It’s One Year Later and things have changed in the DC Universe. For Robin it is a chance to return to Gotham and begin the next chapter of his life. Chronicling his adventures is Adam Beechen, who recently made the jump to writing a mainstream DC title. With eight issues under his belt, Major Spoilers’ Stephen Schleicher had a chance to talk with the Robin scribe.
Stephen Schleicher: You’ve done quite a bit of writing for a lot of television shows on the Cartoon Network, and also took on the JLU series for Johnny DC (great series, by the way). For the last several months, you’ve taken on the task of chronicling the adventures of Robin. How has that been?
Adam Beechen: It’s been a blast, both as a change of pace from my other assignments, and as an opportunity to work within the DC mainstream. It’s been my first comic-writing opportunity to think in terms of arcs, as JLU features stand-alone stories only, so it’s been an education as well (and glad you’re enjoying JLU, by the way).
Stephen Schleicher: The first story arc had a major revelation post One Year Later. Have the death threats for turning Cassandra Cain into a villain slowed down at all?
Adam Beechen: Yes, they’re down to one bloody ninja head on my doorstep every morning. In all honesty, I didn’t follow a lot of the fan reaction, for the sake of my own mental health. But others passed along how much of an uproar it was making, and it didn’t surprise me in the least. Every character is someone’s favorite, and Cassandra is the favorite of a lot of people, so a change that radical was bound to bring out some strong emotions.
Stephen Schleicher: Was this your decision, or was it an idea handed down from on high?
Adam Beechen: When I took on the book, I was told by DC that the first arc would find Robin framed for murder, with Cassandra ultimately revealed as the framer. The details of that – the mechanics, the motivation, the outcome – were left largely up to me, and I worked those out with the editors.
Stephen Schleicher: So, will Cassandra be making an appearance again anytime soon?
Adam Beechen: Yes.
Stephen Schleicher: How are you dealing with Tim Drake being older than the other kids in his high school? If I am remembering everything correctly, he should have graduated, but dropping out and then going on a world tour with Bruce Wayne should have him in the 19 year old range – correct?
Adam Beechen: I’m actually not playing him as older than his peers. If anything, my suspicion – based on how Tim is generally drawn – is that he might have skipped a few grades along the way…He’s pretty bright, after all. Maybe he’s actually caught up to his classmates in age by now. He’s obviously old enough to drive…I try to write him like he’s around seventeen.
Stephen Schleicher: With Robin #156: High Dive, you took on the topic of teen suicide. Is there a story behind taking on such a serious topic?
Adam Beechen: It came out of where Robin was as a character, and my wanting to attack how he copes with all the awful things that have happened to him. Putting him in a situation where he helps another kid cope allowed us to do that, and gave us the added bonus of hopefully getting across a positive message.
Stephen Schleicher: There is a lot of serious dialogue as Robin and Everyman discuss life in general. From the writing stand point, this is a slam dunk issue, but in order to effectively carry an entire issue, the art has to be dynamic to keep it from getting bogged down. Can you talk about the collaboration between you and (Freddie) Williams on this issue in particular?
Adam Beechen: Freddie did an amazing job, because I gave him a lot of “talking heads” to deal with. But as brilliant as he is with action, Freddie’s just as good at the quiet moments, and this really gave him the chance to strut his stuff in this department. For my part, I tried to strip the dialogue down as much as possible without losing the emotion, so it doesn’t feel like it takes forever to read, and then Freddie played with the camera angles, postures and expressions, so the book hopefully feels like it zips along like any other comic.
Stephen Schleicher: Were you concerned at all the issue would be seen as a “preachy after school special”?
Adam Beechen: Absolutely. I tried to focus on where Robin was as a character and how this story would advance him. In a sense, as he’s talking to the kid on the ledge, he’s also talking to himself, working his way out of the depression of the situation with Dodge. I hope that kept the reader from feeling like he or she was being hit over the head too much with a “message.”
Stephen Schleicher: Interestingly, you also penned an issue of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight that also looks at a fairly typical young male issue – getting the girl. While High Dive was a serious issue, LODK was more of a fun romp. Can you comment on that?
Adam Beechen: That was a story I’d had kicking around for a good long time, and it was actually something I’d sold to DC long before I got the Robin assignment. It waited for the right artists, and Editor Joey Cavalieri found great ones in Steve Scott and Nathan Massengill. It worked out really well, because I’d sat down very specifically to write a legend of the Dark Knight, a story you might hear someone else tell, a story in which Batman figures peripherally but importantly, and I was lucky Joey liked it!
Stephen Schleicher: In both of these issues, you touched on topics that most teens (and especially young men) face, and you do it so well. Have you tapped into some zeitgeist when drawing inspiration for these tales, or is it something else?
Adam Beechen: I think it’s me tapping into the fact that I was once a teenage boy! I go back to a lot of my own experiences (not so much fighting costumed crime, but…) and emotions and try to apply them to Tim when it’s appropriate. Also, I’m a big fan of television shows that have captured teen life with reasonable accuracy, like “My So-Called Life,” so I try to bring some of that flavor to the book as well…although I don’t do it half as well as a show like MSCL did it.
Stephen Schleicher: Is this the first DCU Batman story you have written (Robin doesn’t count)?
Adam Beechen: Yes. And since it was sold before I took on Robin, it’s actually the first mainstream DCU story I ever wrote.
Stephen Schleicher: One of the things that set LODK off from the rest of the Batman Universe is the tales are not necessarily set in the current timeline. Some are set during Batman’s first year, while others jump to modern day to be part of a big Batman crossover event. When does #212 – Chicks Dig the Bat take place?
Adam Beechen: I’ll be honest with you again, here, I never gave the question a moment’s thought as I was writing it. It’s my hope that it can truly stand alone, and could possibly take place anywhere along Batman’s timeline without disrupting anything.
Stephen Schleicher: IF this issue takes place in the early career of Batman then, it is interesting that Batman refers to Fernando as “Boy Wonder”. Could this be the event in Batman’s early career that puts the seed in his head about getting a partner?
Adam Beechen: You know, I never thought about it until I read your speculation of just that in the review you sent me. That’s a neat possibility, and would be cool if DC decides someday that this story is canon, but it wasn’t my intent, necessarily.
Stephen Schleicher: Time for some spoilers. What can we expect to see in Robin in the near future? Will Dodge play a larger role in Robin’s life?
Adam Beechen: We’re definitely not done with Dodge. And there are some new villains coming as well in a big arc I have planned, hopefully setting up some stuff for Robin down the road. In addition, we’ll be seeing the return of my absolute favorite bad guys from Bill Willingham’s underrated run on the title in a single-issue story that was a hoot to write – it’s all set against the backdrop of Tim’s first Father’s Day with Bruce. And there’s more drama ahead in Tim’s relationship with Zoanne. Should be a fun couple of months coming up!
Stephen Schleicher: Thank you for your time.
You can read Adam’s work for yourself each month in Robin.