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July 13, 2018 at 01:30 PM EDT

A version of this story appears in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now. Buy it or subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Tom King is having a busy summer.

The former CIA officer-turner-Eisner Award winning Batman writer is following his headline-making Batman #50 with a story that sees the Dark Knight face off against Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc (check out an exclusive first look at the Lee Weeks-drawn Batman #51 and #52 below) while dealing with his broken heart after his failed nuptial to Catwoman. Additionally, he’s continuing to forge ahead on Mister Miracle, one of the most critically acclaimed comics of the year, with artist Mitch Gerads and he’s preparing to team-up with artist Clay Mann for the recently announced Heroes in Crisis, a forthcoming limited series that explores how Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the other DC Universe heroes deal with trauma.

Ahead of San Diego Comic-Con, where King will make an appearance on Saturday, EW caught up with the writer to discuss his post Batman #50 plans, the inspiration behind Heroes in Crisis, and much more. Read on below to find out what King has in store for comics fans in the next few months and to see an exclusive preview of Batman #51 and #52. (Note: Some of these quotes previously ran in this article)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Batman #50 ends with Catwoman leaving Batman at the altar. What’s next for him in the next 50 issues of your planned 100-issue run? 
TOM KING: My job as a Batman writer is to show you something you’ve never seen before. A Batman who has been left at the altar, who was that close to happiness, and then to have it yanked away from him, that’s something you haven’t seen before. The next bunch of issues are exploring that pain and exploring him trying to get back from that pain. That’s the emotional part of it. You’re gonna see the original Robin comes back, sort of like your best friend living on your couch when your girlfriend leaves you.

The plot part of it is that it’s revealed at the end of the issue that this marriage and happiness that Batman had achieved was being manipulated by Bane, and it was all in some way a setup to break him. That’s going to play out over the next 50 issues. So we’re halfway through what I hope to be an epic story of the Batman’s heart being broken and perhaps rebuilt and perhaps broken again.

So, we’re far from done with the question of whether or not Batman can be happy?
100 percent, yeah. If you look back at the very first issue, it looks like Batman’s going to die and he asks Alfred, “Would my parents be proud of me?” This sort of idea that he was living his life for his parents, for their pride, I liked to think that him finding happiness is him [learning] how to live his life for himself. We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

Your Batman run has featured big names so far — Superman, Wonder Woman, and Swamp Thing, to name a few. Who can we expect to see in the next 50 issues?
Nightwing plays a huge role, so it’s a reunion of the original Batman and Robin that generations grew up with. Dick comes back into the cave, and it’s the two of them in the night again. Then after that, we’re going to do some huge villains. We’re going to turn KGBeast into the scariest villain in the DC Universe, and then we’ve got Penguin, Riddler, Joker, and it’s all of course leading back to Bane.

An exclusive page from 'Batman #51', written by Tom King with art by Lee Weeks
DC Entertainment

 

An exclusive page from 'Batman #51', written by Tom King with art by Lee Weeks
DC Entertainment

When Heroes in Crisis was first announced, you said you wanted to bring a sense of community back to the DC Universe. Why was that important you? 
I wish I had a wonderful deep answer, but here’s the reality of it: I watch that show Justice League Unlimited with my children, the Dwayne McDuffie show. McDuffie had this great plan that there’s this place where all of the superheroes go and they have lunch together, and they sit down and plan their missions. All of the DCU, this is happening to them. It amazes me, and more than me, it amazes my kids. You’ve never seen wonder than to have them look at a clubhouse full of superheroes. Scott Snyder and I love that idea, and we both wanted to bring that back. He’s doing it in Justice League, and I’m doing it here with Heroes in Crisis. It really just comes from my daughter’s awe at that concept of the satellite full of superheroes trying to save the world.

Based on the cover, it looks like Booster Gold and Harley Quinn will play a big role in Heroes in Crisis. Why did you pick those two characters? 
They’re the two stars of the book along with the Trinity. I do this comic called Mister Miracle, which I really like. The way Mister Miracle started was me going to [co-publisher] Dan DiDio and asking him, “I want to do something amazing with a character, but you have to give me some room to do some stuff, and you pick the character.” He picked Mister Miracle and that’s how that started. It’s unoriginal, but I wanted to repeat that success. So when I came up with this Heroes in Crisis idea, I went back to Dan and said, “Can we do this again? Give me two heroes, I’m going to put them through the ringer and at the end we’re going redefine them to be central to the DCU, pillars of this universe.” And the two he gave me were Booster Gold and Harley Quinn. I think they’re perfect because they’re almost two sides of the same coin. They’re both, like, these manic dreamers who have made huge mistakes and come back from them. They’re kind of these survivors.

The cover of Batman #52.
DC Entertainment

 

An exclusive page from 'Batman #52', written by Tom King with art by Lee Weeks
DC Entertainment

You said your job as a Batman writer was to show the audience something they haven’t seen before. What do you hope Heroes in Crisis reveals about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman?
It’s hard not to give a corny answer. Heroes in Crisis is about pain; it’s about an anxiety that comes from living in a world of violence. And I think having the greatest heroes, these modern-day gods, say that they’re going through that makes people feel a little less alone.

Can I just add that it’s being drawn by Clay Mann? It’s one of the most beautiful books, if not the most beautiful book, I’ve ever worked on, so I just got to tell you that it’s being drawn by Clay Mann, and he’s killing it. I can’t emphasize enough. He’s my partner on the book, and he’s brining something from the book that we haven’t seen in comics before.

When you pitched Heroes in Crisis, did you know you wanted to work on the book with Clay? What made him the right artist for the book? 
Clay and I had done Batman’s proposal together and then this Superman arc. He’s known, but when I started working with him, I was like, “Wow, this guy has Jim Lee level chops with David Mazzuchelli storytelling.” It was something I had never seen before, and I was like, “This is a born superstar.” I’ve worked with him ever since, and we did a story in Action Comics 1000 and DC Nation #0 together, and both of them were two of the best short stories ever. Not to mention, he’s my brother. As soon as this piece came up, they said, “Who do you want to work with?” and I said the only person who could do it was Clay.

You’re fond of the nine panel grid, and when I spoke to Clay last year, he told me that he wasn’t sure if he could handle drawing a book comprised mostly of nine panel grids. Has working with Clay on Heroes in Crisis pushed you to adjust your writing? 
You gotta adjust to your artist. I’m not writing something called Heroes in Crisis. I’m writing a script that Clay turns into something called Heroes in Crisis. So, I have to adjust for who Clay is. But the thing about Clay is that he’s kind of a quiet dude, and I feel he understands that characters sometimes hide things, and he knows how to draw a character that’s saying one thing but thinking another underneath. On top of that, he’s the world’s biggest Magnum P.I. fan, so he knows stuff about mysteries and action.

Finally, what’s coming up in Mister Miracle #10 (on stands July 25)?
Scott faces a choice I think a lot of people have to face, which is you look back on your life and you look back at how you were raised and how your parents raised you, and you’re like, “That kind of messed me up a little bit. I didn’t come up the right way. I want to give my kid the better life.” But then you find yourself in a situation when you have to make the same decisions your parents made and you have to decide if you’re going to make that decision or not. That decision both brings you closer to your parents and alienates you from them. It’s this idea that Scott’s father, who was the god of good and everything, chose to end the war by giving him away, and here’s Scott and he has to do the same thing.

I think what’s vital in this issue, and what we’ve been building up for 10 issues, is that we’ve had a couple [Mister Miracle and Big Barda] that loves each other and supports each other, and we’re finally going to have the emotions of what it means for Scott to have tried to kill himself and for Barda to have found him. That tension comes out in this issue.


Batman #51 hits stands July 18. DC’s Tom King San Diego Comic-Con panel will be held Saturday, July 21 at 5:30 p.m. in Room 6DE.

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