Inside the ‘Other History’ of Comic Book Superheroes

GG: Jefferson also has pointed views on Superman. Did you get pushback?

JR: No, because it is not about Superman being a bad guy. We visit Superman and other heroes through the lens of these characters. Even though Superman is an immigrant and truly an alien, his passport is stamped because of the way he looks and because of the way he presents himself.

All of these characters have to reconcile how they view other people and whether they’re being fair. If I made Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman bad people, I’m sure we would have had pushback. But it was all fair game if it came from a perspective that felt real and grounded.

GG: How did the project initially come together?

JR: I was very nervous when I pitched it. It was a kind of arrogance, maybe, to come back and say, I want to look at your entire history and shift the lens a little and have some real talk about some of these characters. To their credit, DC saw the value. This was long before the current reckoning on race and representation.

When you’re dealing with stories about race, otherization, people outside of the prevailing culture, unfortunately, it’s going to be relevant almost any time it comes out.

GG: Let’s talk about your upcoming Batman comic and your tease that it would highly likely be a nonwhite Batman.

JR: Let me confirm that it is definitely a Black person under the cowl. It was an off-the-cuff line, meant to be humorous. Comic book fans are the best fans. They will go through everything and check it and recheck it. It was the quip heard around the world. Definitely, without a doubt, the next Batman is a Black Batperson.

GG: I love that you’re saying “person” and not “man.”

JR: I have to have what fun I can. There’s no reason in the modern era to think that the person who is representing Batman is a man. But whoever it is, it is an interesting opportunity to populate the world around this new Batman. We’ll have some interesting characters coming in and a lot of representation. It was really important to make sure that this Gotham City was well represented.

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