Bam Smack Pow catches up with writer Tom King to get his thoughts on Batman and Mister Miracle.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2017, Bam Smack Pow caught up with Batman writer Tom King. We previously interviewed King during his run on Grayson. He’s now moved on to even bigger things. One of King’s biggest contributions, so far, has been an addition to the Dark Knight’s history. We go in depth in regards to King’s inspiration for the characterization and how it affects the overall run going forward.
Though King is definitely making a name for himself on Batman, he’s also ventured out to wrangle the Jack Kirby-created Mister Miracle. We discuss with King his take on the character and how his perception of the world’s current state has forged this new series.
Bam Smack Pow: You sort of retconned Batman’s origin story by presenting the idea that Bruce Wayne was on the verge of suicide. Was there pushback from other people when you presented the idea?
Tom King: I don’t consider it to be a retcon at all. And I called Scott [Snyder] beforehand and we talked about this a lot. When he makes that vow, “I’m going to war on crime,” he stops becoming Bruce Wayne and becomes Batman. He throws away that personality. He throws away who he is as a person. So, to me, that’s always been part of the character. All I did was made it a little more literal, so it brings the subtext into the text.
The idea of a child with such a level of grief after losing his parents and saying, “I’m dying … I can’t escape this pain … the only way to escape it is to kill myself and become something else,” that’s what Batman is. To me, in the ’40s, you couldn’t talk about that.
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BSP: Going off of this new “origin” story, what psychological dimensions were you exploring in this interpretation of the Dark Knight?
TK: I think what we’ve been looking at in this whole arc, and what we’ll be continuing to look at, is the idea of what Batman does with his grief … saves the world. Something horrible happens to him. And because of that horror, he’s a superhero. Because of that horror, he fights the bullies. Because of that horror, he saves us.
What we’re going to look at over the whole arc of this is what it means to be the person carrying that burden — to have to live with that horror. And what happens when he wants to seek happiness. Is it insane to try to get out from under the weight of the burden? To me, that’s the personal journey. If your pain saves the world, how do you live with that pain.
BSP: Let’s now talk about your famous Mr. Miracle reboot. In various interviews, you said that Mister Miracle is a metaphor, or an allegory, for our current times. Can you elaborate on that?
TK: The idea of Mister Miracle came from back in April 2016. I had one of those first season Soprano panic attack things where you think you’re gonna die, but you don’t. Ever since then, the world has gone a little crazy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
Everyday I wake up and I check Twitter and the rules that I thought governed our society are breaking down. And that could even extend to the Cubs’ and the Patriots’ comebacks. Just all the things where you think that can’t happen are happening. Yet we still have to live our lives. We still have to go to the grocery store. It’s about that feeling. That feeling of being alienated from what you thought the world would be.
BSP: You’re taking a character, Mister Miracle, Jack Kirby created — one of the comic gods. Were you anxious in any way? What elements did you add to the character to make him your own?
TK: Yes, I’m always anxious. That’s kind of my standing pace. I went back and read Kirby. It’s such genius. It’s just an outpouring of direct emotion and genius. It’s like standing in front of the fire hose of the best ideas. The ideas that formed sort of the spine of modern pop culture because Star Wars comes out of that. A lot of modern comics come out of that. It’s just Kirby unleashed.
To me, the way to sort of look at it was you can never out-Kirby Kirby. You can’t pour ideas the way he can. But the idea of using that epic space opera and turning that into an internal story of a one-man, one-woman struggle to survive, and using the war as a metaphor for our own war, that appealed to me. If I can take what Kirby made big and make it small … if I can take what Kriby made bombastic and make it emotional … that’s the goal of it.
Kirby didn’t do what you thought he was going to do. If you’re writing a Kirby comic and you’re like, “I’m just gonna write crazy half-human, half-animal … and it’s gonna be all action and …” That wasn’t Kirby. Kirby is going to swerve when you’re going in another direction. If you want to do what Kirby did, then do the next thing. Do the thing that people don’t expect coming. Don’t just do more of the same.
BSP: For Mister Miracle, you’ve reteamed with artist Mitch Gerads, who partnered with you on Sheriff of Bablyon. Can you explain the creative processes between the two of you? How do the two of you collaborate?
TK: I knew Mitch from way back. I use to follow him on a blog called “Twart.” When I was doing Sheriff, he was put on the table and it was an immediate “yes.” I just knew he was the perfect talent. He’s always been the best military artist in comics. I think Sheriff is maybe the best thing I’ve ever written and he nailed it.
Then, when this idea of Mister Miracle came along, I thought, “This is a big huge cosmic story, what sort of artist do I want? … Mitch would be perfect!” Like I said before, turning bombastic into emotion … and to bring in an artist who you wouldn’t think of as Kirby and give him that chance … that creates the tension. When you have incredible concepts with grounded art, suddenly you’re looking at something you’ve never seen before.
Then Mitch started turning in his pages and they’re the most beautiful pages I’ve ever gotten. I think Mitch is the best artist in comics. I sort of luckily stumbled upon working with him.
Mister Miracle #1 was released on August 9, 2017 and is currently available in comic book shops and in digital format. Get your copy today!
Tom King is a novelist and comic book writer. With a lifelong dream of writing, he started his career as an intern at DC and Marvel. Shortly after the events of 9/11, King left the publishing world to work as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Following the birth of his children, King left the CIA and returned to comics.
For DC Comics, King has worked on Grayson, Omega Men and Batman. King also authored the novel A Once Crowded Sky — a story about superheroes who are stripped of their powers and forced to confront the dangers of a world without heroes. Released in July 2013, USA Today called it “One of the Best Graphic Novels of the Year.”