This fall, DC Comics is fast-forwarding its entire line of books five years into the future with “Futures End,” a series of one-shots connected to the current weekly “Futures End” series — and “Detective Comics” co-writers Brian Buccellato is bringing Batman along for the ride.
Working alongside artist Scott Hepburn, Buccellato’s partner on last year’s “Rogues Rebellion,” the two are pairing Batman with the Riddler for an assault on future Arkham and a confrontation with a character to be introduced in July’s “Detective Comics Annual.” In anticipation of the fall event, Buccellato took CBR News on a tour of “Futures End” Gotham, speaking about the Batman/Riddler pairing and the challenges of writing and illustrating Batman five years in the future.
CBR News: I know from talking to you and Francis Manapul that you’re writing the one-shot solo while Francis concentrates on the main series. So does that mean for this one you are only writing, or are you also working with Scott Hepburn on the art or coloring?
Brian Buccellato: I am not doing the coloring, I am just doing the writing on it. I wrote the [“Detective Comics”] Annual and so the five year later story, the “Futures End” story, sort of takes a couple of characters from the Annual and extrapolates what would happen five years down the road.
You mentioned ties to the Annual — will there also be ties to threads and events being dealt with in the ongoing series shwoing up in your “Futures End” story? Is this September one-shot directly tied to the evolution of “Icarus?”
Hmm, interesting question. The Annual actually is a prologue to “Icarus,” so the events of the Annual takes some characters and Batman and sort of thrusts them into the storyline for “Icarus,” it’s like a prequel to issue #30. So the Annual has characters that we see in the “Icarus” storyline, but then other characters that show up in the five years later, so they’re somewhat connected.
What can you tell us about what’s going on in the issue, the Riddler and the connection with the Annual?
The premise of the five years later storyline, as people who have seen the cover might know, is that Batman teamed up with the Riddler. To give away a little bit of a spoiler, something happens in the Annual that creates a bad guy that people may be familiar with, and that bad guy five years later is very powerful and is threatening to cause havoc and recreate the blackouts from “Zero Year” if the person responsible for destroying his family doesn’t turn himself over. And Batman seems to be the one responsible for that, so he enlists the aid of the Riddler to break into the New Arkham where the bad guy is. So the conceit is we don’t know exactly what happened to Riddler in the five years; we do know he broke out and he’s the only person ever to break out of this new Arkham, so Batman needs his help to get back in to Arkham so he can turn himself over to the villain.
Obviously Scott Snyder’s “Zero Year” is wrapping up — was part of the desire to use Riddler that it would fit in rather nicely with that storyline ending and then we see where he’s at five years later?
I wish that I could tell you that there was a grand design, but really it just sort of happened! The covers had to be drawn in advance, so we had to settle on who we wanted to focus on for the story and who we choose was the Riddler. We don’t have any super important tying into “Zero Year” reason for doing so, but we do like the Riddler a lot! [Laughs] He’s a great character we hadn’t gotten to use yet.
Then for you as the writer, what’s the biggest challenge for writing a one-shot set in the near future of the New 52?
Well any one-issue story, any one-shot, just twenty-two pages, is hard by the nature of it being a one-shot. I wrote three of them for the event last year and they’re always a tough nut to crack because you just have such limited space to tell a whole story, you know? That’s the biggest challenge. As far as the five years in the future, there were certain benchmarks or certain story points of where Batman is five years in the future I was able to use as my launching pad. I knew going in what type of Batman I was dealing with, what was he like five years in the future, and so I basically built my story around that.
The added challenge for me was that the Riddler is a fellow who is a murderous dude who has caused so much mayhem in Gotham that I had to come up with a justifiable reason why Batman would team up with him. The end challenge in that is the Riddler’s skill set pretty much overlaps Batman’s. He doesn’t have powers and he’s not super strong or a great fighter. Really the only thing that he has is his intellect and Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, so it was very challenging for me to find a reason why Batman would need the Riddler. Suffice to say, he does! [Laughter]
We’ve seen Batman and Riddler in “Zero Year,” and we’ve seen future Batman in the weekly “Futures End” series. How would you describe Batman and Riddler’s relationship in this story, since it’s clear Batman needs this murderous guy to help him out?
They’re not friends, let’s just put that out there right now! Batman hates the Riddler, and Batman would not be working with him if he had a choice. It’s not like Riddler has a change of heart and they become buddy cops — that’s not the case at all, I felt that would not be true to Batman and what he stands for.
How connected is your “Detective Comics: Futures End” to what’s been happening in the weekly “Futures End” series?
I think is very much entrenched in what’s going on at that time; five years in the future is a sort of definitive point in time. So who Batman is, how many fingers he has and all that kind of stuff, that stuff is very consistent with “Futures End.” As for the story, it’s a self-contained story, which is one of the challenges of writing a one-shot, making it self-contained. I think you don’t want it actually tied in too far into ongoing storylines because that makes it harder for somebody just picking it up to read it cover to cover and get the full understanding of what’s going on.
As you mentioned, you’ve done other one-shots for DC’s September events. How does this differ from the Villains Month one-shots and the other solo event issues you’ve previously done for DC?
I think it’s probably the most straightforward of the three. The Villains had challenges in that obviously the villains were the heroes of their story, so finding your way into a story with Grodd or any kind of villain where you have some sort of burning interest in the villain’s POV offers its own set of challenges. With “Zero” it was a chance to tell more of an origin story for Flash and it’s one of my favorite issues that I’ve ever written. This five years in the future one is more of a one-off, straightforward story. It does have a twist and it does have a pay-off at the end, so I don’t want to dissuade people from reading it ’cause they’ll miss out on a really big Batman twist!
Like we discussed earlier, you’re working with artist Scott Hepburn for this. Is it harder for you as a writer to work with an artist for a one-shot that’s just twenty-odd pages rather than team up with someone and get to know their work over time on an ongoing series?
When it comes to Scott he’s working on part of the Annual and we did “Rogues Rebellion” together, so we have history and we have a good working relationship. For me, it’s just another story where I write up a script and I take it to the fifty-yard line and then he takes it the other fifty yards. I think we get along very well and there’s synergy in his ability to execute the things I set up on the page. I think he’s a damn good artist and we work well together.
Since he was working on the Annual and that ties in somewhat, was that the reason you wanted to work with him again on the September one-shot? What does he bring to both stories?
I think he has a very distinct style and I really wanted to see his take on Batman; Francis is a big fan and a friend of his; they work in the same studio, so originally the first time we worked together part of that was because Francis knew he could deliver the material. I think for him and me, the fact that we have worked together only strengthened our relationship as collaborators, so it was a natural fit. His style is a bit different than Francis’ and it’s very unique; I think he’s very expressive in his page layouts and his expression on the characters are all really interesting. He’s really good at mechanical stuff — I don’t know if there’s anything he can’t do! So when all is said and done the “Futures End” story is going to be really well drawn.
As a colorist and artist yourself, when you work on a one-shot or an event, what do you look for in an artist? What are the hallmarks of an artist who is easy to work with or has a style you think is really going to gel with your story?
That’s a tough question because I think each project is its own animal. There are some stories that may require more of a polished and slick look, if something’s science fiction or high adventure. Then there are other stories that are maybe more gritty — and honestly, Gotham is a very gritty place — so you may want an artist who may have more grit for that particular style. For me it’s all based on the project; for Gotham you need somebody who can command shadows pretty well and bring all the other things to the table as well.
To bring it back to the one-shot, how would you describe the tone? Like the main series, is this that gritty, shadowy detective story set five years ahead?
It is not exactly like “Icarus” just because obviously with so few pages it’s much more rapid-fire, and there’s a more simple objective and definitely a twist at the end. Everything I write is in my style, to a certain extent, but this was more of a rapid-fire action story with a big payoff at the end.
Then is there anything else fans should be paying attention to or picking up in preparation for September?
I think everyone should pick-up the Annual because the Annual serves two purposes. One, it’s added value for the main “Icarus” story. The theme of the Annual is chaos theory and it’s sort of like the butterfly effect where actions create unintended consequences. One of the unintended consequences of the Annual is creating a villain that we haven’t seen in the New 52, and that villain springboards into the five years in the future. So one, pick up the Annual, it’s a great story and it adds a lot of value to the overall “Icarus” arc; and two, it gives them a leg up when it comes to the five years in the future story.
“Detective Comics: Futures End” goes on sale September 3.