James Tynion IV Talks Tim Drake & Mr. Oz’s Other Mystery Prisoner

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #965, on sale now.

As a young reader of comic books, James Tynion IV found himself in Tim Drake, his favorite Robin who also happened to be a major player in a number of epic storylines from DC Comics. Now the writer of Detective Comics, Tynion pays tribute to a number of iconic Tim Drake arcs, not the least of which is “A Lonely Place of Dying” by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez and “Titans Tomorrow,” by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone.

RELATED: Red Robin’s Rebirth: Tim Drake Returns (In More Than One Way)

More importantly, Detective Comics #965, which features art by Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira, picks up threads from the jaw-dropping reveal of Mr. Oz’s true identity of Jor-El from Action Comics #987, and unleashes a supervillain so powerful, he once inflicted irreparable injuries against DCU’s Man of Steel. Tynion also discussed his own shock in finding out Mr. Oz’s true identity, and why the other character Tim Drake meets in his captor’s prison will prove to be just as big and important a surprise for readers and long-time fans of Red Robin as Mr. Oz’s real name.

CBR: There was a lot of buzz and excitement when you announced Tim Drake was part of your initial roster for Detective Comics. And then you basically took him off the table after the first arc. While he’s been missed, did knowing he would be coming back in a big way to face off against Mr. Oz make it easier to bench him for nearly a year?

James Tynion IV: Absolutely. The big thing we would wanted to build for the entire Detective run was this idea of Tim Drake as the optimistic heart of the team. And we saw that in the first arc, “Rise of the Batmen.” We saw it even further during flashbacks in the second arc, “The Victim Syndicate,” where you had Batman speaking to Tim before the creation of the Belfry and the decisions about what they were actually going to build together. We wanted to build Tim into the fabric of the series so his absence would really shape the book while he was gone because really they are still operating under this idea that Tim had. The idea of the team, the idea of the Belfry and the idea of how they approaching fighting crime are really Tim Drake ideas much more than they are like Batman ideas or Batwoman ideas.

In “A Lonely Place of Living,” being able to bring Tim back into the center and do a story that speaks to the real core of the character and really define him for the Rebirth era, that was something that I was really excited about since the very beginning.

I remember when I had my first meeting with Geoff Johns talking about how the end of the “Rise of the Batmen” arc was going to play into the larger Rebirth mythos and I was super excited but the one thing was that I made Geoff promise me one thing: I get to tell the story that brings Tim Drake back. [Laughs] He said, “You got it!” And he was good on his word, because here we are.

Page 2: The Significance of Tim Drake Meeting Tim Drake, Batman of the Future

I love the premise that this is all a Tim Drake idea, not a Batman idea and not a Batwoman idea. As Tim says in Detective Comics #965 — and he’s certainly said it before — he never wanted to be Batman. And yet, that’s exactly who he’ll become because as we find out in this issue, while trying to escape Mr. Oz’s prison, Tim meets the Tim Drake of Tomorrow. And he’s Batman — a gun-wielding Batman.

RELATED: Detective Comics #965 Reminds Readers Why Tim Drake Is So Important to the Bat-Mythos

That was something that went back into the formation of this storyline. Earlier in the year, [DC editorial] brought in me and Dan Jurgens to talk about doing this story resolves the Mr. Oz storyline. At the beginning, there was a lot of talk about doing it as a singular crossover event, but the thing is that each of the emotional arcs of these stories is singular. It is about the relationship between Jor-El and Clark. And it is about the relationship between Tim Drake and himself, really. It’s in those singular relationships that we realized these two events comment on each other and exist in the same place, and you’ll see how they touch upon each other and connect, but they really are two separate stories. In doing that, we knew the person that Tim ran into in the prison needed to have the same sort of weight as Clark seeing Jor-El. It had to show something definitive about him.

Where we landed was bringing back a future version of Tim – and not just any future version of Tim. This is the “Titans Tomorrow” version of Tim, which was part of an incredible run on Teen Titans by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone and was also one of my favorite arcs. I think a lot of people who have read my Tim Drake see that my Tim is very shaped by how Geoff handled the character during his Teen Titans run. This version of Tim is the perfect encapsulation of everything that Tim didn’t want himself to be but felt himself inexorably pulled toward. And that also goes into why we knew that we needed to start this story by reasserting Tim’s classic origin. Because the larger myth arc of Tim Drake as it connects to the Batman mythos is so defined by that original storyline, “A Lonely Place of Dying.” When no one else would stand up and no one else would do it, he took it all on his shoulders and that’s really the emotion that we wanted to connect with here.

I know there are no throw-away lines in any issue, each one is crafted for a specific moment or requirement, but I love how you dropped in this line that Tim and Bruce had deciphered some Kryptonian coding theory “a few years back.” Tim really is the smartest and most dangerous teenager who could have a back door to someone’s computer systems in the DC Universe, so tell me, who was more surprised, Tim or you, that Mr. Oz was Jor-El?

Oh boy. [Laughs] It’s hard to say, because Geoff revealed who Mr. Oz was to me back when Mr. Oz took Tim off the table. He laid out a rough path of where he was going to go with Rebirth. He kept some of the big secrets, but seeing how that was going to play out and seeing how “The Oz Effect” was really going to be this epic storyline and getting to play into it was pretty incredible.

Honestly, the thing that was the most surprising to me was — when I sat down to write it, I knew that I wanted most of the first issue to be the conversation between Mr. Oz and Tim. Knowing that Mr. Oz is Jor-El adds all of this weight to him interrogating Tim about his origin. Tim did hold the entire mythos of Batman on his shoulders and succumbs to it, even though that wasn’t original plan, and Jor-El is someone who obviously had the entire weight of Krypton fell on his shoulders, and it destroyed him. No one believed him. It was a lonely road to hold the world on his shoulders. That really became the thematic heart of the whole story. That’s what really surprised me. When you start with all of these pieces on the table, you don’t immediately see how perfect a theme is being laid out in front of you and once I tapped into that, the story really fell in line.

If coming face-to-face with Jor-El and his future self wasn’t enough for Tim Drake, on the final page of Detective Comics #965, he also meets Doomsday, infamously known for killing the Man of Steel during Dan Jurgens’ “Death of Superman” storyline. The fact that you are now writing a new storyline with Dan featuring the Kryptonian killer must also be somewhat surreal.

It’s a huge honor to be able to play with the character, and it was definitely a real trip to talk about potentially using Doomsday in a room with Dan Jurgens. [Laughs] It’s extra-special because this Detective Comics run has been so rooted in Gotham. Even when it’s gone crazy with magic and robot assassins, it is still very grounded in the reality of Gotham, so being able to take a step back and put Tim Drake and his future self up against one of the most dangerous beings in the DC Universe — Doomsday is now up against two very smart people in Red Robin Tim Drake and Tim Drake from “Titans Tomorrow.” They do not have superpowers, and they’re now just trying to escape. The next issue is a lot of fun.

You give your gratitude to Marv Wolfman and George Pérez in the credits at the start of this issue, and the fact you have called this arc “A Lonely Place of Living” is an obvious nod to their epic storyline that served as the introduction of Tim Drake to the DCU. How important was that storyline not only to the Batman mythos but also you as a writer?

Part of the idea of Rebirth is bringing these characters back to the versions that we have known and loved for such a long time. I think that Tim Drake as a character became a little aimless for a few years, particularly when he was cut off from his original origin, because his original origin fully encapsulates the character. Tim Drake’s love of Batman and his knowledge of Batman’s importance to the DCU rivals that of the fans who are reading the books. “A Lonely Place of Dying” was the perfect introduction to a new Robin. It really created a version of the character that stood the test of time.

That story lays the groundwork for why Tim Drake is my favorite Robin. It really comes down to something simple: I have always seen myself in Tim. So when we had the chance with Rebirth to go back to most core, iconic versions of these characters, it was important to me that we were going to ground my run on Detective Comics in the most quintessential Tim Drake story. I wanted to not just reference it; I wanted to pull it in and remind people about the emotional heart of that story. I think it’s the real key to unlocking Tim Drake for this story and future stories. The dialogue that’s intercut over the first few pages is directly from the original storyline. Maybe a word or two is changed but otherwise, it’s exactly the same dialogue that you read all those years ago. It’s a real honor to do a tribute to one of my all-time favorite Batman stories of all-time and a tribute to my favorite character in the DC Universe. This story sets the stage for everything that is to come in Detective so I am very excited to have everyone come along for the ride.

Detective Comics #965 is available now.

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