Following the success of 2019's first series of Tales From the Dark Multiverse titles, the new DC franchise's second wave kicks off in November by putting a dark twist on one of Batman's most iconic storylines, 'Hush.'
In the story written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and illustrated by Dexter Soy, Tommy Elliot has become the Dark Prince of Gotham City - and his reign brings many changes to your favorite Batman heroes and villains.
Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Batman Hush #1 is due out on November 3rd, but before its release, Newsarama got a few moments to chat with Johnson about what readers can expect with his version of the iconic Batman tale, including which elements from the original he wanted to weave into this Elseworlds-type story, the introduction of Batman the Silenced, and Hush's new character design.
Newsarama: To start things off Phillip, why do you think Batman: Hush is such an iconic story to this day?
Phillip Kennedy Johnson: I think the elements of Batman: Hush that have kept it on the all-time shortlist are one, the mystery, conspiracy, and misdirection that keep you guessing until the very end; two, the way it weaves so many of Batman's villains and allies into the story, and of course; three, the incomparable art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams.
I was extremely mindful of those first two elements as I wrote the Dark Multiverse version of Batman: Hush, building a conspiracy around a long list of beloved Batman characters, and as always the art team of Dexter Soy, Ivan Plascencia, and Troy Peteri knocked it out of the park. It was a huge pleasure working with this crew, especially as we crafted a fresh, darker take on such an iconic story.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Batman the Silenced?
Johnson: This version of Gotham is one that's never known a Batman, ever. As such, all the challenges we've seen Batman face over the years—Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins, the Clench Virus, No Man's Land, the Court of Owls, and more—have struck Gotham without Batman there to handle them.
Then, after Gotham has been torn down and reshaped by all these disasters, "Batman the Silenced" appears: a Batman that's even darker, angrier, and crazier, with an ax to grind for all the corrupt police, politicians, mobsters, and villains who have profited from the destruction of Gotham City.
Batman the Silenced's origins are mysterious at first, but we know that it has something to do with an old story in Amadeus Arkham's journals, from the earliest days of Arkham Asylum. Who this Batman is, is a mystery Thomas Elliot will have to unravel.
Nrama: In this universe, how did Tommy's friendship with Bruce help shape each other?
Johnson: In this universe, young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot were even closer than they were in the original Batman: Hush. In this world, the Waynes and the Elliots were together that night in Crime Alley, and when the Waynes were gunned down, the Elliots, not Alfred, took Bruce in.
That proves to be a decision that completely changes Bruce's life, and as a result, Batman never emerges. Thomas Elliot, not Bruce Wayne, becomes the "prince" of Gotham City that Bruce was supposed to be, the face of Gotham with the combined Elliot and Wayne fortunes behind him as he rises to political prominence.
Nrama: Hush has a new design here - did you make any contributions to this? Why do you think it was important to give him a new look?
Johnson: I did have some specific design ideas, yes. With Batman's mission statement of "criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot," I've sometimes thought that Batman had room to go a little scarier in his war on crime, and this story was a perfect opportunity to do that. Batman the Silenced's cape and costume are basically a repurposed, reconfigured straitjacket, and his face is bandaged much like Hush's face as if we're seeing a reconstructive surgery gone wrong. He's terrifying and evokes a powerful response in the criminals he's hunting.
Nrama: What were some story beats you thought were necessary to add to your version of Batman: Hush?
Johnson: I wanted to tell a story about Batman and Thomas Elliot in which the roles were reversed, in which Hush is Batman and Elliot has to solve this mystery that goes all the way back to his childhood. The essential elements were the murder mystery and the conspiracy that leads our characters to question every one of their rivals and allies, one by one.
Nrama: Are there other iconic Gotham heroes and/or villains we can expect in this tale?
Johnson: I wanted to explore very different versions of our favorite characters, all with completely different backstories, relationships, and motivations as they've all lived lives without Batman in them. I don't want to spoil too much, but you'll see Dr. Jonathan Crane, Barbara Gordon, the Mad Hatter, Talia Al Ghul, and lots more. You'll also see what became of the Robins without Batman around to guide them.
Nrama: Would you like to write even more Batman stories in the future? Any series in particular?
Johnson: I'd never say no to writing Batman! My favorite aspect of Batman has always been his role as the world's greatest detective, and when we get to see him really use those skills, those usually turn out to be the best Batman stories for me. Whenever I get to come back to Batman, that's the side of him I most want to explore. I want to give him a mystery set in Gotham that only he can solve, that once again makes him earn his reputation as the World's Greatest Detective, and show readers what makes a mortal man worthy to stand side-by-side with gods.
Hush is one of Jim Lee’s greatest creations of all time. Check out where he ranks on our countdown.