Batman is no stranger to challenges and intimidating foes — he is Gotham’s protector, after all, territory that comes with some distinctive and larger than life enemies and threats. But on the pages of DC’s ongoing Batman series, the Dark Knight is currently facing a threat that is unlike anything we’ve seen before, something was recently revealed to be a bit more personal: Failsafe, a robotic enemy that seems to know Batman’s every move and every thought even before he can think or move who is determined to shut Batman down for good. The most recent installment, Batman #126, alluded to Failsafe being one of Batman’s own creations leading to the stunning reveal of the return of Zur-En-Arrh.
Now, ahead of Batman #127, ComicBook.com caught up with the creative team behind this current Batman run, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Jorge Jimenez, as well as the Belén Ortega, artist on the Catwoman-centric backup story also written by Zdarsky, to talk about that stunning turn of events, Tim Drake’s role in this latest challenge for Batman, “stripping down” one of DC’s most complex characters, and so much more.
Chip Zdarsky 1
ComicBook.com: As a Batman fan who has on more than a few occasions been called a Batman obsessive, I’ve been loving your work on this title thus far especially that surprise with the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh at the end of 126. It felt like something that brought everything to this wild new level and we get more of it in 127. Why bring Batman of Zur-En-Arrh into this?
Chip Zdarsky: I mean, like most things, it just made sense because of the story I was telling! I don’t want to give too much away, but Bruce having an unsettling feeling, being a bit off, and the introduction of Failsafe, it all led me to Zur. I’m a huge fan of the Morrison run and getting to play with their elements has been incredibly fun.
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One of the things that has been so enjoyable thus far is that we’re getting into Batman and really Bruce Wayne’s head a great deal in a way that feels very grounded. This is a Batman that is both determined to do it himself but also very aware that this is bigger than just him — and we see his appreciation for his family. There’s an especially moving part of this issue where we see Bruce really confront the idea that he has a family rather than just sidekicks. How did you approach this emotional core of what is an otherwise pretty bananas issue?
Yeah, it’s kind of a reset that Batman has to do every once in a while, though this time it’s through the lens of Zur-En-Arrh lurking in the back of his brain, who is all about the “war” and “soldiers.” Batman’s had a lot of sidekicks and satellite vigilantes in his life, so it’s hard to keep viewing that life as a one-man-war on crime. His sense of responsibility and caring to those who have followed him down this path is growing, and there are a lot of questions for him as a result of that.
And yeah, the issue is bananas! I’ve really enjoyed how relentless this whole beginning has been and Jorge is the perfect artist to showcase that wild energy and also the emotional beats!
Chip Zdarsky 3
Tim’s Robin has been a big part of this story, both in terms of his relationship with Batman/Bruce and as well as his own efforts — but we really see that sort of heightened in this issue. Why is Tim the right Robin for this story?
Tim originally came in to Batman’s life to bring him back from the brink, to balance out his darkness. He’s in that role again, but he’s grown so much since those days, which makes him really fun to write as a companion to Bruce.
DC fans know that Batman infamously had a whole plan for how to stop the Justice League and now it’s pretty clear Batman had a plan to stop himself and there’s a really cool twist to that right at the end of this issue that I won’t talk about because spoilers, but I think people are going to love it. The point here is that this story digs pretty deep into established history and lore. Which is awesome. But what we get from this is almost a Batman we’ve never seen before — vulnerable enough to put his trust in something else. We get a very stripped-down Batman in this issue. Why did you choose this approach to the character?
Stripped down is the best way to really dig into a character: their fears, their weaknesses, what their core is. It’s been a lot of fun writing Batman where he’s at right now, a little older, maybe even a little unsure. Batman is highly competent, the best at everything. But sometimes that can just create character roadblocks. You need to unsettle him once in a while!
Chip Zdarsky 4
You are also writing the Catwoman backup story for this which is both connected to the main story but has something of a different tone. How do you balance things between Batman and Catwoman?
Yeah, it’s a little lighter, just because Selina isn’t dealing with the same things Bruce is currently. But it’s still a continuation of the story, which has been a satisfying use of the backups for me (and hopefully the readers!). A lot of the tone difference comes from Belén on art as well! She’s amazing.
As I noted, the Catwoman backup story is its own tale, but it intersects with the main Batman story in that it spins out of Penguin’s death. This final chapter of that story comes with a pretty surprising reveal that humanizes Penguin in a way that I’m not sure anyone ever has with the character. What motivated this very specific way of approaching a character that has long been a thorn in Batman’s side?
Whenever you write pre-existing characters, you look for things that haven’t been done with them before, or new ways of looking at them and their motivations. With The Penguin, he’s a fascinating character through and through and I thought his death could shed more light on who he really was and what he was going through.
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How does this story change Catwoman and her story, at least in how you see things?
I mean, everything I did here in our backup is based on what Tini has planned for her. She’s in charge of Catwoman, with some amazing stories coming up, and my hope is that what we’ve done here in the backup just helps support those stories.
Also, I have one fun question for you: your “ChipClass” is the best thing I saw on the internet the week it came out and was a shot of serotonin I didn’t know I needed. When some of my colleagues found out I was getting to talk to you they all pretty much unanimously asked me to ask you if we could PLEASE get more ChipClass sessions so I’m here to humbly ask can we please get more ChipClass sessions?
Ha ha there are two more on the way! They’re being edited as we speak! Once you finish watching all three, you’ll basically be a Marvel and DC writer.
Jorge Jimenez 1
ComicBook.com: There’s a really lovely emotional core to this issue — where we see Bruce really confront the idea that he has a -family- rather than just sidekicks. The art here does just as much heavy lifting as the writing does as well. There’s a page where we see Batman reflecting on all these memories that is just fantastic and kind of iconic. What was your approach to the art in this issue? Particularly considering we have Batman of Zur-En-Arrh who is very distinctive in the mix?
Jorge Jimenez: A few months ago, a friend who was a big fan of Batman asked me: “Man! when will Zur-En-Arrh be back!?” I had already read the script and knew that we were bringing this character, but obviously I kept quiet, LOL I remember thinking inside how special this version of Batman is for many readers. And the responsibility I was taking on when creating these pages. First, I worked on a new design for this character, giving it a slightly fresher and more current tone but consistent with the aesthetic that we are working on in the series. And of course, his way of acting, his facial expression and his body language have been key elements to take into account when making the issue, I remember that another essential aspect with Zur-En-Arrh is also the interaction he has with the other characters, like Robin, I don’t want to make spoilers about it but my intention is that it is clearly understood when it is Bruce and when it is Zur-En-Arrh who is behind the mask!
Jorge Jimenez 2
This issue is kind of a wild ride of things, visually. We get a lot of action. We get a lot of introspection. We get different settings, and a lot of facial expressions. Your facial expressions for the characters here are just top notch (I particularly love Tim’s face-palm moment talking with Zur-En-Arrh). Can you tell me a little about your approach to the art on this issue?
Batman #127 is a journey inside Bruce Wayne, with a perfectly executed script by Chip. I just remember being totally happy drawing these pages. I think it has a frenetic rhythm and I wanted to adapt the visual narration to the different phases of the chapter as well as possible, and yes, the emotions and the expressions of the characters are very important here so that the reading flows and the reader is fully immersed. I can only say that I hope you like it!!
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With this story having so many layers, what was your collaboration with Chip like for this issue?
Working with Chip, both on this issue and on the others, has been great, he is a guy who is very clear about what he wants to show, and at the same time is open to suggestions without any problem and totally respects my work. Everything really flows and I am very grateful to DC for having someone as great as a person and professional as a writer of this run. His own trajectory defines him, he also has a great sense of humor and is a lot of fun to have as a partner. As for our collaboration working, I think we are both comfortable with the project and I hope that is reflected in the pages of this Batman! Thank you so much for everything!!
Belén Ortega 1
ComicBook.com: I love how visually different the Catwoman story is from the main Batman story, but I particularly love how open, visually, the story looks. There’s a lightness and brightness with the colors, but your use of space is really stunning. What was your approach to the art here?
Belén Ortega: When I was a child, my biggest influence was Manga comics, and it is a style that is identified by having little mass of black and fine line (usually). Since I work for the American market, I have started to study other great references to be able to adapt my style to this market but trying to keep being “me”. With Catwoman I wanted to follow that line, play with black and white and help the character move through the shadows, since it’s her natural environment.
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Did you have any inspirations for taking on not just Catwoman here, but a very specific change in a rather iconic character — that I frankly didn’t recognize.
Well, Chip recommended me a very specific reference to redesign this character’s new look, but I won’t reveal who (although it has to do with the Batman cinematic universe). Sometimes I like to be inspired by real actors because they help to give solidity to the characters, it’s a good way to stretch different angles and volumes in the face to make them all particular. You won’t believe this either, but my inspiration for Selina was also Zoe Kravitz. My design doesn’t look like her, does it? The idea is not to make them recognizable, just to take details from here and there to compose your own.
Belén Ortega 3
What would you say was your biggest challenge and greatest reward/favorite thing about the art in this issue?
The biggest reward is undoubtedly to be able to be in this series with this magnificent team (and to draw Catwoman, of course). The biggest challenge is to live up to it.
What was your collaboration with Chip like on this story, considering how it intersects with the main Batman story?
The collaboration was super easy, flowing and very natural. I mean, the whole Batman team is super professional, and everything works like a Swiss watch. It’s a pleasure to work with people who are not only professional, but also very polite and assertive in their personal dealings.
Written by CHIP ZDARSKY
Art and cover by JORGE JIMENEZ
Backup art by BELÉN ORTEGA
Wraparound variant cover by GABRIELE DELL’OTTO
Variant cover by ALEX GARNER
Harley 30th variant cover by STEPHEN SEGOVIA
1:25 variant cover by INHYUK LEE
1:50 variant cover by JOCK
$4.99 US | 40 pages | Variant $5.99 US (card stock)
ON SALE 9/6/22
With brutal efficiency, Failsafe hunts the Dark Knight, leaving a trail of injured heroes! Batman retreats to the manor as he prepares for a final assault…will the last few surprises he has in store be enough? And in the backup, Catwoman reaches a shocking conclusion in her search!