It's James Tynion IV time! Bleeding Cool first broke the news of 5G's existence in 2019, as we built up what it was meant to be. Generation Five, the fifth generation of DC Comics as seen in the new planned DC Timeline, which would assign major stories a year in which they happened, how old characters were, and in the process aging up Superman and Batman to their fifties, Wonder Woman even older, with new characters like Jonathan Kent, Luke Fox and Yara Flor taking over the principal roles with Damian Wayne as the Big Bad of the Universe. That all changed when a) publisher Dan DiDio was fired and b) the pandemic saw DC Comics shut down production for a short while. 5G was repurposed in some ways for Future State and Infinite Frontier, but much of it, including the Generation Zero Free Comic Book Day comic and the Generations series were pulped or dumped. 5G was never officially confirmed, but they since it was sidelined, it didn't have to be. Nut a number of creators have confirmed 5G, just not in anywhere near as much detail as James Tynion IV has begun to on his Substack.
The information that had trickled down through the corporate ladder was that the goal was to create a generational leap for the characters akin to the jump between the Golden Age and the Silver Age. So, to me, that meant kind of boiling each idea down to its essence and making a creative leap forward without the baggage of a previous incarnation. Boil Green Lantern down to its essence and it's a story about a guy with a magic lantern that can make anything he imagine. Boil The Flash down to its essence and it's a story about a guy with super speed powers… the other thing that was going to come back was the long-form DC Continuity that put the Justice Society back in WW2, and filled the 20th Century with Superheroes, creating multiple ages of heroism. You could make that generational leap forward to appeal to new audiences, and relieve the pressure on the DC universe to stay locked in a familiar status quo. Characters could age and grow and change, and that growth and change could be rooted in the existing decades of stories about each of those characters…
He does, of course point out that this is what he believed 5G to be. And as we all know, what ends IP on the page can be very different than who's in the head-canon. And that this was more what his own wish-fulfillment. And maybe some of this was Bleeding Cool's fault. He writes;
I wanted desperately to be given carte blanche to pitch them a bold new version of a classic character and help create exciting new stories in the DC Universe that would make a whole new generation of readers fall in love with the universe like I was in love with it… That's what was in my head as the rumors spread among DC Creators while the company stayed tight-lipped.
Yeah, sorry about that. But Tynion did confirm one major aspect of those rumours as well. We knew that the end of Death Metal would have been the beginning of 5G, with the main characters aged up into the DC Comics timeline, Bruce and Clark in their fifties…
The Death Metal event was going to be the mechanism that would unleash some kind of big change upon the universe, and then at the start of 2021, we were going to see a bold new direction for the DCU… I started thinking of that story as what would you do if you were telling the Last Justice League story, and I was starting to put together a story that would create a b-team with members from every key era of Justice League History that put them against the partnering of some classic "-o" named Justice League rogues. Despero. Amazo/Ivo. Starro (which would give Jarro a big hero moment in the third act). You can actually see me planting the seeds of the Ivo story in Justice League #26-28.
Indeed you can. But then Batman came along, a gig he got. In his first issue – also Tom King's final issue – the following Joker exchange ran.
At the time, Bleeding Cool stated, "Bleeding Cool understands that this 'final tale' of Batman and the Joker was originally intended to run before the Batman 5G relaunch with an aged Bruce Wayne and a new Batman. This would enable The Joker War to be a real final battle between the two. However, things have changed regarding that." And James Tynion IV confirms that and tells us just how final that final battle would have been.
BATMAN: THE DEATH OF THE JOKER The pitch had a few key elements that you'll recognize… The Joker effectively gets his hands on the Wayne Fortune, and all of Batman's vehicles and gadgets, and unleashes them on Gotham City. Basically The Joker using everything that Batman ever made to save the city in order to kill it. Before Joker died, I wanted him to give Bruce a scar on some kind, ideally on his face, in a way that would mean he could never wear the existing cowl again because he'd have a core identifying feature he shares as Batman and Bruce Wayne, which would make it difficult to be Batman again (A kind of nod to Batman: Return of the Joker which established the knife in Bruce's Knee as a stab from The Joker). I pitched working with all of the creators of the constellation of Bat-Titles surrounding Batman to give each of them a corner of the Batman mythos to tell the epic last story of in the current continuity. Detective could tell the Last Arkham story. Catwoman could tell the last story of this era of organized crime. Nightwing could tell the last Robin story. Batgirl could tell the last Gordon Family story. I didn't get much into an issue by issue breakdown at that point, it was more just an organizing principle to get all eyes on Gotham.
We'd previously quoted Tom King as saying that Batman losing Alfred was intended to start the events that trigger 5G off. It sees Batman losing his connection to humanity, as he regards Alfred as his real father. And King said that this would still have huge repercussions going forward, even though he was no longer write Batman – and that James was. Well, James confirms some of that too, which he was waiting for DC to make a decision about him.
I learned that Alfred Pennyworth was going to die in the City of Bane storyline, and that his death would be looked at as the key driving element to the last year of core Batman continuity. Sitting with the idea, it excited me. Alfred was Bruce's last connection to his childhood, the death of his third parent, the thing keeping him in the house he'd lived in since he was born. It felt like it could be an incredibly valuable emotional thread to mine and build a year of phenomenal story…
And while he waited and waited, his Boom Studios comic book series Something Is Killing The Children exploded in sales and attention. And he reckons it was that which then got him the Batman gig.
I was the new writer of Batman, and I was ready to get to work. After all, we'd lost the lead time of the summer. Clearly we'd be able to hit the ground running, right?
And next week, James Tynion IV will tell you what happened next. Subscribe to his substack, and you won't have to settle for my cut-and-shunt chop-shop version picking only the pits that pertain to 5G. Because there's plenty more besides. Though as we remember it. James Tynion IV had taken over Batman as a replacement when then-EIC Bob Harras had found an opportunity to fire Tom King off the book. Tynion IV was to write the series until Batman #100, when 5G would kick in, and the series would relaunch with John Ridley and Olivier Coipel with Luke Fox as the new Batman. And James Tynion decided at that point he wanted nothing to do with 5G and was all set to leave. Until a) 5G didn't happen, and b) Batman started rocketing in sales, especially with artists Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey. So James stuck around. Until November 2021, pulled away by Substack Comics, the same newsletter he is using to report all this. It all comes around… Tynion does also add regarding the Death of the Joker.
I had no idea whether they would actually let me DO it, of course. Beyond that, let me just be clear that DC at no point in this process approved me killing the Joker (though I tried a few more times, as you'll see in the next few newsletters).
Of course, they did let someone else kill the Joker… Tom King. In Batman/Catwoman, at the hands of a Selina Kyle after Bruce Wayne had already died. This series was initially planned to be Tom King's final issues of Batman before he was fired and Tynion got the gig. Was this what Tom King had to get special Warner Bros permission for?
Could it have been when James was going to write it, at the hands of Harley Quinn, as it seems to be where Batman #100 was originally going?
That is rather how it felt at the time…