5: The End is the Beginning is the End

I need to figure out sleep better, I really really do.

My brain keeps rewarding me with very productive nights when I just power through. Maybe the real answer is I just become nocturnal. Then I could get both the productive nights and enough sleep. That would be very appropriate given the new gig. But that would ALSO probably drive me nuts. I don’t get outside enough, but the sun is nice and makes me feel good.

I have finally moved all my furniture into my new office! I need to finish building it so I can start working there, which means going to Home Depot and getting the right kind of screws to screw in my desk’s legs. The real goal is to get it all set up this week, so it can become my primary base of operations starting in the new year.

It’s only a couple of subway stops away from my apartment, and just a 30-40 minute walk if the weather’s nice. Which I’m excited about. I have a whole wishlist of audiobooks that I want to start working my way through. I am ludicrously excited about the idea of a commute. I haven’t had a commute since I was working in advertising just out of college. I’ve always worked in my apartment, even when my “office” was just an armchair in the corner of my bedroom. I’ve never been someone who can write in a coffee shop or a bar. For one, I spend too much of my day on the phone talking about stuff I shouldn’t be talking about in a room of strangers, any number of whom could be secret comics journalists (I mean, probably NOT, but I also hate answering the question “I’m sorry, but were you talking about BATMAN?”). So now I’ll have someplace to go and write in a comfy little room, and maybe finally get that mythical work/life balance in order.

This may shock you, but when you work 7 days a week/52 weeks a year, and your workplace is roughly 20 feet from where you relax and watch television, it’s difficult to keep that balance. It’s always easy to justify walking back into the office and knocking out a few more pages before going to bed, and then suddenly you’re twenty pages deep and it’s 4AM, and your sleep schedule is fucked for the next two weeks.

The other week, I posted on twitter that I was going to be outfitting a new office space, and asked if anybody had suggestions about where I should look for office furniture, and somebody suggested this as a Jokey thing, but I decided, why the fuck not. So, meet the Bat-Chair I will be writing all sorts of Gotham Mischief from.

Expect more pictures from my office as I finish setting it up in the next couple weeks. I am excited!

STAR WARS

I’m going to use what a newsletter is for, and talk about my Star Wars feelings in a format where people can’t chop up what I say into individual tweets and yell at me about them.

It feels really bizarre that a Star Wars movie is coming out on Thursday and it doesn’t feel like people are talking about it? I wonder if it was ultimately a bad idea to launch The Mandalorian so close to the new release. I think everyone is so consumed with birth of our new god and savior, Baby Yoda, to think about Kylo Ren palling around with Emperor Palpatine.

I am excited about the new movie, and I’m nervous. Endings are hard. They are really really fucking hard. And I have never been in love with the sequel trilogy.

THE FORCE AWAKENS was tremendous fun to watch, and the lead actors are so charismatic that they make up for the flaws while you’re sitting int he theater, but the universe always seemed so slapdash, and the stakes always muddled. THE LAST JEDI felt like a more expansive universe, and I genuinely love how Luke Skywalker was handled. It baffles me that that’s the controversial part of the film in the Star Wars culture wars.

For me, the trouble is the weird static plot with the chase between the First Order and the Resistance. I also don’t know what the point of the Benecio Del Toro character was? What’s he up to? Why’s he in there? And why is everyone trying to kamikaze themselves? I think the end is very strong, though. The throne room lightsaber fight, and Luke’s lightshow “defeat” are the purest Star Wars things in the whole sequel trilogy.

I wrote this on a friend’s Facebook the other day (Edited it a bit to standalone without the thread)…

One of the biggest issues I have with the new trilogy is that the relationship between the Resistance and the New Republic is really messy and confusing. Which is EXTRA frustrating, because in reading the supporting material, I have a better sense of it, and there IS something REALLY interesting there but it is never expressed in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi.

I get the sense that the New Republic formed in the wake of the Empire's fall is a bit more like the EU or even the UN. They are more a loose, peaceful alliance of friendly planets, rather than a strong singular Government. The sense is that the New Republic decided to disband their army because that was too "Imperial", but Leia basically said fuck no and built an illegal army to keep fighting the remnants of the Empire and the new forces that rose in its wake, like the First Order.

WHICH IS SUPER INTERESTING! It means that in Force Awakens, Leia would be this stubborn radical proved right! She is effectively a military extremist who everyone would have dismissed. She’s like Winston Churchill in the 1950s, being put out to pasture, and then all of a sudden the USSR did Nuke London, and his extremism was actually the right call. It also makes the fact that other systems are reluctant to join up with her in THE LAST JEDI make more sense… People don’t want to join these eternal Star Wars.

But when they destroy the New Republic government it's not even clear what happened? Like what was actually destroyed with the planets destroyed by Starkiller Base?

Even in the Last Jedi, it's super confusing to me. Did the First Order take control of planets? Is there just total chaos in the galaxy because the central government was destroyed and all that's left are these two armies fighting a war that nobody else wants? The New Republic seems to have been destroyed, and The First Order is slipping into power, but like, even Palpatine needed to take control of the Senate which was ALREADY in control of these planets to create an empire!

Like, Who is ACTUALLY in charge of planets that were part of the Old Republic, Empire, and New Republic? Is the First Order actually WIELDING power, or are they just an armada eliminating the last of the Resistance? It’s not like Snoke was setting up Palpatine’s old throne room. Is an average person on Coruscant (for instance) even aware of what is happening between the Resistance and the First Order?

And I know these are kids adventure movies, and they don't need to spend hours establishing governmental systems and boring politics. They shouldn't! But it's confusing, and it makes it a harder world to just sit back and think about and explore. There are HUGE chunks missing in the math of this universe, and not in a "It's fun to speculate on how to fill it in" way, but more in a "I don't know the rules of the game being played, and now I'm a little confused and bored."

The stakes in both the prequels and the original trilogy are much clearer. There is a tired old republic that can't control or suppress the darkness rotting it from the inside. And then there is an evil empire suppressing everyone and people are fighting back against that. Both of those are simple enough to understand (The OT obviously the clearest and simplest).

Emotionally, the new trilogy hits the right beats for me, but it's really evident that it was rushed together without a clear plan, and big chunks of the mythology were being figured out on the fly. Which gets to me. It highlights these movies as more commerce than a cohesive vision. Even the prequels are cohesive, even though they are mostly genuinely BAD movies. You get a sense that there ARE answers to the questions, even if those answers are "Midichlorians."

I hope the new one fills in that stuff in a way that smoothes out the other two (and that's genuinely still possible). But it'll be clearly retconning internal logic into a system that didn't care to build internal logic.

I have a feeling that RISE OF THE SKYWALKER will marry the flaws of both films that come before it. Hopefully it’s elevated to something more…

I guess I’ll find out this Thursday night, half-past Midnight.

BATMANNERY

So, this is an emotional week for Batman Fans! 

Two big eras of Batman draw to a close on the same day! And then a coda sets the stage for what comes next.

I want to say cheers to Tom King and all the incredible artists he’s worked with over the last 85 issues for doing some really exciting and daring things with Batman as a character. I think the story I’ll always remember the most is COLD DAYS which pits Bruce Wayne as a juror deciding whether Mr. Freeze or Batman was culpable for the crime committed. 12 Angry Men with Batman and Mr. Freeze. Just a smart, simple story with stunningly good Lee Weeks art. It’s definitely worth a revisit this week as the current run comes to an end. 

This week ALSO sees the whole Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman saga which began with Batman #1 in September 2011, draw to a close. I’ve been hearing Scott talk about LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH in various shapes and forms since around when he first started working on ZERO YEAR, and the final product is just stunning, beautiful, and exceeded my every expectation. This last issue is something special. It cuts right to the heart of the character, and speaks to exactly what makes him so enduring. Honestly, it’s a perfect story for this moment of Batman, in ways that I won’t spoil until you get your hands on the book.

It’s no secret that my career in comics started in the pages of that Batman run. Batman #8 is my first published comic book, with the backup story. I have a page from Rafael Albuquerque from the first part of “The Fall of the House of Wayne” framed on the wall above the couch where I’m sitting now. Those backup stories, and the annuals, and series it led to were my Graduate School, and Scott and Greg were my mentors, shaping me into the writer I am today. The story priorities I learned working in and around that run are what I try to highlight in all of my comics.

And then the Rebirth Era… That’s where I feel like I came into my own. My Detective Comics run that launched alongside Tom’s Batman is where I defined my own sense of Gotham City, and I think that’s the comic that really showed my voice in the DC Universe and defined me as a writer on my own terms. So seeing the current run end, it really feels like a culmination. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to step on the big stage, and make my mark, but more than that it feels like a natural step. 

My Batman run is lovingly grown from seeds planted across all these titles, from 8 years of working in and around Batman and Gotham City. From Backup stories, to Talon, to Red Hood and the Outlaws, to Batman Eternal, to Batman & Robin Eternal, To Detective Comics, To Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… And from the amazing writers like Scott and Tom that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and alongside all these years.  

So, this we see the end of the story of the Batman that started my career at the company, and the end of the run on the character I’ll be following directly.  It’s a neat way to end the decade. 

Cheers to Scott. Cheers to Tom. Cheers to the last two eras of Gotham City. 

And cheers to Grant Morrison for not ALSO having a Batman comic book out this week, or I would REALLY feel like DC had it out for me!

Batman #85 has a 3 page coda by me, Guillem March, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles. This coda will start a drumbeat that’s going to culminate in a huge story later this year. One that I’ve been excitingly texting my editor, Ben Abernathy about back and forth all weekend. You’ll be seeing snippets of that story play out over the course of my first storyarc, THEIR DARK DESIGNS, which starts the first week of January.

I am ludicrously excited and nervous. I can’t wait to for you to see what we’ve cooked up for you. 

AND as you may have seen from the solicits, the great and powerful Jorge Jimenez has joined Team Batman alongside Tony S. Daniel, and Guillem March. These three artists are the heart of Team Batman 2020, along with Tomeu Morey who will be coloring every issue of the series. Every piece of art I’ve seen from this series so far has been absolutely stunning. I am beyond excited to show it off to all of you.

Check out these amazing Jorge Cover to Batman #90 & 91. THEIR DARK DESIGNS is going to be a powerhouse story with these powerhouse artists. And that’s just the beginning :)

This week, Jorge sent designs over for a new character in the Batman mythos who has been existing in the back of my brain for a while. I think she is going to go over big… I’ve been enjoying writing and thinking about her so much, that I may have snuck her into YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #3. I love putting toys back into the toybox, and I’ve been wanting a character in this mode for a long, long time.

Together, we’re going to bring you some REALLY exciting Batman stories in 2020. I promise. They are bloody and beautiful, and a bit funny too. And I am still cooking up newer and crazier Bat-Vehicles by the minute. There’s one in 87 that’s particularly bad-ass and exciting.

THIS WEEK IN STORES

YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #1
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Steve Epting
Colors by Nick Filardi
Letters by Travis Lanham
Edited by Dave Wielgosz, Harvey Richards, Alex Antone, and Jamie S. Rich
Variant Cover by Ricardo Federici

It’s a big DC Week. Like, big big big. On top of the Batmans, we’ve also got the big finale to DOOMSDAY CLOCK, WONDER WOMAN: DEAD EARTH, and a whole host of neat comic books… But this is one I have been excited about for literally a year and a half.

This is the conclusion of the story that we’ve been playing out over in Justice League, Batman Who Laughs, and Batman/Superman. This is the follow-up to the Infection, The Offer, and the conclusion of the YEAR OF THE VILLAIN story. It’s the final battle between the two dominant forces among DC villainy in the last year. The Smartest Man Alive versus the evil doppelganger of DC’s greatest superhero.Lex Luthor vs. The Batman Who Laughs. 

It is a more important series to the DC Mythos than I think anybody realizes yet, so I’d recommend jumping on the train early. When a certain something I can’t even really hint about is announced, and it’s clear what this is all building to, I bet the first few issues of this are going to be tough to find. This series is going to have epic ramifications for the villain communities. This is very much a “whoever wins, we lose” Aliens vs. Predator situation, but my goal is to make all of that extremely, extremely fun to read.

I love writing villains. Some of my favorite comics I’ve written for DC are the Legion of Doom issues of Scott’s Justice League run. And this is what all of those issues have been building toward. If you were to go back and read one issue before picking this up, I’d check out Justice League #8, drawn by the incredible Mikel Janín. That was the first time I wrote Lex and the BMWL together, and I wrote that entire sequence with this in mind. 

This issue also lets me write the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, who have been some of my favorite DC villains since I read JLA: Earth Two back when I was in middle school. For those of you saying “AH! THEY DIED IN FOREVER EVIL?! HOW COULD THEY BE IN THIS ISSUE!” You should read the comic, because Lex Luthor feels the same way :P

Technically, the events of this issue follow Justice League #39, the finale of the current run, which comes out next month. Originally, we wanted to line up with 38, but the big finale of the Justice/Doom War needed space to breathe and be as awesome as Scott and I wanted. This issue doesn’t spoil what happens to the League… This may follow what happens to Luthor and Perpetua following that story, but you’re going to want to see what gets teed up in JL #39 next month, I promise you that.

This four issue mini-series is going to resolve a lot of big threads you’ve been following in the books, and it’s going to clear the decks for a big story that’s the conclusion to the whole big metastory we’ve been brewing for two years. It’s a thrilling feeling being able to pay off threads that we’ve been planting for so long. It’s even better feeling seeing it all play out in the hands of an artist as talented as Steve Epting. 

The end is coming! It starts in this book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

BATMAN #85
Coda by James Tynion IV
Art by Guillem March
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles

Come for the conclusion of Tom King’s run on Batman, and stick around for the bloody afterparty with me, Guillem March, Tomeu Morey, and our good pal, The Joker. My Batman run starts here, with a nod to some of the other big things happening in the DC Universe… But it’s all building to a big story that is fun-on Batman. The thing that’s so exciting working with Guillem and Tomeu again is that we haven’t all worked together as a team since my first DC Comics ongoing series, TALON. So to team up again on the main Batman title? It’s really a dream come true.

LETTER COLUMN

I got some great letters from you all this week! I’m going to answer a couple. If you want to get a letter in a future column, email me at TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com with NEWSLETTER in the header.

Hi from Thailand, James! 

Just a note to say that I’ve never been more excited about a horror themed comic book until Something is killing the children. I read each issue too fast and I’m sad every time I come to the end of it because I need to know what Erica is up to. 

When you’re working on a series like this, do you work according to a certain number of issues to put out, or according to a number of story arcs? 

Btw if anyone made little plushies of that octopus, I would definitely grab one. 

Cheers,
Hannah 

Hi, Hannah!

I’m so freaking glad that you like SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN! I’m sad every time I finish a script, because I love writing that world so dang much. So far there is no official stuffed Octopus, but I should consider having a conversation about getting those made, shouldn’t I? Skelton Crew did an amazing job making the stuffed Doctor Robot from The Woods… HMMM….

Normally I work from a pretty precise story document that outlines every issue of a story. SIKTC has been different because I keep changing the shape of the story as I write it. Originally it was going to be five, standalone, one-shot issues. I realized I had a longer story to tell as I was writing it, and now I see it as a longform novel of a series. The world keeps getting bigger. I have a roadmap through the next two arcs of the series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I throw THAT out, too.

Thanks for the letter!

Who is the the mask? Bruce Wayne or Batman? Or is it more complicated?

I sometimes feel they are both one in the same, but like all of us, we are capable of being many things. A parent. A friend or a lover. A son or daughter. An enemy or an ally. Maybe Bruce just has more deep and complex layering. With intimate relationships being rare, it’s what makes him more mysterious. What do you think?

Thanks for letting us email you!
Jason

Thanks for WRITING me emails to respond to!

Honestly, my favorite theory has always been the triple-identity, which I am pretty sure comes from Mark Waid, or at least he’s the first person I heard express this. It’s the idea that there are actually three identities to both Superman and Batman. There is the public Bruce Wayne, which is obviously a mask, the public Batman, which is ALSO a mask…

And there is the REAL Bruce Wayne. The Bruce Wayne with his cowl down, sitting in front of the Bat-Computer, talking to Alfred about the latest case. That Bruce is the “real” Bruce. The one that isn’t an effort to keep up an image. The trouble is that Alfred has always been pretty much the only other person who sees that Bruce. Now, I’d say Selina sees it to, but without Alfred, it throws a bit of the balance of the “true” Bruce out of whack…

Which is something I’ll be diving into in my run. Which starts in a few weeks. Holy shit!

Okay. That’s enough for this week. Send me more questions for next week!

HOUSEKEEPING

This is a long one, mostly because I had too many Star Wars thoughts, but hey! I want you to get some bang for you buck. I still have two and half scripts to write before Christmas, so I should probably get back to them.

And fuck, I should figure out the rest of my Christmas Presents, huh?

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
12.17.19