AiPT’s Gregory Paul Silber interviewed writer Peter J. Tomasi at last year’s New York Comic Con, but 2018 has been such a big year for Tomasi that he knew he had to chat with him again.
After Tomasi and artist/co-writer Patrick Gleason handed the reins of their well-received Superman run to Brian Michael Bendis, Tomasi became involved in a number of other exciting projects, including the decades-in-the-making original graphic novel The Bridge: How The Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York with art by Sara Duvall, as well as the screenplay for the animated adaptation of the iconic comic book story The Death of Superman.
Luckily for fans of his work on DC titles like Green Lantern Corps and Batman and Robin, Tomasi hasn’t turned his back on superhero comics, namely the 12-issue limited series Adventures of the Super Sons and an upcoming run on Detective Comics as it gears up for its historic 1000th issue.
Gregory caught up with Tomasi at his table in NYCC’s Artist Alley.
AIPT: You’ve got a new maxiseries going on after the ongoing took a brief hiatus–they met a robot dog in between–and one of the interesting things about (Adventures of the Super Sons) is it’s sort of like a prequel…
Peter J. Tomasi: It’s not really? That was the next story I was gonna do anyway.
AiPT: Oh! (Laughs)
PT: It’s sort of just having to do with the timeline with whatever Bendis was doing. But that really was the story I was going to do next. If there are any readers holding back, saying “oh, these are flashbacks” or “these are past tales,” the truth of the matter is everything I’m going to be writing for this book is going to be taking place exactly as the timeline goes. I’m not going to really be flashing back.
AiPT: It kind of reminds me of something you said either last year or the year before (at NYCC). There was a very young fan, maybe 11 years old, who asked how it could be that while Dan Jurgens is writing one story about Superman in Action Comics, you’re writing another story in the main Superman title, and how can Superman be doing all these things at once? But at the end of the day it seems like, well, this is what the story is!
PT: Yeah. You can’t these days, especially with the continuity the way it is, and the many years that have gone by, you just have to enjoy each story for what it is and not drive yourself insane.
AiPT: One of the things I love about Super Sons is that in the past decade, Superman and Batman went from being very paternal characters, to literally being fathers. Well, Batman had adopted Dick Grayson…but with Super Sons, it really leads into the idea of legacy in the DC Universe, beyond just taking up the mantle. There’s literally a lineage. How does that affect your approach to the characters? That these are not just their heroes, but literally their dads?
PT: I don’t know, it’s strange. Being a dad myself, you just grab the baton and run with it. It adds such a great, fresh dynamic to the characters to see them react to their own blood. Even when it was Dick, or Tim, or now Damian…Jason Todd obviously…all these characters, especially Batman and Superman, slash Bruce and Clark…as you said, there is a paternal quality to them at this juncture anyway. So it seemed a very much natural, organic move to do that. To sort of embrace that fatherhood. Even though in some people’s mind it ages the characters to a degree. I felt it humanizes them even more, and allows them to be even more relatable.
AiPT: I think that was part of the thing that was part of the discussion for a while. When the New 52 started, certain characters weren’t married anymore, and a few relationships that may’ve been around for decades weren’t there anymore. With Rebirth, a lot of that was brought back. Look, I know you’ve got sliding timelines and reboots and universes resetting…as time goes on, does it get more complicated? Or do you keep writing it the same way?
PT: I think you just keep writing it the same way! You just keep writing stories that people are going to enjoy. If they need to figure out continuity in their heads sometimes, you know, it’s always nice to seed…what I like to do is, I won’t be beholden to continuity, but I do like to seed the DC Universe into the books. So I’ll throw in a little Easter egg. If something’s been happening recently, or something happened with a character, (I’ll write) a line or two to mention it. A visual cue, something to make you feel like it’s all a tapestry tied together, then in my way, that’s the way to sort of embrace the universe as a whole, and make it all feel like we’re all pulling towards the same goal. So that’s kind of the way I like to do it.
AiPT: It reminds me of the very first comic I ever read by you, which was, Batman and Robin #1, from the New 52 run. I believe it was in that issue where Batman takes Damian to Crime Alley, and he explains that instead of comic here every year to mourn the anniversary of their death, it’s going to be their wedding anniversary from now on. I thought it was a great way to embrace tradition while keeping it grounded…and there is a little bit of forward momentum, at least emotionally.
PT: Yeah, you picked it up perfectly, that’s exactly what I wanted to do when I picked up the book. Especially for a dad, with Bruce being a dad, I wanted him to show that, you know, you do have to put things in the past. Always be moving forward. Don’t get caught up in the dregs of a depressive state. Let yourself keep moving, and moving toward the light. Moving towards action. Always be moving. So, it was important to say, at that juncture, that I wanted Batman to be thinking of his parents’ birth as something special, and not keep “celebrating” their death.
AiPT: And it feels like a fatherly thing for him to do. To say “I’ve gotta do this for the sake of my son. I can’t keep wallowing in this despair.” Let’s talk a little about Bruce, actually. Because you’re doing Detective Comics, which I’m very excited about. It’s not your first time writing Bruce obviously, but it’s an interesting time to be doing it. We’re getting to 1000 issues of Detective Comics! Do you want to talk about how your approach, if at all, might have changed?
PT: Yeah, I think the big thing is the last time I did Detective Comics was when (Jim) Gordon was in the suit. I did it for a few issues in the New 52. Right now, having done Batman and Robin, having done Super Sons, I’m sort of putting on my 1973 hat. I wanna do pure detective stories, sort of a Bob Haney or Jim Aparo feel, where it’s like “we’ve got a mystery box. We’re gonna deal with it.” It’s an epic mystery box in the first couple of issues, which leads to an even bigger mystery box after #1000. We’re actually paring away some of the supporting cast. James (Tynion IV, writer of Detective Comics #934-981) did a great job with the family stuff, the Bat family stuff. But I wanted to move away from that and really focus on being a Batman-centric book for a while. Having him dealing with the mythology of his own life, and at the same time, his mainstays like Gordon and Alfred being front and center.
AiPT: It’s interesting that you mention all these different takes on the Detective side of Batman, both as a title and a character. I know for me, Batman’s my all-time favorite character, but for someone who’s called “The World’s Greatest Detective,” we don’t necessarily see him doing a lot of detective work.
PT: That was the key, because what I wanted to do is use that, but at the same time, with this first story arc, we’re going to really pull apart Batman and who he is with all his skill sets. That includes his ability to use disguises, chemistry, his physical prowess, his mental prowess, detective, all of that stuff. Everything that makes him who he is, I wanted to challenge each of those facets.
AiPT: I have to ask, because you mention disguises, does that mean Matches Malone is going to come back?
PT: You’ll see.
AiPT: (Laughs) In terms of the lead up to #1000, I don’t know how much you can say, but–
PT: I can’t say anything, but I will say that in my 1000–my story in 1000–we will introduce a villain that Batman will be facing for the next arc. It’ll be a big surprise and I hope people dig it.
AiPT: You said “my story in #1000,” so does that mean that like Action 1000, it will be a–
PT: Yes…I know it’ll be a large one. I’m not sure on this one, but it could be double the size, I believe, of Action 1000. So it’s going to be a pretty special anniversary.
AiPT: In some form or another, this will be at least your third time coming back to a Bat-book. What is it that keeps driving you back to Batman?
PT: Like you said, he is my favorite character. When you have that opportunity and the door opens, you don’t want to pass it. You don’t always get a chance to do these characters. To be able to be on Action 1000, and now take Batman through Detective 1000, it’s a pretty special thing for a writer to be part of.