Although there are several brilliant minds on the Justice League, Batman is often seen as having one of the keenest and most cunning brains both in DC Comics and across comic book lore. During the “Darkseid War” storyline currently running through the Justice League title and a series of one-shots, we see a Dark Knight whose knowledge was been increased a hundred fold, becoming the God of Knowledge after sitting in the New God Metron’s Moebius Chair. However, as we see in Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman #1, knowledge and wisdom don’t always go hand-in-hand
I recently spoke with writer Peter Tomasi and artist Francis Manapul about how well Batman is handling his newfound power, how dispassionate he really is when dispensing justice, and how much fun the writer and artist are having using the creations that legendary creator Jack Kirby brought to life.
FreakSugar: Peter, since the events in the Darkseid War, Batman is now the God of Knowledge, perched on Metron’s Moebius chair. We see Bruce as going about, stopping crimes before they start, but Commissioner Gordon and Alfred are worried what the chair is doing to him. How do you think Gotham at large views this new Batman and his proactive outlook?
Peter Tomasi: The people of Gotham don’t have much time to process it at this point. In terms of the timeline, it’s literally been two or three days, if that, since Batman’s been on the chair. It’s been a real whirlwind since we saw him in the Justice League and the time he’s in my one-shot. It’s just been a few days. And in those few days, he’s been going crazy and working his magic and putting down crime before it starts. So, Gotham hasn’t had much time to process it.
Of course, there is talk about an overworked justice system, as Gordon says. He tells Batman that he can’t bring in criminals based on what they might do. Just the sight of Batman or anyone in a floating chair has to have some people talking. [laughs]
FS: Francis, the art you’ve been doing throughout this story has been phenomenal, and I was really stricken by the beauty of the cover for the Batman one-shot. What is the composition process like on creating these covers? How do you approach the art?
Francis Manapul: I guess the process for the cover came out of the Justice League [“Darkseid War” tie-in] issues with [writer] Geoff Johns. Those issues focused on the team and the one-shots focused on the individual characters themselves. Each story is very different, so what I did to tie it all together was use patterns that are very Jack Kirby-esque, because we’re playing with Fourth World characters that Kirby created when he came to DC Comics. This is one of the first big stories in the New 52 that’s dealing with this world. What I’ve tried to do with the covers and the interior of the book was to give it that kind of old-school feel so we’re using patterns in the way that Kirby addressed technology. I like to think I just drew it in a modern way, so there’s a nice contrast to that. At the end of the day, it’s just a way of trying to find a connection to all of these tie-in books. Even though each book is focused on an individual, we wanted to make sure that the stories felt connected.
FS: You mentioned Kirby, and we all know he was such a powerhouse of ideas. How much fun was it to play in that sandbox he helped create?
FM: It’s pretty daunting. The Fourth World kind of signified Kirby’s entrance into the DC Universe. It was this very ambitious story that he had and he had a very larger-than-life art style. I’m used to doing a quieter style. With the covers and interiors, I was trying to do something like he would do. At the same time, I don’t think I can do things as dynamically as he can, so I just tried to find iconic moments and infuse them with some of his design elements. It’s pretty daunting to do something like that.
PT: I’ve played with the New God stuff previously, so this issue may have not been as daunting as Francis playing with the stuff. I had done some stuff with the New Gods with [writer] Grant Morrison on the comic Mister Miracle and The Seven Soldiers of Victory. I’ve dipped my toe in the New Gods pool over the last couple years.
In terms of joy, I remember reading the New Gods comics as a kid and they were always so big and bombastic and iconic. To be able to play in that sandbox he created is always great. Obviously, it’s Batman and not Metron, but it’s still great. It’s interesting to see how this one element of Kirby, this Moebius Chair, could have a reverberation and ripple effect in the larger DC Universe. It’s fun to throw the classic sci-fi with Batman, who is obviously more a grim-and-gritty, non-superhero character in terms of powers. To suddenly give him this knowledge and power in the course of this issue and what Geoff Johns is going to do in Justice League with him is great and shows the lasting power and lasting influence that Kirby had in a really cool way and still be able to tell awesome stories.
FS: I was always a fan of the Batman sci-fi stories and this issue almost feels like an homage to that. You have the grim-and-gritty side to Batman, but it also felt like a nod to those stories.
PT: I think that’s one of the great things about Batman as a character. You can pretty much put him in any scenario and it works. It’s always nice to pull him out of a Gotham story and add a sci-fi element and he still works as a character each and every time.
FS: In his dealings with Joe Chill, who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents, we see that Batman isn’t totally dispassionate and removed from the micro as he would think he is. Even though Joe won’t remember the encounter, how do you think it will affect Bruce? Is there a catharsis going on there, or do you think he’s done himself more harm than good?
PT: I think, based on when I came up with the idea, Geoff really liked it and enjoyed it. Who knows? It might have ripple effects in the coming stories. It was one of those things that got an emotional hook into the story fast, which is good when you want to look at the tragedy of why Bruce became Batman. It’s easy to be able to pull someone like a Joe Chill and make a great story out of it. Like you said, it shows that the emotional aspect of Batman, even though he seems distant and handling things in a god-like way, is still there. He can turn his attention to something that affected him in such a profound way and have an effect on the person who caused that horrible tragedy.
FS: There’s a part of me that couldn’t help but think of the “Venom” storyline when Bruce is changed by the steroid and becomes more vicious. While he seems dispassionate here, he’s clearly using his power for vendettas. Does this maybe show why he shouldn’t have powers?
PT: I think that’s the very angle to explore. That’s the great thing about these characters. You can peel away layers and ask “what if?” scenarios. This Kirby element allows us to do just that, to pull away a layer of Bruce/Batman and explore how god-like power would affect his psyche, to hold a mirror up to it and ask what would Batman do with a power like this? Where would he go? It’s always fun to explore.
Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman #1, written by Peter Tomasi with Francis Manapul on art, is in comic shops now.