There's a certain way these kind of long-lead reveals in comics work: in the best situations, neither the comic creators (or us covering the comics) want to spoil the big reveals, but at the same time, the publishers want just enough tantalizing details about the big secret (whatever it may be) to keep readers readers invested for the couple of months until the issue in question comes out. So it goes with James Robinson in our chat yesterday about the Batman of DC Comics' Earth 2, whose identity will be revealed in May's first "Earth 2" annual.
Look, Robinson's not going to spill the beans about who's under the cowl (but we can safely assume it's not Bruce), but he did tell us a little about how this character operates and he wants readers to be assured that the character will be sticking around: "He's a huge part of 'Earth 2,' he's going to be a huge part of the DC Universe, and everything he does from the Annual onward will have huge implications for the DC Universe."
For Robinson, a writer steeped in the lore of the DCU, this kind of legacy and long-term relevance seems to be very important. As much as he seems to be looking forward to the lasting impact of his character on the universe that he says DC Editorial is allowing him to create pretty much whole-cloth, he's often very aware of the deep threads of history of these characters in their many permutations. With that in mind, if it's not Bruce acting as the Batman of the parallel universe of "Earth 2," he doesn't want it to be some random character no one has heard of. "This isn't some new person coming in to be Batman," Robinson assures readers, "This is definitely a part of Batman lore."
On creating the history of "Earth 2" by himself, Robinson says that on one hand, he's very free to tell new stories and build histories from scratch for characters like Green Lantern Alan Scott and Flash Jay Garrick, but it also comes with the headaches of knowing where every little thread he creates goes. "Every little tweak and change, I have to make sure I record it, make sure that it adds up to a real total."
I asked him what the key was to writing some of these characters that most readers have, in his words, only seen with gray hair at their temples: he says it comes down to imagining what they were like in their prime as young superheroes and bringing those core characteristics into the present day. Jay Garrick, for instance, is in a way a distillation of some of the early Wally West stories--in "Earth 2" he's a young guy who's alternately unsure of himself but very earnest about his crime fighting mission. "I do my best to make that character a young, idealistic hero... who's beginning to inspire other people." Alan Scott, on the other hand was, by Robinson's estimation, a type-A personality: an engineer, a reporter, an overachiever. When it comes to Al Pratt (The Atom), though, for this bombastic character, Robinson combined qualities of "Justice Society" members Atom Smasher, Al Pratt, and Damage into one character. "But some of what you see of that character is what you saw in the 1940's," he adds.
So let's get back to Batman again for a moment. Maybe the clue to the character is in his eyes: I suggested that his red eyes might speak to the disposition of the character, a version of Batman more willing to do harm (a la Thomas Wayne in "Flashpoint") but Robinson said that this wasn't the case: in fact, they actually provide this new Batman with a virtual advantage detailing tactical data including his foes' weak points. "The Batman of Earth 2 is a very strategic character," Robinson adds, "Working out what is the best way that [he] can defeat this villain, save these people, do the right thing."
So could he be someone out of Batman's past like Alfred or Thomas Wayne taking up the mantle of the Caped Crusader? Or perhaps its an existing name with an amalgam of qualities from Batman's history? We'll find out when "Earth 2" Annual #1 is on shelves May 28.