Cullen Bunn And Barry Kitson Talk Batroc The Leaper And Some Other Guys In ‘Captain America & Iron Man’ #634
A comic by Cullen Bunn and Barry Kitson is pretty exciting to begin with, but with next month’s Captain America & Iron Man #634, they’ve raised the bar. Why? Because in that issue, two of the mightiest Avengers of all are going to be facing the single deadliest threat of their long and storied careers: The Perilous Parkour of Batroc the Leaper!
That’s right, everybody: The greatest French super-villain in the history of the Marvel Universe is back for another round, and when I got the opportunity to interview Bunn and Kitson about the upcoming arc, I knew I could leave the questions about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark at the door. This interview is going All-Batroc — including a few exclusive preview pages of the issue! And that’s just as it should be.ComicsAlliance: Okay, let’s start with the obvious: We all know that Batroc is awesome, but what exactly is it that makes him so great? The moustache? The accent? The fact that he’s willing to trade punches with Captain America while wearing a purple satin jacket?
Cullen Bunn: Honestly, I’m not sure why I like Batroc so much. For whatever reason, he is my quintessential Captain America villain. Some people will say Red Skull, and I get that, but Batroc is my fave. I remember sitting in high school French class… being bored out of my mind…and thinking to myself, “I wish this class was a little more Batroc.” I also remember being very young and thinking, “Hey, Batroc’s kind of awesome and all he does is jump. Maybe I could be awesome, too, because of one little gimmick. These cowboy boots of mine are kind of great. I could be just like Batroc!”
CA: As much as he’s a favorite for us, I think we both know that in the list of Cap’s Arch-Enemies, he’s always going to be a few steps beneath guys like the Red Skull. So, even beyond Batroc himself, where do you think the appeal of those second-stringers comes from? Just the one gimmick? The fact that they’re often likable guys even though they’re villains, or that they have the freedom to be a little goofier than the Super-Serious Heavyweight Bad Guys?
CB: I think I just like the underdog.
And, when you think about it, most of these characters were never created with the notion that they’d be second-stringers. Their creators felt that they could be interesting and challenging for our heroes. And I love the idea that they could potentially surprise readers. A second-string character who suddenly presents a very real threat? That’s a real treat.
Chris, I know you’re a wrestling fan. Imagine how awesome it was when the Mulkey Brothers, who never won a match in their career, suddenly upset the Gladiators and earned themselves a spot in the Crockett Tag Team Tournament.
Batroc deserves a win.
CA: Where do you see Batroc fitting in among Captain America and Iron Man’s respective villains? How does he rank?
CB: There’s a moment in the arc where Batroc actually comments on where he feels he ranks in Cap’s rogue’s gallery, and he and Cap have a difference of opinion on that topic. I know some people don’t think Batroc (even with his flunkies) can handle someone like Iron Man, but believe me: they prove to be a significant threat in this story.
CA: Why did you decide to pit him against a Captain America/Iron Man team-up? Was it just a chance to see a battle of the moustaches, and if so, will J. Jonah Jameson be involved?
CB: I will not admit that I’ve always been a little jealous of Batroc’s mustachios.
When I started planning arcs for this series, I knew I’d be using Batroc at some point. Like I said, he’s always been a favorite character of mine. I mean, he was hardcore parkour before parkour was popularized on YouTube. And I thought the interplay between Cap, Iron Man, and Batroc would be a lot of fun. And I was right. The scenes between those characters were so much fun to write!
CA: It seems like there’s a really good dynamic at play in the group of Captain America, Iron Man and Batroc. We’ve seen Tony Stark’s sort of over-the-top self-confidence clashing with Cap before, but Batroc’s arrogance would seem to take it to a completely different level. How does it all play out?
CB: This is a pretty fast-paced, action-oriented story, but we definitely get to see that dynamic at play. Tony suffers a setback early on that doesn’t manage to shake his confidence, but we see Cap start to doubt Tony. At the same time, Batroc feels that this is his time to shine, his chance to defeat Cap and prove himself the better combatant… while he leaves Iron Man to the Brigade.
CA: Even though he’s a mercenary, Batroc has always a had a moral streak, especially where the death of innocent people is concerned. How do you reconcile that with the fact that with his status as a villain?
CB: I think Batroc sees himself as a romantic villain… a highwayman or a thief who could charm his way into the hearts of the lovely ladies he robs, taking both their money and their breath away. He’s supremely confident in his abilities. He doesn’t just welcome a challenge. He goes out of his way to push his own limits. That’s one of the reasons he’s not afraid to go head-to-head with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man. He wants to prove that he’s the best by beating the best. Not just beating them…but beating them with style!
But even though Batroc isn’t consumed with bloodlust, he’s not always the best at hiring teammates who share his point of view. The new Machete in particular has a lethal streak a mile wide.
CA: There’s also an edge of comedy to his character, mostly because of the accent. How do you go about working with a villain that’s funny, while still making him interesting in the context of a story?
CB: I think the key here is that “Batroc Zee Lepair!” actually enjoys what he does. He gets off on a challenge and he has fun while he’s on the clock. He cracks jokes. He taunts his enemies. But he never loses sight of his mission. When his clients pay him to kick someone in the face, that’s what he’s going to do. His sense of humor and finesse are simply part of the bonus plan.
CA: Does that undercut his status as a threat at all, though? From Cap’s point of view, is he an annoyance, or something more along the lines of a competitor? Or is he a genuine threat who just enjoys what he does?
CB: I think it’s easy to consider Batroc as an annoyance these days, but I wanted to make sure he came across as a genuine threat for both Cap and Iron Man. He talks a big game, sure, but he can back it up. He’s a highly-trained combatant. Besides… watch Kiss of the Dragon or Live Free or Die Hard and tell me Savate isn’t kind of bad-ass. Or a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. He might not practice Savate, but he’s Belgian and that’s close enough when you’re being kicked in the junk.
CA: Let’s say that Zaran the Weapons Master and Machete get injured in a scuffle with the Heroes For Hire, and you two are called in to replace them in Batroc’s Brigade. How do you fit in?
CB: First of all… come on. Heroes For Hire? Batroc’s Brigade would wipe the floor with those mugs. The heroes would feel the gravi-te of savate, so to speak. (Dammit! “Gravi-te of Savate” should have been the title of this arc.) But let’s say Batroc and his gang had San Diego Comic Con con flu during the fight and Zaran and Machete were injured. I’d probably be willing to step into Machete’s shoes, but I’m not sure I could pull off the new outfit. Therefore, I’m gonna call dibs on Zaran. His mask is kind of rad and with all those weapons I’m sure to find one that I could fake my way through appearing threatening.
CA: Do you have any particular favorite Batroc moments from the past?
CB: That’s tough to say. My favorite Batroc moments are probably fusions of several different appearances I’m remembering. I liked those early fights with Cap (with the action sometime being depicted in these great 9-panel grids). I also liked his more recent appearance in Brubaker’s Captain America.
Barry Kitson: Has to be Tales of Suspense #85.
BK: I was a little kid, just about deciding to be a comic artist and when I saw page 8 where Stan decided not to dialogue because Jack Kirby’s art said it all… my preteen mind was blown! I’ve never forgotten that and the sheer majesty of Jack’s artwork — a life changing moment — perhaps not totally relevant to Batroc as a character — but one I will always associate with the character!
CA: One more question about how you’re treating the conflict. Batroc and Captain America make an interesting fight, since at its heart, it’s one fighter against another, but Iron Man is essentially a walking tank. How do you make ze Leapair a threat to a dude who can fly and shoot repulsor blasts out of his hands?
CB: In a straight-up fight against Iron Man, Batroc and the Brigade don;t really stand a chance. But this is definitely not a fair fight. The bad guys strike at Iron Man when he’s at a real low point. They are a serious threat to him, and Tony has to do some quick thinking in order to stand against them. In fact, Cap tries to get Tony to sit this one out, because the risks are simply too great. To make matters worse, Batroc’s Brigade isn’t alone. Kash, M.O.D.O.K., M.A.D.A.K.s, and A.I.M. are all along for the ride as well.
CA: We could’ve made this article a lot shorter if you’d just said “Batroc / M.O.D.O.K. team-up” and just left it at that. It’s all I needed to hear.
Captain America & Iron Man #634 hits stores and the Marvel App on July 22, with a cover price of $2.99.