With Batman’s quest to resurrect his deceased son and former Robin, Damian Wayne, taking him to Apokalips, a showdown with Darkseid was inevitable. Batman came packin’, though, as we saw him don a heavy duty armored Bat-suit that gave him immense power at the cost of his own life force. This story has been unfolding in the pages of both Batman and Robin by writer Pete Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason and Robin Rises: Omega/Alpha also by Tomasi with art by Andy Kubert. This week’s issue #37 will see Batman face off with Darkseid as the fate of Robin hangs in the balance.
Tomasi is also the new writer on Superman/Wonder Woman, starting with issue #13, and he’s kicked off a brand new story that ended with the mysterious Wonderstar popping up.
We hopped on the phone with Tomasi to hear about the New 52 Darkseid, that new Bat-armor, and his take on the Superman/Wonder Woman romance.
IGN Comics: Let’s talk about Batman and Robin. The cliffhanger of the last issue, we saw a shadow of someone who looked like Darkseid. Was that Darkseid, and will we see him in the next issue?
Pete Tomasi: Yes we will. That was definitely the very distinctive shape of our buddy Darkseid. I think in the solicits too there was the cover, a really great shot that Pat did of Batman poised atop a bunch of bodies and Darkseid kind of looming above him. So yeah, no spoilers here: it’s Batman versus Darkseid.
IGN: Darkseid is also showing up in Earth 2: World’s End, and Geoff Johns has teased the Darkseid War coming up in Justice League. What can you say about how DC is now putting Darkseid in the comics after all these years of him being referenced but remaining off-page?
Tomasi: When it rains it pours. I don’t know, it’s weird, like some kind of zeitgeist where suddenly everybody’s using him. Believe it or not, I had planned on using Darkseid about two years ago, when I pitched Batman going to Apokalips. Then other stuff was evolving with Earth 2, so we were all trying to make sure that we didn’t step on each other’s toes too much. It was one of those situations. Obviously Darkseid was sort of in that chamber; he was still recovering from the battle he suffered with the Justice League back in Geoff and Jim [Lee]’s run early on in the opening of the New 52. But yeah, it’s weird how things play out that way sometimes. I’m glad I was able to use him. It’s a lot of fun to be up there and be able to use Darkseid and see Pat bring him to life. It’s been fun writing some of those great Kirby characters.
IGN: How is the New 52 Darkseid different from the pre-New 52 Darkseid from before? Where’s his head at now?
Tomasi: I think his head is still the exact same head. [Laughs] I haven’t had a chance yet to read a lot of the stuff that’s about to come out with Darkseid. I’ve just got the broad strokes. But he’s still the big badass of Apokalips. He’s one of those characters where there’s already such a great template in place. I think there’s some shadings and things you can always do with every character, but I think he’s still the Darkseid we all know and love. He has the same hopes, dreams and aspirations.
IGN: [Laughs] Good ol’ Darkseid, that big dreamer.
Tomasi: Yep, Mr. Happy.
IGN: Totally. Sounds like you’ve got him down pat; can’t wait to read it. [Laughs]
Tomasi: Yeah, wait ’til you see it. He has a great pet dog that he loves, and he’s picking flowers in the Apokalips garden. He’s a real family guy.
IGN: [Laughs] I was really impressed with the Bat-armor. Pat did a great job of drawing that. What was it like designing that with Pat and coming up with all the new abilities, like the Bat-cape that can turn into a swarm of attack-bats?
Tomasi: Right. It was sort of just one of those things. We knew we had to have Batman a bit more reinforced, so to speak, once he went up to Apokalips. It was also organic. When I was rereading Justice League, the Jim and Geoff stuff, it sort of made sense to me. In those early years and after all the battles they had gone through, it made sense that they’d see this guy who didn’t have a power — didn’t have super speed, wasn’t Superman or Wonder Woman — and he was a human under that suit. He was sort of in that first arc — I mean, he’s basically just, he doesn’t even have his mask and cowl on; he’s just out there as Bruce Wayne, on Apokalips. So it made sense to me that Bruce along with the Justice League would try to construct something for him, and they would all be able to have a hand in it.
You know, when something really uber and major came to light, he’d be able to have something that would allow him to get into the mix a little bit more, on an even power level, to a degree. So I was talking with Pat about it, and he just started doing some great sketches and cool stuff. The real key was just saying, “Look, let’s just not keep anything in the box. Whatever we can make the suit do, let’s make it do. Let’s not get too caught up in –” I hate to say the word “logic” — but “let’s embrace the comic form and the craziness of comic books. Let’s have it do some crazy stuff,” like having the cape just turn into little mini nano-bats. We’ve got a couple cool bits coming up in #37 too where we see, when he’s taking on Darkseid, what it can do. It was a lot of fun to mix it up.
IGN: Looking forward to seeing that. There was another great scene where the Robins calmed Batman down with their emblems. That was a really powerful scene. Can you talk about the importance of Robin to Batman and how those former Robins and Batgirl were able to have that effect on him?
Tomasi: Yeah, it was just a very key and emotional scene that I knew I had to have. We had him raging and just going completely crazy, and just so singleminded and purposeful as he tore through anything that was in his way. Of course, Batman is that character; he won’t kill. To me too, even Robin — they were all there. The Bat Family’s an anchor. They came and wiped Parademon blood from his eyes for a second, in a symbolic way, and said, “Hey, hey. You’re here. Focus in on what you need to do and don’t get caught up in letting your rage overtake you. You’re here for a reason, as we are. Let’s just focus in.”
To me, to have those guys — in a weird way, that was my main purpose to have them there, was to be able to sort of just, once again, with that Robin symbol in their hand, which was almost like a flashlight. It’s that hope that youth brings. It’s just, “Hey, remember what you’re here for. You’re here to get Damian. Let’s get through this darkness and get back into the light.”
IGN: Speaking of Damian, we saw his coffin floating around inside that cannon. Could you explain what we’re seeing there and what all those other artifacts were in the background?
Tomasi: Right, right. Basically what we’re looking at is Robin’s sarcophagus. He was powered up. Talia had a piece of the Chaos Shard that she used to power up her island years ago and also used to speed up Damian’s aging and all that stuff. So Damian’s body is sort of imbued with Chaos energy. Think of him as another bullet, which is just adding to this big-ass gun. The more bullets he can put into it, the better. So it’s trying to absorb the Chaos sliver that’s a part of Damian. It’s obviously sucking energy from the actual Choas Shard that they’ve also put in there, and all these other elements that kind of power up this gun, this big weapon that they can use to destroy planets and absorb a planet’s power and energy and life-force.
So that Kalibak is trying to help his dad, basically, recover from the wounds he suffered from the Justice League. So one of the reasons I brought Kalibak back into the story, and even Darkseid, was really just another flip of a coin, another side of the father/son relationship, and just looking at it from that perspective. Even Darkseid and Kalibak, there is a father/son relationship, but obviously a bit dysfunctional — as is Damian’s and Bruce’s in its own way. But just having all these different father/son relationships in play, that was a lot of fun to work with.
IGN: Could you actually talk a bit more about Darkseid/Kalibak dynamic? How do they feel about each other?
Tomasi: You know, in the one scene it’s really Kalibak looks at himself as — he’s always that son trying to prove to his father, like a lot of sons early on, that he’s worthy, that he’s worthy of his bloodline. God forbid Darkseid’s not around and he takes over the mantle of being the ruler of Apokalips, which in a weird way he has been for a little bit of time now while Darkseid’s been healing. So he’s trying to prove to his dad, “Hey, I kept the trains running on time here on Apokalips while you were gone. At the same time, I’m doing my best to bring you back to full speed, to restore your health.” He loves his father. He really just wants his respect and love just as much as Bruce and Damian react in that same way.
IGN: We already know that Damian is going to come back, but with a twist — you announced it yourself. How did you feel about having to break the news early?
Tomasi: It’s never fun to have to reveal something like that, at a junket you maybe weren’t incredibly comfortable with. At the same time, once it’s out there, you embrace it, and you see the energy behind it from the fans who are that excited. I was in Paris recently for the comic expo. The amount of people there were just expressing their joy and happiness at seeing Damian coming back and knowing that things are obviously going to be a little changed, knowing the bullets are bouncing off of him, knowing that stuff is coming up. It kind of took the sting out of it being revealed a little early. It was sort of that situation where you see something come out, and at first you’re kind of bumming out because it’s like, “Hey, kid. Vader is Luke’s father,” three months ahead of time, before you put your butt in the seat.
It was such a big reveal, at first I was like, “Aw, man! This maybe ruins things.” But in the end it actually seems to have been something that the fans really got behind and embraced in a big way, which was nice. So that was great that they got excited to know that Damian was coming back. I’ve got to imagine most readers had imagined that, with such a long journey, obviously he had to be making an appearance after this big journey through Apokalips was done. I sure wasn’t gonna put Bruce through the wringer like this and then say, “Ah, well, it didn’t happen.” [Laughs] I think people knew Damian was coming back. I don’t think it was a question of “if;” it was a question of “when” and “how,” really.
IGN: I remember when Robin Rises was first announced you were very coy about it, you wouldn’t say which Robin was coming back. But now we know we’re actually getting Damian back.
Tomasi: Yeah, and I had to be coy. I had to play that card. The last thing you want to do is blow it completely out of the water. “Yes, he is coming back, and he will have superpowers, and a year from now you will see all that transpire.” [Laughs] You know that people are going to get a sense of what’s going to happen, but you want to just make sure that the journey is, you don’t know what’s around the corner at every turn. You want to play it up a little bit. We had a bunch of spinning plates. There was enough stuff happening in our book and other books that people could definitely say, “Hey, wait a second. Is Harper going to be Robin? Is Carrie Kelley going to be Robin?” So it kept things in a little bit of a question, which isn’t a bad thing.
Keep reading for Superman/Wonder Woman!