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Dan DiDio Talks “Batman and Robin,” and the All-New Dynamic Duo

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Since the events of “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis,” when Superman emerged holding the charred corpse of Bruce Wayne, nothing has been the same. DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio chatted with ComicsAlliance about the big changes on the way in “Batman Reborn,” as all-new heroes step into the roles of Batman and Robin in their brand-new title — wait for it — “Batman and Robin.”

ComicsAlliance: What’s been the reaction to the recent revelation that Dick Grayson, the original Robin, is now the new Batman?

Dan DiDio: We had a lot of speculation about who was going to be the new Batman, and one of the things that I found most surprising was that most people were trying to guess in a different direction. But from our standpoint, we were always pretty locked in on the fact that Dick Grayson was going to be the new Batman… the legacy aspect plays into everything that makes DC great, where we have so many characters that have moved from one generation to another. People have become very invested in [Dick Grayson] character over the years, and interested to see how he accepts the mantle.

CA: Are the people of Gotham — and the larger world — aware that Dick Grayson is a different Batman when he reappears in the cowl?

DD: When you first see him, he’s right next to [Bruce Wayne's son] Damian as the new Robin. And just by noticing this different Robin, and the brand new dynamic for the team, people are also picking up that there’s a different Batman. It takes the dynamic and flips it upside down — where at first Batman was grimmer and more driven, [Dick] is a lot lighter, he’s a lot more fun. And on the reverse side where you used to have the carefree Robin before, you have a grim and gritty and angry little boy being Robin now.

(Read more about whether the dearly departed Dark Knight will be in the Black Lantern Corps, whether a Batwoman series is on the way, and what might happen if Bruce Wayne returns… after the jump!)CA: After Batman was temporarily crippled during the “Knightfall” storyline in 1993, there was an arc called “Prodigal” that explored Dick Grayson taking on the role of Batman. How is “Batman Reborn” going to be different?

DD: “Prodigal” was a very short lived story that explained why Dick Grayson didn’t want to be Batman. It was a different point of view about why, at that point, he decided not to take the mantle and to walk away from that. But now he understands why Gotham City and the world needs a Batman, and he feels ready for the responsibility that comes with wearing the cowl.

CA: So is Dick going to be a reluctant Batman on some level, or is he ready to fully embrace it?

DD: What we did was work from the theme of “Prodigal” early on, when he chose not be Batman, because he was still operating under the assumption that no one but Bruce Wayne could be Batman. And then when he saw that other people wanted to be Batman too, he realized that the world did need one, and that it was what he’d been training his whole life for: to put the cowl on and step into Bruce’s shoes. There’s a real progression there. And it’s not until the third issue when he’s physically battling over the cowl that he truly realizes how much he did want to wear it, and that it was his destiny.

CA: Is the changing of the guard going to affect the “Trinity” relationship between Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman?

DD: It definitely affects that. Superman has known Dick Grayson since he was Robin, so he’s going to have to met him as an equal, but that may be difficult at least at first blush.

CA: Is Dick still going to have access to the resources of Bruce Wayne?

DD: He’s operating out of the Batcave, and he has many of Bruce’s other resources available to him too. He will get challenged, though, when it comes to things involving Wayne Enterprises. It’s something that’s a little unexpected on his part.

CA: Are the new dynamic duo going to be facing Batman’s old rogue’s gallery right out of the gate, or are they getting new villains of their own?

DD: Well, we have a number of [concurrent] Batman Books right now. We have “Batman and Robin” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, where there will be a whole set of new villains entering into Dick Grayson and Damian’s world. Then there’s the primary “Batman” book, where it’s mostly Dick Grayson as Batman without the team dynamic, and we’ll see some recurring villains there, including who the new mysterious Black Mask is.

In “Batman,” we’ll also see much more of Dick Grayson and how he’s growing and changing into the role, and “Batman: Streets of Gotham” by Paul Dini and J.H. Williams, which focuses a lot on the supporting [Batman] cast members. Then in “Detective Comics,” which was one of our mainstays of Batman, there’s actually going to be no Batman in it — it’s going to feature the character Batwoman.

CA: There’s been buzz about Batwoman since the media splash after her revamp back in 2006. Why has it take so long for her to step into a starring role?

DD: One of the things we wanted to do was build her up slowly as a strong member of the DC Universe, and then as a strong supporting cast member in Batman’s world, and then if the interest was there, to be able to roll her out into her own series. With all the things that were taking place in the Batman universe, it just made sense to hold off her premiere.

CA: Is there the potential for this to spin-off into a Batwoman solo title?

DD: Absolutely. My goal right now give her a strong showcase in “Detective Comics,” give her a great platform in the Batman world, and hopefully if the fans support it there, and if everyone’s excited about it, she can continue on past her appearances in “Detective.”

CA: Damian is the darkest and most volatile Robin since Jason Todd. Does Dick have any concern that he may turn in that direction?

DD: That’s something that Dick is trying to prevent. That ultimately becomes one of the centerpieces of the storyline between him and Damian as they develop their own relationship. You have to realize, Damian for the most part has only interacted with Bruce Wayne’s Batman, so putting on the Robin costume and operating side-by-side with Dick Grayson — there’s no precedent for them working together, so there’ll be a real learning process taking place.

CA: Is he going to be challenging Dick anymore?

DD: Definitely. [laughs]

CA: But he’s not actually trying to take the Batman mantle from him –

DD: Damian believes he s
hould be Batman at some point. Damian believes that he is going to be able to step into every role that Bruce Wayne had at some point. Whether or not it’s going to be this very moment or years from now is the point of discussion between Damian and Dick Grayson at this moment.

CA: Do you see Jason Todd as a recurring villain for Dick — potentially even the Joker to his Batman?

DD: One thing that Jason Todd does not think of himself at any point is a villain, that being said, he will be very much involved in the events that are taking place with Dick Grayson’s Batman. He’s going to be defining himself as his own person away form Batman, but still feeling that he is the better of the two.

CA: Was Damian originally introduced with the intention of moving him into the Robin role?

DD: Grant always saw Damian as a little angry Robin from day one. That was part of his pitch with Damian. He wanted Damian coming up to Bruce Wayne and saying, “I make a better Batman than you!” “Prodigal” was a wonderful story, but it didn’t really get to the meat and bones of what the world would be like with Dick Grayson as Batman, and I’m happy to see they we’re finally getting there now.

The most important thing is that the other members of the DC Universe believe that Batman is dead, so because of that there’ll be a level of acceptance, and a level of reluctance at a new Batman. Batman, more than any hero except Superman, mark on the superhero community that his presence and absence leaves such a huge footprint. Dick Grayson being bold enough to fill his shoes is what’s going to be the core of both the contention and the acceptance.

CA: How are people in Bruce Wayne’s life keeping up the illusion for the rest of the world that he is still alive?

DD: That’s a great little plot twist… [The world] doesn’t think that Bruce Wayne is dead, they do not think that Bruce Wayne is missing, they just think that he’s off the grid for the moment. But when he does reappear, naturally that causes repercussions through Batman’s world.

CA: In terms of what we know as readers, are we aware that Batman may not really be dead?

DD: Yes.

CA: So is Bruce Wayne still a candidate for the Black Lantern Corps, which appears to be composed of dead heroes?

DD: Well, Black Hand has been seen holding the skull of what is believed to be Bruce Wayne. Plus, he could be disappointed, or this could be a new wrinkle to everything that’s been created in the Black Lantern’s world. But that will be addressed early in the story of “Blackest Night.”

CA: How about Alfred? What role is going to play for the new Batman, as he becomes increasingly involved in the Outsiders team?

DD: Alfred has really become a pillar of strength. There’s an incredible burden, an incredible weight on Dick’s shoulders because of the mantle of Batman, and Alfred is there every step of the way as he was for Bruce, as he helped guide him into making the right decision. But Alfred also lives a double life too, and we’re going to be seeing his role as field commander for the “Outsiders” grow larger over the next few months, just as the “Outsiders” get more involved in the events going on in Gotham City, especially in regard to Arkham Asylum.

CA: The Joker has always reacted very badly to the idea of another villain taking out Batman. How will be respond to the news that Batman has been struck down, and there’s someone new in the Batsuit?

DD: There are a lot of events going on that take Joker out of the mix for these early stories, and allow some of the other villains of Batman’s world to take up the time of the new Batman and Robin. That said, there is a place for the Joker in this story, and it will be a major moment the Joker confronts the new Batman.

CA: What sort of a role is Tim Drake, another former Robin, going to have in all of this?

DD: Tim is basically — not that he’s turned his back on Dick Grayson, but Tim has refused to accept the fact that Bruce Wayne is dead. And of all the characters out there, Tim is the only one who still thinks that he’s alive, and Tim is now out basically going around the world trying to look for signs and clues to whether Bruce Wayne may still be alive and where he might be. During this road to finding Bruce Wayne, he also comes across a lot of things that complicate his life.

CA: The new “Batman and Robin” series is only slated for a year. Is there any reason that it couldn’t run for longer than that?

DD: As we stand right now, there’s a particular story arc that Grant Morrison has in his mind for the “Batman and Robin” series. But what we’re looking at is the master story as we discover that there’s a new Batman in the world and he establishes himself, and even more importantly, as we discover the ultimate fate of Bruce Wayne.

CA: “Batman and Robin” marks the fourth Batman volume for Grant Morrison, who has mentioned plans for a fifth. Is that something that’s officially in the works?

DD: Grant has an open invitation to work on Batman for as long as he wants. And the great part about Grant is that we start talking about things, and after he’s talking about one story arc, he starts in with the next one, and the one after that. So he has a completely open door for whatever he wants to do with the character. We love his interpretation and the twists and turns he takes. He’s injected so much new blood into Batman’s world and he’s always helping to define him for the future. He’s one of the guys we consider the main architects of Batman’s future.

CA: Hypothetically, if Bruce Wayne were to return at some point, would there be an immediate reversion of the Batman role back to Bruce, or could Dick potentially redefine the role to the point where that might not be so automatic?

DD: [laughs] I don’t want to be the guy who tells Bruce Wayne he can’t be Batman. I think there’s so much excitement and potential in someone else under the cowl that I want to make sure that are the stories are explored and more importantly, that we reach the full potential of this storyline. We want to make sure we make the most of it.

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