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Juni Ba talks family, adventure, and Linkin Park for 'The Boy Wonder'

Comic Books

Juni Ba talks family, adventure, and Linkin Park for ‘The Boy Wonder’

The latest (teen-friendly) Black Label title debuts on May 7.

It ain’t easy being Damian Wayne. Sure, you’re a super talented detective and crimefighter, but your background and occasionally irksome demeanor has made it hard to transition from would-be assassin king of the world to a genuine hero. But there’s no denying the integrity and concern that also defines our Boy Wonder, and some of the better examples of recent Bat Family stories always give Damian his due. This summer, that list will certainly include the eagerly anticipated The Boy Wonder.

Created by writer/artist Juni Ba (who is joined by colorist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Aditya Bidikar), The Boy Wonder takes the shape of your standard fairytale to explore a key part of Damian’s origins. Specifically, when a “rash of abductions is accompanied by whispers of a demon stalking Gotham’s dark alleys,” our young hero will “find himself battling alongside his adoptive brothers — and in the process, learning what the mantle of Robin really means.” Equally thrilling and poignant, The Boy Wonder is both a new side of Damian as well as an affirmation of what makes the youngster such a deeply compelling figure. And it’s also a Black Label book meant for a younger (13+) audience, so expect a little edge to your warm-hearted tale of personal discovery.

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The Boy Wonder #1 is due out May 7 via DC Comics. In the lead up, Ba was kind enough to answer a few of our most burning questions via email. That includes his thoughts on Damian, drawing from his own family experiences, the best Damian-centric stories, and some choice musical selections/recommendations.

Boy Wonder

The Boy Wonder #1 cover by Juni Ba. Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: What about Damian Wayne is so interesting to you? Do you think he gets a bad rap even now in the grander DC Universe?

Juni Ba: Damian is simultaneously the most insufferable and most touching little boy to me. There’s a mix of adorable and deadly that I find amusing to watch, and satisfying to write. Plus I sympathize with him on a few backstory elements which are the cornerstone of the whole story.

As for his reputation, I think I’m glad there’s a reminder that being coarse and ill mannered can hide a good heart.

AIPT: The Boy Wonder is as much about Damian as it is his brothers. Has that story not been told enough — how similar and different Bruce’s kids really are — and did you draw on your relationship with siblings at all?

JB: Pretty much no one I talk to in the larger world ever even knows that there are multiple Robins, let alone read their stories. So I’m glad to be making a book that’s easy to access for new readers, with no prior knowledge needed, that appeals on its own and can tell them a cool story about family and overcoming pressure. A story that works both for the ones who know these characters and want a self contained tale, and the ones who know nothing and just want a fun comic to read. The comic is Black Label, which usually skews older, but this is a tale I wanted accessible from mid teens to as old as you want.

Boy Wonder

Courtesy of DC Comics.

And I did pull from experience! I have two siblings, my best friends all do as well, and the inner workings of how you view yourself and your family members depending on where you fit is interesting to me. It’s very much a tale of reckoning with your assumptions about your family, as well as the impact your parents had on you and your siblings.

AIPT: I love that the book’s almost framed like a fairy tale, which is sort of a novel for a Black Label book. Why opt for that approach specifically?

JB: There are narrative reasons in the book that I can’t spoil, but overall I’d say it’s because it’s my favorite format, as well as a great way to really lean into the larger than life aspect, the allegorical, the magical. Fables often contain a nugget of a message or meaning, and this is a coming of age story, so it fits rather well.

AIPT: How do you balance the work of being both the writer and the artist in The Boy Wonder ? Is it easier that way or did you find one aspect less challenging than the other?

JB: I grew up on French/Belgian comics and manga, so to me this is the most obvious way to make comics. Writing and art are the same thing, they’re done together, and one completes the other. Design decisions are story decisions and vice versa. In fact writing scripts (which I only do when I’m not drawing the comic) is a lot more challenging because there’s no image to convey what I mean.

Boy Wonder

Courtesy of DC Comics.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite Damian-starring story that you drew on for this book? Or maybe another Bat Family story instead/as well?

JB: I think my two favorites were Son of Batman and Super Sons. I just vibed a lot with the fun adventurous tone. But most of my inspiration comes from outside superhero comics, or even outside comics as a whole. I didn’t even reread those two books I mentioned aside from when I needed to check phrasing. In that case I read those, and the early Damian stories just to absorb how he spoke.

AIPT: Do you have a favorite page or moment in #1 or the rest of the story you can share?

JB: Issue #2 has a really great gut punch of a page! And pretty much every issue has a moment where Damian grows and learns and gets an epiphany, and I get a kick out of watching him grow.

AIPT: If Damian had a favorite song, what would it be and why?

JB: I’m now going to show my age and mention how my teen sister listens to these moody chill songs that sound like the softer version of the emo rock I listened to as a teen, so I’d say that style! (Don’t ask me to name them, I don’t know!)

A song from my angst phase? “Numb” by Linkin Park.

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