A new DC era begins this week - 'Infinite Frontier.' Spearheaded by the 64-page special Infinite Frontier #0, it's also carried along by Batman #106 - the latest issue of longtime best-selling ongoing title in all of DC's line.
Returning after a two-month break for 'Future State,' writer James Tynion IV and artist Jorge Jimenez return to Gotham and establish a cyberpunk-ish new era for the town - while at the same time showing Batman fighting for a win after losing his fortune in last year's 'The Joker War.'
Spoilers ahead for Batman #106.
In this week's issue, the Dark Knight is once again trying to fight crime in his town - with the help of Oracle and the newly-introduced Ghostmaker. But at the same time, a terrifying new rendition of Scarecrow is lingering in the proverbial margins, and a heavily-hyped new anarchist character named Miracle Molly is lurking in the shadows.
At the same time, the looming possible future of Gotham (as seen in 'Future State') as a police state run by a mysterious individual known as the Magistrate is beginning to come into place (a la Terminator 2: Judgement Day and the rise of the Terminators) with the creation of the Peacekeepers by Simon Saint.
With all this going on, Newsarama caught up with writer James Tynion IV about this issue and what's to come for the title and the entire Bat-family of titles.
Newsarama: James, Batman #106 marks the first appearance of your newest villain - Miracle Molly. What can you tell us about her upcoming arc?
James Tynion IV: Miracle Molly is probably my favorite new character that we're bringing to the floor this year. You can tell just from Jorge's designs that Jorge absolutely loves her. I absolutely love her. I think #108 is going to be the issue that really shows everything that we love about this character. The key thing here is that she's an antagonist to Batman more than she's a villain.
She's someone who believes that the way that society works in Gotham is broken, and she's a part of this collective called the Unsanity Collective, which is that the city is defined what sane and insane are on its own terms, and we're going to reject the notions of sanity that society puts upon us. We are going to build a new and better Gotham in the husk of the old Gotham.
There's a sort of utopian bent at the center of what Miracle Molly and the Unsanity Collective are looking to do, and it's freaking a lot of people out in and around Gotham. That's going to open the doors for characters like Scarecrow and Simon Saint to really make the city more afraid of the Unsanitary Collective than they really should be. There's a really interesting dynamic there, and I'm really, really excited for people to see how it all plays out.
Nrama: What made you want to explore more technological villains?
Tynion: A lot of it comes down to what are the coolest visuals and what is the aesthetic feel of the book that we wanted to play with this year? Leaning into what I think are the strengths of Jorge's style, I wanted to tell a story that had some cyberpunk influences. Especially as we're building up this Magistrate, that's very cyberpunk, authoritarian police antagonist for Batman and the Bat-family. I wanted to create other branches of groups in Gotham with sort of transhumanist thinking and all of that stuff to really play into the core dynamic with Batman and play into the story.
It's one of those things, these questions are always like - it's like once we're four issues in, all of the pieces will be laid out in a way that would make all of these questions much easier to answer. [laughs]
Part of it was I wanted to do a story with Scarecrow. I wanted to do a story about fear. There are two fears. Who have we been and who are we going to become? There are different entities in Gotham, in this story that represent both of those fears. It's pitting both of those fears up against each other and making them fight with Batman trapped in the middle, who is obviously someone who is very shaped by traumatic fear in his past, but is also very worried about the future of Gotham City. That sort of lays all of the thematic groundwork for what we're doing with the series.
Nrama: We see Oracle talking in Batman's ear in this issue, are you planning a bigger arc for Oracle in your run?
Tynion: Honestly, the plans we have for Oracle and the characters in the direct orbit around Oracle are big. One thing that we wanted to do was reground Barbara Gordon at the center of the Batman mythos. Barbara Gordon is the key supporting character for Batman in Batman. She's the key supporting character for Jim Gordon in The Joker. And she's the key supporting character for Dick Grayson in Nightwing.
So, she is up front and center in all of this, and through all of those appearances we see that she's building this new direction for herself in a new way to evolve the Batgirl mythos with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. That's going to culminate just a little bit later in the year in a way that I think fans can probably predict, but it's something that I'm very, very excited for and we've got some incredible, incredible creators, who are going to pick up the baton and carry the next steps forward for Barbara.
I think one thing that was frustrating to me in the previous era of Bat stories while I was writing is instinctively having grown up reading Bat comics in the late '90s and early '00s - like Barbara Gordon was the central unifying figure of the Bat-family. Even when Batman was like in a mood and sort of pushing everyone away Barbara was the unifying glue. That was one of the top priorities for me as we started building out the new status quo of Gotham City, was re-elevating Barbara Gordon to the center because I think she's one of the greatest characters in the entire DC pantheon. She's one of my favorite characters and I just selfishly wanted to write more of her.
Nrama: We also see the pieces start coming together for Future State's big players, the Magistrate and Peacekeepers. What can you tease about their origin story?
Tynion: This is the exciting thing because I laid out a bunch of the raw material for the Magistrate and the Peacekeepers, while the rest of the Gotham team started building it up. The exciting thing with the Magistrate is being able to dig into this mythology that we've now seen kind of in its end state. We've seen the Magistrate at its most powerful in this dark version of five years ahead in Gotham's future. Now we're going to start seeing it built.
The key character who did not appear in 'Future State,' who is going to be very important to this is the man who dreamed it all up, Simon Saint, who is a new billionaire industrialist in Gotham City. Everything's going to really hinge on him. The character that I pointed Jorge to in designing him was, I'm totally blanking on his name, but from the second Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, the guy who takes over and it's all building up to that moment where he's terrified that the T-Rex that he just brought to Los Angeles is now going off and wrecking all of the city. That's sort of the dynamic of that character that I'm trying to build. He thinks he's designed this system that is going to work perfectly, and his confidence in that system is going to be very dangerous for Gotham City and for Batman.
Nrama: What can you tease about this issue's connection to Infinite Frontier #0? Why do you think it was important to add this story beat in Infinite Frontier #0 instead of the Batman flagship?
Tynion: This was something that we were talking about for a long time, is how do you create a kind of inciting incident that doesn't just kick everything off in the pages of Batman, but kicks things off for the entire Bat line? There were moments that we were talking about doing this moment in the first issue of Joker, doing it in the first issue of Batman, but once Infinite Frontier materialized, it was just like this is the place to do it because the Infinite Frontier issue sets up all of the seeds for all of the stories of the DC Universe and what happens at Arkham Asylum sets up what's happening across the Gotham books. In a lot of ways that you might not expect from the start.
Nrama: There were a few titles announced at ComicsPro including a Robin & Batman title. Is there anything you can tease about this, especially the interesting notion of seeing Robin's name first?
Tynion: I'm sorry I actually don't know anything about that project.
Nrama: And to wrap, why did you think it was important to have Joshua Williamson's Damian Wayne backup story in this issue?
Tynion: I talk to Josh every single day and we've been working together on Death Metal and all of the things that tied into Metal and Death Metal. He's one of my closest friends and he's a big architect of a lot of very big and important pieces to come in DC Comics. He's going to be carrying the torch forward from Infinite Frontier, but in Robin, in particular, like I love what he and Gleb Melnikov are building in Robin.
One thing that we wanted to do - this is a big priority, both for myself and of [DC's Batman group editor] Ben Abernathy is we wanted to create the most unified Bat line that we've seen in over a decade. To do that, we wanted to use these backup stories as launching points to firm up the center and then from the center start branching off.
The first part of the Robin's story takes place in Batman #106. The second part of that Robin story takes place in the first issue of Detective Comics that comes out in March, and then it launches into Robin #1 the following month. Part of it is just pointing all eyes of Batman towards the Robin book and to really help show that this is a part of our larger planning, our larger framework, and the larger arcs that we're laying out for the next few years. Robin is a key part of it. Everything we're doing with Barbara Gordon in Batgirls is a key part of it.
Comic fans, more than fans of any other type of media, care about when something matters, and I think a lot of times, especially in a franchise as big as Batman, the books off on the side can start tending not to matter. They don't really affect the core books and all of that, and we really wanted to change that. We as a group are working very closely together. We're throwing all of our story documents. We're smashing them together. We're seeing what things we can set up in Batman that then pay off in Robin? What things can we set up across all of these books that can pay off in a potential Batgirls story, a little down the line. All of these things are part of the math of what we're building. I'm really, really excited for people to see this new Gotham City we've built.
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