Batwing #19 had a pretty big surprise in store for fans of the series, as a new hero was introduced and Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti take over the series.
We got a chance to speak to them both about the book, and to find out where its new direction will take us. Also that they’re tight-lipped about spoilers, so you can read this if you haven’t read the last few issues.
Gamma Squad: Fabian Nicieza closed his run on Batwing with a pretty drastic pairing down of the character. How much input did you have into that?
Jimmy Palmiotti: We got to read the script and we had a couple of tiny things we needed the team to do to make #19 to work the way we wanted. When we first discussed what we were going to do in #19, we had to look at #16 through #18, and we just needed a little tweak. We take the character of David on his natural course. Some people are afraid we’re killing the idea and moving along, but that’s not the case. We took a lot of time and care to take the book to its natural place. #19 is just as important as #20 in a way to introduce what we’re doing within those pages. They’re really interesting books to write, and #19 was a tough one to write. And I think we got the book to a logical place.
Justin Gray: Yeah, we wanted to respect not only the fans, but the guys who worked on it. Even though we were coming into the game, we definitely didn’t want to feel that anyone who loved David didn’t want to feel they were wasting their time.
Gamma Squad: Batwing’s African setting is fairly unique in comics: How do you find yourselves incorporating it into the script?
Palmiotti: It gave us an opportunity to bring Lion-Mane back into the fold and look at him with a new set of eyes. There’s something we love about that character that we can always push him further. So when we had the opportunity, we thought he’d have some kind of basis in Africa, and could be important to Batwing. We mapped out how we wanted to go with the story. Africa is a part of it, but Batman is trying to achieve something, and he has these Batman Inc. characters operating in these different theaters all over the world. What happens with David impacts Batman’s mission, and the new Batwing has to step in and finish some things up.
Gray: Of course we start in Africa, but it’s not staying there. The character will be a lot more international. The book itself is tying really closely into the Batman universe; he’ll be in Gotham, he’ll be overseas, and it makes sense when you meet him.
Palmiotti: He has to be relevant, more than just a catchphrase. And that’s what books like this can be reduced to. This guy needs to be his own character first and exist for a reason. You have to be relevant and important to Batman that makes him unique and opens up a different door.
Gamma Squad: In addition to Batwing, you’ve got All-Star Western on your plate, a book you’ve had to tie into a whole string of different DC books. Can we expect Jonah to run into anybody from Batwing’s distant past?
Gamma Squad: I’ll take that as ‘You can’t tell us.’
Palmiotti: You know, it’s an interesting question, how about that? (laughter)
Gamma Squad: You two have been co-writing for quite a while. How do you decide what books to work on?
Gray: The first thing we do is look at each and say “Well, do we have anything new to say?” It has to interest both of us. If we feel there’s nothing we can add to it, we don’t do it. We turned down quite a number of bigger characters because we felt we had nothing to say. It’s always a discussion. As usual, we throw ideas around, but in the end, certain things we don’t want to touch. Then we get something like Batwing, and we look it and say, “We can make this into something great.”
Gamma Squad: How do you divide the labor in co-writing a book?
Palmiotti: It depends on where we’re at. I always equate working in comics with playing in a band. Once you get the right people together, it doesn’t matter who’s playing the drums, everything just starts to happen. There are no egos involved, so we pass it back and forth and criticize each other’s work.
Gray: As long as it gets us to world domination, we’re OK.
Palmiotti: (Ominously) Enjoy your time…
Batwing #19 is on the stands this week.