Pre-Flashpoint: The modern Batwing character was created by Grant Morrison with artist Chris Burnham for Batman Incorporated (vol. 1) #5 (May 2011) (sketches who Burnham as the designer; but that issue was actually drawn by Yanick Paquette). The Batman Incorporated series was the cumulation of Morrison’s years long run on the Batman title and drew upon almost every phase of Batman’s history. Indeed, Batwing appears to be based on throwaway character created by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano for a single 6-page story in Batman (vol. 1) #250 (May 1973). In Morrison’s series, Bruce Wayne was franchising the Batman identity by enlisting new and existing vigilantes to wear his emblem. Batwing was the African Batman and Mtamba, the fictional country in which his few appearances occurred, played into part of the backstory of Leviathan, the criminal network opposing Batman Incorporated.
Post-Flashpoint: Batwing appeared six-months before DC relaunched their Universe as the New 52 and had only appeared in a few dozen high-compressed panels in that time. Therefore, it was surprisingly that the character was chosen to get his own book as part of the New 52′s launch line-up. The new series was written by Judd Winick. On approaching an African hero Winick told Comic Book Resources that:
I have been researching and speaking to a number of folks and professors heading up African Studies at a couple of universities. I want to get it right. We don’t want it to feel like a cartoon about Africa. I think our readers are much more sophisticated than that. Again, the truth is much stranger than fiction. To be very blunt, it’s not him running around the jungles. This isn’t Tarzan. That’s not what Africa is actually about. It’s about the beauty and the danger of this amazing place.
Batwing’s prior appearances had been part of the pulp world that Grant Morrison had been building in his Batman run. However, Winick adopted a different tone for Batwing’s solo book. His adventures shifted from the fictional Mtamba to the real world Democratic Republic of Congo and his origin was revealed to be that of an AIDs orphan turned child soldier.
David Zavimbe and his younger brother Isaac are products of their country’s bloody history. For twenty years it had been ruled on a brutal dictator called Masika Okura. His forces had committed atrocities against the population and had turned a blind eye to six rival warlords who raged a brutal and vicious civil war in the countryside. David does not remember much about his parents, but he did remember a joke his father told them on Isaac’s second birthday. Both the boys had laughed uncontrollably, but it was virtually their last happy memory together. Their mother died of AIDs shortly afterwards and then their father. The boys were taken in by an AIDs orphanage, but it was unable to protect them from the violence sweeping the country (Batwing #7-8 (May-June 2012)).
Men from one of the warlords, General Ayo Keita of “Army of the Dawn”, raided the AIDs orphanage and conscripted the brothers into his militia as child soldiers. Peculiarly, the boys found that being in the Army gave them a family and sense of belonging that they’d never had before. Keita was proud of their murderous ability and they in turn wanted to make him happy. The older soldiers called the “Dragonflies”. They were relentless and deadly, but refused to commit the type of atrocities that Keita’s other soldiers so easy took part in. There was an incident where the brothers even fought their own men to stop then from raping a group of captured women (Batwing #2 (Dec 2011)).
Keita recorded that “these boy soldiers [...] have displayed all manner of uncanny skill. Cunning. Strength. And a prodigious ability to kill. ” They had served him in his elite squad until the point where they were to have led the assault on rival warlord called Okuru. However, they found Okuru had gone to ground in an AIDs orphanage similar to the one that they had once called home. Keita threaten David when he refused to attack the orphanage, but Isaac took the matter into his own hands and sounded a warning. Okuru’s men then forced Keita’s to flee. In revenge General threw Isaac off a cliff and ordered David’s execution. However, David fled into the jungle. He return later that night, kidnapped Keita from his compound, and then left him tied-up outside of Okuru’s camp (Batwing #4 (Feb 2012)).
With his brother missing, probably dead, and his Army “family” gone David was left along. He returned to civilisation days later when he wandered into an orphanage called “The Children’s Harbour” which was dedicated to looking after former child soldiers. He kept asking to be put in jail, but the Harbour’s manager, Matu Ba, refused saying that all the children there had been forced to do terrible things and that David was no different. (Batwing #4 (Feb 2012)). For years David suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. He had reoccurring nightmares first waking dreams, then just nightmares. The frequency faded over time, but their horrific content – of the torture and murders he had committed for Keita – didn’t change (Batwing #5 (March 2012)).
Police Officer and Vigilante
The rule of the warlords and of Masika Okura ended after thirty-years when a revolutionary army called the “People’s Republic” grew strong enough to openly oppose Okura’s governmental forces. The People’s Army were aided in their battles by a superhuman group called the Kingdom. The appearance of the Justice League had inspired superhumans and crime fighters around the world and the Kingdom had become Africa’s first superhero team. They fought with the People’s Army, but mysteriously vanished after the country was freed and became a democracy (Batwing #3 (Jan 2012)).
The country that Zavimbe inhabits is constantly referred to as Democratic Republic of the Congo, a real West African country which gained its independence from Belgium in the 1960s and was formerly known as the Zaire. However, the deposed President, the patterns of the wars, the intervention of the Kingdom, Batwing’s city Tinasha, and even the name of this country’s capital – Mintala, mention in Batwing #7 – are fictional. Nevertheless, the issues dealt within in his series – the child soldiers, AIDs orphans, corruption, and warlords – are all too real.
David met and befriended a woman called Mari Jiwe McCabe who he found working as a nurse for a Tinasha AID clinic. She would later go onto become a super hero called the Vixen (Justice League International (vol. 3) #8 (June 2012)).
David Zavimbe grew to adulthood under the care of the Children’s Harbour and Matu. His childhood had left him with a rage that drove him to atone for what he had done and to seek justice for others. Therefore, David joined the local police force, but he was horrified at what he saw. “I did not think I’d have to sit by and watch this pile of filth solicit bribes at traffic stops and ignore every bit of crime and wrongdoing in this city,” he told Matu (Batwing #6 (Apr 2012)). Officer Zavimbe was one of the few clear officers in the Tinasha Police Department. Tinasha was one of the most crime ridden cities in the DRC. Most its officers accepted bribes, but many of them did so only to supplement their pittance of a salary. Those like Zavimbe and Kia Okuru who did not were in the minority. Zavimbe had hopes for Okuru and pushed her to try harder (Batwing #1 (Nov 2011)).
The toothless and corrupt Tinasha police department was not enough to sate David’s need for justice. He began taking matters into his own hands as a masked vigilante fighting against criminals like the Blood Tiger (Batwing #6 (Apr 2012)).
David’s masked alter-ego was making a name for himself. He had just broken up one of Blood Tiger’s gun running groups when he was approached by the Batman. Unknown to Zavimbe, the Batman was a fellow orphan who was also seeking justice, but their lives had taken radically different paths. Bruce Wayne, the orphaned son of murdered American billionaires, had dedicated his life and fortune to becoming the Batman, Gotham City’s legendary vigilante. Both alone, with his proteges, or with Justice League he waged a relentless war against crime and unwittingly inspired others around the world, like David, to copy his example. Eventually Wayne was forced/inspired to recognise his imitators and sought to turn the best of them into an army of international crime fighters.
The “Batman Incorporated” programme would give training and funding to the crime fighters who agreed to sign on with the Batman and respect his principals and ethics. Batman Incorporated supplied David with an armoured jet-suit and a high-tech headquarters called the Haven. Batwing would work in the field while his associate Matu Ba (his mentor from the Children’s Harbour) manned the computers in the Haven (Batwing #1 (Nov 2011)).
One of Batwing’s first adventures took him right into the heart of Batman Incorporated’s fight against the criminal network Leviathan and the aftermath of Batman’s earlier encounter with a network called the Black Glove. Both criminal organisations had designs on the small African country of Mtamba. Its former leader Jacob Nkele had been a member of the Black Glove, an exclusive amoral collective who came together to wager on live-or-death events. Nkele’s country and place with the Glove was inherited by his adopted daughter Jezebel Jet. She collaborated with them to destroy the Batman and along the way discovered that he was actually her boyfriend Bruce Wayne. Batman escaped their trap, but Jet appeared to have escaped.
Batman Incorporated had been founded in part to fight a separate criminal network called the Leviathan run by Talia Al Ghul, another of Wayne’s ex-girlfriends. Talia had Jet killed – to partially protect Batman’s secret identity, but also because she desired Mtamba for Leviathan. Sometime later, Batman and Robin used earlier versions of the Batwing armour to free a pair of superhumans called Traktir and Spidra from Leviathan’s super-soldier proving arenas in the Yemen (Batman: the Return (Jan 2011)). During that encounter Robin placed a tracer on a Leviathan lieutenant called the Heretic and Batwing was able to follow that trail right back to Mtamba!
Batwing became involved then he picked up the trail from Robin’s tracker and followed it back to a Leviathan school for child soldiers in Mtamba. He also found evidence that the Mtamba’s President was involved with the network. Traktir and Spidra helped Batwing shut down another camp and invited him to join their team, the Kollektiv. (Batman: Incorporated #5-6 May-June 2011). Batwing posed as “Dr Desmond Zavimbi” claimed to have been a distant member of the Mtamba Royal Family from before Nkele and Jet had come to power. In managed to infiltrate the Mtamba Royal Palace and discovered just how complete Leviathan’s take over the country had been. They suspected that he was secretly Batwing, but he managed to escape with the aid of local Mtambian crime-fighters by making it look like Desmond had been kidnapped by Batwing.
In Mtamba Batwing discovered that it was really Talia who was behind Leviathan and not Jet as Batman had previously suspected (Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!). Batwing was attacked by her Man-Bat assassins and managed to escape with Leviathan believing that they had succeeded in killing him. David later rendezvoused with other “deceased” Batman Incorporated agents as Batcave West, a secret social facility in San Francisco, where they joked about the “Dead Heroes Club”. He there found himself under the command of the mysterious second Wingman (Batman Incorporated (vol. 2) #1 (July 2012)).
Massacre of the Kingdom
Batman was in Tinasha helping Batwing when they discovered that a group of the Blood Tiger’s men and civilians have been decapitated by a new butcher calling himself Massacre. The police dismissed it as inter-gang violence, but Batwing was shocked to learn that one of the dead was a member of the Kingdom, Earth Strike – alias agricultural attachÃ© Dede Yeboah. David pushed his fellow officers to investigate further, but Massacre retaliated by slaughtering them in their own Police Station. He chanced upon Massacre’s bloody work, but was stabbed through the chest by Massacre. Batwing’s deductions led him to intercede in Massacre’s attack against Thunder Fall, but he could not save the former hero’s life. Before he died Thunder Fall told Batwing that the former members of the Kingdom were being targeted because they “betrayed the people of Africa” (Batwing #1-3 (Nov-Jan 2011-12)).
Massacre was long gone before Batwing reached the murder seen of the third member of the Kingdom, Dawnfire. Batwing needed to change his strategy so he called in help from the Batman. Together with Josiah Kone, the Kingdom’s former technical guru and weapon-smith, they arranged for the Kingdom’s former headquarters, the Citadel, to be opened as a museum dedicated to the team. They hoped to lure Massacre out, but he called their bluff and instead sent thugs dressed as himself to attack the crowd. Massacre was actually targeting Daniel Balogun, formerly the hero Steelback, in Egypt. Matu managed to track Massacre’s signal and Batwing arrived in time to save Balogun. However, David was shocked to hear Massacre use the phrase “we honour them all in blood”, a phrase that General Keita had been fond of. Massacre escaped and Batwing was left to ponder whether his foe was indeed Keita come back to life (Batwing #4-6 (Feb-Apr 2012)).
Balogun agreed to help Batman and Batwing find the remaining members of the Kingdom. Deity had “left the modern world”, but he told them that Kofi Ironsi (Razorwire) and Moses Gowon (Staff) were living in Gotham City as the heads of an African AID charity. He also told they why the Kingdom had disbanded in the first place. The dictator Masika Okura had bargained with them for safe passage out of the Congo in exchange for the surrender of his army. However, Okura had allied himself with the armies of the six warlords and the surrender of the government troops left the warlord’s militia of conscripts — including many child soldiers — almost defenceless against the advancing People’s Army. The Congo had peace, but at a terrible cost. Their secret shame and guilt stayed with the members of the Kingdom. The group split and they returned to their civilian lives.
Batman’s allies in Gotham searched Raserwire and Staff’s offices and warehouses while he and Batwing made the journey across the Atlantic. Robin and Nightwing found the former heroes in a warehouse fighting Massacre and Steelback’s old armour. Balogun relayed advice to Batman about fighting the armour while Batwing fought Massacre. David believed him to be Keita somehow still alive, but was horrified to discover that Massacre was actually his own brother Isaac and that the puppeteer behind him was actually Josiah Kone, the Kingdom’s former confidant. Kone was determined to kill his former allies for their complicity in the massacre of the warlord armies. He had discovered Isaac brain-damaged and nearly feral in the jungle and had turned him into an assassin he called Massacre. Kone was caught after he commanded Steelback’s remotely controlled armour to self-destruct. Isaac/Massacre was caught in the explosion, but no body was found afterwards (Batwing #7-8 (June-July 2012)).
David Zavimbe remained in the United States to visit his friend Mari Jiwe McCabe when he heard that she’d been hospitalised following a terrorist attack on the United Nations. As Vixen she had been a member of the Justice League International and they had been targeted by an superhuman anarchist/terrorist group called the Burners. Batwing became involved personally when he defended the JLI’s leader Booster Gold during a Burner attack on the hospital where Mari was being treated ( #7 ()).
Powers and Abilities
David Zavimbe grew up as a child soldier and gained a reputation for strategy and cunning. Few realise that he possesses a genius level IQ, but only he know how well he use to put that potential to use as a killer and soldier.
Batman Incorporated has supplied David with the Batwing armour. Lucius Fox described the original Waynetech products as “jet-suits increase human strength and endurance as well as providing short-range flight capability.” Batman had briefly used one himself, but quickly gave it up in preference to his own martial arts experience (Batman: the Return (Jan 2011)).
It is a highly advanced battle-suit that eschews armour and strength for the sake of speed, flight, and manoeuvrability. The suit’s gadgets include a grapple-lines, sensors, a taser, and a permanent communications link to the Haven, his hidden headquarters. Batman International has stocked the Haven with state of the art computers and analysis tools. It is usually staffed by Matu Ba, David’s childhood mentor.