4: Getting Old With My Pal Batman

It feels like I’ve been on the verge of having a cold for the last week. 

My head feels heavier than it ought to. The internal pressure is off, and I’ve got enough going on in my sinuses to make me want to sniffle, but not enough to make a sniffle do anything. This has been true for a week, and shows no sign of changing. So I guess this is just my life. And now my tongue is swollen. So that’s a fun improvement.

I should probably let myself sleep a bit extra, but I don’t see that happening this week. Maybe Friday, if I’m very productive the next couple of days? But we’ll see.

I turn 32 on Saturday. That’s not really an age that means anything? I guess there’s always a bit of a feeling when you’re 30 or 31, that you’re still basically in your twenties. I don’t feel like I’m in my 20s anymore. I feel like a 30-something. My back hurts and I have gray hairs in my beard and on my head. I had a long serious conversation with a professional about saving money so I can buy a place to live in the next couple of years. When Sam and I talk about the future, weddings and babies don’t sound as scary as they used to. Hangovers last longer and are more debilitating. We have boxes of holiday decorations we put up every year.

I still feel like whatever horrible chrysalis transformation into an “adult” doesn’t happen until around 35. I still don’t have the responsibilities that come with “adulthood.” I can make a stupid purchase, or go on a trip to another country, and I only really need to make sure I still have wifi to turn in scripts, and that we have a dogsitter to take care of Khaleesi. The difference between now and 25 is that those “adult” responsibilities feel closer, more reasonable, and more comfortable rather than insane and mythical. Habits and traditions feel more worthwhile, and adventure feels like a nice thing every now and then, not a day-to-day requirement.

I don’t know. It’s nice. I like being in my 30s.

I’ve always had a bit of a weird relationship with my age. For a long time I was really impatient about getting older. I started writing for DC Comics when I was 23, and I’ve spent most of the last eight years as the youngest person in the writing pool at the company. I never liked being seen as the kid in the room, even when that’s absolutely what I was. I wanted to be in my 30s because I thought that was roughly around when people stop being surprised when you say how old you are. So I grew out my beard, and wore button-downs, and tried to act a bit older than I was, to varying degrees of success.

It was weird being a comics baby in a lot of ways.

Most of my industry friends when I was breaking in were a good decade older than me. They were dealing with marriage and babies and all sorts of grown up shit, while I was dealing with unrequited crushes and bar trivia. Now I’m having the grown-up conversations, while my older friends have kids approaching their teenage years. Time is a weird thing.

The most exciting thing to me in my 30s is that my generational cohort has shown up in mainstream comics, and they are making lots of cool shit.

There were always there in some capacity, particularly in all ages and YA spaces, and especially in the assistant editorial pools. But they were few and far between in the pages of books on the shelves at your local comic shop. But now those all ages and YA creators are working on and show-running cartoons, those assistant editors have shot up the editorial ladder, and a whole new group of creators and editors have come into the business with lots of amazing ideas. Now they’re writing and editing and drawing all these amazing comics I love to read.

It’s honestly really refreshing?

Obviously, generation cohorts are more useful as a marketing tool than as an actual tool to group real-world humans… And there’s a different kind of comic book generation totally separate to the real world generation (That’s where you’d mark me as a latter New 52/DCYou creator. I might have started in 2012, but I don’t think I did much that counted as my OWN until 2014 with Batman Eternal and The Woods.)

But I’ll always have a bit more of a connection with the folks who have the same cultural touchstones as me. Who grew up watching Cartoon Cartoon and Nicktoons. Who dicked around on AIM when they should have been doing their homework. Who had Livejournals and Xangas, and had to text using an alphanumeric keypad until after college. Our math of the world is a bit different than other generations. Our high school experience was different. We had a different relationship to the internet. It’s not about better or worse, it’s just speaking a common language.

I like reading comics written in that common language, with all that shared experience. I’m excited to see what our generation can do to our weird industry to make it better. Or even if we fail at that, I look forward to reading a whole bunch of really cool and strange comics that speak to my generation’s priorities.

But I’m also always keeping my eyes open for the ambitious Zoomer in their early-twenties who somehow breaks in earlier than they should, and starts doing cool shit. I think there should be way more young people in comics in general.

Okay. I’m just rambling now.

This is all to say that there is nothing special about turning 32, and I am excited to see family and friends this weekend and drink with them. But first I need to finish writing some comic books

BATMANNERY

Okay. This is the scary part. This is the part where there’s no turning back. Where there’s no more tinkering, and I need to just let go of the beast and hope you like it. 

Batman #86 goes to the printer this week. In just under a month, you’ll be holding it in your hands. Then it stops being hypothetical. It becomes real and I stop being the incoming Batman writer, and become the current Batman writer. I’ve been reading over a PDF of the full issue, brilliantly lettered by Clayton Cowles. Sometime in the next 24 hours it’ll be fully locked and out the door for good.

Some pages are already up. You may have seen this incredible spread by Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki, and Tomeu Morey on Twitter.

You may have also seen this amazing new cover to BATMAN #86. (The previously solicited 86 cover is now the cover to 88)

That Tony Daniel knows how to draw one hell of a Batman. The whole issue is gorgeous and I am exceptionally proud of it.

I’ve written a lot about my big crazy 20 page document. The one I wrote when I was first approved on the book. But, you may be surprised to learn that I didn’t just copy and paste all of that into the first issues of each of the artists I’ll be working with next year. So this is how I distilled it for Tony and Guillem. These are the core principles of my first story-arc, THEIR DARK DESIGNS, and the following one, which I almost gave DC Publicity an aneurysm by accidentally naming here…

1. Batman is an Action Horror Superhero Comic.

This is going to be the guiding principle for the story we’re telling, on every page of the book. This should feel like a scary book. The villains are Action Horror villains, and when Batman arrives on the page, he should feel scarier than all of them. I’m going to try and push every scene from a horror angle, and I hope you do the same. If any beat seems too ordinary, come at it from a scarier angle. 

2. Gotham is under construction. It is becoming something new. 

Gotham City is the Nightmare of New York City. I want to get back to that a bit. Part of how to do that, I think is with a bunch of cranes and half-built buildings jutting up into the sky… There’s a looming strangeness to all of that. Big spotlights. Big strange machinery looming, larger than life. Strange dusty fog in the air from 24/hour construction. Every time we see the city, we should see it under construction. Derelict buildings boarded up with signs saying that new developments are coming. But even the people should feel a bit under construction, to carry that forward thematically. They have broken arms, casts. Bandages. They wrap their faces to avoid the industrial smog. They have bruises and scars. Thematically, everyone is hurt, and healing, but the healing might make them different than they were before. With only one exception (the new Wayne Enterprises HQ), nothing is sleek and finished. Everything is in a transitional state, and we should FEEL that.

3. Bruce Wayne is pushing himself to his absolute limits.

Alfred was Bruce’s safety brakes. He made sure he ate. Slept. Socialized a little… Those brakes are now gone. Bruce is operating at 100MPH in every aspect of his life. Out of costume, we should see the deep shadows under his eyes. His intensity has dialed up by a factor of ten. He’s fighting angrier. Still deliberate and methodical, he’s not QUITE unhinged, but he’s fast approaching unhinged. There should be the sense both in costume and out of it that Bruce is pushing himself too far.

4. Gadgets Gadgets Gadgets

This is the culmination of the first three points, and something you’ll be seeing a lot over these issues. Batman’s costume hasn’t changed, but all of his tools have been redesigned and upgraded. These should be an extension of the action horror angle and Bruce pushing himself to his limits. Bruce’s mind is a frightening place right now and it is creating frightening things. Everything from a Batarang up to new Bat-Vehicles need to look nightmarish, and part of the action horror nightmare city that is Gotham in 2020.

Okay… Just a few more weeks. I am excited when these bad boys are coming out every couple of weeks and I can show script excerpts and upcoming panels and all of that… I think you may be finding out another amazing artist joining the team in the next solicits, which are probably this week or next?

Oh, and also I want to mark this past week as the week a kernel of an idea for a new character blossomed into something real in conversations with Batman group editor, Ben Abernathy.

I am very excited for you to meet her.

THIS WEEK IN STORES

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #4
Cover A: Werther Dell’Edera
Cover B: Michael Walsh
Art: Werther Dell’Edera
Color: Miquel Muerto
Letters: Andworld Design

We’re fast approaching the climax of the first arc, and these next two issues might my favorite in the run so far. I had a long conversation about this book today, and the crazy direction we’re taking it, and I’m so excited for you to see it. There are designs Werther did for certain characters that I don’t want to give away… Actually, you know what. Fuck it. Let me give it away a little bit. I’m VERY excited for you all to learn more about the House of Slaughter and the Order of St. George…

I’ve got a whole email full of these mysterious bandana-wearing monster hunters, and I am very excited to show more of them off to you. Anyways. You should read this book. It is very sad and violent, and a little bit funny I think? People seem to be really enjoying it, and I am very eager for you all to learn more about Erica Slaughter.

HOUSEKEEPING

I’m trying to figure out what else I should include in my newsletter. Do you want to write me letters? If you want to write me a letter to include in my next newsletter, email TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com with the subject header that starts with NEWSLETTER in all caps. Maybe come at me with suggestions for the sort of content you’d like to see in the newsletter! I can’t promise to respond to every message, but I’ll pick good ones to post here. If you don’t want to write me letters, that’s okay, too. I forgive you.

I am so very close to being able to talk about PROJECT WINGBOY, which I think is going to be announced sometime next month? There is also another announcement which should be coming any day now, that isn’t a comic announcement, but is very exciting, and I can’t talk about it more than that. Also, last newsletter I referred to a PROJECT OSWALD, which I had previously referred to as a PROJECT DALLAS. I think I’ll keep calling it PROJECT DALLAS from the time being, but that’s as good as you’re going to get in terms of me hinting at WHAT it is. PROJECT LAKEHOUSE will gear up next, and I need to start nailing down my core cast on that book.

Needless to say, I am writing too many comic books, and had an idea for like… six new ones the other week, and then got angry with myself. If anyone has a good lead on how to clone myself or remove the need for sleep, I would love to hear it.

Putting the final touches on the next Batman script now, and then turning in a Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen script by the end of the week. Sorry for the late newsletter but the actual for real writing that artists are waiting on trumps my navel-gazing pseudo-professional livejournal.

Star Wars comes out next week, isn’t that wild?

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
12.10.19