With the next two issues of Batman concluding James Tynion’s 'Their Dark Designs' storyline, readers are noticing a lot of build-up to the highly anticipated 'Joker War.'
Not only has Harley Quinn already met Punchline, Joker’s new female accomplice, but readers have been treated to various intriguing cameos by both Joker and his gang of minions.
With DC supplying Newsarama with artwork for Batman #94 (due out July 7) - the last issue of 'Their Dark Designs' - we spoke to Tynion to find out more about what’s coming up in Batman, as well as how Batman/Catwoman and the new Wayne baby fit into continuity.
Newsarama: James, we’re looking at art from Batman #94. I know this issue is the conclusion of 'Their Dark Designs.' But with the issues we’ve seen already, it’s clear that this story also serves as a prelude to 'The Joker War.' Is Batman #94 not only a conclusion but kind of a beginning for what comes next?
James Tynion IV: Absolutely. We’ve been seeing the slow build and the slow switcheroo coming for a while now, as we fully understand the purpose of the Designer attack on Gotham City - and what it is meant to uncover and what was truly being targeted.
Batman #94, in particular, is at the moment where Bruce realizes the full scale of what Joker has been doing in the shadows over these last few months, since we saw him in the coda to Batman #85 last December.
This is the setting of the stage for 'Joker War' in a huge way. It also provides a conclusion to 'Their Dark Designs.' But honestly, this is something that was always a goal from the beginning of my Batman run. These stories are definitely going to have beginnings and ends, but I’m much more interested in the concussive build of the story.
Now 'Joker War' is going to start in earnest, but it is still a continuation of these characters and their lives — and the soap opera and the action and all the things I love about writing superhero comics.
So it is both an ending and a beginning, for sure.
Nrama: We just saw Harley meet Punchline, and DC has revealed that Harley is going to fight Punchline soon in 'The Joker War.' Is that part of the fun of this character? Did you have that in mind for Punchline and 'The Joker War' — this confrontation between Joker’s ex and his current girlfriend?
Tynion: This was always the fun, and this is something that, from the moment we came up with Punchline - who obviously has been instrumental to the excitement and the buzz being built around the series - I knew that in her first encounter with Harley, Harley was going to underestimate her. Because I think everyone would underestimate her.
She’s brand new; she’s coming onto the scene. And Harley still wasn’t sure she could break through to her in some way. She didn’t understand the scale of the threat.
So at the end of 'Their Dark Designs,' we see Punchline get the upper hand. But then we’re going to see them go head-to-head in a big way in 'Joker War,' where they both know who they’re up against. If you’ve seen the designs that Jorge has done of Harley in 'Joker War,' she is ready for war; she is ready for action.
In the pages of 'Joker War,' I think I’ve written some of my favorite Harley stuff. She’s just such an incredible supporting character. She adds so much to the rich tapestry of Gotham.
Nrama: You’ve been utilizing Catwoman as Bruce’s partner. But did you know about this pregnancy that Tom King is doing when you came on Batman? Does that play a role in your run at all? Or is that something that Tom King is handling?
Right now, we’re focusing on the core Batman story, happening in the pages of Batman.
I’m very excited to read Batman/Catwoman, in the same way, I’m excited to read Three Jokers, but neither of them really have much effect on the core story I’m telling.
Nrama: So in 'Joker War,' does Catwoman play a role?
Tynion: Yes, she does. She absolutely does. We’ve been playing up her history with the core rogues of Gotham City. Her actions at the end of 'Their Dark Designs,' which come from a place of desperation, help play directly into the Joker’s hands. She’s not going to just take that. She’s going to want to set things right and put Joker back in his place.
So Catwoman definitely plays a very central role and plays a key role at the climax of 'The Joker War' story. But also, her actions in 'Joker War' are going to help set the stage for, honestly, the next few years of Batman stories.
Nrama: Wow, quite a statement for Catwoman. DC just announced Batman: The Joker War Zone anthology. Was that a 'Joker War' tie-in that came about because you had time during the shut-down to explore more stories? Or did you always want to come up with different stories within the larger "Joker War" story?
Tynion: Honestly, it’s a little of column A and a little of column B.
I was talking to Ben Abernathy, the Batman group editor, who has really helped spearhead everything we’re doing in Gotham right now and has been an incredible creative partner on this. We were laying out, what are the pieces of Gotham that we wanted to use 'Joker War' to put in place? To set the stage for the sort of stories we’re going to be telling from the end of 'Joker War' and far beyond? You can see some of those pieces in the solicits.
I’m not going to comment too much on the costume Cassandra Cain is wearing in the variant cover we’ve got there, but obviously, anyone who knows my work in and around Gotham knows how much I care about the Batman family characters - and getting these characters in position to set the stage for a very, very rich Gotham City that we’ll be telling stories in, in 2021.
This is meant to really shake up and inject a lot of really exciting new elements into the Gotham mix, and elevate some characters that haven’t had that kind of elevation in awhile. So I’m really excited about that. For one, I’m doing a story with Guillem March who’s been just an incredible partner on 'Their Dark Designs.' But he and I are planting some seeds in our Joker War Zone story that will be crucial for the big picture stories that we’re going to be telling in 2021.
And then on top of that, I am also getting to write a Clownhunter story - this new character that I’m creating with Jorge in the pages of 'Joker War' - with the amazing James Stokoe, who I’ve been a tremendous fan of forever. So it’s just exciting. And it’s always amazing to be able to pull in some left-of-center artistic voices - not just to tell a Batman story, but to tell an in-continuity Batman story. There’s just something special about that.
We want 'Joker War' to capture the expressive fun that we think all Batman stories should embody.
Nrama: DC is calling Clownhunter an "anti-hero." And with a name like Clownhunter, in a Joker story … I don’t know. Am I right to assume which side Clownhunter is on during the war?
Tynion: You are welcome to guess.
Clownhunter will definitely cause a headache for Batman. But he’s definitely not on the side of Joker in 'The Joker War.'
Punchline and Clownhunter are sort of the new children of this new Gotham that’s building over the course of my run. Joker always has a bit of a thesis whenever he comes after Batman. One of his theses during 'The Joker War' is that Gotham City has been pretending that it’s something it’s not for a long time. That one centimeter - one millimeter - under the surface, it is this grimy, horrifying place and people are just waiting to lash back out. They’ve been pretending they believe in justice. They’ve been pretending they believe in a bat-symbol in the sky. And now, it’s ready to get ugly again.
And Bruce doesn’t have the people to rely on that he used to. Jim Gordon isn’t at the Bat-signal. Alfred isn’t in the Bat-cave. The family has all been pulled away from him or he’s pushed them away.
This is a dangerous moment for Bruce, and a dangerous moment when Gotham City is going to become something very different and something out of Batman’s control. That’s the exciting thing here.
Just as we’re saying Batman #94 is both an ending and a beginning, I’d say 'Joker War' is both an ending and a beginning. This is meant to close off an era of storytelling, while simultaneously opening up a new era of storytelling.
Nrama: And 'Joker War' concludes when?
Tynion: The last issue of 'Joker War' is issue #100, which should come out in October.
Nrama: That’ll be an oversized issue, I’m sure.
Tynion: I think you might be right with that one.
Nrama: So are you saying there will be a new direction or new approach after "Joker War?"
Tynion: It’s going to be a new status quo. Let’s put it that way. We’re going to shake things up in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is going to be up front and center, but the Gotham City he operates in has changed a lot, and the way he operates as Batman is going to have to change a lot.
I’m deeply excited to tell those stories. I can’t talk about them too much just yet. But just wait until the next round of solicits, when I can talk about even more new characters that I’m creating because I can’t stop myself.
Nrama: As I mentioned before, we’re showing some artwork from #94. Anything you want to share about the artwork on this issue?
Tynion: The opening pages are by Rafael Albuquerque, which features a flashback to Bruce’s training - which I will say is an important era to some of the stories we have coming up in the series.
We’ve introduced this Designer character, who was essentially a kind of Moriarty of crime in the past of the DC Universe. The opening pages introduce the Sherlock opposite him, who Bruce wanted to train under when he was a young man, but was rejected.
That sort of sets the stage.
This is Bruce dealing with a number of failures over the last year, and now trying to pull himself together in time for 'Joker War' to really come together with a concerted push and take his city back.
Nrama: And then 'Joker War' is going to be drawing entirely by Jorge Jimenez?
Tynion: Every single page of every issue. He’s already almost done with #99, so I think we’re going to make it.
I know that my first arc - 'Their Dark Designs' - has had a medley of incredible artists. Part of it was the runway we had to get it up and running, and the double-ship schedule.
But we were very determined to make sure 'Joker War' came out with a singular voice. Moving forward, we want more of a singular artistic voice per story.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell people to look forward to in either issue #93 or #94 - or 'Joker War'?
Tynion: Honestly, the biggest thing I have to say is that all of this is the beginning. We’re trying to set the stage for lots of exciting stories. I’m really excited for people to see what we’ve been cooking.
We have an opportunity to set up these stories and pay them off in a deliberate way. I know I came out with this big, bombastic, high-energy story that I’m very proud of, but I’m excited for people to see the defined, singular shape of what the series is going to be moving forward.