Interview: Grayson’s Tim Seeley and Tom King

With the recent release of Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral and the June 24th’s forthcoming Grayson #9, writers Tim Seeley and Tom King have quite a bit to celebrate: this is their first collected volume for the series, after all, and Grayson has proven to be a critical and financial success.  To mark this occasion, the writers answered a few questions about their writing process, when they knew the book was a success with the fans, and what’s coming up in the next few months.

Batman News: First off as a pleasantry, I’d like to congratulate the two of you on taking Dick in such a bold direction.  I know when it was first announced there was some trepidation, but personally I think you guys have absolutely nailed it by introducing this new world within the DC Universe: Spyral and the other spy aspects that nobody’s ever really tried to do in such an established “superhero world.”  It’s been both a critical and fan success, so congrats for that, guys.

Tim Seeley: Well thanks.

Tom King: Thanks man, that means a lot.  That’s awesome.

Batman News: Now when did it hit you guys how much of a success this book has actually been?

Tim Seeley: I think… yeah, I don’t know if we ever sat down and went “oh, I know this is a success,” but I know that when Tom and I go to conventions we always have people come up to us and say “I wanted to hate this, but…”

Tom King: [laughs]

Tim Seeley: And I think that was when we started realizing, you know, we were facing some skepticism, but maybe, by and large, we were able to bring people around to our side on it.

Tom King: I can pinpoint it to a moment.  [laughs]  I remember the day issue one came out… and I’m fairly new to this, and we’d done Nightwing #30 which was when the “trepidation wave” came out, and then we got this incredible response where people almost had, like, a sigh of relief, like “ok, these guys know who Dick Grayson is and they love the character as much as we do.”  And I remember reading Mike Norton, Tim’s art partner, and he had tweeted something like “Tim Seeley has the rest of the night for good reviews, so I’m just going to sign off at this point.”

Tim Seeley: [laughs]

Tom King: And I was sitting in the dark reading all the good reviews too and I’m like “oh my gosh, we’ve done it.”  [laughs] That sticks in my memory as “The Moment.”

Batman News: Yeah, personally, as a long-time fan of Dick Grayson, I was just glad he survived because for a while we didn’t know if he was even going to be alive, let alone as a spy, which I thought “oh, that’s kind of cool.”  It’s also a natural progression for him as a character, because if Bruce was going to trust somebody enough to infiltrate this organization and get everything back to him, it would be Dick.  Plus, Dick has always had that kind of free-wheeling, fun personality while still getting down to business, so I thought it was a good direction to take the character.

Tim Seeley: Hey, thanks.

Batman News: After this last arc with the revelation of Minos’… by the way, is it Mee-nos or My-nos?

Tim Seeley: …it’s either way, however you want I guess.

Tom King: I say Mee-nos, and I think I came up with the name…

Tim Seeley: Yeah, you came up with the name.  You can say My-nos, but who cares?  You can call him whatever you want.

Batman News: Ok, let’s say Min-os.  That’s a good middle ground right there.

Tim Seeley: [laughs]

Tom King: Deal. [laughs]

Batman News: Min-os…

Tim Seeley: There ya go.

Tom King: We’ll just call him Chuck.  That’s his real name.  We haven’t told anybody that.  That’s a spoiler.

Batman News: Was his double-cross a long game you guys had been playing and is that just the tip of the iceberg for things to come?

Tim Seeley: Yeah, for sure.  I know when we went through this and sort of plotted out the long game of what we’d put Dick through, we didn’t necessarily need to get there at a specific time.  I think once we got to the end of this arc and felt like we could move it into the next age which is, you know, Dick working under Helena with Tiger where it would move the story forward.

Tom King: Yeah, I love that about Minos, it’s that he sort of became almost this Batman villain.  He had his little obsession, he was obsessed with secrets, he had this unique look and as the series went through it very much seemed like we were creating just another generic Bat-villain, but in fact that was actually part of the story.  What was actually happening with Agent Zero was creating a Bat-villain that was to lure Batman and Dick Grayson into this organization.  So the whole thing was just a web to get Dick.

Batman News: In the trade, one of my personal favorite special features was Tim’s single-page spec script for the book, your proposal.  Reading that it was kind of cool, A in getting the inner workings of what goes on in the industry, like “this is the story I want to tell,” but also how little of it has changed at this point and that you already had Kat Kane in the works from the very beginning.  It was an eye-opener and really cool to read there.

Tim Seeley: Yeah, it’s funny going back and reading that when I got the comps in… umm, I’m terrible at writing pitches but that is the best pitch that I’ve ever written.  So at least that’s the one that got printed, because you should see my pitches for other stuff.  It’s… terrible.  But that one is good.

Tom King: I hated it because I was competing against you, man.  If you’d only written a crappier pitch I’d be the number one writer on this book. [laughs]

Tim Seeley: [laughs]

Batman News: Well, that wasn’t one of the questions I had, but now it is: how do you guys write out the scripts?  You guys share the “story by” credit, so I’m curious how you guys go about writing the book together.

Tim Seeley: It should be relatively split evenly, because the way that we do it is we talk about what we want to be in each issue, and then we switch off assigning the scripting duties to one another.  So every other issue, generally speaking, is a different writer.  We’ll occasionally do two issue arcs on and off, and that’s just sort of to make it easier to manage the workload.  The scripts are individually by one writer, but they contain ideas and directions and characters from the other guy, across the board.  It’s probably a unique way to do it.  We don’t jam on issues specifically, like I don’t write one page and Tom writes another, generally, but yeah, so that’s kind of how we’ve done it so far, especially that trade, and we maintain that system into the next season.

Batman News: So it’s like a collaborative trade-off?

Tom King: Yeah.  It was at an extra feature, which is when I hit issue six about I have some sort of panic and I have to call Tim to talk me down, which is… very much appreciated, and then we go back to plot again.  The issues are… I mean, I don’t need to tell Tim Seeley how to write a comic book; he needs to tell me, but I don’t listen, so we’re ok.

Tim Seeley: [laughs] What it allows us to do is… the issues feel different, and I think that’s good.  I think they switch back and forth.  The themes are the same, the characters are the same, but the way we do things is different.  And Tom tends to be more experimental and he likes to play with formats and he tends to be generally more serious, and then I tend to be a little more straightforward but I tend to be more humorous and weirder and so, you know, in the middle you get kind of a great combination of two different styles and I think that style is the Grayson comic book.

Tom King: I couldn’t write this book alone.  It works the way it works.

Batman News: Yeah, I think it works.  Looking at the DC Universe as a whole, how will Batman’s apparent death affect Dick and his mission?

Tim Seeley: We definitely approach that one the first page of issue nine, because now Dick is a spy out in the cold , you know?  He calls home on the first page and there’s no one to answer, so he has to change what he’s been doing to sort of accommodate his new situation.  So I think of the Bat characters, Dick might be the most directly affected because of that connection.  So we play into it right away.

Tom King: Yeah, and I mean, you also have to consider that he was sent there for a specific mission, about the secret identities.  Spyral has learned about all the secret identities, and so his mission is completed, and now he wants to come home, and so he asks permission “can I come home now, boss?” and no one answers, and that’s where we start the second season.

Batman News: Now was that in the sneak peek?  Because I read that, but I don’t remember that.  I might have to go check it out again.

Tom King: [laughs] No, no, that’s in issue nine, which will be out June 27th, I think.

Batman News: Dick also appeared in Batman #40 as Batman to trick the Joker.  Will that have any repercussions with him showing up in Gotham unexpectedly?

Tim Seeley: Not directly.  I mean, we knew it was happening, and we all talk to each other and that’s something that got brought up at the Bat summit that he wanted to use Dick in the Batsuit and we were totally for it, it’s a great sort of recognition of the fact that Dick once was Batman.  You know, it’s a shared universe, so we like to let the characters appear in each others’ books once in a while.  And I think we do make mention of it in a later story, of some of the things that happen during Batman: Endgame, but mostly we just keep it about Dick Grayson’s story.

Tom King: I just think it shows what an awesome person Dick Grayson is, and that he can be… I mean, we started this with Dick Grayson is who you need him to be, and at that moment he needed to be Batman, and he put everything aside to be that, and so I just think it was a perfect use of the character.

Batman News: That was great, I like that “in that moment he needed to be Batman.”  That was really well put.  Now, can you give us any hints about anyone from Dick or Helena or Spyral’s pasts that will be popping up in the near future?

Tim Seeley: Well yeah.  [laughs]  You know one of the things we wanted to do was make lots of new stuff, lots of new toys to play with, so we’ll definitely keep tying it back to the mythology that we’re creating, but we’re in a shared universe so it would be a shame not to throw in other colorful costumed weirdos.

Tom King: Yeah, and the first season was about establishing Dick as a character in this sort of new role and just proving that this is still Nightwing, this is still Robin, this is still Dick Grayson.  The second season is going to be about what this means for the rest of the DCU, especially as we approach the 75th anniversary of Robin and how we’re launching off of that.

Batman News: I think one of my favorite moments from the series so far was… I don’t remember if it was issue six or seven, where Dick kind of has a full page where he says “I am this, this, this, and this, and ultimately, I am Dick Grayson” while he’s fighting Midnighter.  I thought that was a really great example of you guys getting the character.  So again, as a long-time Grayson fan, that was a really cool moment.

Tim Seeley: Thank you.

Tom King: I’m not gonna say thank you, friggin’ Seeley wrote that.

Tim Seeley: [laughs] Whatever, I think we talked about it, so you were all up in there.

Tom King: Oh.  Never mind.  Thank you.

Batman News: It was a collaboration, guys, remember.  Alright, the last question I have is about the relationship between Dick and Helena, which has served as the foundation of the book for the first run.  Are we still going to get to develop that relationship now that she’s in charge and Dick has a new partner?

Tim Seeley: Yeah, I mean I think that’s a really central point of the next three issues, for sure.  Because she’s now adjusting to going from, you know, someone who she worked with to someone she gives order to.  It definitely has… and it also has some questions of, she worked closely with this guy so is she compromised when she tries to give him missions?  So yeah, it definitely comes up.

Tom King: Their relationship is the heart of the series, and umm, as we move forward it’s going to affect everything.

Batman News: Alright, that’s all I have, so I appreciate it guys.  Thanks for giving us this interview, and again, love the book and congratulations on your first trade.

Tim Seeley: Thanks man.

Tom King: Congratulations on your first interview, man, you did great.

Batman News: Well thank you.

Tim Seeley: That’s really cool, man.

Batman News: Oh yeah.  I’m glad that a book I really love, I got to interview the creators, so thanks for letting me do it.

Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral is available now in comic book stores and on June 8th in stores everywhere.  Grayson will return June 24th with issue number nine.