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James Tynion IV on new Batsuits, new villains, and reshaping Gotham with 'Joker War'

By Matthew Jackson
Batman 95 cover

Next week, the next major event in the world of Batman kicks off with Joker War, a massive story that sees the Clown Prince of Crime bringing a specially designed battle directly to the Dark Knight. Ahead of the event's launch, writer James Tynion IV sat down with journalists, including SYFY WIRE, to talk about what Joker War has in store for us. The short version: a new Batsuit, some new characters, and a whole lot of shake-ups in Gotham City.

Tynion has spent the last few issues of his Batman run setting up a new kind of master plan for the Joker, who's teamed up with a new sidekick who calls herself "Punchline" in an effort to seize control of Gotham City and stage one final showdown with Batman. As the synopsis for Batman #95 explains it, the Joker has never actually wanted to win before. He's always been after a kind of never-ending confrontation with Batman, but not anymore. Now he's determined to put an end to their story, one way or another. To do that, he's prepared to take every advantage Batman has ever had — his money, his toys, and perhaps even his allies — and turn them against him.

"I wanted to do a story that really flipped the dynamic, and the core, high-concept conceit is I wanted Batman's fortune to be ripped away from him and given to the Joker," Tynion explained. "I wanted Joker to have all of the Batmobiles, Bat-planes, Bat-gadgets, and Batman to have none of them. And that's the dynamic I wanted for a story."

To further reverse the dynamic, Tynion also noted his desire to make Joker the leader of a gang again, rather than simply a solitary mastermind. That desire led to the creation of a new supporting cast, led by Punchline, a new partner for the Clown Prince of Crime who's already started to make her mark in the DC Universe. Punchline's creation is, according to Tynion, a cornerstone of the desire to give Joker something that Batman has often had in his own corner: a family.

"I wanted to really explore the fact that, you know, Joker [has] this whole group of people around him in the same way that Batman has his family around him. At the moment, Joker has successfully hit a bunch of fracture points that has separated Batman away from his family. And some of those fracture points, Bruce hit himself," Tynion said. "But now Joker has this big family all around him. He has Punchline, he has this whole gang of clowns and in masks and all of that. And Bruce doesn't have anyone around him, and that's where Joker War starts. And then we're going to see that change over the course of the story, as Batman realizes who he needs to reach out to to win. So, definitely the building of a Joker family was something that ... I definitely have a Post-it note somewhere in this office that says 'Joker Famly' underlined three times from like last October or something like that."

Joker's efforts to strip Batman of all of his toys — including the vast stockpile of gadgets and vehicles at his disposal — also includes the reveal of a brand-new Batsuit designed by Joker War artist Jorge Jimenez. For Tynion, this suit — which is teased in Batman #95 and will be featured on the below variant cover for the much-anticipated Batman #100 — is both a cool new look for the Dark Knight and a representation of everything that's at stake in this story.

"So honestly this suit is really thematically important for the issue, and for this entire arc. This is the Batman that Batman has been building himself towards, that he thinks is sort of his own happy ending. And this story is very much about Joker seeing the happy ending that Batman wanted to build for himself and destroying all of the pieces that would be necessary to build himself that happy ending," he said. "So that suit is an aspirational suit that we're going to see ripped away. You'll see it for the first time in #95, you'll see it in the future in #96. And then it's going to come back in a big way towards the end in a way that isn't going to necessarily be the utopian situation that [Batman] was hoping to put that suit on in. So, that's a big piece of what we were trying to build."

Batman 100 new Batsuit variant cover

Though Joker War is, as the name suggests, focused on yet another clash in the seemingly never-ending struggle between the Dark Knight and his ultimate villain, Tynion repeatedly emphasized the sense of newness in the story he and Jimenez are working to tell. Over the course of the next six issues of Batman, as well as through various tie-in issues throughout the Bat-family line, Joker War will strive to both deliver new characters and stories and present old favorites in a new light. By the time it's all over, Tynion hopes that a new foundation will be laid for the next generation of Gotham City stories.

"I do think that people want something new, and that's part of why, in a meta sense, that's what I'm doing with this story. I'm trying to create new characters, bring them into the Gotham mythos, expand the Gotham mythos, change some of the core pillars of the Gotham mythos," Tynion said. "This is a lot of what Joker War does. It raises Gotham so that new stories can be built off of it, and that's been one of the most exciting things in that mix is just being able to create a whole bunch of new story and threads that are going to pay off, not only later this year, but into next year."

The next few months are going to get rather chaotic in Gotham City, as readers will encounter everyone from Punchline to the new character Clownhunter to one of Tynion's old favorites, Bluebird, in the pages of Joker War. We still don't know what Gotham will look like when the dust settles, but we do know that Tynion is already working on yet another major new character for Batman #100 who will set the stage for Bruce Wayne's next major challenge. Here's what he had to say about this still-mysterious character, dubbed Ghost-Maker.

"Ghost-Maker is a character who we'll see a little bit of right at the end of Batman #100, but will come in in a big way in November and beyond," Tynion explained. "This is a character who I've been excited about for a really long time. He's definitely going to show up as an adversary to Bruce, but he is not necessarily a villain per se. He is someone that Bruce has known since he was a young man traveling around the world training to become Batman. And now, basically Bruce's rival from when he was 15 years old has come back to Gotham City because he doesn't think Bruce is doing a very good job. That's the sort of core conceit, is creating this rival from youth that we're going to see come in in a big way in the present." 

Batman #95, the first part of Joker War, is in stores Tuesday.