Image: DC Comics

At a Friday morning breakfast held by DC Comics, superstar writer Tom King said that, prior to starting on the main Batman title, one of the challenges he had to reckon with was the idea that “nothing new can be done with this character.” That’s one of the reasons that he had Batman ask Catwoman to be his wife.

King spoke to an an audience of journalists at DC Comics’ event, introducing artist Joelle Jones—whose work was most recently seen in Supergirl: Being Super—and talking about the thematic concerns of his tenure on Batman. He’s planned out his run as an 100-issue story arc and said that he’s approaching the midpoint of the storyline. So far, he’s had Bruce encounter both of his dead parents as part of the hero’s emotional journey to explore how Batman conceptualizes love and whether it can make him happy.

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The Eisner-winning writer said that readers will get Selina Kyle’s answer to Bruce’s proposal in Batman #32. King didn’t say whether it’d be a yes or no but said, “After the decision, if he gets engaged, it hits him one way. If he doesn’t, it hits him another way.” A new story arc titled “A Dream of Me” begins in Batman #33—with Joelle Jones on art—which has the Dark Knight leaving Gotham to go on a quest in a desert on a horse. “He’s gonna be shirtless, with chest hair showing. We’re going full Neal Adams here.”

Joelle Jones’ cover art for Batman #33. Cover art courtesy of DC Comics.

King explained that, in Batman’s mind, he’s got to do something completely illegal to deal with the repercussions of Selina’s answer. Batman’s course of action leaves the Robins blown away and the Justice League will disapprove, too. King went on to say that it’s also a story about how the Robins react to what their father’s going through, adding that part of the drama will be how Damien Wayne reacts to seeing Bruce propose to someone who isn’t his mother.

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“Is he going crazy or is he finally finding peace?” That’s the question that all of Batman’s sons will collectively ask themeselves, King said. He also said that Bruce will be encountering past loves like Silver St. Cloud and grappling with why they failed.

I talked to King after the breakfast was over and started out by asking him how changed the Dark Knight will be at the end of his planned 100-issue arc. “As long as I’m writing Batman, it’s going to be Bruce Wayne in the cowl as a good guy,” he began. “I do a lot of bullshit fancy artsy comics that try to be literary and that’s fine. But what comics do best—the thing they actually do that helps the world—is that it relieves the pressure and pain of young people who feel alienated. It’s the 13-, 14-year-old kids who don’t fit in, sitting at the lunch table and their friends aren’t talking to them, looking at people thinking ‘how have you figured out the world and I haven’t figured it out.’ You read a comic and it relieves the pressure of that pain.”

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According to the writer, it’s also a matter of bullies. “You think to yourself, ‘I thought when bullies do bully things, they always lost. But [in the real world] I see bullies do bully things and they win,’” King continued. “What comics do is say ‘there’s the bullies and a good guy’s gonna punch him in the face at the end of the day.’ As long as I’m writing Batman, that will be the essential message.”

I mentioned to King that I was surprised that he was allowed to tell people the exact issue when Selina would give Bruce an answer; the build-up reminds me of another momentous turn in Batman’s publishing history, when the fate of Jason Todd was left in the hands of readers calling to vote whether he should live or die. (“Dying’s the best thing that ever happened to that character,” King said in an aside.) I asked King how he thought readers would vote if a similar scenario were applied to Catwoman’s answer to Batman’s marriage proposal. “I think they’d vote for yes,” he answered. “I think people always hope for the happiness of their heroes. And people think Batman’s happiness would be in him being engaged. I’m not sure they’re right about that.”

“Batman has no desire to change who Selina is,” King continued. “It’s who she is that attracts him to her and he knows that she’s broken in the same way that he’s broken. It’s why they’re in love; they’re almost like pieces of a puzzle that can fit together and make a whole.”