Tom King (born 1978) is an American comic book writer. He's currently well-known for his run on Batman. He's also a former CIA operative.
After quitting the CIA and writing his debut novel (about superheroes, of course), King teamed up with Tim Seeley to co-write Grayson, drawing from his experience in espionage to add to the authenticity (which he ironically defied so Grayson is a Bond pastiche with hints of Jim Steranko's Nick Fury added for good measure). King was later responsible for rebooting the Omega Men, as well as another personal project called Sheriff of Babylon. While Grayson gave him marginal success, King's solo career was launched into stardom with the twelve-issue The Vision (2015), about the titular Avenger trying to start his own family while continuing work as a superhero. It's creepy.
The Vision receiving critical acclaim and his "Trilogy of Best Intentions" complete, King signed on to work exclusively for DC Comics and took on the role of Scott Snyder's replacement on Batman. What began from there was what King planned to be a one-hundred issue bimonthly epic that asked, "Can Batman be happy?" It got creepy. That 100-issue plan was scrapped in mid 2019 due to a variety of factors, but he would receive an opportunity to conclude his story in a maxi-series for DC Black Label, Batman Catwoman.
Simultaneously, King worked on The Vision's Spiritual Successor Mister Miracle (2017), which is basically Jack Kirby's New Gods meets Jacob's Ladder. It's very creepy.
Spinning off from his Batman run WAS also the Crisis Crossover Heroes in Crisis, said to be a thematic sequel to the infamous Identity Crisis. It's...divisive, to say the least.
King was also set to co-write the screenplay for a movie about The New Gods together with its intended director, Ava DuVernay, as part of the DC Extended Universe, but the project was announced to have been cancelled in April of 2021.
King's work is notable for tackling the psyches of his characters, darker leanings that hearken back to the 2000s, somewhat topical undertones, slow-paced rhythmic dialogue, Dissonant Serenity-brimmed stories and for implementing many of stylistic trappings of his own favourite authors — most notably Alan Moore and Frank Miller.
Suffice to say, he's living the dream.
- A Once Crowded Sky
- Danger Street, a maxiseries focusing on various not as prominent DC characters.
- Grayson - Co-writer with Tim Seeley
- Robin War - Co-wrote the Grayson tie-in
- Heroes in Crisis
- Human Target 2021 limited series for DC Black Label
- Mister Miracle (2017)
- The Omega Men
- Rorschach (2020)
- The Sheriff of Babylon
- Strange Adventures (2020)
- Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow
- The Vision (2015)
- Wonder Woman 2023
Tropes about him and his work:
- The Ageless: King appears to be in the camp of portraying Kryptonians as immortal under a yellow sun, as he's written stories where both Superman and Supergirl have survived hundreds if not millions of years into the future and have barely aged a day.
- Arc Words: King seems to love this considering individual issues of his work has some. For examples:
- The Omega Men: "We will not hurt you. We are friends."
- The Vision: Behold!
- Mister Miracle: "Darkseid is." Also someone says to MM himself, "Scott Free. Stand." to which he replies "Yeah, I know. Standing."
- Batman: "It's not impossible. It's Batman."
- Author Appeal:
- Out of all the Batman Mythology Gags, King seems to really like referencing Batman: Year One. He's gone as far as to take it as canon over the supposedly canon "Zero Year".
- He really enjoys writing characters dealing with mental illness brought on by trauma (depression, PTSD, survivor's guilt, ect.), as well as heroes who have dark secrets hidden in their pasts.
- The Bus Came Back: Taking a few pages from Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns's books, King also brings back silly and oft obscure characters to tell darker stories with them. For example, Kite Man (hell yeah).
- Broken Bird: They flock his books. Heroes in Crisis in particular deals with the consequences of having superpowered beings with untreated trauma.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Almost every story he's written is entirely comprised of these, edging dangerously close to Dissonant Serenity. Especially in Mister Miracle.
- Cerebus Callback: Standard modus operandi of a Tom King story: everything established in the canon of the characters is true, including the deaths, rebirths, loss of loved ones, ambiguous rapes, multiversal wars and backstory change; and then it gets worse.
- Continuity Porn: He seems to be trying to one-up Grant Morrison in that regard considering the slew of references to Batman's comic history (among other things) during his run.
- Creator Thumbprint: King has a habit of utilizing the nine-panel grid in his work, inspired by Watchmen and how it creates a fixed, appealing tempo to approach stories in. Ironically enough, he consciously avoided it with Rorschach (2020) because it collided with Alan Moore's own creator thumbprints that he was inspired by.
- Creator's Pest: He really hates Booster Gold, and if he ever shows up in one of his books, he's going to either be humiliated in some way or outright trounced such as during his infamous fight with Harley Quinn in Heroes In Crisis.
- Darker and Edgier: Most of the books he works he turns into this, as most of his stories focus on the mostly unseen side of superheroes: the trauma that comes from their grittier exploits. Whenever he writes The Vision, Batman, and Mister Miracle, expect him to depict them as emotionally-compromised, mentally-scarred badasses with issues so deep it'd make Zuko say, "That's rough, buddy".
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In any of his books, there are brave people considered heroes by many who have gone through traumatic situations that no normal person should ever have to go through and their lives are changed forever. They're unable to fully acclimate back to normalcy and their built up issues lead to even more disasters, most of them personal.
- Friendly War: With Tom Taylor, mostly due to the two being frequently mistaken for each other. They're both somewhat notorious for taking friendly potshots at each other on social media.
- Mundane Horror: Mister Miracle and The Visions place heavy emphasis on the more creepy, disturbing and destructive aspects of the superhero lifestyle in juxtaposition to the eerie calm of domestic family life.
- Repeated for Emphasis: Many of his characters will repeat what they say, from single sentences to long poems. Repeatedly. Repeating them. Repeatedly.
- Thematic Series: Tom King considers his comic book career to have been split into a few of these, roughly the size of trilogies, and each informed by his state of mind and philosophy while working on them:
- "The Trilogy of Best Intentions" consists of The Sheriff of Babylon, The Omega Men, and The Vision (2015), which is linked by characters attempting to partake in a mission or goal with the best intentions, then being forced to deal with failure once it goes horribly wrong.
- His second unnamed era roughly spans Batman (Tom King), Mister Miracle (2017), and Heroes in Crisis, which involves heroes scarred by their pasts learning how to heal from it. In a way, this is a direct sequel trilogy about how the trauma received in previous stories can be reconciled.
- His third era consists primarily of Strange Adventures (2020), Rorschach (2020), and Batman/Catwoman, with narratives focusing on blurring the lines of fiction and reality, in turn being meta-examinations on how stories shared by individuals affect how they and others perceive what is their "reality".
- Self-Parody: He was picked up to do a one-shot Batman/Elmer Fudd Special (yes, seriously), and used it as a means to poke fun at his own trademark introspective, melodramatic neo-noir style. Like most of his works, he approached Elmer Fudd of all characters with heartbreak and moody grit. Also like most of his works, he chose to preserve and embrace some of the goofiest parts of the character, turning Fudd into a genuine badass who's "hunting wabbits" (in this case, a morose, yet strangely witty human lowlife named "Bugs the Bunny") and gives completely serious noir detective monologues in his trademark voice.
- Shout-Out: King confirmed in a tweet in memory of Stan Lee that he insisted on having the titles of his stories be preceded by the phrase "DC Comics Presents" as a reference to "Stan Lee Presents." When he told this to him, Stan just snarked that King should write for Marvel.
- Surreal Horror: Mister Miracle, The Vision, and Strange Adventures all have traces of it.
- Symbol Swearing: King admits that even when given the go-ahead and freedom to curse in his books, he will always stick to this because he feels it's so ingrained into the comic medium that doing anything else feels wrong and unnatural to him.
- What Could Have Been: After Mister Miracle wrapped, King joined Ava DuVernay's New Gods film as a co-writer. Unfortunately, the film was eventually scrapped.
- Write What You Know: King has gone on record to say that a lot of his superhero works draw influence from his time in the CIA. What results is a noticeable amount of comparisons between superheroes and military veterans and the trauma both have to deal with on the field. The mental health consequences of this trauma is also often explored as a result of King's own personal issues after coming home from Iraq.
- Subverted with Grayson where King went out of his way to avoid the gritty realism of actual spy work in favor of sci-fi fun in the vein of Nick Fury and James Bond — This is despite him being brought on specifically to lend authenticity to the work.