BCR at BCC: Peter Tomasi interview
NOTE: While Peter Tomasi had agreed in advance to an interview, there was no set time scheduled. So, right after the Baltimore Comic Con opened up on Saturday (September 08) I went straight to his booth on the convention floor. I was surprised to see a line already there, including another reporter waiting to begin an interview with him. So, I introduced myself and said that I would return in approximately 45 minutes. When I got back, there was still a line (but not as long as before) and it moved quickly. When I told Peter about the line and how glad I was to not have to wait too long to meet him, he made a funny comment to me: “When you’re an artist here the problem is nobody wants to come at you too much because you’re not going to give them anything, like sketches. Nobody comes up for commission stuff and asks me - - - "can you write me a page?” . Peter Tomasi seems like an easy-going, down-to-earth guy who engages in conversation easily.
We started things off by sharing our opinions on the Baltimore Comic Con . . . . . . . . . .
TOMASI: It’s amazing! I like this show. It’s a good show. It’s ALL comics and it’s not the media. You know, the San Diego show is all media now. It’s all Hollywood and it gets insane. I like it THIS WAY. It’s a little more relaxed.
PGHHEAD: If I understand your bio correctly, you’ve been in comics for a long time - - 20 years - - on the editorial side. And in 2007 you decided to start writing, correct?
TOMASI: It was 2006 or 2007 - - I don’t remember. It’s been awhile.
PGHHEAD: All that time you were in the business . . at what point did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
TOMASI: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve written a lot of screenplays. Back in 1993-94 when I first started at DC as an assistant editor I had done a few comics. They actually allowed me to write a few comics. So, I’d been writing all along at DC and throughout the years peppering it with certain projects. DC is always good at keeping you busy. I’d just come off a project called BLACK ADAM. And, I said “What can I do next?” Dan Didio says: “You know what? I could use you on the other side.” And I replied: “I am.” And he says: “No, I mean all the time.” I said” Sure. Why not?” and then . . “How much?” . . . . . “Oh, that much?” . . . “OK, I can do that.”
PGHHEAD: So you then went from doing that part-time to full-time writing.
TOMASI: Yes, that’s it exactly.
PGHHEAD: You were actually writing some BATMAN AND ROBIN issues before The New 52 broke.
TOMASI: Only three issues before the New 52. We just started our run when The New 52 plans started to gestate. So then we realized that it was best to just write a three-part story and plan for the future with The New 52.
PGHHEAD: Did The New 52 change anything as far as your plans for the title and where you would take it?
TOMASI: Not really. The Bat-books weren’t as affected as a lot of other books were. BATMAN AND ROBIN and GREEN LANTERN CORPS - - - the two books I’m on - - - the reverberations weren’t as heavy. There were just ripples in the Batman universe. It allows us a certain latitude now to explore things that maybe we wouldn’t have explored in continuity previously. We have a little bit more of a free rein now. That’s how we’re looking at it, and we were lucky. We’ve already had a good solid foundation, so we didn’t need to blow up any bridges or anything.
PGHHEAD: So does that mean there was nothing you were planning to do with BATMAN AND ROBIN then that you weren’t able to do after the changes?
TOMASI: The only thing was the fact that Bruce (Wayne) becomes Batman again. My first three issues were Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian as Robin. There’s a certain brother dynamic there. So having Bruce come back changed that whole dynamic, and for me that was more fun to write.
PGHHEAD: I noticed that right after you finished the first arc with the father-son relationships, you went right to sibling rivalry. I like the way you handled that. So where are you planning to take BATMAN AND ROBIN now?
TOMASI: There’s some heavy stuff coming - - I can’t really say. We’ve got a big Joker storyline coming up. With the Joker event that’s coming through all the Bat-books. That’s going to have some repercussions . . . . and from there it’s ALL repercussions. It initiates in BATMAN #13 and hits all the other books. I’m not sure how they broke it down, but it hits all the other books.
PGHHEAD: I’m actually torn between which of two Bat books I like better - - - BATMAN or BATMAN AND ROBIN.
TOMASI: To my mind, that’s the book. Snyder’s book.
PGHHEAD: I like BATMAN AND ROBIN for the family interaction and I like BATMAN for plotting, the heavy mythos and darker side.
TOMASI: That’s good, though. I like the fact that there are these different Batman books out there with different things going on. It’s pretty cool. It’s a good time to be a Batman fan.
PGHHEAD: How about I let you do something different? I’ll let you be the critic instead of being the subject of criticism. I wrote this review and I’d like you to read it and tell me if I hit the marks or not. I promise not to defend what I wrote and you can be as critical as you want to be.
TOMASI: Ok. That’s different. Sounds like fun.
I show Peter the BC REFUGEES review of BATMAN AND ROBIN Issue #1-4 for his opportunity to critique the reviewer, and explain: “That’s from our website. I wrote this back in January after the first four issues were out. Some of my background on you was obtained from DC’s website and some from Wikipedia - - so please let me know if anything is wrong or needs corrected. After reading the review, he comments:
TOMASI: Yeah! That’s a rave, in a way. Thank you.
PGHHEAD: I don’t like to write negative criticism. IF the book doesn’t deserve praise then I’m not going to write about it. I want to draw attention to things that are worth it.
TOMASI: That’s a great way to look at things. Especially from our end, that’s appreciated.
PGHHEAD: So if I got it right you drew on your personal experience a little with your son?
TOMASI: Oh yeah. Absolutely. . . . . . My son’s going to be 10. You can’t write certain things - - - until you have a kid you don’t know what it’s like. Having a young son and knowing that whole dynamic now - - - it’s a lot of fun to write. . . . . . Sometimes you’ll be in a mode where you write a scene between them and look back on it and think = “that doesn’t feel real. Don’t get lazy!” Then I’ll shove it aside and think it over.
PGHHEAD: That should also allow you to exaggerate things and have fun with it.
TOMASI: Oh yeah, absolutely.
PGHHEAD: You have explored father-son relationships, family dysfunction, trust and responsibility. Then you went to sibling rivalry between Damian and the former Robins. Obviously, Damian wants to be known as the best Robin ever. So, what’s left to explore? What about the Mom?
TOMASI: The Mom is actually explored in the #0 issue, which comes out next week (September 12). I use that issue to explore the whole mother-son dynamic. Let’s see where Damian was carved from, where it all starts, and why he is the way he is today.
PGHHEAD: So you go right from the #0 issue to the Joker story?
TOMASI: Yeah. Issue #13 is a soft tie-in. It’s not a major tie-in. My first Joker issue kicks in on #15. Issues #15 and #16 are the hard cross-overs. Issues #13 and #14 are the soft cross-overs.
PGHHEAD: I liked the story arc with Terminus in the last several issues.
TOMASI: Thank you. Yeah, me too. And, being critical of my own work on that one = That was going to be another issue or two longer, and would have allowed me to get into more about who Terminus was and why he had a bad score to settle with Batman. And, unfortunately I just ended up running out of pages because the Joker thing bumped in earlier than it was originally going to. It threw my story off a little bit. I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to. The Terminus issue was going to be a little longer. I had some more plans for the battle of the Robins to play out a little bit more. Everything got a little compressed.
It’s funny in a way. A lot of fans say = “Oh, it takes seven issues to do stuff! Why do you draw it out so much?” So, I do a wham-bam, action-packed issue and the fans say = “Aw man, there wasn’t enough of it!”
PGHHEAD: I’m sure you know you can never please everybody. That’s a shame because you apparently have Terminus expire and there’s no bringing him back for more.
TOMASI: For now - - - no bringing back Terminus. I like the character a lot and the name also. As time permits, somewhere down the line . . . . .
PGHHEAD: That last issue (#12) reminded me of the Batman movie, in the way that Batman uses his augmented suit to rocket off into the sky and take the catastrophic weapon out of harm’s way.
TOMASI: You know what the funny thing is? - - - - - I was actually shocked when I saw the movie. I didn’t know anything about it going in. Because, they didn’t allow us to see script back at the office. We didn’t see anything. I saw the screening after Issue #12 had just come out on a Wednesday, and saw the movie on a Thursday morning. I was like - - - “Oh, you gotta be kidding me!”.
Not only that - - I had Batman fight for the first time in the daytime. And he also fights in the daytime at the end of the movie. C’mon! I mean, . . . the zeitgeist to that is almost impossible!
I’m sure everybody is saying = “Sure, he was just trying to capitalize on the Batman movie.” . . . when I really didn’t know anything about it going in. Oh well, what can you do?
PGHHEAD: Out of everything that you have written, what are you most proud of?
TOMASI: With everything I’ve done? That’s a good question. I’d say - - - everything I’m working on now. That sounds like an easy answer, but I’m invested in it now.
My creator-owned books I’m really proud of – - - a book called LIGHT BRIGADE. Then I did another book called THE MIGHTY that DC also published. There’s some really great stuff in there with Chris Samnee as the artist. So, I’m proud of my creator-owned stuff and I’m proud of all the things I’ve done. It’s been a great ride so far.
PGHHEAD: Are there any questions that you’ve been hoping some interviewers would ask you?
TOMASI: No. (Laughs). No, not really. I guess that little bit we did about the Terminus stuff. Nobody had brought that up before. So, I’m kind of glad to get that out there to the ether.
PGHHEAD: Thank you so much for your time today.