(I know, I know, but I couldn’t resist!)
The Story of Batman: Overdrive
It’s a story of Bruce Wayne at sixteen and being everything that a teenager with a tragic backstory would be at that age. He’s moody, certain that he’s right and everyone else is wrong (especially adults like Alfred), and he fails to see that those around him are also struggling with problems.
In other words, Bruce Wayne starts the tale as a bit of a snot, and it’s a great take on a teenage Bruce Wayne, especially since it leads him to finally open up to his found family.
But what else goes together with teenagers? Cars! This story serves also as the origin of the Batmobile. It’s a unique take not only because the car itself is cool—which it is—but because the car becomes the center of the emotional bond that Bruce finally recognizes between himself and Alfred. Cars also play a part in the plot, as Bruce and his eventual friends are dealing with a gang of car thieves which includes some very familiar characters from the world of Gotham.
Fontana, known for her DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels, handles Bruce and the world of Gotham with a deft touch, never letting this story for young readers become maudlin or tragic, but focusing on the challenges of friendship and growing up for the cast. She also introduces a new character, Matteo, an easy-going ray of sunshine and fellow gearhead who’s one of the people that makes Bruce realize that his single-minded focus on vengeance above all else may not be the right course.
I interviewed Fontana last week about how the story developed, how she came to focus on the Batmobile, and why writing this book is basically a dream come true for someone who grew up loving Batman: The Animated Series.
Shea Fontana on the Batman: Overdrive
The Origin Story
GeekMom: This is somewhat of an origin story, as Bruce decides who he wants to be. How did you go about deciding what aspects of his origin to use?
Shea Fontana: I realized when I was first thinking about doing a Batman story, I knew I wanted to use the Batmobile—it’s not only the origin of Batman but also the origin of the Batmobile. I grew up with B:TAS, I have a lot of origin stories I know, but in the time the creators have been alive, there really hasn’t been an origin. I wanted to keep the dynamic superhero stuff but make it more of a modern-style.
He’s a kid 15 going on 16, so he would have been born in 2005, and really thinking about kids now, rather than thinking about the Batman I knew as a kid, it would be different. When I first started writing the story, it was hard to move out of the adult superhero in an old-fashioned world into thinking of Batman in his modern world. In the end, the character is very much Batman but also includes what’s available to him as a modern superhero kid and as a detective.
It’s a very modern take on Bruce Wayne. He’s going to have a smartphone, which very few Bruce Waynes in history have had. I was thinking of how he’d use modern tech in his detective work and the idea of marrying the past with the modern world. How he needs to let go of his past, to move to his future, and he wanted it new and fresh but also had all the things we love about Batman.
GM: Your Bruce Wayne, at first, isn’t the easiest guy to like. What led you to where he is emotionally at the beginning of the story?
SF: He has the armor out, for certain. He’s trying to keep people out, but, of course, he needs to open his heart and let people in. If you have this trauma, it’s so natural to close yourself off when you lost two people you loved very much. And he’s done that.
GM: What drew you to focus on the relationship between Bruce and Alfred?
SF: When I started to think of the story when we see Batman as an adult, we see Alfred as a constant companion, and when I was 15 going on 16, I didn’t want much to do with my parents. I wanted a car, I wanted freedom. I really related to Bruce, thinking about that time in my life. That’s natural as a teenager pushing those boundaries at this age, especially since he’s mad at the world. I wanted to make sure we did that relationship justice.
GM: Much of the story revolves around the creation of the Batmobile. How did you decide what it would be and to focus on that?
SF: The Batmobile is based on a Ford Mustang, and the other cars in the story are also based on real cars. We had cars in mind for all of them that were depicted. I spent a lot of research into restoring old cars, to get those things right.
GM: How did you decide what already existing characters to include? How did the new characters like Matteo come together?
SF: We knew we needed a foil for Bruce, a boisterous person who’s so different, and the kid who bonded with Bruce over the love of cars, and he’s not from Gotham, so he doesn’t know who Bruce is, he doesn’t know the history, so Bruce doesn’t see him as someone pitying him or wanting his money.
Matteo has a warm, exuberant heart. How could you say no to him?
On the other side of the line, we have Alberto Falcone, we wanted to make our bad guy, someone also struggling with a legacy in the same way that Bruce is dealing with it.
GM: How did the collaboration with Marcelo Di Chiara work? Did you hand in a full script or did you revise as you got pages back? Do you have a favorite page?
SF: It was a full script; he got the pages back, chapter by chapter. He also did one of the DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels with us, and we had worked with him on that.
One of the things that brought him to our attention is that he just brings a dynamic energy to those car chases. He’s also great at making the characters look young but also completely the same people as their older version. I love Bruce’s eyebrows, it’s so good.
I love the modern take on Catwoman. She’s a scruffy 16-year-old girl who dyes her hair herself, she just springs to life on the page.
GM: Where does your version of Bruce Wayne go from here? Where do you think he fits in all the different versions of Batman?
SF: I think the sequel to Batman: Overdrive is really him becoming the Batman. Here he is dipping his toe into being a vigilante, and the sequel is becoming a superhero with his team. They’re not just sidekicks, they’re partners.
GM: How did you view Bruce’s relationship with his parents and how they influence him going forward, beyond the tragedy fo their deaths?
SF: My mom made such an impact on me. Even though we didn’t have much money, she took care of people. She was making dinner for people who were sick when I was growing up. So I thought, who would inspire Bruce in such a generous way to make Gotham a better place? It would be his parents.
I think that’s such a special thing in their legacy, making Bruce committed to making Gotham the best place it could be.
GM: You’ve written so many DC characters. Are there any you haven’t written that you’d love to do next?
SF: For me, between DC Super Hero Girls and Batman: Overdrive, I’ve really exhausted everything I wanted to do, and it’s a wonderful thing.
Batman was my first entryway into comics, and I wanted to write a Batman story, on a different level, I wanted to see a women writing a Batman story because there have been so few of us, and I wanted to take this character seen as the most masculine character in the DC Universe, and see how I would approach him—a guy’s guy—and think of a different perspective on Batman.
So it’s a dream come true, for me. When we first came up with this concept, I thought of the Batmobile, and I think Batman: Overdrive was one of the first words out of my mouth.
So far, a sequel isn’t currently in the works, but I’d love to write more Batman. For me, this title is having pure superhero fun with a modern Batman.
Batman: Overdrive releases on March 3 (next week!) and is already up for pre-order! I highly recommend it, especially as an introduction to Batman for the under-10 set. Though, hey, adults and teens will also enjoy it.