Despite taking place in a “possible near future” not necessarily tied to the primary DC continuity as it currently is, the first two issues of The Next Batman are reminiscent of classic Batman yarns. In the first issue, Tim must prevent two orphaned brothers from going down a dark path from which they can’t return, while the second story allows Tim to show off his detective skills, all while evading the militarized police force that is hunting him around the city. The stories do feel pretty “fundamental,” down to the colorful palette of blues and yellows used by colorist Tamra Bonvillain that nods to the Dark Knight’s earliest Golden Age appearances. Even the Batsuit of the future remains largely unchanged.
But when it comes to a new character taking on the role of Batman, one of the big questions creators have to ask themselves is what separates the new incumbent from Bruce Wayne? After all, you don’t just want to repeat the same exact story but with a different character.
“For me the biggest difference really is family. I mean, everything about Bruce was driven by the loss of his family. And on the page, never really being able to attach himself to people,” Ridley says. “Tim has his family. And that family is always there. And he, too, is driven by family, but in a very different way. And he’s going to have to reconcile much of that in real time.”
Indeed, Tim’s estrangement from his family heavily informs the book. His attempts to reconnect with them after his long absence from Gotham are met with hostility from Luke, who refers to Tim as the “the Fox family screw up.” And that disconnect extends to his mother Tanya too, who is a major proponent of the heavily-armored police working to keep the Gotham City streets “mask-free” after her daughter Tam lands in the hospital due to a mask-related incident (it’s unclear what exactly happened to her). It’s an interesting dynamic that not only sets Tim’s story apart from Bruce’s but also allows Ridley to flesh out each member of the Fox family beyond their connection to Lucius.
“They’ve been incredibly integrated into the Batman, the Bat universe, certainly with Lucius. The character goes from the page to the screen, they become indelible. And what he represents as a friend, as a partner, as a father figure for Bruce, as a character that the world sees, as a remarkable man who has the capacity to run one of the largest companies in America. That’s pretty remarkable in and of itself, but Luke has risen to a particular level on the page, and he hasn’t gone beyond that yet. Tanya, she never stated what her job was, what her role was. Same with the sisters, and certainly with Tim.”