Tom King Reflects on His ‘Batman’ Run

by Eric Lee
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Comics writer Tom King has revealed regrets he has about his 85-issue run on Batman.

In an interview with CBR, King briefly looked back at his divisive, yet critically acclaimed tenure on the series. He confessed that he wished that he’d written more street-level, grounded tales with his Batman. Instead, the title was firmly nestled as a superhero book with all of the trappings of that genre.

“After 85 issues of Batman, the one thing I felt like I really missed out on was that I was very much writing a superhero Batman. He was in bigger-than-life stories, fighting Bane and in the War of Jokes and Riddles. They were superhero stories, not noir, grounded stories.

After I left, whenever I go back to Gotham, I’ve rotated to the other side and want to tell street-level Batman stories. I want to put him in crime stories.

What Mitch Gerads and I did with One Bad Day and what we’re doing in the current Joker story (in Batman: The Brave and the Bold), what Phil Hester and I did with Gotham City: Year One, what makes Batman unique — and maybe I missed this in my Batman run — is that he is this noir, shadow character, and you can tell these grounded crime stories.

I think people really like that about Batman. They like the John Wick aspect that he doesn’t fly — though he doesn’t kill — and this is another one in that genre.”

King’s not lying. Looking back at his run, he introduced or played with some crazy concepts. His first arc introduced Gotham and Gotham Girl- two Superman-esque beings. The first issue has Batman doing the most superhero thing ever- saving people from a crashing plane. Later in his run, he brought back Thomas Wayne as the Flashpoint Batman, making him the primary villain. Those stories showed that King did not shy away from outrageous, science fiction concepts.

Tom King on ‘Penguin’

“However, the writer has returned to Gotham as the writer of The Penguin, where he promises that this new series is much more grounded and focused solely on the mob.

They came to me with The Penguin, and I was like, “The Penguin?! I don’t know…” [laughs] I had written (the character) in Batman and made him fall in love with an actual penguin. It was really weird. I thought about how I could make this cool and how I could ground this.

I feel like a lot of people approach the Penguin the same way, but I wanted to do the Penguin as The Sopranos, The Godfather Part II, [and] Goodfellas. Let’s ground this and make him an actual gangster because I love those films and TV shows, like Boardwalk Empire and Peaky Blinders, the shows that are about corrupt people living in a corrupt world and losing their souls and trying to get it back. To do that in a comic book appealed to me, and getting Rafael de la Torre on it…

He brilliantly grounds it and makes every piece so emotional. He draws the perfect depressed Penguin face, which is what this series needs. You can see the weight of the world on his shoulders with the way Rafael draws him.”

“It’s a beautiful book. I think of this book like Penguin himself. I’ve been pushing Wonder Woman so hard, so people are like, “You’re writing a Penguin book? Is it ongoing?” They don’t even know about it. The book is like Penguin. It’s underestimated and shockingly good, and I don’t know how it came about. Even though it hasn’t been the focus of anything, it lives under the surface and will surprise and grab you in the same way that the character does, and I love that.”

You can follow Tom King’s DC work with Penguin and Wonder Woman every month.


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