Spoilers ahead for Detective Comics #965.
James Tynion IV admits that he's a long-time fan of Tim Drake, and that this week's Detective Comics #965 purposely undid many changes to the character's origin from the "New 52" reboot.
The issue, which features art by Eddy Barrows, returned the character's origin story from DC's post-Crisis continuity. Tim is back to having admired Dick Grayson when he was a kid, and witnessing the death of Dick's parents. And his discovery of Batman's secret origin is back to what it was when the character was first introduced decades ago.
And Tim, whose time as Robin was eliminated during the "New 52," now served as Batman's third Robin.
Detective Comics #965 kicks off a new storyline called "A Lonely Place of Living," a title which pays homage to "A Lonely Place of Dying" - the storyline by Marv Wolfman and George Perez that introduced Tim Drake.
The issue also re-introduces the violent, future-Tim Drake Batman from "Titans Tomorrow," a storyline from Geoff Johns and Mike McKone's Teen Titans run. And as it depicts Tim's escape from the prison where he's been trapped for more than a year, the issue also reveals a few things about Mr. Oz, the character who is actually Jor-El, Superman's father.
Newsarama talked to Tynion to find out more about the continuity changes, the themes he's exploring as he brings back Tim of "Tomorrow," and what readers can expect next from the story.
For a full rundown of this week's issue click here, then come back for our interview with Tynion.
Newsarama: James, the beginning of this issue - is this the new, definitive history of Tim Drake? He had a bunch of other stuff going on in the "New 52"... stuff that's gone now?
James Tynion IV: In the "New 52," Tim Drake had a different origin - a pretty fundamentally different one - that I think a lot of fans of the character felt did not speak to the core of who Tim Drake was.
What we did here - the scenes you're seeing played out here, word for word, are scenes from the original "Lonely Place of Dying."
That was a very deliberate choice.
This is us bringing the spirit of "Rebirth" into the comic books, because in order to really do a treatise on who Tim Drake is as a character, we needed to ground him back in his most iconic origin, the story that really defined him for a generation of fans.
So that's why we sort of - that's why we hammered that in right at the beginning, making sure that fans know the definitive "Rebirth" origin of Tim Drake is his original origin from "Lonely Place of Dying."
Nrama: I think that will make a lot of Tim Drake fans very happy. We also learned a little bit about Jor-El - he was also an inmate in this prison. And it's implied that he's been similarly captured and manipulated by this character only referred to as "him." Right?
Tynion: Yes. You see the existence of this prison, the existence of this place outside of space and time, and you see in the characters who were taken away and hidden in this place - they are figures who can kind of shape the direction of things in a way that may not be "allowed," particularly as it relates to the core characters of the DC Universe.
Nrama: Can we just say who "him" is? I mean…we know who's behind this.
Tynion: Yeah, I think fans have a pretty good idea of who might be pulling the strings.
But in terms of the larger mystery, that's about all I can say.
What I can say is that it's been a tremendous honor to play into the larger myth-arc of "Rebirth" building toward Doomsday Clock and these larger stories.
And even being able to exist in tandem for the incredible story that Dan Jurgens is telling over in Action Comics now with "The Oz Effect." Just being able to tell these two mirror stories in DC's two oldest, longest-running titles that kind of speak to the core nature of our lead characters is a real honor. And it's something that I'm very excited by. I can't wait for people to read this story.
Nrama: So the language of the scene with Oz seems similar to what we saw last time Tim escaped from his cell. But it appears to be a different escape. Just to clarify, is this supposed to be the same scene, or a different one?
Tynion: It's meant to be a different scene. That thread [from the last escape] may be something that I can't particularly address.
Nrama: OK, so after Oz leaves, Tim finds this future version of him. This is the Batman from "Titans Tomorrow," from Mike McKone and Geoff Johns' Teen Titans run. Since this story deals with so much of the "Rebirth" mysteries that Geoff set up last year, was the "Titans Tomorrow" Tim someone Geoff suggested for the story? Or was it something you came up with?
Tynion: We were sort of talking around it. We knew the emotional role that the figure who was locked up in there with Tim needed to fill. And it was Geoff who brought the idea of the "Titans Tomorrow" Tim to the table.
But it was an immediate - like, it immediately clicked for me. That was one of the stories that really defines Tim Drake for me.
I've told Geoff this a million times, but his Teen Titans run is one of the most formative comic book-reading experiences in my life. That was the book that really made me a DC Comics hardcore fan. I got into reading the rest of the line out from that core.
Before then, I had been reading Young Justice on and off, and I had been reading on and off issues of Robin. I was always a Tim Drake fan. But it was the larger mythology and the power of that "Titans Tomorrow" storyline that just really clicked for me.
So to bring him back here, and to bring him back in a story that's going to really speak to the heart of who Tim Drake is - in the past, the present and the future.
And you see the threads that can lead to incredible possibility. And also, there are threads that can lead down a very dark path, because that "Titans Tomorrow" Tim is a dark Tim. It's a Tim who has experienced incredible loss. He feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, much in the way young Tim did in "A Lonely Place of Dying" - the original storyline. And that expresses itself through this really cynical view of the world.
So we're going to see our current Tim's optimism up against that future Tim's pessimism, in a story that's really going to speak to the core nature of who Tim Drake is.
Nrama: Ah….that theme. We've been told there's a theme in Doomsday Clock of "cynicism and pessimism versus hope and optimism, with Dr. Manhattan and Superman serving as two sides of that coin. So this theme in "A Lonely Place of Living" on purpose - both for the writers and maybe for the manipulator who's causing the events within this prison?
Tynion: I would say that they're definitely thematically paired.
And I would say "Oz Effect" has a similar thing going on - where you have a darker version of Jor-El. Here, you have this darker, future version of Tim.
You have characters confronted by what gives them hope in a way that sort of brings them to despair.
That is deliberate.
In terms of its plot connections, I think you can extrapolate some of what you're saying in terms of, what was the agenda of the mysterious jailer in bringing these characters there to this prison?
But in terms of the way the stories play out, they are absolutely, 100% meant to be thematically linked.
Nrama: Can you talk about what comes next? Now that the hope-filled, present-day version of Tim has encountered this cynical, possible-future version of Tim, what's coming up next? Are there more prisoners? I think solicitations have said he'll eventually get to Gotham, but can you tease what's coming up?
Tynion: Honestly, what I think is really compelling here, is that in the next issue, we're going to see Tim up against his future self - working with him while still being repulsed by him in a really core way. This is a really dark, twisted version of himself that he doesn't think it's possible for him to be.
In the next issue, we're going to see the future Tim make the case of how our young Tim ends up becoming this dark future.
And then ultimately, we're going to see this future Tim dash out into the streets of present-day Gotham realizing that he might be able to free himself of the future, of his dark future, but only if he can change the past.
So we're going to see our young Tim having to struggle - he doesn't want to become this dark version of himself, but what the future Tim is going to try to do in the present timeline is something that he can't allow to happen. So he might have to actually protect the timeline that leads him down this horrendously dark path in order to stay true to himself. It puts him in a very tricky position.
Each piece of this story, I'm incredibly excited by. And there are lots of little touches of old continuity and new continuity that I'm really excited to bring in here that ties up a lot of what we've been building in my Detective Comics run. This is the story that I've been waiting to tell for a very, very long time. So I'm very excited that we're here and now we're telling it.