It was on a Friday afternoon smack-dab in the middle of the overcrowded San Diego Convention Center. Past the hordes of Daredevil and Furiosa cosplayers, through the rows of illuminated showcases of DC Collectibles, and beyond the mannequins modeling Batman v. Superman, Arrow, and Flash costumes was the roped-off corner of the DC booth where I sat down with celebrated artist and writer Lee Bermejo to discuss DC’s latest Bat-title, We Are Robin.
Andrew: I got a lot of tweets about “Robin War” but I haven’t read anything yet so what’s that all about?
Lee: We just did the press announcement this morning so it’s a crossover book coming out later this year. It’s got Robin: Son of Batman, We Are Robin, which is the book I’m doing, and Gotham Academy and then it’s gonna have its own specific issues that will kind of sandwich the internal books and it’s just like a big, cool crossover featuring pretty much all of the Robin characters. Like, it specifically addresses a few of the things going on right now in the books like Damian finally returning to Gotham City after being away for a while, addressing the fact that now there’s a new Batman in town, and also addressing the fact that there are a bunch of these kids who’ve taken up the Robin mantle and are, you know, dispensing their own form of vigilante justice. So it’s kind of a way of finally getting those two specific Robin properties together.
Andrew: Did you know that the Robin War was coming whenever you first started creating We Are Robin?
Lee: No, I didn’t! But I honestly have to say it solved a problem for me! Because, you know, I knew from the very beginning that at some point these We Are Robin kids were gonna have to have an interaction with a Robin and Damian fits the bill much better because of type of character that he is. So when they explained to me the basic idea my reaction to it was like, Great! This solves a story problem for me! Now I can work with some of the other ideas that I had and that one would be put to rest.
Andrew: I know a criticism I’ve always had about modern Batman comics is that there are just too many kids in the Bat-family.
Andrew: And then I heard that there would be a We Are Robin book and I was like, We’re adding even more Robins? So I was hesitant, but then I read it and I really enjoyed it. It’s got a nice street-level feel.
Lee: Yeah, that’s the point. I mean, you have Robin: Son of Batman which is like a globe-trotting fantasy-adventure, you have Scott and Greg’s Batman book which like this sort of operatic, larger-than-life interpretation of Batman, and then our book kind of fits that street-niche, you know what I mean? It’s a little bit more grounded, it deals with stories that aren’t necessarily big, bombastic super-villain of month kind of thing.
Andrew: And all the kids are amateurs, aren’t they?
Lee: Yeah, I’ve been saying it like they’re the JV team wanting to go varsity.
Andrew: See, I want to see a struggle from the kids. It’s always been an aggravation that it’s so integral to the Batman mythology that Bruce leaves for like eight to ten years to train, but then we have these kids who just practice in the cave for like two or three months and they’re shown to be good-to-go and almost as effective. I want to see the kids having a hard time keeping up for a change.
Lee: What was more interesting to me was not giving the kids training at all and treating the mythology now… the mythology of Batman is to such a point I think where even the people of Gotham can address the fact that there have been multiple Robins and multiple Batmans so it seems to make sense to me that they can go like “Well, I can use that as a symbol and make it my own!” It’s not a new concept. Frank did it in Dark Knight. Even in the Nolan films they addressed that they had copycat Batmans running around.
Andrew: It’s very organic to the concept.
Lee: Yeah, I think that really works with that concept of this one man dispensing justice in his own way. I really like this idea that you can also get kids from different backgrounds and see how they individually treat that concept. It’s definitely a volatile cocktail, these kids don’t have the training and they’re doing very dangerous things and not always doing it well. I like that idea of the not professional trying to do what Batman does.
Andrew: I love it because some of my favorite Batman stories are like Batman: Year 100.
Andrew: Even though it’s a futuristic take, it’s still… Like, to me Batman rides this fine line between James Bond and, well, when people ask me “What’s the most realistic Batman movie?” I always joke, Go watch Taxi Driver.
Lee: Yeah, yeah, true, true. That’s about what you would get, I think and I like that approach.
Andrew: Did you see the Netflix Daredevil show?
Andrew: After that second episode’s ending I remember tweeting “I just saw the Batman fight-scene I always wanted, but it was in episode two of Daredevil.”
Lee: Yeah, because you actually see him get fatigued, get injured and that’s one of the things I wanted to do in this book. I wanted to start the series out with a fight scene where you see he (Duke) has got punched in the face, you know? Where you see it’s not this video game-style fighting where you don’t see damage and these characters seem infinitely capable.
Andrew: You want to maintain the human element, you want to see that they can fail and likely will.
Lee: Right, yeah! That’s fundamental to any kind of good drama.
Andrew: What’s Duke’s perception of Batman right now? When I was reading the book I got to thinking, in this New 52 mythology he’s really “The Boy Who Should Have Been Robin.” He was the first of the kids to ever meet Batman, way back in Zero Year. Then he recently had this confrontation with Joker in Endgame so is he bitter at all that he wasn’t directly taken under Batman’s wing like Dick, Jason, or Tim?
Lee: I don’t think the character would even think that that would be a possibility. I think he saw himself as having this interaction with Batman and– What I wanted to deal with in the story specifically was the direct result of this major event, the Endgame event. You sometimes don’t see the collateral damage that happens in these big books. You don’t see how regular people get affected by it and I think readers expect Batman to go like “Hey, you’re perfect sidekick material!” and I thought it was interesting to turn that on its heels and have Duke go “Well, where did Batman go? Did he bail?” He doesn’t know what is going on behind the scenes. It’s interesting for me to have this character who, his parents are missing, Batman is no longer the Batman he has had interactions with. Instead of going “I want to be a sidekick” he’s like, “Alright, I have to take matters into my own hands and find my parents on my own.” And that was my key into introducing some of these other characters that you’ll see going forward into the series.
Andrew: Are we going to dive into the past of the other Robins? How many Robins are there in the group?
Lee: I’m only dealing with six. The fact that it’s a youth movement means that there’s a lot more Robins out there, but I’m only focusing on that handful of characters and there’s a reason that I’m focusing on those characters.
Andrew: Will they mostly be confronted with regular street crime or will you be creating new villains or employing classic Batman rogues?
Lee: You know what, there will be some Batman rogues, but for the most part I’m really trying to keep it about these kids and creating a real sense of Gotham as a real place that isn’t just bunch off insane super-villains running around. You can’t necessarily take a bunch of sixteen-year-olds and throw them in a room with Killer Croc, you know? He’s going to kill them! You have to come up with– THEY wouldn’t even put themselves in a room with Killer Croc! They know better than to do that. It’s a matter of having them tackle the type of crime that directly effects them that isn’t always, except in Duke’s case, this major super-villain of the month event.
Andrew: How big is this opening arc?
Lee: Three issues and then we have a fourth issue where we bring Batgirl in– it focuses on one character in the group, a female character and it guest stars Batgirl.
Any questions I had from this point on were shut down by Bermejo and the folks at DC because they didn’t want to spoil anything so I called it quits, gave Lee Bermejo and DC Entertainment Publicity Manager Kelley a Batman-News t-shirt and said farewell.
For more from Lee Bermejo you can check out his official blog or follow him on twitter. For those unfamiliar with Bermejo’s work, he was the artist for Joker, Batman/Deathblow, and the writer and artist for the terrific Batman Noel graphic novel. Bermejo’s “Rule Number One” from Batman Black and White #3 was nominated for Best Short Story at this year’s Eisner Awards. You can read @BrandonMul77’s review of We Are Robin #1 by clicking HERE.
If you want to see more pictures from the San Diego Comic-Con, feel free to scroll through my Twitter @AndrewBatReview where I have plenty of images and videos of upcoming merchandise and the costumes from Batman v. Superman.