Marc Waid and his collaborators on Batman Vs. Robin #4 (released today!) set the stage for Planet Lazarusa crossover that spans the entire line that ranks as DC Comics’ first major story of 2023.
Before the issue was released, Waid – who is also running the event – took the time to speak with Rhythm. Our conversation focused on planning Planet Lazarus, Waid’s long history with DC Comics events and how that history informs his handling of this crossover. You can find our chat below – slightly edited for clarity – which is spoiler-free…enjoy!
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Can I start by asking what was the initial inspiration for the story in Batman vs. Robin #4 has been? Did you start with the father and son themes, or with the desire to play with DC magic?
BRAND WAID: It was those two things. It was wanting to start with Batman versus Robin, to see where that would take us, and I immediately turned to magic. I wanted a fish out of water story for Batman. He certainly knows his share of magicians, but magic isn’t his forte. It’s not something he’s completely comfortable using, or being in this world. That gave me the basic elements of this story.
ZACK: There were a lot of moments in this comic — specifically thinking of Batman with the Doctor Fate helmet — that felt totally new. Was it something you were deliberately looking for?
BRAND: Absolutely. I had the advantage that we never really did full-fledged Batman as a magician. That makes sense, because Bruce is all about control. That’s what drives him, and magic compels you as a practitioner – says Grant Morrison — to surrender to a force beyond yourself, a higher power. For all the things Bruce can do, it’s not something he’s capable of.
ZACK: It almost seems like it undermines his famous intensive preparations…
BRAND: It’s fun, too, because Batman always has a plan. When he’s dealing with Doctor Fate’s magic, I don’t know what kind of plan he might have.
ZACK: With four oversized issues, how did he write for Batman Vs Robin format?
BRAND: It gave me more respite, and I appreciated that because I wanted mahmoud [Asrar]it is the art of really singing. I didn’t brief him as well as I could have, but he wasn’t asked to draw a superhero comic – he was asked to draw a horror comic. He raised an eyebrow at first, but then he dove in and made it work. With all those extra pages, he was able to really create a sense of mood and darkness that’s different from the tone of a typical Batman story.
ZACK: I particularly appreciated Batman vs. Robin #4, which had several settings that could have been another book’s climactic moment. Was it deliberate?
BRAND: When I sit down to think about a comic, one of the things I really think about is what are the sets? Where can I go with what makes visuals interesting? I had a few lined up for this one, and I knew I wanted them to be big emotional payoffs.
ZACK: I really enjoyed the robin series with the tournament, and I was curious, how long ago did you start planning this story, which stems from it?
BRAND: It was after Josh [Williamson] and I had started having good conversations about halfway through his robin Course. We started talking about how it might inform each other, and vice versa. It was partly coincidence and partly by design, but I think it all worked so that everything seemed to be tied together more tightly than we had imagined.
ZACK: Looking ahead, can you talk about coordinating and planning what’s next? Planet Lazarus? It looks like it will touch every corner of the DC Universe…
BRAND: I wrote it deliberately with as much flexibility as I could give my colleagues, because nothing is less fun than having to write a chapter of a crossover event where the story was dictated to you, and you don’t don’t feel like you have room for movement. The idea with the Lazarus Volcano is that informed by the magic of the Doctor Fate helmet, all of the earth’s magic travels across the planet in both typhoons and storms. It can have whatever effect the writer wants it to have on the characters. It allows us to elevate B characters, it allows us to make changes to characters that need to be made, it allows us to create new characters, and again, it’s all magic – it gives us a pretty wide brush to paint.
ZACK: It’s cool to see monkey prince incorporated into it. Can you talk about how this book fits together?
BRAND: When I was developing the Devil Nezha to The best in the world, I did not know Yang gene was looking at the same mythology from a different angle with his book. When we realized this, what was a coincidence turned into an opportunity. We were able to nurture each other and bond in Planet Lazarus that you will realize go back further than a month ago with monkey prince. Everything went well, and I have Gene to thank for that. He was so generous as a collaborator.
ZACK: It also looks like you’re incorporating new characters with Red Canary and City Boy. Is that a goal for this story?
BRAND: DC events in the past have always been great, but sometimes they were about making the world smaller or setting a new rule for the universe or a new boundary for the characters. I wanted to go in the exact opposite direction and create a situation where anything could happen. That’s what it’s about.
ZACK: Do you know how many DC events you’ve worked on over the years?
BRAND: [laughs] I have no idea, and yet I’ve only run one or two. I’ve mostly been the side guy. Unleashed underworld was probably the last big one I participated in.
ZACK: Did your experiences integrating into other events influence how you structure this one for other creators?
BRAND: For sure. Again, there’s nothing less fun than being told what your story is going to be and having to make it work. It’s much more fun to be given opportunities rather than prerequisites.
Batman Vs. Robin #4 is out now, with Planet Lazarus should start in January.
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