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Batman comic writer James Tynion IV talks Harley Quinn vs. Punchline, pandemic impact

By Adam Pockross
Punchline Hero crop

Along with so many other aspects of normally functioning society, the global pandemic has uprooted the comic book industry as we know it, so much so that fans couldn’t get their hands on actual print copies of their favorite books, or even digital copies in some cases, like DC’s main Batman run.

Well, that’s all about to change, and Batman #92 — which features the first meeting between Joker’s angel and devil influences, Harley Quinn and new rogue Punchline — is one of the most highly anticipated books on the market, which will see its digital and, more importantly, its print release on June 2, a solid two months after it was originally scheduled for release on April 1.

Batman #92

The importance of the moment doesn’t escape Batman writer James Tynion IV.

“The fact that we’re coming back in, and not only are we coming back in but we’re coming back in strong with an issue that I know there’s a lot of demand about, is something that I hope can be a boon to retailers and also help other folks get back up and running themselves,” Tynion tells SYFY WIRE.

Beyond the industry as a whole, the return of comics will also be a boon to Tynion personally, and not just because he’s finally gotten a chance to “get ahead” on a book that traditionally comes out twice a month.

“My entire life, I can’t think of a time that the flow of new comics has been stopped,” Tynion says. “I read comics every single week; it means a lot to me. And it’s like I’ve never ever stopped. I have other friends that sort of fall off the comics wagon every now and then, even though they keep writing them. But reading my weekly comics has always been deeply important to me.”

Batman #92

As far as the delay’s effect on the story itself, the panademic isn’t seeping its way into Gotham just yet, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see reflections of the real world — something Tynion always tries to instill in his work.

“I think there’s a larger thematic thing that I’ve been trying to get at with a lot of my work, you know, there’s a lot of strife in the world right now, and I think the pandemic kind of brings a lot of that into sharp focus,” Tynion says. “But I think living in a world where … you know, everyone’s angry all the time, and there’s a lot of conflict … there are a lot frightened people in the world. And Joker is someone who takes that and dials it up. So 'Joker War' is very much a story that I do feel is about the now, and it’s almost like someone being like, ‘Oh, you want an apocalypse, I’ll show you an apocalypse.’”

"Joker War" is the larger arc that Tynion is setting up, beginning with the nine-issue arc we’re currently in, “Their Dark Designs,” which kicked off his Batman run with #86. Basically, years ago, this mysterious figure, The Designer, collaborated with all the big baddies in Gotham – specifically Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, and Joker — to create the perfect crime that would cripple the city. But they went back on the deal and "took The Designer down."

Batman #92

“But now he’s back, and now Catwoman isn’t even a villain anymore, but all of a sudden, all of their old sins are coming back to head, here and now, and it seems like The Designer is about to unleash their original plan to take down Gotham City,” Tynion says. “And this is a plan that Catwoman never told Batman about before, that Batman did not realize existed right under his feet. It’s also a plan that set the stage for the sort of villain that Joker was starting to become back then, but is now.”

Which takes us to Batman #92, "Pawns of The Designer."

“We are now at the part of the story where were starting to realize what Joker has been up to this entire arc, and what his goals are, and how he’s manipulating all of this. And it’s not a spoiler: Three issues from now is the start of a big storyline called 'Joker War,' so Joker has clearly been building something in the midst of all of this,” Tynion says.

Besides The Designer, we’ve also seen another one of Tynion’s creations, Punchline, who has been lurking in the shadows thus far, “but is basically running Joker’s gang right now.” 

Batman #92

“She is his top lieutenant who’s going out into the world and getting done what needs to be done to start 'Joker War,'” Tynion says. “And this is when she intersects into that story, this is her first meeting with Harley Quinn, and this is the real start of that drumbeat that ends with 'Joker War.'”

While fan expectations are high, hopefully the momentous meeting will exude the joys of its creation. Just don’t expect Harley and Punchline to get along.   

“Honestly, it was one of the most fun things that I’ve written. And it also sets up their dynamic for 'Joker War,' which is really, really fun,” Tynion says. “It sets them in a place as real arch-enemies in a way that I’m really, really excited about continuing to play with.”

Batman #92

While it's not as much of a focus in this issue, we also get to see the first meeting of Batman and The Designer. "How is he active in the present day and what is he actually there to do, that's all going to start coming to a head in a big way and set the stage for Batman's first encounter with The Designer face to face."

Which all bodes well for the future of the run (unless you live in Gotham). And one good thing about the delay has been that the future of the book is now stronger than it was before.

“The idea of getting this far ahead is a dream come true,” Tynion says of the delay. “It’s affected more the storyline that’s following this one, because it actually allows me to sit down with every issue of it and tweak something in Part 1 that affects Part 4; you usually don’t get that chance in superhero comics. Now that it’s starting again, the machine is up and running again, I’m just excited for them all to start coming out.”


Batman # 92 — written by James Tynion IV, with art by Guillem March, colors by Tomeu Morey, cover by Tony Salvador Daniel and Yasmine Putri, and the Punchline variant cover by Francesco Mattina — drops on both digital and … praise be … print on June 2.