When writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank approached the first volume of Batman: Earth One—their New York Times best-selling reboot of DC’s iconic Dark Knight—they weren’t afraid of the hand-wringing, “Why have you ruined my life?” whining that seems to follow every superhero movie casting or teaser poster reveal. Because Johns understood a very basic maxim: “If it’s great, it becomes canon.”

With the sequel, Batman: Earth One, Volume Two, having recently hit shelves on a wave of anticipation, it seems their tinkering with Bruce Wayne’s origin story has met with more approval than outrage. It’s proof that the reputation comic book fans have for reacting violently to change has been grossly exaggerated. Comic books survive on their ability to adapt and evolve, something particularly true with Batman. “We had a lot of conversations at the start about Bruce Wayne and Batman and what it was all about,” says Johns. “And there were certain things we felt were immutable, the DNA of the character.” But beyond that, both Johns and Frank agreed that Batman’s elasticity over the years—from Adam West’s pop-colored camp to Frank Miller’s dark and bitter old Bruce to Christopher Nolan’s stripped-down, real-world Gotham—actually gave them more freedom. “When it feels like everything has been done, it’s kind of a liberation,” says Frank. “The ground has already been broken, so you don’t necessarily feel that you need to stay true to any one version.”

In volume two we once again see Bruce Wayne finding his way as Batman, without iconic elements such as a Batmobile or even a Batcave. “If you’re building an alternative Batman universe, there’s a temptation to just tick off boxes and characters, and they feel shoehorned in,” explains Frank. “We wanted genuine reasons for including them in the story.” For Johns, each character’s DNA needs to remain true, but the structure around that is fair game. “I think Batman is one of the most elastic fictional characters in history,” says Johns. “He can be for five-year-olds or he can be for adults. It allows us creative freedom to explore this mythology.” The term mythology is key, as Johns claims that big DC icons such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have “god-like status.” But at the end of the day, he admits, success or failure comes down to something distinctly human. “It’s all about execution, man,” Johns says. “When things succeed, they stick. If people rejected the Batmobile the first time out, it wouldn’t have appeared again.”

He adds, laughing, “Batman had a zebra costume once. You don’t see that hanging in the Batcave, do you?”