DC Comics EIC Bob Harras Breaks Down Bruce Wayne’s ‘Batman’ Reveal [Interview]
Batman fans have only just started to soak in the massive shakeup at the end of today’s Batman and Robin #16 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, but for DC Editor-In-Chief and VP Bob Harras, the issue’s potentially controversial contents are just another step along Morrison’s carefully-crafted run on the series. ComicsAlliance spoke with Harras this afternoon to learn more about Bruce Wayne’s surprising announcement and what it means for the Bat-family and the wider DCU in the months ahead and beyond.
Hit the jump for the (somewhat spoiler-infused) interview.
ComicsAlliance: At the end of Final Crisis when Dick Grayson takes over for Bruce Wayne, fans knew he’d eventually return and there would be the question, “How is the world going to deal with two Batmen?” How does Bruce’s reveal [that he's been funding Batman all along and plans to expand his operation] a mechanism of Batman, Inc. and part of the logic of multiple Batmen co-existing?
Bob Harras: I think it comes out of Grant’s story developing Bruce Wayne through being lost in time and him being changed by the events of the last few years. Grant’s had this in mind since he wrote “Batman and Son,” “Batman: RIP” and Batman and Robin. Grant has a vision of where he wants to take Bruce Wayne and Batman and this reveal, where he’s actually changing his identity as Bruce Wayne from the playboy to someone who’s saying “I’m socially responsible, I’m here funding a criminal to fight crime,” has been part and parcel of Grant’s vision from the get-go.
CA: One of the analogies our Editor-In-Chief Laura Hudson used a few weeks back when she asked Grant about Batman, Inc. was whether a new lineup of Batmen would function more like a standard brand like McDonald’s with a few items localized here and there, or if each hero would have their own flavor despite the brand (so-to-speak).
BH: I think what Bruce is doing is trying to battle crime in a unique way, going to each country and looking at what challenges they have there. So I don’t think it’ll be a McDonald’s approach. He’s just looking for people and heroes that he thinks can assume the mantle in Batman, Inc.
CA: This reveal is going to have implications for the characters in their personal lives. Everybody involved with Bruce is now open — if they weren’t before, living in Gotham City — to direct attacks from Batman’s rogues gallery. Is that going to have big implications considering a lot of [Batman's] most threatening enemies (Ra’s al Ghul, the Joker, the Black Glove) kind of already have the inside track on what’s going on with him. Or do you think it will cause a way bigger problem for the Bat-family and their secret identities?
BH: I think the thing about Bruce and Batman is that he’s the ultimate tactician. He always knows what he’s doing. I know he realizes there’s risk in everything. He lives the life of the Dark Knight. So it’s a risk he’s willing to take and I think that he has a game plan and we’ll see where it goes.
CA: As far as the master plan goes, can fans expect other changes to the status quo as far as how Batman operates? Will he be coming out during the day? Will he be showing up in public? Is there anything that might have previously been seen as “out of character” that might be coming about as a result of the Batman, Inc. announcement?
BH: Because this is a game-changer and Bruce is approaching the problems in a different way, the interesting thing about that is “Where do the ripple effects end? Where will things stop changing the character and the cast?” So the answer to that is: It could be.
CA: One of the biggest character comparisons to this announcement — which has to do with a character you’ve have experience with in a previous life — is a certain armored hero’s secret identity. How will this reveal work out differently than somebody like Iron Man, who has had secret identities that weren’t quite secret or vary from time to time?
BH: I think this is really Grant’s vision of Bruce’s journey and Batman’s journey. I think it’s about how he has been changed by the events that began in “Batman and Son” and I think that’s how Grant and [DC] are approaching this. “How would Bruce deal with being lost in time?” “How would Bruce deal with facing the global threat of crime?” Maybe he’s saying Gotham is too small a battlefield. We’re looking at this as very much Bruce Wayne and Batman-specific.
CA: One of my favorite new characters is Damian, because he’s so much like Bruce, but so different from every other hero in the Bat-family. How will he be affected by the return of his father and his father’s whole new game plan that he may or may not be totally cool with?
BH: I think Damian always keeps you on edge because you never know how he’s going to react to anything. I think he’s a fantastic character. He’s a fantastic addition to [Grant's] Batman storyline. I think you’ll be interested to see where Grant’s going to take Damian. He’s got long term plans for the character, as he does for all of the characters. I’ve seen them and I think they’re amazing.
CA: Every time there’s a big shakeup in a comic book story, even the biggest events like Crisis [on Infinite Earths], there’s always this kind of, not necessarily a loophole, but a story detail that can help put the genie back in the bottle if needed down the road. Does DC have a way to put the genie back in the bottle, or is this a permanent plan for Batman?
BH: This is the überplan for Batman that Grant has been building towards for the past five years, so we go forward from here, we see where this storyline takes us, we see where change takes us and that’s the exciting part of something like this.
CA: On a personal note, what’s your favorite part of the reveal and what it means for the next year or so?
BH: I will just say that when I saw the pages where Bruce made his announcement, I was incredibly excited. I felt this was an incredible game-changer for the mythos. There’s a part of me that was just excited about where this could take us. It’s the most fun part about putting superhero comics together. You’re surprised by where the characters take you. Where we are a year from now or two years from now because of this one event is wide open now, and I think that’s the most amazing part of creating superhero comics.
CA: Some fans — especially more traditional fans — might be concerned that this reveal takes Batman’s war on crime and turns it from a more personal fight into a broader social thing – maybe even a political thing. What keeps Batman’s fight personal?
BH: I think it’s what he says in his press conference. He saw his parents murdered before him. That is the pivotal moment in Bruce Wayne’s life and that’s what drives everything. That has not changed. Maybe his methods are evolving, but this is still an incredibly personal battle for Bruce Wayne and that is what makes him Batman. That is the core of the character. So that hasn’t changed at all.
CA: When Iron Man went public in the comics, fans pretty quickly saw that element of his character take hold in movies, animation and other multimedia. Do you think readers will see this new aspect of Bruce Wayne’s character crop up in DC’s multimedia down the road at all in other incarnations?
BH: Right now this is Grant’s vision for the character and that’s all I can really speak to right now – the comics that we’re doing at this moment. So I really can’t comment on where it goes from here.
CA: What are the other heroes of the DC Universe going to think about Bruce’s reveal? Will those reactions play heavily into Batman, Inc.?
BH: Some are going to be very surprised that Bruce has gone from this public image of being a playboy to someone who is so socially responsible. For them as well, it’s a game-changer. It’s changing their world view and drama comes out of that. So yes, the other heroes and characters will be dealing with this as well.
CA: Is there anything else fans should know about how the reveal will affect the Bat-family over the coming year?
BH: Any event like this, any change like this in the status quo has ripple effects and that’s the most fascinating thing to watch. The next year will begin with those ripple affects across the Batman family. It’ll be high-drama and that’s what readers should be looking forward to.