Warning: The following contains spoilers for I Am Batman #5, on sale now from DC Comics.
Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley recently made the jump to writing mainstream comics, and the results have been phenomenal. After penning the Eisner-nominated The Other History of the DC Universe and short stories in Superman: Red and Blue and Wolverine: Black, White, and Blood, Ridley crafted Tim Fox’s ascension into The Next Batman in “Future State.” Ridley continues the story of the first African-American to wear the iconic mantle in The Next Batman: Second Son and in the current series, I Am Batman, which for the first time will feature a Batman who is based in New York instead of Gotham City.
In his tenure as a comic book writer, Ridley has made it a point to tell the stories of heroes who have been traditionally marginalized with a boldness rarely seen in the comic book medium. He continues this trend in DC Comics’ I Am Batman. Ridley sat with CBR to discuss and tease the powerful new path he lays out for Tim “Jace” Fox in upcoming issues.
CBR: Can you bring us up to speed on what’s been going on with Tim “Jace” Fox leading into I Am Batman #5?
Ridley: All of the different phases of Tim’s life have been really exciting. In “Future State,” he was introduced as The Next Batman, who is a little different from the Batman that everyone has grown up with, but is still very much a mystery. We learn that he’s very mission-specific, but we really don’t know much about who he really is.
In The Next Batman: Second Son, we really got to set the table. We addressed why Tim Fox has taken the name “Jace,” and the emotional change of him going from a frightened kid running from trouble to a young man obsessed with making amends for the past. We learn a little about his training, and about the people who were influential to him during his time away from his family.
By the time we get to last year’s “Fear State,” Jace is out in the world alongside the rest of the Bat-Family operating on a whole different, yet still grounded level. “Fear State” planted a flag for how Jace is going to operate differently from Batman and the overall Bat-Family and earn the right to contend with the worst of the worst in Gotham City. Jace is out there fighting a fear that represents a little more of the real Fear State that, unfortunately, many of us operate in now. This fear is amplified online and is adopted by regular folks who believe that the system is corrupt, and no one is looking out for us. Jace readily admits and accepts that the system is corrupt, but he also believes that if you burn down the system, all you have left to rule over is ashes. He believes that sometimes we have to get out there and do things on our own, but we still need to have a moral compass.
Jace is now at the point where he has to really represent the people, and he doesn’t believe he can do so in Gotham City, so he’s moving with his family to New York to form his identity away from his father and the image of Batman that Bruce Wayne has created over the years. For him, it’s more about inspiring people than putting fear in criminals. He believes that we can all do better as a people, and he is inviting us all to join in the effort to improve.
In I Am Batman #5, Tim gets the bottom of his faceplate knocked off, and his father instantly recognizes him. In the past, the DC Universe has been a place where the identities of heroes can be hidden by something as simple as a domino mask. How did you come up with the idea for his father, Lucius Fox, to immediately recognize him just by seeing the bottom part of his face?
In comic books and other created narratives, it’s a given that no one can figure out who the hero really is. It’s a conceit, and it works brilliantly. But for me, and I say this partly as a father, you’re always going to recognize your kid. You could be in a crowd of children and still recognize the sound of your child’s voice. In that moment, I just couldn’t just play that conceit. Jace is black with a goatee, and there is no way that Lucius was not going to recognize his son.
Lucius has been going through so much since Punchline tortured him, and since then he took a radicalized position against masked vigilantes. When he realizes that The Next Batman is his son, he realizes the horrible mistake he has made and has to step in.
In I Am Batman #5, it appears that Lucius Fox is poised to become more involved in Jace’s life as Batman. How important was it for you to repair and reestablish the relationship between Lucius and his son?
Restoring that relationship was very important. All of these stories, from “Future State” to Second Son and even I Am Batman has been as much about the Fox family as they’ve been about Jace. These stories have covered their relationship, their difficulties, and their estrangements, as well as their reconciliations. The drive of Jace and the action have been great, but moments like when Lucious and Tanya Fox are talking about mental health in the Black and Brown community are reflective of what’s really going on in the world, as is the struggle with representation.
It’s a very powerful moment of identity when Lucius tells Jace to never put his faceplate back on, represent, and never think of himself as a lesser Batman. He admits that his son has a lot to learn before he is Batman, but he reinforces that he is not a lesser person by any means. Some people have said that I’m doing Black Batman, and they mean it as a compliment. But I say that it is not Black Batman, but Jace Fox as Batman, who happens to be black. This family has to struggle with money, with representation, and with just being out in the world, and you will see much much more of that going forward as Jace and his family make the move to New York in I Am Batman.
I Am Batman #5 is written by John Ridley and features art by Stephen Segovia. The issue is on sale now from DC Comics.
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