Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author

Tom King likes to stay close to the action whether he’s tracking terrorists or comic book villains, so when King quit working as a CIA counterterrorism officer he was ready for another daunting challenge: scripting Batman comics. 

His long-running stint writing about the caped crusader made him a fan favorite and an Eisner-winning author for Batman, Mr. Miracle, The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon, Human Target, and much more. He’s also a father of three (plus a dog) and “generally tired”, according to his Twitter bio.

Not too tired to silence critics, however. When rumors circulated in 2019 that King had bigged up his CV and never actually worked for the CIA, King shut down the trolls in seconds with a Tweet and a throwback photo

So who is Tom King, the real-life action man who’s got Bruce Wayne’s back? 

Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author
Tom King spent seven years as a CIA operations officer


Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author

SPYSCAPE
Share
Share to Facebook
Share with email

Tom King likes to stay close to the action whether he’s tracking terrorists or comic book villains, so when King quit working as a CIA counterterrorism officer he was ready for another daunting challenge: scripting Batman comics. 

His long-running stint writing about the caped crusader made him a fan favorite and an Eisner-winning author for Batman, Mr. Miracle, The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon, Human Target, and much more. He’s also a father of three (plus a dog) and “generally tired”, according to his Twitter bio.

Not too tired to silence critics, however. When rumors circulated in 2019 that King had bigged up his CV and never actually worked for the CIA, King shut down the trolls in seconds with a Tweet and a throwback photo

So who is Tom King, the real-life action man who’s got Bruce Wayne’s back? 

Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author
Tom King spent seven years as a CIA operations officer


Article Ad
Article Ad
Article Ad

From California to Gotham City 

Born in 1978, King was raised in southern California where his mother worked for Warner Bros. He decided early on that making up stories for a living was his dream job and interned at Marvel and DC Comics while studying philosophy and history at New York’s Columbia University.

King graduated in 2000 and was working at the Justice Department when four planes slammed into the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001. Although King hadn’t envisioned a life chasing jihadis, 9/11 changed everything.

He decided the Agency was a good fit after reading that the CIA’s first director, Allen Dulles, thought the CIA should be staffed with PhD's who could win a bar fight. King spent a lot of time in Los Angeles and rated his chances in a brawl, he told the Word Balloon podcast.

Although King didn’t speak any foreign languages and hadn't traveled abroad, he was hired. Even before training at the CIA’s legendary Farm, King was working on the team planning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. One of his craziest early memories was on the eve of the war. King walked into work on the night shift at 10 pm and found CIA Director George Tenet sitting in King’s chair.

“It was very weird to be there at that moment when history was starting and to have, literally, the guy who was starting the invasion sitting in my chair. And being like, ‘Okay, can I use my computer now?’”

King was 22 years old. The following year, he’d be at the center of the firestorm: Iraq.

Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author
Tom King won an Eisner award for his Batman writing


From spy to author

King spent the next seven years as a CIA counterterrorism operations officer - including postings in Iraq and Afghanistan - before quitting in 2009 to write his first novel, A Once Crowded Sky. The book explores a city of superheroes and villains reduced to normalcy.

King married a co-worker from the Justice Department and was initially a stay-at-home dad looking after the couple’s first child when he left the CIA, so King did most of his writing at night and pitched comic book publishers.

He sharpened his skills writing for DC’s Grayson (along with artist/writer Tim Seeley) telling the story of Spyral spy Agent 37 and introducing King’s spin on spycraft to the established ‘superhero world’. The offer to write Batman for DC Rebirth left him reeling, however.

“How am I feeling?” he said in a 2016 interview. “I really should say that I'm embracing the excitement and wonders of it all, but honestly I'm just feeling scared and frightened and intimidated.”

King decided to show a new side of the iconic caped crusader - a compassionate one. King grew up with “severely divorced” parents and wanted to illustrate the complex relationships between super-beings, particularly when (Spoiler Alert!) Batman proposes to Catwoman, King told Inverse: “There’s something inside you that roots for people to fall in love."

Fans were surprised when Tom King handed the Batman reins to James Tynion IV in 2019


The Dark Knight

King ended his three-year run on DC’s Batman in 2019 and, in addition to writing Batman/Catwoman, he’s juggled many projects since including writing another book - Batman: Killing Time (2022). 

King also created the horror romance series Love Everlasting with Elsa Charretier but generally shuns the limelight even when promoting his work.

“I’m not great at sharing stuff about myself,” King told one interviewer. “My Twitter feed is basically like me being, ‘Here’s my pretty dog. Please buy my book.’”

Action Man Tom King: The CIA Spy Turned Batman Author
Tom King, from CIA rookie to comic book writer and fan favorite


Life post-CIA

Once in a while, King does reveal his thoughts about readjusting to life post-CIA, posting on social media in 2017: "Struggling with irrelevance is one of the worst parts of coming home."

Fans still ask about his CIA career, although he left the Agency more than a decade ago. In a YouTube Q&A, King recalled his first day in Iraq in 2004.

He was a 23-year-old rookie meeting a dangerous informer. King's 25-year-old supervisor was in charge and they were both well aware of the CIA’s Training Rule Number One: Don’t Get Killed. Still, it was difficult to say ‘no’ when the informer asked to see their guns.

“And so my buddy took his gun out and removed the cartridge and gave it to him so the guy could have a look, and he said, ‘Yeah, this is really cool.’ And then he reached over, grabbed the cartridge, and shoved it in the gun,” King recalled, laughing.

“And I remember thinking on my first day in Iraq, ‘Somehow I’ve ended up in this safe house with one of the worst people in the world and he’s got a gun.' What a f***ing, weird-a** life.”

Read mORE

RELATED aRTICLES

This story is part of our weekly briefing. Sign up to receive the FREE briefing to your inbox.

Gadgets & Gifts

Put your spy skills to work with these fabulous choices from secret notepads & invisible inks to Hacker hoodies & high-tech handbags. We also have an exceptional range of rare spy books, including many signed first editions.

Shop Now

Your Spy SKILLS

We all have valuable spy skills - your mission is to discover yours. See if you have what it takes to be a secret agent, with our authentic spy skills evaluation* developed by a former Head of Training at British Intelligence. It's FREE so share & compare with friends now!

dISCOVER Your Spy SKILLS

* Find more information about the scientific methods behind the evaluation here.