The Cave has been compromised.
This week, the “Night of the Owls” begins in earnest with a siege of Wayne Manor. Just as the main story in Batman #8 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo ends, the focus shifts by a few degrees to Alfred in a supplemental chapter entitled “The Call.” Here, James Tynion IV and Rafael Albuquerque tag in for the first in a series of backup features promising to shed some light on the Court and their stranglehold on the city of Gotham. We’re all familiar with Albuquerque from his work on American Vampire, but what of this new co-writer?
Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to writer James Tynion IV, who’s having kind of huge day.
iFanboy: Tell us a little bit about your background. Can you talk about the journey to this current assignment, co-writing the backups in Batman with Scott Snyder?
James Tynion IV: Well, I first sought Scott out during my time at Sarah Lawrence College. He had just written a story for the “Who Can Save Us Now?” anthology book of superhero short stories, and I was thrilled to find someone who could really help me out with my desire to work on real genre fiction and comics in particular. He was just being approached to pitch to Marvel and DC at that time, and we started talking about what we loved about comics, and would trade our favorite books back and forth and chat about the possibilities for the medium. We kept in touch after that class and I started helping him tweak and brainstorm the story for an awesome YA novel that unfortunately never saw the light of day. In exchange, I would throw crazy pitches and comic scripts his way for stories about paranormal detectives, and space cowboys and he would talk them through with me, helping me refine my scripting process and story structure.
Sometime last Winter I got the call from Scott that they were looking to add backup features to Batman, and he wanted to know if I would be willing to co-write them with him. I didn’t believe him at first, because it seemed too good to be true. I’ve been a Batman fanatic as long as I can remember. Hell, my Batman shelf is organized chronologically in terms of when the stories would have happened in Batman’s life (ie: Year One followed by The Man Who Laughs followed by Long Halloween and so on). The idea that I would enter the fray on such a high profile book was thrilling and terrifying, and I’ve been working nonstop ever since to ensure that these stories match the quality of Scott’s incredible work on the series so far.
iF: What is your process with Scott in drafting these scripts? How do you approach the collaboration?
JT4: It’s been a great collaboration… We started by just talking about the world and where the story was heading, and what kinds of stories the other writers would be telling with the “Night of the Owls.” We wanted to come up with something that would be unique to the Batman title, but still follow the idea of all of the tie-ins. When we realized that the least explored era of Bruce’s life has been his time as a very young child in the Manor, under the watch of Alfred’s father, the story came together. We wondered, together, What might Jarvis Pennyworth know about the Waynes that Alfred never did? Based on our conversations, I drafted up an outline of what we wanted to do, which we worked and reworked, and then we started passing the scripts back and forth in drafts. Some scripts are a little more Scott, and some are a little more me, but I don’t think anyone is going to be able to tell the difference. We’ve crafted the stories to compliment the feature seamlessly, and that’s particularly true with “The Call,” our story in Batman #8, which continues directly out of the first 20 pages, only shifting our attention to Alfred.
iF: What’s your take on the Court of the Owls? They’re relentless at this point in the game. An unending and very real threat to Bruce and the people he cares about. We’ve only seen glimpses at their core power structure though. Do you have a strong sense of their motives and what they’re about at their deepest levels?
JT4: Oh man, The Court… I can’t get over how much I love these guys. The white owl masks and the dapper suits… Their faceless menace is incredible, and I have a very strong feeling that now that they’ve been unleashed upon the DC Universe, that they will become one of the legendary Bat-Villains. I think the strongest thing about the Court has been the fact that they’ve been kind of inscrutable to Bruce. They’ve managed to uproot the way he looks at Gotham City almost effortlessly, and that’s great because deep down, they believe that they represent the true city. Batman is just a nuisance they’re looking to swat down. Their arrogance is incredible, but from what we’ve seen so far, it has been earned. They’ve ruled over this city for centuries, and a mad man in a Bat costume really thinks he can undermine their authority? They’re not going to let that happen without a fight. They’re ready to reassert their authority over Gotham and show Batman how powerless he really is. That’s what they want, anyway… We’ll see how well that goes over now that they’ve pushed Bruce past the breaking point. Heh. All I can say is that it’s going to be one hell of a ride these last few months in Owl Country.
iF: As you mentioned earlier, we’ll be dipping back into the past with Bruce’s parents and Alfred’s father Jarvis Pennyworth with Batman #9. Can you tell us anything about Jarvis? Did Alfred fall very far from the family tree?
JT4: Well, I think Alfred would tell you that he fell far away from the tree. Stories about Alfred’s past are few and far between but they’ve always had the unifying element that his father, Jarvis, is the one who forced him into this life of servitude. Depending on what you read, Alfred was an army medic, or an actor, or both… He became the Butler to the Waynes due to his father’s dying wish. He stayed on because of his relationship with Bruce, but initially he wanted anything other than to become a butler. We’re going to address the distance between Jarvis and Alfred, but I think the streak of Pennyworth goodness runs across the generations. Jarvis was a good man, different from Alfred… A little more prim and proper… but ultimately good. I’ve loved working on the character, and hope readers like him as much as Scott and I do.
For more from James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder’s Batman #8 backup, check out a preview over at USA Today. The full issue is on shelves today.