Coming in from Newsarama is an interview with Batwing writer and longtime bat scribe Judd Winick. Here are the highlights 🙂
Nrama: We’ve seen you write Batman a lot in the past, but what’s it like to write Batwing interacting with characters like a young Barbara Gordon and everyone who’s in the relaunch version of Gotham City?
Winick: I wish we could do it for five more issues. Their interactions are slight, because the action and story is just barreling forward, and because most of it is really about Batwing. But it was still fun to write them in one story. I know readers sometimes get irritated when they smell anything that smells like marketing. It’s like, “Oh, they’re just putting Batman in there to sell books.” No. I just really like writing Batman, and this is where the story was going, and I think it’s fun. Forget marketing. This is awesome.
But while we’re in Gotham, it’s really, really plot driven, so we don’t have the characters sitting down and talking. But the door’s open for that. Batwing has now been there, to Gotham, for the first time. This is his first trip there. And he’ll actually be there for three issues, right through the crossover.
After spending so much time with Batwing in Africa, it’s refreshing to put him in an environment like Gotham City. As a reader and a writer, it feels great to have him there.
Nrama: What’s his reaction to Gotham?
Winick: He’s wonderfully out of his element, and he feels like he’s surrounded by opulence. He comes from very, very humble beginnings.
For the first time in his life, he has to put on a tuxedo, because he’s at a benefit with his handler, Matu Ba. And there’s David Zavimbe in a tuxedo. And he looks devastatingly cool, because he’s like 6-foot-4 with broad shoulders, and there are many women admiring him. But he could not be more uncomfortable, you know?
He finds this a little bit repulsive, a little bit opulent. And Matu has to tell him to just relax. “Please try to have a good time.” In a sense, David is a lot like Bruce that way. Even though Bruce has to be in the suit, wearing the armor of a wealthy man, I think they’re both very, very uncomfortable in that disguise.
And he drops some details on the creation of our dastardly villain Massacre!
Winick: From the jump, because it’s a new series and a new character and the New 52, I really to create someone very big and formidable and scary. When you have the opportunity to create a villain from the ground up, you really want someone who feels right as someone who can go toe-to-toe with your hero. And of course, I wanted him to look terrifying, in the fact that he’s swinging two machetes, wearing some sort of aggregated body armor which looks kind of realistic, that someone could put this together in our reality.
But also, I was really interested in telling a story that was a mystery. I didn’t want it to be a monster of the week, a bad guy doing something and then being hunted down. I wanted something that involved Batwing on many levels. And I wanted something to unfold over a big arc, a big story, in a way that would let the reader learn more about Batwing and his life in Africa.
So it was about figuring out that mystery, working backwards from there, and then Massacre just kind of came out of it, right now to the very subtly named “Massacre.”
And finally he talked about the authentic African feel of the book which ive been praising since batwing #1 which is highly reminiscent of DC comics Unknown Soldier by Joshua Dystart.
Nrama: One of the things that really sticks out about this series is that it really embraces the reality of Africa — the good and the bad — and it feels like you’ve done a lot of research and know the issues that many of the countries there are facing.
Winick: Thank you. I appreciate that, because, yes, we put a lot of work into this to get it right. We didn’t want this to feel like The Lion King or like Tarzan. It was about taking this very unreal situation, with superheroes, and trying to put it into as real a context as possible that is truly representative of Africa.
Of course, it’s still a big, darn superhero story. And we want to be mindful of that. This wasn’t a trip through a social studies class, you know? But that said, any good story does show you things, and should transport you someplace. This is a story that needs to transport you to Africa, and for it not to feel phony. We’re pretty sophisticated now, especially our readers. That last words says it all — they’re readers. On a regular basis, they actually pick up something and read it. So they’re a literate and educated bunch. So if this felt like some kind of phony caricature of Africa, it wouldn’t fly. So we put the time in. I’ve been getting information from people at universities in African Studies and speaking to people who have lived in Africa, and even speaking to a couple people who still live in Africa.
Nrama: His origin is also such a huge part of the African story right now, and it’s something I’ve been following closely as the sponsor of a child in Uganda. With more than a million people dying each year in Africa from AIDS, which is just an overwhelming number, the disease is leaving millions of children parentless. A lot of superheroes have an origin that includes them becoming orphans, but this one felt specifically tied to the African tapestry.
Winick: Yeah. In some regions of Africa, it’s 20 to 25 percent of people who are living with HIV, and there are scores and scores of children without parents as a result. They’re even called “AIDS orphans.” And there are orphanages all over Africa to deal with the sheer amount of children who do not have mothers and fathers anymore, because they’ve lost both of them to AIDS.
So it didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to give David a background tied to that. And it also set into motion the idea of the boy soldier that he would have to become.