Category COLLECTIBLES

Jo Blo Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy

JoBlo
April 23, 2019

An Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy
Interview by Sean Shirey

Sean Gordon Murphy has been producing some wildly beautiful art for years now, gaining noteriety for his lines on Punk Rock Jesus, American Vampire, Joe The Barbarian, Chrononauts, The Wake, Tokyo Ghost, Batman: White Knight and now its sequel, Batman, Curse of the White Knight, which the illustrator is again also writing. Producing some of the most vibrant, stylistic and gorgeous art for his books, Murphy took on the writing chores starting with Batman: White Knight, which found the artist pulling elements from ’89 Batman (including the alter-ego name for The Joker, Jack Napier) and pushed the limits of what a Batman story could be in terms of action, story and themes. Now, Murphy has crafted a follow-up to the successful run, which finds its way onto DC’s new mature readers imprint, DC Black Label.

I had the opportunity to speak with Murphy via e-mail and he shared his ideas and plans for the book, as well as the inclusion of some key characters from Batman’s massive library of characters and what being on DC Black Label means for readers of the title. We also have some exclusive art from the book, so get a taste of what’s to come below and be sure to pick up Batman: Curse of the White Knight, in comic shops on Wednesday, July 23rd!

You pulled aspects from 89 Batman with Batman White Knight. Should readers anticipate any elements pulled from any of the other films with Curse of the White Knight?

Yes! Not only does the 89 Batmobile make it into the book, so does Joker’s really really really long revolver.

You’re bringing Azrael into Curse. What inspired that choice and what can readers expect to see from your interpretation of him?

For Curse of the While Knight, I wanted a villain that was ancient–someone who would not only upend Batman, but the entire Wayne legacy going back to the founding of Gotham. Azrael (and the Order of St Dumas) checked all those boxes. I really wanted to get back to basics with Jean-Paul Valley, revive a lot of what made him so cool in the 90s (the fire, the sword, the over-the-top- Bible-stuff). The biggest change I made was making him much older–in Curse he’s a special forces veteran who’s misunderstood, much like Rambo in First Blood. So while he’s definitely the antagonist in Curse, there’s a lot to his back story that makes him more compelling than the other villains.

Joker has embraced his Joker identity at this point, but Jack Napier is still in there somewhere. Do you have a roadmap in your head of where Napier comes from and what his ultimate motivations are in choosing the Joker persona? Is this something we’ll see explored?

Because the Joker is such a wild, unpredictable, insane force of nature, to me it makes sense that there must be a counter-balance to that. Which is what Jack Napier is. When Napier first started out as the Joker, I imagine there was no difference between the two. But as the years went by and the Joker became more defined, I imagine Napier did as well. And it wasn’t until Joker took the medication that Jack was finally allowed to come to the surface. While he won’t admit it, I think Joker is just as surprised as everyone else that Jack Napier exists. And in Curse, Joker goes after both him and Batman!

You’re adding some historical elements into this, as well as working in some Vampire nods (American Vampire Easter Eggs?), but also the Detective piece. How important was it to make this as much a detective story than anything else?

My Batman has always been the classic “pulp” Batman from the early days. Especially the stuff that inspired the Animated Series in the 90s. So for me he’s most interesting when you bring him back to basics: as a detective. Batman has become very sci-fi in other books and has grown to include vast amounts of fantastic, otherworldly characters–I really wanted to get away from that by offering readers something less overwhelming. For my books, it’s important that the reader doesn’t need to know a lot of back story–if you’ve seen a movie or played a game or two, you’re good to start reading.

With this being a Black Label book, what can readers expect to see here that they wouldn’t get in the monthly Batman book?

In Curse, you’ll see some familiar characters die, something you don’t see in mainline DC continuity. So for me, the stakes are higher because anything could happen to anyone.

Since you’re writing and drawing the book, what is your process in putting it together? Is it a polished or loose script? Do you draw first, script later?

I’m a self-taught writer–I have zero formal training except what I picked up by reading books about screenplays. So I tend to write full scripts with 3 act structures, I don’t start drawing anything until I know the ending of the book, and I cut back dialog as much as I possibly can. I’m also one of the few writers who doesn’t use narration captions (or inner monologues). I know it’s a comic trope, but because I have full control of the art, I would rather let the line work and the rendering do the talking.

What is it about this series that makes you want to continue to mine stories?

I enjoy the challenge. Most people don’t take an artist seriously when he/she says they want to write. So White Knight is me planting a flag and saying “See?? I have good ideas, and my book sold really well–so now you have to take me seriously!”

Is there a plan to keep the series going beyond Curse or is it one story at a time?

Yes, I have 2 more installments planned. Eventually I’d like to get into Batman Beyond and maybe even Superman. But that’s a ways off.

Hollywood Reporter Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy

The Hollywood Reporter
April 23, 2019

How ‘Curse of the White Knight’ Explores Batman’s Hidden Past
Interview by Graeme McMillan

Creator Sean Murphy explains his take on the Dark Knight and the Joker.
Even Batman doesn’t know everything about what’s going on in Gotham — or about his own family history. What he doesn’t know is at the heart of the new comic book series Batman: Curse of the White Knight, launching this week from writer/artist Sean Murphy.

The eight-issue miniseries continues the story set in motion by Murphy in 2017’s massively successful Batman: White Knight, and continues that series’ combination of thrilling superhero adventure and exploration into the basic Batman concept, and the characters around him. The Joker, having “recovered” from his time as the sane (yet still dangerous) Jack Napier, has a new plan in motion, and it’s one that involves the history of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne’s ancestors and a certain religious figure with a flaming sword who might be familiar to Batfans of a certain age.

Heat Vision talked to Murphy about the series, and what other plans he may have for the future of the White Knight property as a whole.

At what point in the creation of Batman: White Knight did the idea of continuing the story occur to you? Curse of the White Knight feels like a surprisingly organic follow-up to a story that felt complete57.

When I was scripting the final issue.

I wrote the series thinking it might be my only chance to write and draw Batman. As the numbers for issue three came in — they’d kept going up each issue — I realized DC would probably let me continue a White Knight series indefinitely. I was wrapping up issue eight at the time, and thought, “I should probably add something that will get readers excited about a sequel.” So when Bruce is reading the note from Alfred, who died saving Bruce, I added a “PS: Check under the floorboard in my quarters. There’s something there you’re ready to see,” not really being sure what that would be.

My original idea for the last page was for Bruce to discover what Alfred had buried. But my editor thought it was tighter to end on Bruce revealing himself to Gordon.

One of the things that made White Knight so interesting was that it was a Joker story that was, well, about the void of the Joker. Jack Napier was — especially to hear the Joker talk about it — explicitly not the Joker, but instead an alternate persona. Curse features a very Joker-y Joker prominently; was it strange to finally use a more traditional version of the character? 

It’s funny, my editor called me after reading the script for Curse, and he said, “It’s funny — White Knight was one of the best Joker stories ever, and you did it without really writing the Joker.” So I really had to think about how I wanted my Joker to act.

So, I made Joker a fanboy. And Batman is his favorite toy.

I started with the version of him from the Animated Series cartoon in the ’90s, voiced by Mark Hamill. I kept asking myself “What would Mark do? What kind of Joker did I like when I was a kid?” and tried to go from there. Mine isn’t a super violent Heath Ledger type — in my world, GCPD have never been able to prove Joker actually murdered anyone. Even though everyone knows he’s probably a serial killer.

Talking about characters who have changed and not-changed from where we left them: It’s interesting — and rewarding — to see that Bruce Wayne is still dealing with the lesson he learned at the end of Batman: White Knight; that Batman is far from the effective tool for the good of Gotham that he had imagined himself to be. And yet, Bruce Wayne continues to be Batman, even after admitting that so much of who and what Batman is, is rooted in his ego and not in the altruism he imagined. Beyond simply, “It breaks the series too much,” why is that? After pointing out the limits of Batman in White Knight, does Curse of the White Knight attempt to rebuild Batman, in a way?

I think of the White Knight series as a constant “3rd Act” story. Meaning that each book will feel like the last chapter of Batman. But they won’t be.

In Curse, Bruce is struggling with where to take Batman. On one hand he knows Batman has helped Gotham. On the other, he knows continuing to be Batman is problematic, and that you can’t really have law, order, and justice while also allowing vigilantism. But coming out might also hurt the city.

To make things worse, Joker decides to begin his “finale” — one he doesn’t plan on surviving — by telling Batman “the greatest joke in Gotham”. The joke is this: Batman can never fix crime in Gotham, because of the “curse” brought on by the Waynes.

Batman’s working with the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit — or, at least Nightwing and Batgirl — in this series, but sees himself as separate from them; he’s clearly not lost that ego even despite what should/could have been his humbling in White Knight. The GTO is a fun new twist on the familiar trope of Batman’s family; it’s got very familiar faces, but distanced from the Dark Knight in a way that’s not been shown before. Are we going to see more of them, and the tension between them and Batman, throughout the series?

Yes — the GTO are an important element to the book because they represent “vigilantism evolved”. Bruce is tempted the join them — he very much wants to fix Batman and the damage he caused to Gotham. But it’s hard because he’s not a team player.

The GTO is an idea Bruce would have endorses long before he became Batman. But after years of being Batman, he’s having trouble accepting them. And he can’t figure out why.

Your reimagining of Azrael is arguably the biggest departure from traditional Batman canon of everything in the White Knight mythos. What brought you to this version of Jean-Paul Valley? And what can you say about him, without spoiling the story?

I based Jean-Paul Valley after John Rambo in First Blood — a misunderstood veteran who takes it too far.

Azrael’s very much the antagonist, but his PTSD and his “warrior culture” code of ethics makes him more empathetic than other villains.

Why Azrael? He’s not the most obvious character to follow up White Knight with, and a character who, dare I say it, may be relatively obscure for those who weren’t reading Batman comics of the 1990s.

I loved reading [classic Batman storyline] Knightfall back in the 90s, and I really wanted to revisit the idea and push it even further than before.

And obviously I wanted to draw fire-swords.

I actually planned on creating a new character for Curse. Part of leaving your mark on Batman is adding a great new villain, and collecting lots of future royalties. [Laughs]

What I created was actually very close to Azrael — a warrior from an ancient cult that had been in Gotham Valley for centuries. I needed a character that was ancient, one who allowed me to revisit historical Gotham, and one who offered a lot of great sword fighting action — I’m a big Zorro fan. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I should just use Azrael.

It’s been 20 years since the Knightfall stuff, so I figured the timing was right. I could reinvent him while also getting him back to basics, putting him back in his original costume. DC told me they didn’t really have plans for him, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Curse feels like a very different comic than White Knight, in terms of the scope of the comic, if nothing else: The historical opening! The mystery involving the Waynes of the 19th century! What do you hope audiences who enjoyed White Knight get from it? For that matter, what itch does it scratch for you that White Knight didn’t?

I think White Knight is about the present: our politics, our infighting, our fear of the where society is heading. For Curse, I wanted to focus on the past. If Bruce fretting about Batman’s impact on Gotham was interesting, imagine if the Wayne’s impact on Gotham was much worse! That would screw him up even more.

White Knight is a separate universe, so it deserves a separate origin. So the reader can expect to get a full history of how Gotham began. And the “curse” that eventually lead to Batman.

So what can you tell us about the future of the series as a tease to lure in those who still need to be convinced about it? You talked about White Knight continuing indefinitely earlier. Do you know what that looks like? 

Well, if Vol. 2 is about the past, then Vol. 3 will be about the future. So I’m considering doing a White Knight spin on [animated series] Batman Beyond.

And after than, maybe Superman.

DC Nation interview with Sean Murphy

Justice League Odyssey
September 2019
Issue #11

What can you tell us about the story?
If you think Jack Napier was unhinged in Batman: White Knight, that’s nothing compared to what Joker does with Azrael in Batman: Curse of the White Knight. As Bruce struggles with the idea of telling the identity of Batman, Joker threatens to expose a hidden truth about the Wayne family. Something that Bruce isn’t even aware of. Something that goes all the way to the founding of Gotham Village in 1685.

Why are you excited about this project?
I’m interested in going deep into the past about the Wayne family and how they’ve come into power in Modern-day Gotham. Batman: White Knight focused a lot on the present, Batman: Curse of the White Knight will focus more on the deep past. And if there is a third series, my plan is to focus on the future of Batman.

What’s it like to be both the artist and the writer of the series (along with your collaboration with Matt Hollingsworth)?
It’s a lot of work, but it’s the most satisfying way for me to make comics. Writing the scripts is also a great way to make sure that the artwork is the best that I can make it. I always put 100 perfect into my books, but being a writer makes me strive for 110%.

How does this tie into the current DC Universe?
This book is set aside from the current DCU. It’s marketed like a Batman movie: a familiar Batman with a different spin. One that doesn’t require the reader to be fluent in 80 years of Batman comics.

Why should fans check this out?
Readers should check this out because it’s slightly different to what they’re used to reading about Batman. And there aren’t many ‘single vision’ mainstream books these days (meaning the writing and art are handled by the same person).

Describe the series in seven words or fewer
If you miss this, you’ll regret it.

What should first time readers know before picking this up?
Nothing! You can come into this series without ever reading a comic.

The New 52 – Convergence

The Convergence story line stars heroes from the ‘Zero Hour’ arc under the banner of the
‘Batman: Shadow of the Bat’ title, each with a variant cover.

 

Batman: Shadow of the Bat
Issue No. 1 – June 2015
The Dark Side of the Street
With the people of Metropolis trapped under a dome, Bruce Wayne decides to go under cover in hopes to work for the crime boss Tobias Whale. Little does he know that Jean Paul had the same idea and is currently working as Whale’s hired muscle under the assumed name, ‘Johnny Valli.’ As a sort of initiation, ‘Valli’ must give Bruce a brutal beating before joining up.
Bruce and Valli then pay Councilman Hall a visit with Bruce under the orders to murder Hall. Days later the duo are in their batsuits working to hijack Whale’s plans. After knocking Whale unconscious the two batman come to odds in their differing ways of achieving their goals. Bruce then feels a shift in time and reality.

 

Batman: Shadow of the Bat
Issue No 2 – July 2015
Home is the Sailor
The Wetworks team is on a mission as the city’s champions and are on the hunt for Batman and Azrael. If the duo beat Wetworks however, the inhabitants of the aircrat carrier will be killed.
In the end Azrael strikes up a deal for Batman and Wetworks to team-up in an effort to break down the dome and unite with the heroes on the outside.
Azrael has other plans though and decides to stay with the people of the aircraft city to be their defender.

 

Red Hood And The Outlaws

Red Hood And The Outlaws
Bizarro Part 2: Knight Knights
Issue No 15 – December 2017
Led by Batwoman, the Gotham Knights team of Azrael, Orphan, Clayface, and Batwing are baited with a holographic message from Bizarro to stand down on the fight against crime in Gotham. The Knights confront Bizarro on his message only to combat the team in battle they easily lose.

Grayson

Grayson
Annual No 3
Who Is Agent 37? – The Savior
In this issue, Dick Grayson – Agent 37 in disguise as the Spectre, gathers Harley Quinn, Azrael, John Constantine and Green Lantern Simon Baz together to discuss their run-ins with a mysterious spy whose face none can recall. Azrael’s story titled, ‘The Savior’ sees Agent 37 in the village of Khortamor in the land of Khandaq, where he assists Azrael in guarding ‘The Abraxas Stone.’ The people referred to Grayson as, ‘Almanqidh Majhuli Alhuia,’ or ‘The Faceless Savior.’
After everyone recollect their stories they all realize that they know that the faceless stranger is none other than Dick Grayson, only it is too late as their minds are being wiped of all recollection of their encounters and are left unconscious with no memories of how they were compiled here.

Justice League Odyssey

Issue No 1 – September 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 1
Operating outside of the Justice League, Cyborg and Starfire go on a mission to into the Ghost Sector following a mysterious voice that has called them. Along for the ride is Azrael who also heard this voice calling him to the stars. The team takes in Green Lantern Jessica Cruz when she falls into a radiation gap that Starfire saves her from, pulling her into this unknown mission. The team comes to find that the voice calling them actually belongs to Darkseid as he was calling forward ‘The Goddess, The Machine, and The Angel,’ the ‘New Gods.’

 

 

Issue No 2 – October 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 2
The heroes face Darkseid in a battle where he tries to inform them of destinies they are unaware of as ‘the New Gods.’ Darkseid leads the team to a place that appears to be a shrine surrounded y death. A priest reveals to Koriand’r how his people came to this fate before passing along his language to her and dying. The team starts to believe that Darkseid was right and there are different worlds now freed from the Ghost Sector that worship each of them as gods.

 

 

Issue No 3 – November 2019
Ghost Sector – Part 3
Leaving the planet that Koriand’r was worshipped, the team finds them selves on a planet covered in snow. Azrael and Jessica Cruz explore for parts to fix Brainiac’s Skull Ship while Cyborg and a mysterious alien medic tend to the illness plaguing Koriand’r. Once cured they help their friends embattled with this planet’s race while the mysterious ‘Rapture,’ a character dressed in Azrael’s non bat armor, observes.

 

 

Issue No 4 – January 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 4
Now on the machine world, Cyborg meets the race that worships him as one of the New Gods, however he must first prove that he is not an imposter by facing Azrael in combat. Rapture shows himself to Starfire and Jessica Cruz, pledging his allegiance to Azrael while the planet’s race empart that they are are a people who model themselves after Cyborg with body modification and worship with an in progress working Mother Box.

 

 

Issue No 5 – January 2019
Ghost Sector – Part 5
While the team battles the machine army, Darkseid cuts a deal with Starfire’s sister Blackfire in an exchange for the Otherbox he has hidden on Tamaran he will never return. Meanwhile Cyborg plugs into his followers Mother Box to find out the secrets of the Ghost Sector, the reasons why it was hidden, and the effects of it being released from his chambers. Rapture reveals that it was he who killed the followers of Starfire. Now with bitterness that Azrael is not the God he thought him to be, he and his legion of Azrael inspired garb wearing disciples are ready to wage a war to kill the ‘Old Gods.’

 

 

Issue No 6 – February 2019
Ghost Sector – Things Fall Apart
In an attempt to get the next piece for the Other Box, Darkseid battles fail safes set in motion by Brainiac to stop him. Greatly weakened though, Darkseid succeeds. Meanwhile on Tamaran, the team finds the planet in ruins and faces the Queen of the planet, Darkfire who plans to take out at least one of the members thinking it will stop Darkseid’s plan to use the components and the Other Box to create a new Apokilips.

The New 52 – Batman & Robin Eternal

Jean Paul Valley makes his official return to the DC Universe as Azrael in the New 52 series
Batman & Robin Eternal. See below for the issues he appears in. Additionally the entire series
was collected in two separate trade volumes.

Issue No 9 – February 2016
The Last to Die
Red Hood and Red Robin ditch Red Robin’s plane and chute down to Santa Prisca where they run into Bane. After a brief battle, they strike a deal to take down the Order of St Dumas and their angel who has been striking many down with Bane having his island back. What the trio find is that the Order have built their church atop the Pena Duro prison. Once inside they are caught with the Order’s angel of death, Azrael. We see flashbacks to years prior where Bruce seeks out ‘Mother’ who knows his identity as Batman, and that he seeks a better Robin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 10 – February 2016
He Whom God Helps
Red Hood, Bane and Red Robin take on Azrael. Bane is show the light, as is Red Robin, but not before he and Red Hood hack the system of the Order to find records that show the man under the guise of Azrael was man made by Mother for the order. Azrael uses his tricks on Red Robin and shakes him up, leaving the two Robin’s barely a chance to get out with their lives.
Flashbacks of Bruce’s meet-ups with Mother for a new Robin, and an old quarrel with Dick from his time as a Robin.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 15 – March 2016
The Deception of St. Dumas
Azrael’s faith is starting to waiver as he meditates and ask for forgiveness at his sanctum in Gnosis. Red Robin comes to the city with an unconscious Red Hood as his gift, asking to join the order. Azrael brings him to meet the current St. Dumas who wants him to become the new Azrael. In doing this Azrael must fight Red Robin to keep his place but is taken down by an electromagnetic pulse and a concrete solution. Meanwhile Jason is caught and has to face his own mental nightmare, reliving his death against the Joker.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 16 – March 2016
The Dying Joke
Held captive, Azrael and Red Robin learn the truth about how Jean Paul Valley was shaped into the instrument that becomes Azrael. With this knowledge, and anger, he is able to break free and fight back choosing to be his own truth. Through this Tim must try to break through the trauma programming of ICTHYS that Jason is going through reliving his death at the hands of the Joker in his mind. Once free, the trio team up with the info they need, and a plane, and flee the secret land while Azrael destroys it to go on his own journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 24 – May 2016
All Out
The Batfamily and company have their hands full as Mother has released her children all around the world to attack. With Cassandra captive, she has Harper right where she wants her with the promise of giving her the life she could have had if Batman let her if she kills Cassandra. Azrael goes to the Arctic Circle and Meets Agent 37, Dick Grayson, who is also there to take down Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 25 – May 2016
Orphans
The batfamily presses on against the children of the world under the control of Mother’s ICTHYS. With Scarecrowe’s new toxin completed, they administer it around the world through the doors to knock the children out of Mother’s hold. Dick is tries to talk sense into Azrael that he can find a better way for himself outside of Mother’s rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Issue No 26 – May 2016
New World
The batfamily and all allies take down Mother’s infrastructure base finding that it was built atop an active volcano just in case Mother ever had to erase her tracks. Azrael takes out the main satellite communications from the base to all world coms. It’s the end of the line for Mother as she is killed by her right hand man, David, Orphan.
Harper decides to put the costume away and carve her own niche, Cassandra renames herself Orphan and joins in the mission with Batman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective Comics (Rebirth)

Issue No 934 – August 2016
Rise of the Batmen Part 1: The Young and the Brave
An unknown enemy is taking on crime better than Batman and also targeting vigilantes, starting with beating Azrael within inches of his life. Batman enlists his cousin, Kate Kane, Batwoman, to aid him in training young vigilantes as a team and prepare them for this unknown threat.

 

 

 

 

Issue No 935 – August 2016
Rise of the Batmen Part 2: Apocalypse Now
Three months have passed and Batwoman is training Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface in ‘the Mudroom,’ a training facility in the Belfry, a place that Red Robin describes as a Batcave in the heart of Gotham City. Batman takes Red Robin to where Jean Paul has been in critical condition under the care of Dr. Leslie Tompkins. Jean Paul gives the duo the tip that it was ‘the Colony’ who bested him. Afterwards Bruce comes face to face with an army of 50 of the Colony for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 943 – December 2016
The Victim Syndicate: Part 1 –  Saw the Devil
Everyone on the team is coping with the loss of Red Robin in their ow ways. Batman avoids the team and occasionally interrogates Jacob Kane at the Belfry, Stephanie is withdrawn from the group and spends time with Harper at Leslie Tompkins Free Clinic where Jean Paul also volunteers. In Tim’s absence Batman wants to bring in Lucas Fox, Batwing, into the fold to work with the tech that only Tim could operate.

 

 

 

Issue No 945 – January 2017
The Victim Syndicate: Part 3 – Unforgiven
After being taken to Leslie Tompkins free clinic to discuss Tim’s apparent death her attack by the first victim, Stephanie unleashes her frustrations on Batman. Meanwhile the first victim revisits the clinic again, this time volunteer Jean Paul is ready for them.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 946 – February 2017
The Victim Syndicate: Part 4 – Death Wish
Stephanie has heart to heart conversation with a program of Tim in the Belfry that only she can access while Batman goes face to face with the first victim. Jean Paul defends the patients of Leslie Tompkins clinic while Harper gets as many as she can to safety.

 

 

 

 

Issue No 950 – April 2017
Higher Powers
Of the three stories in this ‘Oversize Anniversary Issue,’ The Azrael story focuses on Jean Paul and Lucas discussing the inner workings of the ‘Suit of Sorrows,’ and it’s internal AI that enables Jean Paul to be the perfect ‘angel of death’ to do the Order’s biddings. Meanwhile the suits helmet seems to be transmitting a signal to a robot elsewhere called ‘Ascalon.’

 

 

 

 

Issue No 951 – April 2017
League of Shadows: Part 1 – Unleashed!
Lady Shiva assassinates Mayor Hady and Batman is framed for it. Many of Gotham’s citizens have been seemingly drugged with a toxin similar to the one that the Joker uses and the team has to diffuse the riots at Adams Square Park.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 952 – May 2017
League of Shadows: Part 2  – Five Fingers of Death
Thanks to a tip months ago by Ra’s Al Ghul, Lady Shiva now knows where her daughter Cassandra is. During the effort to contain the riots in Adams Square Park both Azrael and Batwing are stabbed and taken by the League of Shadows while Orphan meets her mother, Shiva, in hand to hand combat and, uable to fight her own mother, loses. The GCPD are about to go on a manhunt for Batman thinking he is responsible for the assassination of the Mayor.

 

 

 

Issue No 955 – June 2017
League of Shadows: Part 5 – Fists of Fury
A captured Azrael, Batwoman, and Batwing are chained and naked, watched by a rather large number of he League of Assassins. After coming to from her last battle, Orphan infiltrates the league with precision, frees the batfamily and is ready to take on her mother, Shiva.

 

 

 

 

 


Issue No 956 – July 2017
League of Shadows: Finale – The Duel
It’s Cassandra against her mother in a fight that only ends due to Ra’s Al Ghul’s shooting Shiva. The Colony almost uses a new ‘swarm’ tool to kill the League of Assassins but is stopped once Colonel Kane realizes that one of them is Kate in disguise as one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 958 – August 2017
Intelligence: Part 1
Jean Paul, Kate and Lucas take a night off to see a Gotham Guardsman game when Nomoz from the Order of St Dumas appears looking for Jean Paul. Bringing Nomoz back to the Belfry to tend to his wounds they are alerted of the threat of Ascalon in Gotham. Across town Bruce is seeking Zatanna at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge when Ascalon crashes the party.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 959 – August 2017
Intelligence: Part 2 – Transcendence
The Batfamily take on Ascalon when it suddenly disappears after coming face to face with Azrael. Nomoz is now being examined by a Docto who specializes in sentient beings and Bruce asks Zatanna for a favor pertaining to Tim. After the encounter with Ascalon Jean Paul needs to meditate when something is awakened inside of his mind.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 960 – September 2017
Intelligence: Part 3 – Short Circuit
Zatanna warns Batman of the dangers in using the Gnosis Sphere to find out what happened to Tim. The header of the Order of St Dumas who is only referred to as ‘Father’ by Ascalon instructs him to seek his answers, removing any roadblocks in his programming. Jean Paul tries to gain answers from Nomoz as to why the System seems to be regaining control of his mind. Batwing and Batwoman head to his workshop to find his army of AI soldiers but are interrupted by the entrance of Ascalon which sends them literally running.

 

 

 

Issue No 961 – September 2017
Intelligence: Part 4 – Ghost In The Shell
Batman and Zatanna discuss the power of the Gnosis sphere and remember the first time she told Bruce about it when they were teenagers. Jean Paul is now under the control of Ascalon once more as Azrael and taking on his teammates while a battle rages between himself and Ascalon in his head. After Zatanna makes Azrael go to sleep, Lucas proposes an idea to allow Jean Paul to regain control of himself and still access the same abilities he has with the Suit of Sorrows.

 

 

Issue No 962 – October 2017
Intelligence: Finale – Judgement Day
The final battle is on as Jean Paul, now wearing a specialized batsuit with an AI designed as Batman, faces Ascalon. During the fight Nomoz is slain by Ascalon. Still having control of Lucas’ automated batsuits, Ascalon taps into the mainframes and minds of the entire city and is ready to kil all until Zatanna gives him the Gnosis sphere, opening his eyes and disappearing into an abyss to learn more. Before leaving Ascalon reveals to Batman that Tim is still alive. Two days later Jean Paul reveals to Batman that he still feels the Batman AI in his head, posing the question if he may soon think he is Batman as he did when he awoke in his batsuit.

 

Issue No 965 – November 2017
A Lonely lace of Living – Chapter 1
Tim sits through a interrogation with a man Mr. Oz who eventually reveals himself to be Jor-El. Tim uses his suits onboard computer to send an SOS to Batman and ends up coming face to face with the future version of himself as Batman with a gun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 967 – December 2017
A Lonely Place of Living – Chapter 3
Tim and his future self have escaped and are now in Gotham. Beaten pretty bad, Tim makes it to the hospital where Bruce meets him and takes him back to the Belfry. Meanwhile future Tim visits Alfred and faces off against Nightwing, Redhood and Robin before activating Brother Eye in the Batcave.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 968 – January 2018
A Lonely Place of Living – Conclusion
Future Tim reveals that what makes him who he is are the actions of Batwoman in the not too distant future. Using Brother Eye, Future Tim uses The Colony’s drones to destroy the Belfry, but Batwing is able to override the programming. The time stream needs to realign itself and Future Tim returns back to his time.

 

 

 


Issue No 969 – January 2018
Fall of the Batmen – Part 1
The standard cover is the only place that Azrael appears in this issue.

 

 

 

 

 


Issue No 970 – February 2018
Fallen of the Batmen – Part 2
Tim starts to immerse himself in the inspiration left in the wake of meeting his future self. The batfamily go against ninja robots programmed to know each of the members moves. Dr. Victoria October believes she is onto a cure to make Clayface Basil Karlo again, but he wants the cure to be used on his first true victim first.

 

 

 

 

Issue No 971 – February 2018
Fall of the Batmen – Part 3
Batman gives into the Victim Syndicate and heads into Arkham Asylum alone. Basil faces his first real victim and takes her out. With his dampener off and destroyed he seemingly becomes the villain he once was again.

 

 

 

 

Issue No 972 – March 2018
Fall of the Batmen – Part 4
It’s Clayface against the batfamily, from Arkham to the Belfry, but what happens when the excess clay from the mudroom recombines with Basil?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Issue No 973 – March 2018
Fall of the Batmen – Finale
The Belfry is destroyed and Clayface is literally terrorizing the city. Tim is in a coma and Azrael is controlling an army of mechanized Batwing’s to battle Clayface. Cassandra is able to temporaryily administer Dr. October’s cure and Batwoman shoots him in the head with a weapon given to her by her father.

 

 

 


Issue No 974 – April 2018
Knights Fall
With Clayface dead the batfamily grieves, but none more than Cassandra who tears the bat symbol off of Batwoman in a rage. Azrael and Batwing take Batwoman’s side and are told they can leave along with her if they would like. Dr. October cures Mudface, Stephanie leave the batfamily and Tim as he contemplates to Batman if he is in fact the one putting his own future into the motion of the wrong path.

 

 


Issue No 975 – April 2018
The Trial of Batwoman
The Batfamily of Batman, Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Damien have a round table discussion of what exactly should be done in regards to Batwoman’s actions. Batwoman has a talk with Lucas about bringing him and Azrael into a new strike force team as part of The Colony.

 

 

 


Issue No 976 – May 2018
Batman Eternal – Part 1
With the loss of Clayface, Cassandra is having grief therapy sessions with Dr. Leslie Tompkins and Batman wants Red Robin to see her o next visit as well. Batwoman, Azrael, and Batwing’s new partnership with The Colony has them facing the Court of Owls in South America. Sealed out of the Batcave, Ulysses confronts Tim and wants to strike a bargain.

 

 

 

Issue No 977 – May 2018
Batman Eternal – Part 2
Ulyses offers Tim a glimpse of the future culled straight from his future selfs batsuit, and it’s unsettling. Tim considers his offer and meets up with batman to confess his insecurities since their visit. Ulysses uses Brother Eye to take control of two Colony members.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 978 – May 2018
Batman Eternal – Part 3
Batman meets Batwoman and Colonel Kane at Kane manor, not knowing they are being set up by Ulysses. Back at the Batcave, Tim figures out that Ulysses has used nonotech in the Colony’s soldiers to control hem against their will. Not only that, he has also installed the nanotech into Tim to control him as well.

 

 

 

Issue No 979 – June 2018
Batman Eternal – Part 4
Tim is now under Ulysses control through the nanotech and brother eye, with a battl raging in Tim’s psyche as Ulysses uses his body to begin ushering in The Belfry 2.0. Cassandra fights off the soldiers in the Batcave until Batman shows up to seek out Stephanie for help.

 

 

 

 


Issue No 981 – July 2018
Batman Eternal – Finale
With Stephanie’s help, Tim is able to fight back as he is seen the real reason Kate shoots Bruce dead in the future and the truth about brother eye is revealed. Ulysses is taken down and the batfamily goes it’s separate ways. Lucas has decided to step away from being Batwing to ensure that brother eye cannot come back online. Azrael is in talks to join Cyborg for a task force mission. Cassandra joins Leslie Tompkins as a volunteer and tutoring by way of Barbara Gordon. Clayface is revealed to be alive and leaving the city with Dr. October. Batwoman adds the bat back to her suit. Tim and Stephanie leave Gotham for an adventure of their own.

Azrael History Lesson

Below is sort of a crash course in Jean Paul Valley as Azrael. Instead of doing a separate bio/about for the original, and the current version, I decided to write about both in a sort of compare/contrast way, discussing their similarities and differences. Be warned it can get confusing!

Post Crisis Earth – New Earth (1992-2003)
New 52/Rebirth – Prime Earth (2014-current)

The new/current iteration of Jean Paul Valley as Azrael was brought into the New 52/Rebirth continuity by writer James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder due to Tynion’s love of the late 90’s Batfamily. Particularly Tynion’s favorite era of the Batfamily from the No Man’s Land arc which featured Batman, Robin (Tim Drake), Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Azrael (Jean Paul Valley), Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), and Huntress (Helena Bertinelli).

Tynion reintroduced Azrael during the 26-issue limited story run, Batman and Robin Eternal. This series arc went into back stories and reintroduced Jean Paul Valley as Azrael, a product of a partnership created by Mother for The Order of St. Dumas as their secret weapon; an ‘Angel of Death,’ who is dubbed ‘Project Azrael.’ There were major differences between this Azrael and the original version created by the characters original creators, Dennis O’Neil and Joe Quesada.

This new Azrael by Tynion was not a ‘test tube baby,’ like the original New Earth version, but instead was actually taken from his family at an early age after made to witness his own parents deaths. Going by the thought that tragedy created the will from inside, such as that with Bruce Wayne, this theory was proved to generally carry true in many of the persons who would be manipulated by Mother. From there, Jean Paul was brainwashed and reprogrammed by Mother of his prior familial bonds and placed with The Order of St. Dumas on Santa Prisca.

Placing the Order of St. Dumas on the island of Santa Prisca is most likely a nod to Bane as both the original New Earth and New 52/Rebirth version was born and bred at the prison which held its base there. The original New Earth version of the Order of St. Dumas however was based in the coldest region of Switzerland, not the tropics, with the Order being incredibly secretive and somewhat along the lines of the Illuminati. This Prime earth version of the order however was known somewhat as a worldwide conglomerate with its hands in technology and business affairs. Additionally, the New Earth Azrael and Bane are two characters who are generally synonymous with each other as they were both created for the sole purpose of inclusion for a single game changing extended story arc.

The original New Earth version of Azrael was of a long line of subjects who had taken the mantle of Azrael once its predecessor/father, had failed fatally in combat.
Men who were to become Azrael were subliminally trained from birth with the knowledge of ‘The System,’ which would give the person the means to be a skilled expert combatant and assassin for The Order of St Dumas should their bidding need to be done. As for the physical prowess, once able to be incubated, the subjects would be put into a tube and fed with specific animal proteins and hourly electro shock therapy to create the ‘rage’ that would drive an Azrael in battle.

Though the New Earth version of Azrael was from the Order of St. Dumas, which was very often referred to as a religious sect, it was never truly reflected. However, throughout the first quarter of Azrael’s solo series there were indications that he was learning more about the Order’s background from both Sister Lilhy and, when appeared, the dwarfling trainer Nomoz. That however changed with the New Earth version which was more along the lines of the Order being a faith that its followers believed and worshiped that could perform miracles. This was demonstrated once showing a mute given the ability to speak.

Bringing the character more into this century, his suit was more of a living entity with A.I. that fed the wearer, Jean Paul, information. The new suit, dubbed ‘The Suit of Sorrows,’ is actually the name of the suit worn by the Michael Lane iteration of the character introduced by Fabian Nicieza in 2009 during the ‘Battle for the Cowl’ story line. The New Earth versions of Azrael wore a suit which had remained unchanged until Nomoz, an acolyte of the Order who acts almost as a welcome host when a new Azrael is awakened, creates a new armor for Jean Paul to combat in current times in the second issue of Sword of Azrael. This time, the suit is able to withstand most types of bullets, and is fireproof. Also, due to Jean Paul’s constant loss of the sword as a weapon, gauntlets fed by flames in the gloves replaced the weapon.

Lane was not of the Order of St. Dumas, but the Order of Purity; a fact that is often mistaken due to his inclusion in the Arkham video games, and the suit was pieced together by previous templar warrior’s armors that fell during the Crusades. This suit was also considered to be cursed and drove the wearer mad with guilt over previous deaths from combat.

Both the New and Prime Earth versions of Jean Paul are highly intelligent individuals. Though the Prime Earth Jean Paul is mainly fed his information through his suits programmed A.I., the New Earth Jean Paul was a Graduate student of Computer Science from Gotham University. Jean Paul’s background in understanding of algorithms, engineering and even A.I., sans growing Detective skills, put him in the same league as Oracle as far as digital intelligence is concerned.

Not long after becoming Azrael, Jean Paul would be taken under the wing of Bruce Wayne to ensure that his training could be properly focused. Wayne knew that the young hero could potentially be a major threat from his previous encounter. Jean Paul would work for Wayne Industries by day and train by night. However, due to an encounter with Bane leaving Bruce unable to continue as Batman, the cape and cowl were passed onto Jean Paul. Eventually Jean Paul would redesign the bat suit, fusing it with some of the artifacts of his Azrael suit, the most noticeable being the upper body armor. Eventually Bruce would take back the mantle of the bat once more after ‘The System,’ would start to manipulate Jean Paul’s mind and drive him to do things, most notably kill, that the Batman would not do.

The Prime Earth version of Jean Paul Valley seemingly did not take over as Batman as evidenced by the reaction to the ‘KnightsEnd’ style suit that he dons in the Detective Comics story arc, ‘Intelligence.’ However, in Batman and Robin Eternal it is somewhat alluded that Jean Paul did take over after Bruce fell at the hands of Bane. This is one of Tynion’s mistakes that often gets overlooked. Most likely the writers were not sure if they were, and if so, which parts of the New Earth history would be ret-conned into the current Prime earth.

Tynion may have been a fan of the ‘No Man’s Land’ era of the batfamily, but did not do his research on Azrael as much of the information he used was more of an amalgamation of back story for the Michael Lane Azrael character that was created by Rocksteady games for the popular Arkham video game series. Rocksteady did not do their homework as they used Lane but referred to him as an agent from The Order of St. Dumas, whom he was not. As the game was very popular it has caused much confusion with fans who did not realize that there are two different Azrael’s and Lane is not the one who became Batman during the popular Knightfall story arc.