@’s by DETECTIVE COMICS’
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. I had a chance to talk with Tony Daniel, who is pulling double duty as writer and artist on DC’s New 52’s DETECTIVE COMICS. Here’s what Mr. Daniel had to say about what to expect in the book in the coming months.
TONY DANIEL (TD): Hi Mark!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Tony, how are you doing today?
TD: Great. How are you?
BUG: Good, good. Okay, we’re talking about DETECTIVE COMICS here and you just started up with the new 52, but you’ve actually been on BATMAN for quite a while. How do you think your take on BATMAN is different than, say, what’s going on in the other BAT books right now?
TD: I think that my take is a little bit different in that I’m concentrating mainly on Bruce Wayne Batman doing his thing in Gotham. I do more short stories and very little peripheral characters. It’s really just him, which is crime stories. Also the feel of the mood is very much darker and more sinister than I used to do on BATMAN with Dick Grayson, but you know it has a very old time detective noir type style even though it’s not really noir or hard boiled, but it has a little bit of that flavor in it, so I think that that kind of makes it a little bit different from the others. We really have these smaller stories, like you get one nice story with Batman in it and then you can move on to the next story and read a new adventure. It’s not a whole bunch of other books or characters, so you get the whole story with it.
BUG: Yeah, and there’s definitely a mystery going on with the Doll Maker and he’s pretty creepy. How did you come up with that character of the Doll Maker? What were the influences for you?
TD: Well, you know with all of my ideas it usually starts with a small seed and then it kind of just grows and grows into something that maybe I didn’t expect initially. With the Doll Maker, my initial idea was for Batman facing a guy who was a corrupt surgeon who was killing victims and at the same time trying to save lives by putting their organs on the black market and what not for people that couldn’t afford to wait for like a liver transplant or a heart transplant. You know, this stuff really goes on in society today, so he was going to be a character that was kind of like a Robin Hood of sorts in terms of saving lives with other people’s body parts. As I started to develop the story I figured that I wanted to make him a little bit more interesting than just that, so I came up with “Well he can still do that, but he doesn’t like to waste the bodies.” (laughs) He doesn’t want to waste a single part of it, so the other part of it is making people into lifelike dolls that he can sell as collectibles to kind of help fund his operation. So it turned into a guy who’s a little bit more of a complex character with a motive for what’s driving him and I really liked the family aspect of it where it’s the family that he never had, because as a child he lost his father and his father was a serial killer who took him on hunting expeditions hunting humans. I mean he didn’t really have a childhood or a family, so he created his own family. I just think it ended up that one little seed kind of spiraled and grew into this big morbid family operation.
BUG: Yeah, it kind of reflects the way Bruce Wayne is an orphan and he has kind of brought in this family of crime fighters around him; even though he says that he’s a loner, he’s got all of these other characters around him.
TD: Right, and the Doll Maker is kind of like a twisted reflection of Batman, where his father was taken and he went the other route where in his own mind he wanted to do some good. You know, for me I think the bad guys are the ones that don’t think they’re really, they have a purpose and a goal and they think in their own minds some of what they are doing is justified. That’s what I tried to bring to the Doll Maker, to let him have not a conscience, but…his goal is to somehow help people even though what he is doing is very wrong whereas Batman’s goal is the same. He wants to help people as well, but his rule of staying as a good guy, not an outright vigilante where he’s killing people and you know he would kill the Joker for instance if he were just some other guy, but he’s Batman and he has a code of honor and integrity that he really stands up for. So they have two different philosophies, but there are some similarities in their scenario, but are in two completely opposite directions.
BUG: You know I’m going back to Issue #1 where just starting off…how much pressure is it on you just to start off with this being the #1 issue of DETECTIVE COMICS and it’s such an iconic first issue and it’s really gruesome. It ends with the Joker basically getting his face ripped off and nailed to the wall. When you came up with that idea, did that have any trouble getting past any censorship or anything like that with editorial?
TD: Well, at the end we knew ahead of time that with the Joker…he a was basically going to be more of a catalyst for what’s going to start happening in Gotham City over the next year and that something bad was going to happen to him, and you know, we had a couple of different scenarios. I mean, I shot some different ideas past editorial and of course this was the Joker, so you can’t…there are certain things you can’t do to him, because he is such an iconic character. He is as recognizable as Batman is in the world today, so you really need to be careful with what you do with him. That said (laughs), yeah he did get his face sliced off, but there’s a reason for it and it’s something that is going to turn into a bigger story later down the road in that there’s a reason why he did that. There’s a reason why he plotted this whole facelift thing, so it was something that a guy like the Joker would attempt to do, create a new identity for himself where he’s unrecognizable to Batman or anybody else. So it’s interesting to see what the Joker becomes after this.
BUG: I also like the puppet Jokers that you introduce at the end of Issue #3. Those are really cool. They seem to be different renditions of the Joker throughout the years.
TD: Right, so you know, even though the Joker isn’t in the following issue, what I wanted to do was still keep some of that theme there where we will still get a thread. Joker was a big part of that first issue and the Joker mysteriously vanished after that, but we still kind of get a hint that there’s something bigger brewing and “Well, what is this? Why did they pick the Joker to mimic and test Batman’s strength or whatever in that arena?” And you know, it’s just available to you and it’s a fun thing to draw and then of course in writing it I wanted to draw some really crazy type of visuals for the book.
BUG: Yeah, so let’s talk a little bit about the double duty of writing and drawing these books. Is there one that you favor over the other? How do you balance that in going into it?
TD: Well I do put on like a different hat and the week that I’m actually writing and kind of developing the plot, I’m not drawing anything at all. I mean I might be drawing that week or something, but I just focus on the writing aspect and I enjoy both immensely and I get satisfaction from doing both, but you know I think the real challenge for me…I mean, it’s always a challenge to be left with a short time frame doing a monthly book. It’s not like we have a year to create this great novel. I mean you’ve got to come up with a story monthly and you really have to have a strict…
But in that sense the real challenge is the time constraints and making sure that I have enough time to develop a story and to develop something that’s going to interest people and intrigue them. For me what’s attractive….the big reason why I think people have kind of responded well to it is because I set out to really make this a book that I would love to see Batman in and that was one of my criteria when they approached me with the assignment and asked me if I wanted to do this, one of my requests was that I be able to do exactly what it is I’m doing right now which is shorter stories with villains that I want to use and not to be constrained by other characters or other storylines. Like say with BATMAN last year there was a lot of stuff that I had to…it had a different kind of feel, because being Batman with the BATMAN title, that was the main sort of Batman book with Grant Morrison. When you also have that going on with Grant Morrison guiding that it becomes like a double or triple head, because then you also have BATMAN AND ROBIN and so all of those books need to kind of tie into each other a little bit. I mean, you have to be aware of what everybody else is doing and so what I wanted to do if I were going to do DETECTIVE was I wanted to do my own thing and kind of bring it its own flavor where you can read my book and not necessarily have to read the others to read up and worry about what’s going on in the others. So if you only wanted to read my book, you could. If you didn’t want to read it, fine--you don’t have to. I thought that that could be a risky venture, but I think that worked out and I think that sticking to my principle of what I thought DETECTIVE should be is kind of shown in the enthusiasm that I have for it and from the fans which I’m very thrilled with. I’m surprised they are thrilled with it.
BUG: That kind of leads to my next question. I do notice that it’s kind of stand-alone. The only side characters you have here are Jim Gordon and Dr. Arkham, but no one like Robin or anybody like that. Is that something that might change sometime down the line? IS this going to be strictly a Batman book? With DETECTIVE it kind of leaves it open for it being somebody else’s book, or is it going to be Batman as long as you are here with it?
TD: As long as I’m doing it, it’s going to be just Batman. I don’t foresee…I know last year they introduced the new Batwoman for a while, but I really don’t foresee that, because that’s really kind of not what I want to do with the book. For me, this is the character I want to do and these are the kind of stories I want to tell, but you never know. Maybe there’s some other kind of story that I might want to do, but to be honest you’ve got to stick to what’s interesting to fans. If they are buying this because of Batman, you’ve got to have Batman, although it would be interesting to do a short two-issue story of one of the villains or something or the Riddler or you’re just focusing on that kind of story. I mean there are possibilities that you could do something really cool and maybe that’s something worth exploring down the road, but at least for the first year or so I think it would be a bad idea to get off track and turn it into anything other than a Batman book.
BUG: And one of the things that I have been asking about a lot of the 52 books is how long each of these creators are going to be on the book. It sounds like you have a lot of stuff to work on for DETECTIVE, so you’re going to be on there for quite a while?
TD: Well my goal, my personal goal, is to stay on for three years total. That would make a run from 2011 to what, 2014 almost? So that would be insane, but that’s what my goal is. I know I can’t stay on forever, but it’s really a matter of when I run out of stories and run out of ideas. You know, if I tell everything that I want to tell then maybe it would be time to move on, but my personal goal right now is just to stay on until I drop or something. (laughs) I’ll stay on until people stop reading and start not liking it or I start to somehow not enjoy it, which you never know. If you’re doing something long enough, maybe that happens, but at this point I don’t see that and I do have plans that definitely take us into next year and right now I’m actually developing the long term plan--even though they are short isolated stories and incidences with DETECTIVE I want to still have a bigger picture in mind with the characters, so we will be moving towards a definitive direction, because by the time I am done with it you could read all of the stories and see where it leads you and then at the end you know you’ll get it.
BUG: Sounds good. Well, last question and I know that you are sick today and so am I, so I’ll take it easy on you today. (laughs) I just wanted to check in and see…in the past there have been big Batman crossovers and I know that lately it’s been kind of the overarching crossover across a lot of the DC books. Do you ever see at any time in the future a Batman crossover just within the Batman books again?
TD: I mean, I could definitely see that happening. Who knows when? I can definitely see a time where they do it. I mean, they might not do all of the books at once or every single book, maybe a few of the books together, but the number of different Batman books make it easy for them to kind of pick and choose how big of an arc they want. They can make it a line arc where it’s every single book or they could just make it two books or they can make it all of the peripheral books, all of the BATWOMAN…BATGIRL…CATWOMAN…BIRDS OF PREY, or they could make something really big. So they have options and that’s kind of what’s cool about being the editor of the Bat line, they have all of these different characters that are at your disposal to see what crossover things would be the best.
BUG: Okay, well I wish you well. I hope you feel better. Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with us today. Are there any books other than yours that you are enjoying right now as far as the DC 52?
TD: I haven’t been able to follow a whole lot of different books just because of my workload, but you know I’ve read a lot of the first issues of the 52 and I’ve got to say that I can see why a lot of people are excited, because it seems like everybody brought their A games, the artists as well as the writers. You know, for me if I have time to read I read all of the books that I might need to know a little bit about, like I read all of the different Bat books of course and I think they are all great and I think they all came out of the starting gate really strong, so I think that it’s obvious why so many people are excited right now with the new 52. I think it was a good idea and I think it took some big balls to do something so insane and huge and not worry about “What if it’s a disaster?” I mean, maybe they had some worry there, but I just think that the guts to do something huge like this is a testament of the people running DC that they have a vision and so I’m really excited about the plans for all of the books at DC. That sounds like an editor talking, doesn’t it?
BUG: Yeah, but that’s okay. It’s true. It’s good to like all of the Bat books; I do too.
TD: As an artist and writer, I’ve got to worry about what these guys are doing. The first time I heard of it, I was kind of like “What? Seriously, you’re doing what?” When they first approached me with DETECTIVE #1 I didn’t know and I don’t think that they knew that they were going to relaunch everything with #1, then after like a month later I learned “Okay, it’s not just DETECTIVE, it’s everything” and I was like “You’re kidding!” (laughs) So yeah, I’m just happy for the sake of everybody that works here that it turned out as well as it did and it took a lot of guts.
TD: Okay, well thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.
BUG: Thank you so much and take care.
TD: Thank you. You too.
BUG: DETECTIVE COMICS #4 is on sale this Wednesday from DC Comics!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can pre-order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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