Each week, MTV News is breaking down the big moments in DC Comics' weekly series "Batman Eternal." This week, we've got writer James Tynion IV talking about how "Batman Returns" inspired this week's take on The Penguin, and way more:
MTV News: I want to start off with that amazing panel with The Penguin. He's essentially in his underwear, drooling from his mouth with a bloody umbrella. It's incredible. What's the idea here? Are we seeing the Penguin return to form, after being a semi-legit businessman for so long?
James Tynion IV: The idea here is that the monster has always been lurking beneath. The idea beneath that panel in particular is, I remember when I had the idea for that I reached out to the whole team, I kind of wanted to go "Batman Returns" penguin for a second there. I wanted to show he’s not just a mobster, he has to be more than a mobster in Gotham City in order to be the big villain that he is, to be such a powerful figure, to wield that power.
We’ve always seen that he’s been very dangerous, but he always lets other people wield that power for him. He very rarely takes that power into his own hands. This is a moment where he’s been pushed up against a wall, and I wanted to show exactly why people are afraid of him, why he is a key figure in Batman’s rogues gallery, and show that behind everything prim and proper is a monster just as bad as all of the rest of the villains.
MTV: On the other end of the spectrum you have Falcone, who it seems has completely underestimated The Penguin and what’s going on with Gotham.
Tynion: Like we’ve been saying since the beginning when we introduced Falcone, [he] represents old crime, the crime that came before Batman. But the thing is, he still believes the city is what it was before Batman existed. In this issue, we're showing that he really never understood what he’s fighting, he never understood what the city has become and what it allows.
That has always been his biggest weakness, from when we saw in "Zero Year" how the Red Hood Gang was stripping away his profits and taking over the city. That’s what allowed Penguin to get the strength to be able to push him out and take over the criminal underworld.
And now what we’re seeing is, he once again completely underestimated what the city is and that’s what’s leading to his downfall.
MTV: When he came in, in the second issue it felt like he was going to be the bad guy... And here we are twelve issues later, it's almost funny how quickly he got dismantled. Is this it for him, or is he going to have to evolve and become something else to keep his foot in Gotham and push back even harder?
Tynion: Well I will definitely say we haven’t seen the Carmine Falcone. The big thing, and we hint at it in this issue, James Gordon is in Blackgate and now the Penguin and Falcone are both being sent to Blackgate.
This is not going to be a good situation that’s evolving there, and there’s a power structure within Blackgate that he’ll be able to wheel to his own advantage or disadvantage. It’s going to play into the entire history of crime in Gotham, which is something we touched upon in this issue, so we definitely have not seen the end of Carmine Falcone’s roll in "Batman Eternal."
MTV: You mentioned Gordon, let’s talk about his big scene. When Gordon gets the exit of the prison, he sees Batman waiting for him, and says, "I just came here to lock the door." Was he being honest, or was he actually going to try and escape?
Tynion: I believe that Gordon was being honest there. He’s not looking to let anyone out on the streets. He’s down, but he’s still himself. He is still the man we want him to be. The thing is, is that he considered it... Which is a step further than I think he would have ever believed himself to be. We're seeing a very down Jim Gordon here.
MTV: So does Batman sending Gordon to keep the peace between Penguin and Falcon refocus him? Now that he has some reason to be in Blackgate does this give him a purpose again?
Tynion: Well there will definitely be things to do, and there is definitely a lot of work on the table to come. We’re going to see whether or not Jim is able to step up to become something new, or at least reclaim some of his confidence, which we thought was completely shattered and lost forever.
MTV: We’ve touched upon this a bit in the past weeks, but I think readers can go either way in terms of how Batman reacts to Jason Bard's plan, and the aftermath of it. What’s your take on it, is Jason doing what needs to be done for Gotham, or has he crossed the line?
Tynion: The thing that Jason would say is that he did what he needed to do. He did cross lines that Batman and Gordon wouldn’t have crossed, but he did it for the greater good of the city.
It’s important to distinguish what his moral code is, in contrast to these other players. We’re starting to see what kind of Gotham policeman he is shaping to be, and what role he might play moving forward, because this is a very precarious situation we're in right now and it’s only going to get more precarious.
The gang war might be over, but that doesn’t mean that the chaos in Gotham stops, or that we have any idea who set everything on this path. There’s a lot to come.
MTV: But Bard saying he’s doing what needs to be done to get the results that he needs, isn’t that supervillian logic?
Tynion: He would view it as pragmatic logic, he comes from a city that went through a lot, and we will be digging in to his history in Detroit before he came into Gotham, what shaped his morals and why he believes what he believes. He does believe he’s doing the right thing, but what that right thing is might not be exactly what Batman wants it to be.
MTV: Let’s move on to the framing scene with Scarecrow, and eventual reveal that the Joker’s Daughter is going to chop his head off with an axe - as one does. Has the gang war been blinding everybody to the real threat here going on in Arkham?
Tynion: There are lots of threats. In the next few weeks we'll see what’s been happening in Arkham and the horror that’s unfolding there, but this has left the entire city distracted to the real dangers that are building... And that’s going to be incredibly problematic as the story moves forward. Especially as we dig into both that plot, and the plot with Tim Drake and Harper Row, and Jason Todd and Batgirl.