Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry sources that the current writer of DC Comics' twice-monthly leading title Batman, Tom King, is to leave the series with issue 85 – and that this was not his decision. King retains an exclusive contract with DC Comics and will likely be working on other projects for the publisher, but not the ongoing Batman series. We hear that his last issue with be #85, which would take him up to the end of 2019.
We understand that this decision went down during Megacon in Orlando this past weekend. No one is going on the record, no one is giving unqualified confirmation, but significant people appear to believe this just went down. We await further details.
Tom King joined the Batman title with the DC Rebirth reboot, after critically acclaimed runs on The Vision, Omega Men, Sheriff of Babylon and Grayson. He has often talked about his 100+ issue planned run on the Batman series. Recently that was upped to #105, taking into account The Button and The Price crossover issues written by others.
He previously talked about having to talk to Warner Brothers and AT&T over his final plans for Batman, saying 'What we're going to do for the last 15 issues is something no one's ever seen for the character.' It looks like we will be denied whatever it was he had planned. Whatever he had approved, it is possible that someone up high may have suddenly had second thoughts about.
Recently, Bleeding Cool has reported on falling sales in stores during the Knightmares arc, seeing a Batman trapped by Bane in a series of nightmares. The series remains DC's best-selling regular title but sales don't seem to have recovered quickly enough on that arc's conclusion and recently Immortal Hulk topped it. Even today's Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen throws shade in his direction.
But the book remained an award winner and was heavily noted in the current Eisner Awards nomination, one of the few superhero books to have such a presence.
Tom King has been in a powerful position at DC Comics where he was able to replace one editor with another, after disagreements over which artist would draw Batman's proposal to Catwoman. But falling sales may have diluted his influence somewhat.
He has described his run as a love story between Batman and Catwoman, and has been treating it all as one single narrative, with the not-a-wedding in the middle. Throughout his run, most prominently with Mikel Janin, he has slid one story into another, with Gotham Girl, the conflicting first meetings of Bruce and Selina, his confrontation with Bane, his dealings with the Psycho-Pirate, the input of Dr Manhattan and the appearance of his father from another dimension, all coming together into one story with Bane, that also ties in with DC's Year Of The Villain – but has a deeper narrative purpose. He has deepened Batman's story, with an attempted suicide as a young man in the wake of his parents' death informing much of what the role of Batman is to Bruce and to those around him – just how the man is broken, how it fuels him and how healthy that is to everyone involved. All while writing work intended for a visual meme generation, that pays homage to the rich history of the character.
Batman has been a textbook case of someone having their cake and eat it. Well now we are told that this cake has been spilt on the floor and the Bat-Hound is licking it up.
How it ends… we don't know. Who takes over from Tom King, we also don't know – but there must be the taint of being the new Doug Wheeler, the man who took over Rick Veitch on Swamp Thing after the green-lit and partially drawn story was pulled by Paul Levitz, rather than the intended Neil Gaiman. Plenty of big-name writers didn't want that poisoned chalice, and Wheeler never found any comic book success subsequent to that run.
Bleeding Cool has reached out to Tom King and to DC Comics without response as of publication. We will update as and when more information comes to light. I tell you this, as a big fan of King's run on the book, I will be petitioning for The King Cut from this point on. And I'm really hoping that a) it's not true or b) something can be worked out sharpish.