The Court of Owls and Ras Al Ghul and the League of Assassins. I figured I'd get the latter because it would tie into Red Hood and the Outlaws. It does although it can apparently stand alone. Thoughts about the interview under the cut.
I always get excited when Tynion talks about working on RHATO even if I haven't been so thrilled with the execution.
CBR News: James, you've been playing with the members of the League of Assassins for a bit in your "Red Hood" run, and now you're blowing them out into their own Villains Month one-shot. It feels like this is the piece of the DC Universe you're getting to define most in the New 52. What was the attraction to that group of characters?
James Tynion IV: It was a piece that was originally suggested to me – that maybe there was something to the idea of reintroducing the League of Assassins in a cool new way. What I wanted to do was bring in some familiar faces and also create new characters so I could really build out this piece of mythology that I've always been fascinated with. Especially after the Nolan movies – even though they're the "League of Shadows" there – these kinds of super assassins and the world they operate in has always been one of my favorite pieces of comics. Looking what's already been on the page, there haven't been a lot of stories about how the League operates because they've always been secondary to Ra's Al Ghul's stories.
So I wanted to go at this and introduce the characters in a way that would draw something out in Jason but also show a new corner of who they are and why they operate like they do. I wanted to show that there's an assassin they'd send after a highly technological superhero. There's an assassin they'd send after John Constantine if he ever crossed them. I wanted them to have a wide reach and a scale to them that they often don't have since they've often been faceless ninjas in the background who stand behind Ra's or Talia. That's really where this all came from: the desire to do world building, establish new elements and use the New 52 to build something new that could last in continuity.
That all led to the creation of the assassin city whose name is Arabic for "Snake's Nest" as this real central location. It's the secret city they've been operating in for hundreds and hundreds of years. That was the seed that led to this story. I wanted to tie this great piece of the DC cosmos to what's been a part of "Red Hood" from the very beginning. One of the first issues of the series had Talia taking Jason to the All-Caste, so I wanted to find that connection between the League of Assassins and the All-Caste. That's at the heart of what will be explored in the next few issues.
I do think it's a good idea to expand the idea of the league especially since their usually downgraded to canon fodder for the bats to beat up. I've always been fascinated with what life must be like for henchmen, etc. What he says in terms of who is sent after what target makes sense. That said I don't think there was a burning need to find out the connect between the All Caste and the Al Ghuls. Really most readers would assume Ducra would have met Ras in her travels. She obviously knew him and Talia. They respected her and knew better than to attack. But I don't think he got what Lobdell had Talia doing by taking Jason there, it was to give him the chance to fulfill his potential to be a great man. That was why he trained with them instead of the LOA. This new take adds to Morrison tarnishing Talia further. It also makes Jason a puppet rather than a lost kid acting on his emotions and making the wrong choices before slowly finding his way.
With the Villans Month one-shot, you're focusing more on the past and on Ra's Al Ghul specifically. Does that function as the origin story for this version of the League?
100%. This is very much about the history and the legacy of Ra's Al Ghul specifically and why he created the League of Assassins. I wanted to show moments that we haven't seen over and over without overriding any of the classic Denny O'Neil stories. There will be little nods to that stuff in there, but I didn't want to do his origin because his origin is just incredible in the original "Birth of The Demon" story.
So this comes out of a desire to show the reach and the power of Ra's Al Ghul through the history of the DCU. You'll see his hand in key a few key historical moments and how those moments affect the present day. But this is also very much a story that stands alone for anyone who isn't reading "Red Hood" right now.
I was hoping this would focus more on the LOA than Ras.
There are some pieces that will flow out of the one-shot and into "Red Hood" as it appears from October's solicitations Jason will soon be taking a leadership role in the League. I get this sense this comes with the help of the Bronze Tiger, a character that's appeared in the book in flashback as Ben – a mercenary buddy of Jason Todd. What was your goal in tying the past of those two characters?
I wanted to really build up Bronze Tiger as though from scratch. Some of the elements of his history are still in place, but with the New 52, we're always encouraged to tell these stories in a big, bombastic way for the first time. That's what I wanted to do with this character who I've loved for many, many years. In the stories that most people are familiar with him, he's already had a change of heart. This is after the Denny O'Neil years where realizes that he was doing the wrong thing for all that time and then joins the Suicide Squad as a means of redemption. He was seeking redemption there and wanted to be a good guy, but when you meet him in our book, he'll still think he's doing the right thing in this lifestyle. Jason is looking for some kind of purpose in his life, and Ben has all the answers. He's a very calming, soothing presence, and he's been left in charge of things with the League at the moment because he's the most level-headed of all these very dangerous, mostly insane killers. He's the guy who can bring everyone together.
That's they dynamic I wanted to play with the two of them: Ben as a mentor figure for Jason. Even if they come at this from very, very different angles. Ben cares a lot about Jason, and back when Jason was working with him, he cared about Ben as well.
I do like the mentorship vibe between Ben and Jason but not the way it was written in the flashbacks with Ben acting like a obviously evil and Jason being dim about the whole thing. I think this dynamic would have worked a hell of a lot better if Jason retained his memories because all they have in the present is Bens' reactions. Where's the sense of conflict? Not wanting to hurt a friend but needing to forge his own path and stop himself from having his destiny manipulated like he assumes the Joker did. Ben wanting what's best for Jason and his frustration that his student doesn't see his vision. It's just baffling that someone wouldn't want to play those angles to the fullest.
The other thing people have been talking about is that traditionally Bronze Tiger wore a very realistic mask, but with Brett Booth's redesign, he seems much more a super powered villain. Is that another big change you wanted to bring to the New 52 version?
Yeah. When I started approaching the character, I was very much thinking about him in his classic form. But as we started talking about doing a new take, the way I ended up seeing him was that he was one of the best martial artists in the world before he could transform into a tiger creature. [Laughs] So that just gives him a lot more physical powerful with every punch. With or without the transformation, he's one of the most dangerous guys in the DCU. But this adds a little flare and some more intrigue into the process of how he became Bronze Tiger. Those are stories where some will play out in this story and some will play out further on down the line.
I don't think Tynion learned from Lobdells' mistakes. Yes Koris' memories are part of it but there was also a outcry when Crux--a young black scientist--turned into a monster. Lobdell was going to let Crux join the team and not transform again. Something that changed from his original plot to make the character the powerhouse and brains. But plans got scrapped when he left the book. Now another black character is transformed, now into a tiger. Worse it's a established character that once kicked Batmans' ass.
The other redesigned character playing a part in this story is Cheshire, who is joining the League though she hasn't been tied to the team in the past.
No, she hasn't. But when we started talking, she was one of the pieces that created this whole line of thinking. When she was on the board, the idea of bringing in a whole bunch of assassin members came out of that. She has always been an assassin, but she's never been in the League before. So in this story, we'll really test where her allegiance is. She's very much her own entity and doesn't play by other people's rules very well. She has her own morality which is pretty twisted but is consistent in her head.
And I knew we could play with her and Roy Harper and tie those characters together in the New 52 in a brash and dangerous way.
Not sure what "test where her allegiance is" means. Whether she has own desire a part from the league or siding with the Outlaws. I really hope it's not about her having the hots for Roy. I love him with Kori and don't care for the pandering especially when Jade is creepy.
Well with that relationship, there was a lot of baggage that built up previously in the DCU, though a lot of people these days may also identify them from "Young Justice." Are you telling the beginning of that relationship here?
Yeah. It's always been a messed up relationship. The animated series always played it a bit more straightforward than it was in the comics. Cheshire is a very messed up individual, and I didn't want to tone her down. So I don't think Cheshire and Roy will be running off to have a nice, healthy relationship anytime soon. I wanted a tension there between them immediately that we are going to continue to play off. As they continue to encounter each other, it's got the potential to morph and change, but not into anything that will be good for either of them.
Glad it's acknowledged that it's a messed up relationship. But I'm not really interested in seeing it in the new 52. Same with Dick/Kori. It's been done and the only good thing that came from their union was Lian. Since it's FAR too early for that I'd like to keep them apart.
Overall, one question that keeps coming up to me is one of the "New Titans." Aside from Roy and Cheshire now being part of the book, you've also had elements like Roy mentioning Dick Grayson during his first meeting with Jason, and Kori confirming the same. While it's been established that the New 52 Teen Titans are the first team to carry that name, what history is there that puts together that original group of Wolfman/Perez Titans?
That's something I have answers for and that's definitely on the plate for further exploration. I know what the story is – at least in my head – of how all those characters interacted in the past. And there is in an early issue of "Red Hood" a flashback to a panel of Dick, Roy and Kori fighting side-by-side. We don't really know the context of that or what exactly happened and why. Because if the Teen Titans in the New 52 are the first iteration, why didn't these young heroes become a team? Especially if they did encounter each other in their early days.
That's something I'm very interested in exploring over the course of this series, even in the way of bringing in Dick Grayson at some point and exploring that dynamic. I think he really plays off the members of our team in interesting ways. Jason has some insecurity issues around him, though you might not put it that way. But Dick was the ideal Robin, and Jason was the Robin who died. I think Judd Winick said in an interview once that the dynamic boils down to Jason thinking that if the Joker would have killed Dick Grayson, Batman would have killed the Joker. But since Jason didn't have that same relationship with Bruce, he's somehow lesser. I don't think it's a constant worry for him, but it's in his head. And especially now that there is a history between Roy and Dick and between Kori and Dick, to see Jason hanging out with Dick's old friends when Dick showsup would make for an incredible moment. And to be honest, there is no specific issue where that is set to happen yet.
I'm kinda surprised Nightwings' writer doesn't want to tackle some of these things. Jason actually asked Dick if he wanted to say hi to Kori and called him on chickening out. So he's not that insecure about Dick being around them. Plus Damian died too so it's not like Jasons' alone in that regard. I think it would have been a bigger moment if Dick didn't already know Jason was hanging out with them.