Batwing, the Batman of the Congo, will no longer be Batwing after issue #19. David Zavimbe will be throwing in the towel and retiring from his mantle in favor of a new hero who will appear in the pages of Batwing. With a new Batwing comes new opportunities, such as strengthening Batwing’s tie to the Bat-family back in Gotham City, new foes, and to solidify his place in the DC Universe as his own hero. CBR sat down the writing duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, once again, and spoke about just what was going to happen with this new hero to take up the Batwing mantle. They begin with the interview with why they wanted a new hero to take up the mantle, citing that the main problem of Batwing is that he was only loosely connected to the other Bat-family members, and that while he should be his own hero with his own problems, he should have a connection to the Bat-family at large. Palmiotti had this to say.
Without giving everything all away, we recognized that this book sat apart from the other Batman books, and we took care of that right away. We introduced not only the new Batwing, but when you learn who he is, you’re going to understand how we did it right out the gate. It’s familiar and then unfamiliar ground all at the same time. We kind of pull a magic trick in issues #19 and 20. We just felt “Batwing” was its own book, but people who read the Batman line want a little bit more of a connection. By introducing the new Batwing, we draw him a little closer to the Batman Universe by making the series not so Africa-specific as it had been.
Backing up his co-writer, Gray elaborates on those ideas by also talking about the setting of Africa, and how the origin of David Zavimbe conflicted with how they wanted to continue the book. He takes a brief moment to specify that this new Batwing is his own hero, his own person, and that he has a specific connection to the Bat-family beyond just having a Bat-name and suit.
Yeah. We started asking ourselves a lot of questions, and one of the questions produced the answer that Gotham and Africa are not the same. The things you do in these different parts of the world can culturally and fundamentally have huge differences in the way they’re approached. And so, one of the things we started discussing when we were developing the seeds of our run on “Batwing” was that the character needed to be closer to the Bat family because people have to feel like that connection is there. It can’t just be the guy wearing this suit.
And because of who David was, it was such a complicated origin and backstory that it was conflicting with other representations of the character. It felt like this character should have more life in him. He shouldn’t be the one idea that Americans have of what Africa is. Africa is not all AIDs, famine and child soldiers. It felt like there were so many other things we could do, and we could do that while still making it fit within the Batman universe. And some of the things were trimmed away while some were accentuated.
David Zavimbe was Batwing for a lot of reasons, but mostly because he was once a child soldier, who had lost his parents and endured injustice in the Congo. Like Batman, tragedy and loss propelled him towards being a hero, and that’s something that is shared by most of the members of Batman Incorporated. When asked if this common element shared among the Batman Inc. members would apply to the new person under the mask, Palmiotti and Gray are quick to show that they wanted to try something new with their protagonist.
We actually wanted to get away from that, to be honest with you. We wanted there to not be that direction connection to orphans, tragedy, dead parents and fighting back. The earliest thing we wanted was for the character to know more than he should know and to enjoy the concept of Batman as much as people going to see the Nolan Batman movies. It isn’t as personal for them as it is to just enjoy watching the character go through these things. So for this character, that’s a world he’d like to be involved in more so than being angry and lashing out to seek justice. Now, that can come later. But this felt like an opportunity to add something to the Batman universe that’s slightly different than we would have seen otherwise. Therefor, we created a new personality type.
He has issues, don’t get us wrong. He’s got plenty of things to deal with. But he’s not going to be that person that lost his parents and all that. I will say, at some point we were looking at the character and saying, “What would it be like if Batman gave us this suit and told us to go fight crime?” In some weird way, that would be the coolest thing in the world. And I think that character has that same kind of joy in what he’s doing. Inevitably, it’s not as easy as it seems, but we went in a different direction. Because David, the original Batwing, his life was tough from minute one. If you read the series, he’s got so much going against him. So we decided that if we were going to introduce a new character to the book, we had to give him a different feel.
I’m sure any Batman fan would promptly say “Hell Yes”, if Batman told them that he wanted them to fight crime and gave them an awesome flying Bat-suit. If Batman told me to do anything, I’m pretty sure the answer would be “yes”. From what Gray and Palmiotti say, the character sounds like he has more of a lighthearted feel, like Dick Grayson, or even Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. He chose this life, of his own free will, and is not driven so much by darkness like Batman is. Actually, speaking of Batman Beyond, the writers bring the series while talking about the new Bat-suit that the new character will be wearing. CBR was quick to point out the similarities between the two suits and Palmiotti reveals that he’s a big fan of Beyond, but the point is that they wanted a new, slick look, for a technologically advanced Batman. Drawing a comparison to like an Apple product, they went for a sleek look to make it different from both Batman and the previous Batwing to give the new Batwing a new look that was uniquely his own.
First off, I love “Batman Beyond.” Let me just say that to begin. [Laughter] But we were looking at technology, and one thing Justin and I always talk about is that we’re very much tech heads. It’s all, “What’s next?” and, “How are things going to look?” If you look at the way things are designed by a company like Apple, they have one sleek design for all their products. And so this Batwing suit should have a different look that works both for who the character is inside the suit but also works for the functions of the suit. We went for this slicker look, and the gatefold presents that idea really well. But like any technology, it evolves all the time, so we’re going to have some story things taking place with the actual suit. But overall, we wanted a sleeker look that stood apart from the regular Batman costume but also was different than the past Batwing. We actually had a book of different designs that we went through before we got to this, and I will say that it’s still being fine-tuned in some respect. But that’s story-based fine-tuning.
Another thing that Palmiotti and Gray are bringing with them is a character they used from their Hawkman run. Lion- Mane. Lion-Mane was a brutal villain, a really gruesome kind of guy for those of you readers who have not read their run way back in 2004. They do admit they wanted to make a Lion themed villain more then just a gimmicky bad guy in Africa. So with that in mind, they plan to push the character in a brand new way to make a worthy for the new Batwing.
We love that character. Just like we were talking about upgrading things for the hero and taking him into version 2.0, we’ve always wrestled with Lion Mane and how to make him cooler. We pushed his personality forward a certain way before, so he wasn’t just a dude who looked like a Lion. Now we’re pushing him even further to where he has a different visual look and a different behavioral pattern. It felt that if we were going to do some of our initial story arc in Africa, this was the right thing to do. I mean, it also felt like this character could be a little hokey, too. The lion man in Africa is so cliché, we wanted to push ourselves into making him much more interesting and much more relevant than we had in “Hawkman.”
Speaking of villains, the Bat-family has always had their respective rogues galleries as well as their shared ones. In a place so far away from the normal rogues seen in Gotham, CBR asked if they wanted to build the new Batwing a rogue’s gallery, given that each arc in the previous Batwing run had introduced a new and different villain for Batwing to take on. Gray explains what he and Palmiotti to do in regards with that, using their run on Hawkman as an example.
Actually, what we were thinking long term is that there’s a much bigger thing behind the scenes. There’s a much bigger plotline. You mentioned our “Hawkman” run, and one of the things we really enjoyed there was that there was a master plan going all the way through into the Golden Eagle arc. There were things in motion that would start to come to fruition, so you didn’t really have to worry about building a rogues gallery per se. It wasn’t like the early Spider-Man comics where you had to have a villain of the month. It was more organic to who the character was and where the story needed to go rather than just parading someone on the stage. That’s what we’re thinking here as well.
Gray ends the interview with his last thoughts on how both he and Palmiotti are going to get everything in place. and what their first move will be. He takes some time to comment on the old writing team’s work on the book, and ultimately what Batwing is for Batman and Batman Inc.
In a vague sense, it’s a diamond mine. There was such a painstaking process to come in and work on #19 and realize that there was a fanbase for this character. So we wanted to say that we’re not disrespecting David and that there’s a lot of energy and effort that’s gone into finding the logical conclusion to that character’s time as Batwing — into his motivations and why he’s done this. There’s a lot of history there, even if it’s only been 18 issues and even though it’s only marginally connected to the version we saw in “Batman Incorporated.” There’s a huge amount of emotional connection there for readers that we didn’t want to marginalize. We didn’t want to piss on that. We like David’s character a lot, and we aren’t going to walk in there and say “We’re going to be the bad guys and wipe out everything that’s come before.” That’s not how we do things. We don’t like when that’s done to us, and we don’t want to do it to anyone else. We respect what Judd [Winick] did, we respect what Fabian [Nicieza] did, and we respect their art teams.
But moving forward — and this goes back to what we said about there being differences between Gotham and Africa — wearing the Bat symbol is a huge responsibility. And if you’re in a place where there are children soldier and war all the time and disease – all those first story ideas we think of in America — then your character needs to stand outside of that. Ultimately, we felt looking at David that maybe he’d be at a crossroads between those two ideas. It’s not like he grew up on the streets of Gotham as a solider. It’s a different life he’s got, and Bruce has to understand that. He has to understand that every country he goes to is different.
Batwing #19 will be on sale April 3rd, and with issue #19 comes a new chapter for Batwing.