kid who needs to see that, "guess what your father can be right." A person who’s lived a little longer than you can pull a blanket away from your eyes and let you realize that there some things that you’re doing that aren’t right and you need to work on it. It’s that strong person who’s got a strong will like Damian who can just think about that for second and really start to process. That’s what he does; he realizes that he needs to reach out too. He needs to give back some and not always be taking.
GEEK: Can you talk about working with the other writers of the Bat-family books?
PT: Well it basically started with Scott and I in the office with Mike one day and we were just talking about the Joker and we both had the same angle on the Joker, we both kinda saw him in the same way and we were both laughing about it. We just started to mess around thinking about it’d be cool to do a crossover where we start to affect the Bat-family and then I threw out the title, spinning off of a "Death in the Family" and just make it "Death of the Family" and Scott [Snyder] and [Editor] Mike [Marts] liked that. So from that we kind of just ran with it and Scott went off and came up with a cool document about his story and we all had a meeting at the DC offices with a bunch of the other writers and just started to build our own stories out of Scott’s main one. There’s been a good open communication, Mike and Rachel and the rest of editors, keep a nice open line of communication between everybody. That’s definitely helpful when you’re constructing an event like this.
GEEK: What’s your take on the Joker?
PT: My take is, he’s just a twisted demented guy. Which really plays into what this whole thing is, which is, he really looks at Batman as his opposite number that he should always be on stage with and that everything else is peripheral and he wants to just deal with the king, who is Batman. Everybody should just be washed aside and the game should be between him and Batman. In his own, of course demented way, we sort of at least in these two issues, really kinda clarify--there’s a lot of stuff happening so I’m just a little resistant about giving it away--but it just really boils down to the Joker being a smart, twisted dude who can just push people’s buttons and really make them jump and not just in a "Boo!" kinda of way, but more real. He makes them think and that plays into the whole arc of "Death of the Family" and as everybody will see as Scott wraps it up just what that title means.
GEEK: I know you said that it’s about to get very intense, at least for the next two issues. But I’ve felt that "Batman and Robin" isn’t necessarily light, but it's more "fun" than what Snyder and Capullo are doing with "Batman." Do you feel like this book serves as kind of a counter-balance, especially because of the relationship aspect between the Batman and Robin?
PT: I think the relationship really makes a difference in the books, it really kind of shines a contrast of the book 'cause when you've got a ten-year-old bouncing around, it does something to the Batman character himself, so it plays a lot differently than what Scott’s doing, which is Batman in a kind of solitary sort of mode where he, you don’t really see much of the Bat-family. With Robin on stage with him all the time, it’s been a constant. It adds certain lightness to it, a little levity here and there...but when you asked that question I started to think back...well maybe there’s not as much lightness when you go back to the Nobody arc and even some of the issues after that there are some light touchtones but it still plays with the Dark Knight theme. Damian is not a light character, he’s not Tim and he’s not Dick, so he’s a very different sort of Robin, so it’s playing off those things. I think it’s definitely had more dark moments than lighter ones and the next couple of issues are going to be heavy.
GEEK: I’m really looking forward to it; I think you’re doing a great job.
PT: Thank you, I really appreciate that, but shout out for Pat Gleason he’s just, talk about A game. I hoping now with a lot of eyes of this Joker stuff people will see Pat’s work on these two issues especially and just really say "Wow Gleason’s a kick ass, super A artist." I’m hoping that this starts the Pat Gleason fan club rolling.
GEEK: Can you talk about what his take on the Joker is?
PT: You’ll see in the issue itself, Pat plays the joker in a slightly different way. He’s looked at the face, the wearing the face as a mask in a very specific way. It actually seems even more horrifying, and I didn’t even think that was possible from Greg’s. It’s just crazily creepy and when we see the Joker going from sort of those light joking moods when he’s really playing with Robin and then going to these like outburst of pure horror and intensity, it’s just scary and Gleason just brings all that out and the Joker’s body language and expressions. I’m flipping through it right now and I’m just like, wow, there are a couple of panels here that are really going to shake people up and make them say "Wow I don’t think the joker has ever looked this creepy before."
GEEK: Thank you very much for you time, Peter.
"Batman and Robin" #15 is on sale December 12, 2012.