“Smallville” fans were delighted every time a Justice Leaguer like The Flash, Aquaman or Cyborg made a guest appearance on the popular CW television series. But Batman — the DC Comics icon everyone really wanted to see- never made his way to Metropolis to pay young Clark Kent a visit.
Written by former “Smallville” writer/executive story editor Bryan Q. Miller and featuring art by industry veteran ChrisCross, “Detective,” which begins September 5, will see The Batman and Nightwing arrive in Metropolis after the Caped Crusader receives a tip that the person responsible for the death of his parents is somehow connected to the Man of Steel’s home turf of Metropolis.
The other big reveal, of course, was that the “Smallville: Season 11” iteration of Nightwing is none other than Stephanie Brown, the former Robin who starred in Miller’s critically acclaimed “Batgirl” series prior to the launch of the New 52.
The always candid Miller told CBR News he was thrilled with the response the news has generated and revealed that Batman being available to him was a major reason why he signed on for the project. Miller also shared his insight into the differences between writing for print and digital and revealed which classic DC supervillain Dean Cain was originally cast to play in his “Smallvile” Season 7 appearance before the character’s identity was changed at the eleventh hour due to the possibility that bad guy was slated to appear in the then-rumored Superman feature film.
CBR News: While I am sure you were aware the revelation that Batman was coming to “Smallville” would be well received, were you surprised at all by the level of interest the news resulted in?
Bryan Q. Miller: Since I have been with the show for so long and know how badly, while we were on the air, fans wanted to see that, it certainly was not a surprise that people got so excited and are still excited as they are. It’s reassuring that they’re still excited, because we put a lot of work into it. [Laughs] But it definitely wasn’t out of left field.
Was there ever any serious discussions about making it happen while you were working on the TV series or what you would do with him if it did?
I don’t think we actually ever got down the road with what the story would be, but at the beginning of each season — especially in the latter years, after DC Entertainment formed — there was always that hope that it would happen. “Maybe we’ll get to do Batman this year.” And then inevitably, it was like, “No, sorry. No Batman this year.” We’d have that with certain characters every now and again. We’d ask if we could do something with a character but he or she would be tied up with a feature or something else. A lot of ducks had to get in order for that to happen.
At one point, we almost had a Vandal Savage episode — it was the one that we had with Dean Cain — and literally at the last minute, features said, “We have a feature in development.” It was years ago when I think New Line had something cooking, so we had to change it to a generic character named Curtis Knox and it was inferred that he was probably Vandal Savage. Stuff like that would come up all the time, not just with Batman.
When you signed on to write “Smallville: Season 11,” did you know you were going to get Batman or did you have to pitch the idea following the initial success?
It was certainly in the first set of proposals and stuff that I put together. Certain storylines and whatnot moved around, but Batman was part of the package from Day One.
Is the story you’re telling in “Detective” different than the type of story you would have told had Batman appeared on the TV series?
I think just from a basic logistical standpoint, yes. The four-part story “Detective” that we’re doing is an action movie, essentially. It’s “Lethal Weapon,” it’s “Bad Boys,” it’s a buddy cop movie with Bruce and Clark as they go through the adventure. And it gets exponentially bigger and bigger and bigger as we go along through the four issues. So again, from that standpoint, no, we could not have come close to telling this story on “Smallville.” Maybe, maybe, there is an action sequence that ends the first 30 pages and starts the second 30 that would have probably been the culmination of what we could have afforded to do with the Blur and Batman on “Smallville” at that point, but not the whole thing.
From an emotional standpoint, there is certainly a character journey that Batman goes on when he comes to Metropolis, which is definitely, I think, what we would have done with him on the show. But it’s certainly not anything that we planned to do because we never got that far down the road.
You mentioned this is a Bruce and Clark team-up, so do we literally get to see Clark Kent meet Bruce Wayne?
You will have to read to find out. But I can say that they are together for quite a while, so I am taking as much advantage of that as possible.
What brings Batman to Metropolis?
It’s hard, because I don’t want to give too much away, but in the solicitations we tease that he’s on the path of his parents’ killer. There is an event that happens in Gotham where he comes across information that the person responsible for his parents’ death is in Metropolis. That presents him with a fresh lead, which is something that he hasn’t had in some time, so he pursues it with much fervor.
Do we get to see Batman in Smallville as well as Metropolis?
We go to see some farmland in “Guardian,” which is the first arc, and we’ll have some more trips back to Smallville throughout the season, but “Detective” is much more of an urban adventure with Batman. And that makes sense because that’s where he is in his element.
Obviously, in “Smallville” we’re dealing with a younger Clark Kent. Is Batman at an early stage of his career too?
Batman has been doing the Batman thing for probably a couple years longer than Clark was doing the Blur thing. I would say age-wise Bruce is on par with Oliver and Lex, if not slightly older than the two of them. He has definitely been rooted in his war on crime for a while.
Much of the online buzz has been over Batman’s apparel, which looks like some kind of battle armor. Can you talk about Batman’s look in the series, specifically what incoming artist ChrisCross has brought to the project?
Cross’ stuff is great. It’s very intense. The first bunch of designs and pages we got in featured very fierce line work, and that works because, specifically, at the beginning of the story, Batman is in a very intense place. I think Cross definitely brings his artistry to the project. He’s also a big fan of the show, so he certainly knows the look of the show and the approach to “Smallville” storytelling. His action is great.
As for the design of the armor, a lot of that is Cross and the rest of it is story-dictated. This is a Batman that has been doing this urban warfare for a while, and he is not wet behind the ears. He knows what it takes to get the job done and he has a lot of money to spend on it.
I would say when they go out in the field, if Nightwing is the scout or the vanguard, then Batman is the tank, so he is definitely going to have a little more up his sleeve.
Speaking of Nightwing, what can you tell us about the choice to have Stephanie Brown featured as Batman’s sidekick in this story as opposed to Dick, Tim or even Damian?
From a writer’s standpoint, I felt I couldn’t get any deeper into this without having Stephanie somewhere. This is the Stephanie that people who read “Batgirl” came to know and love. Not much of her has changed. She’s just wearing a different costume.
Choosing Nightwing as opposed to Robin just seemed like the nice kind of take we’d have done on the show so it’s not exactly the same thing as the comics because there are a bunch of other comics where you can get that. We’re doing our own take, which isn’t too far from, in quotation marks, “how it’s supposed to be,” but it’s our little corner of the world.
Can you give us a tease of which villain or villains we are going to see in this arc?
The villains are a big reveal when we get to them because there are some tasty DC villains that do show up. I don’t want to give them away, but I think it probably doesn’t hurt too much to say that in the solicitations we have Superman on the trail of some hi-tech weapons that are available on the streets of Metropolis. And I have seen this inference online already but I think it’s safe to say Intergang is somehow involved. We had Intergang on the show before, so it’s not totally new to the “Smallville” mythos. That much I can say.
You already have Green Arrow, a carryover from the TV series, in the comic, and now you’re introducing Batman and Nightwing. Do you have plans in the future to introduce more classic characters into the “Smallville” mythos?
Absolutely. Not as an operating rule, but whenever possible. From a storytelling standpoint, Clark’s world is bigger. In the post-“Post Apokolips,” which was the name of the TV series finale, world, Clark is definitely more aware of the superhero community and the things like the existence of aliens. It’s certainly not outside the realm of this reality that we would see more heroes. Plus, any chance you have to feature Superman and another DC hero on the cover of the book will help bring in people who wouldn’t normally come to the “Smallville: Season 11” book.
What lies ahead in “Smallville: Season 11”? Is there an end date in mind? And will we see “Smallville: Season 12”?
I know how the season ends for “Smallville: Season 11” but we certainly don’t have a hard end date. I am trying to keep it as open as possible because things change with weather. It could go on for a while or it could not go on for a while. We are certainly not backing ourselves into any corners. For “Detective,” it’s 12 digital chapters, 120 print pages, four print issues.
Once we get past “Detective,” I think we are going to shorten it a little bit to some 90 page, three issue stories. And then it will be story-dictated as we move forward. I don’t know if we will ever have a story that’s as a short as a 30, just because when you are in the digital weekly format, it doesn’t feel as though you are getting as much story as you could. I think 60 pages will be the low end of the sweet spot.
You have been writing digital comics for about six months now. Have you noticed any difference in terms of pacing or setup for writing digital versus traditional print comics?
It’s been a challenge. I think you can see us trying to get the hang of it in the first 60 pages of “Guardian,” but by the time we hit Chapter 6, we had kind of figured everything out. It’s a challenge because every 10 pages has to have enough of a cliffhanger or a hook to make people want to come back the following week, and then for the print audience, every 30 pages, you need to have a cliffhanger or a push-off that’s big enough that makes them want to come back four weeks later as opposed to just one week later. It certainly keeps you on your toes from a writing and art standpoint because you have to keep turning the story — you can’t stay too long on anything. But I think that increases the value for the money because you are getting literally as much story and art and everything as we can cram into those horizontal, vertical pages. And there is easily twice as much story and twice as much everything in “Detective” as we have in “Guardian.”
“Smallville: Season 11” #5, written by Bryan Q. Miller and featuring art by ChrisCross, arrives online on September 5.