Tom King Talks Batman #32 And Where Bruce And Selina Go From Here

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The 32nd issue of DC Comics Batman series from writer Tom King and artist Mikel Janin concluded the “War of Jokes and Riddles” story and gave readers Catwoman’s answer to Bruce’s proposal.

It’s going to be a new chapter for the Dark Knight and those closest to him, and the future is still uncertain for the guardians of Gotham City. But before issue #33 -- and a brand new arc -- begins on Oct. 18, I wanted more insight on issue #32 and what the near future holds for Bruce and the family.

I caught up with King at New York Comic-Con and (after some light teasing about me wearing a Green Arrow hat to a Batman interview) we got down to the nitty gritty of what’s going on in Bruce’s life.

NOTE: the following interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Player.One: How did you pitch the idea to have Batman get so close to killing the Riddler to Dan Didio and Jim Lee (or whoever)?

Tom King: I had to pitch it to myself, that was the first person to make that big change. I was like, “what would make Batman do this?” You’re dealing with a Batman who is in his first year, this isn’t the Batman of today. So you have a little wiggle room for him to make mistakes.

My kid’s name is Charlie, after Charlie Brown because I’m a nerd, and so the one thing that would turn me is threatening my child or the death of my child. I thought of that scene when he’s looking at Kite Man’s kid, whose name is also Charlie, and I was like “that’s it, that pitch works for me.”

That’s what this is about, that moment when he’s watching this child, a child the Riddler killed, and he realized that the Riddler did that for fucking nothing. For a joke? To make the Joker laugh? And at the same time the Riddler said, “I don’t even care about you, Batman, I’ll throw you in the ditch someday, you’re nothing. I’m just doing this for fun.” That would do it. If someone said “I would kill your kid just for fucking fun,” ugh!

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Batman had enough of the Riddler after what he did to Kite Man's son. Photo: DC Comics/Mikel Janin

What’s interesting about that is, once he’s been there, it sticks with him, as we saw with his scenes with Catwoman. Have you thought about whether Batman can be brought back to that point of almost killing? What if it was his own kid?

What’s interesting is his connection to the Joker. If you go back, Batman’s had some moments, he was a killer in the Bob Kane stuff. If you read “Ten Nights of the Beast” he locks some guy in the basement and never comes back. So those kinds of moments have been done before.

What makes that moment special to me is the idea that he tries to do it; he crosses a line and it’s the Joker that pulls him back. And so, his greatest villain saved him from becoming a villain. Batman and Joker have always been a dark reflection of each other, but somehow the Joker’s madness saves Batman. I think it’s essential to that character and I think it’s something big and new that we can add without changing the fundamentals of who he is.

Why did it have to be Joker?

Two things. I came into Batman with Batman ‘89 the movie and with The Killing Joke. I was way too young, but that was the first Batman story I read. And when I came to Batman, it was always Batman and the Joker, that was the foundation for that character for me. And if you look at Batman #1, it’s a Joker and Catwoman story. So when I write Batman, I want to talk to the 78-year history of that character, and going back to issue #1, these are still the most important people in his life. And me writing the third Batman #1 ever, it’s always been about those two characters, Joker and Catwoman.

The second part of that is, no other character would save Batman. The Penguin isn’t raising his hand, Zsasz is not raising his hand, Bane isn’t raising his hand. They want Batman dead. Joker raises his hand and you ask, “why does Joker raise his hand?” That’s the one thing about Joker, he’s the only character in fiction, and I’ve been writing fiction for six years now, there’s no why. He doesn’t need a why. Like the shit that just went down in Las Vegas, the worst thing that’s ever happened, and we’re all asking why? Why the fuck would that ever happen? What would get into that guy’s mind? With Joker, he is that psychotic. There’s no why to it, it’s just because.

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Joker stopping Batman from doing the unthinkable. Photo: DC Comics/Mikel Janin

Speaking of Catwoman, she had a big part in this issue as well.

I stole that from an old novel, from Tess of the d’Urbervilles. It’s an old 19th-century novel about these two characters and they’re in love and then they are like, “Before we get married I need to confess.” And the guy’s like, “I cheated on you, I had all these affairs” and she’s like, “I still love you.” Then Tess says, “I had one affair” and he says “fuck you, go away.” [Laughs] That’s that 19th-century shit.

[Laughs] That’s a double standard for sure.

Definitely.

But did hearing Batman’s confession make her decision easier?

No, I don’t think it made her decision easier… that’s a tough question, if it made her decision easier or harder. I have this quote in the book where Batman says, “I have to love you, you don’t have to love me.”

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Bruce and Selina have a heart-to-heart Photo: Mikel Janin, DC Comics

When I got engaged with my wife, we were living together, we were together for a few years, I was going off to war. I was going to get down on a knee, it was all romantic. 100 percent she was going to say yes, I was 100 percent sure and I was fucking scared out of my mind that she would say no.

If you look at it logically, of course she’s going to say yes. What was she going to do? Move out the next day? We were madly in love with each other. But, in my mind, I was scared out of my wits that she would say no. I think that’s the attitude when you’re madly in love with someone, “I have to love you I have no choice,” but it’s hard [to believe] in my mind that someone will have the same feeling for me. But I think Catwoman does have that same feeling about Batman, I think that’s the revelation. It’s like “who cares?” All this shit, I have to do the same thing you do, we have to be together. It’s not about our pain, it’s about our love.

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Selina gives Bruce her answer. Photo: Mikel Janin, DC Comics

Where do they go as a couple from here?

To hell and back. [Laughs]

From here we go to the rest of the DCU, in the next issue the family finds out. We have Nightwing, we have Jason, we have Damian. And you know Catwoman’s still wanted for 237 murders in current continuity. That’s tough to get married and bring your wife home to your mom and she Googles her and sees “237 murders? Oh shit!” So he has to solve that problem.

After that we go to the Justice League. What does Superman think? What do Superman and Lois Lane think of this? Green Lantern’s like the world’s greatest bachelor. There’s so much reaction, this is a world you’ve never seen before in Batman and we combine all that emotional shit with the world exploding, and that’s how you make comics.

What does Green Arrow think? [Laughs]

[Laughs] You know here’s the thing. Dan Didio calls me up to talk the future of the character and we’re talking about it and I'm like “aren’t you the guy who had Green Arrow stab Dinah on their wedding night? [Laughs] I don’t know if you’re the one I should be talking to on this.”

Batman #33 is available Oct. 18. 

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