This month saw the beginning of a new run on “Detective Comics” for DC Comics writer and artist Tony S. Daniel, kicking off his number one issue with a new story arc featuring a younger Bruce Wayne, Dollman, and the ultimate Batman villain — the Joker. Providing both story and art for the new series, Daniel has been the go-to guy for Batman stories in recent years as one of the creative forces behind “Battle For The Cowl,” teaming up with legendary writer Grant Morrison on “Batman” before taking over the title as both writer and artist following Morrison’s departure. Now with his first issue wowing both fans and reviewers, Daniel is in position to guide a newer, younger Batman through the perils of Gotham City and introduce a brand new audience to the Caped Crusader.
With all this in mind, CBR News reached out to Daniel to provide commentary on his first issue of “Detective Comics,” and while the writer/artist preferred to keep some things close to his chest he was happy to speak about the art and story of the first issue, touching on everything from the way he draws the younger Bruce Wayne to the terrifyingly gruesome last splash page that sets the tone for his new run.
CBR News: Last Wednesday you really hit the ground running starting with Joker as your first big villain. Why lead with Batman’s biggest bad guy for your inaugural story arc?
Tony S. Daniel: Well, mainly because he is Batman’s biggest bad guy, like you stated. I’m looking at this from the perspective of grabbing the attention of the casual reader, or a new reader, to fully take advantage of this enormous opportunity to reel in some brand new readers. So leading the first story off with Batman’s biggest foe gives those readers a sense of familiarity. They can read and enjoy a good Batman vs. Joker story.
But there’s a story underneath, hiding under the flash and dazzle of Joker vs. Batman. I think by the end of issue one, I’ve grabbed everyone’s attention. I know people want to know what the hell’s going on and guess what? That’s how you hook new readers: making them feel like that have to find out what happens next.
Between knifing Bruce and brutally attacking the Dollmaker’s son, this Joker seems a lot more willing to directly engage in combat than Jokers past. Is your idea for the Joker that he’s a more actively violent criminal?
I’m not turning him into an MMA fighter or anything, but heck yeah, he can fight and he can kill. He’s no stranger to this.
When we last talked about how you drew Bruce during your “Batman” run, you compared him to Dick Grayson, saying he was a Bull to Dick’s more graceful Deer. In this first issue, while you’ve streamlined his costume a bit, Bruce still retains that hulking quality. To your mind, are you still drawing the “Batman” Bull?
Well, I don’t think so really. He’s bigger and badder than the Dick Grayson version of Batman. But he’s not as bulky as I drew him when I reunited with Grant Morrisson for “Batman” #701 and #702. Bruce is younger here. So right now my approach is strong and brutal, while being graceful and agile. I’m thinking a little more like Neal Adams’ Batman with a little Frank Miller grit thrown in.
Story-wise this Batman, who is at odds with Gotham’s police, seems a bit more unsure of himself between almost missing the little girl in the rubble and not quite being able to balance his Playboy persona and his actual work. Though he’s been at it for years, is this younger Batman still getting used to his role in Gotham?
Not really. I’m approaching Batman as a human being. It’s not that he almost didn’t find the little girl in that hellhole, it’s the fact that he did find her under those high adrenaline circumstances. Just like in real life sometimes things don’t go as planned. You’re thrown a curveball and you have to adjust to it. That’s what grounds Batman in that scene.
As someone used to white-haired, old-timer Commissioner Gordon it threw me for a loop to see the red-haired Commissioner in this first issue! How did you go about de-aging Gordon, visually and story-wise?
For me it was easy — the colorist just had to pick the right color shade! But we’ll see how the younger Gordon plays in the issues ahead.
We’ve also got a dry and slightly sarcastic Alfred enlivening up the middle of the issue. Do you intend for Alfred to be Bruce’s anchor and tie to the non-crime fighting world?
Definitely. I think Alfred has always played that role, though.
A good portion of the comic is told entirely through inner monologue delivered via captions. Is this going to be one of the big themes you play with, delving into Batman’s psyche as he takes on insane villains?
I feel it’s fitting giving what I’m trying to accomplish with this title. I want it to read like a classic detective crime story where everything is told from the detective’s point of view.
We’re treated to a glimpse of Dr. Jeremiah Arkham towards the end of the issue. Will he play a larger role in this arc or the series itself?
Dr. Arkham is best in small doses. We all have friends like that and he’s no different. Seriously though, the peripheral characters like Dr. Arkham will only pop up if they fill a need for the story.
And holy cow, that last splash page! From the moment you decided Joker would lead your inaugural issue, did you know you were always going to end on that last, gruesome image of his skin?
I knew I was going to do something big with him. That last shot is just the start of what will end up being a pretty big story.
Is that splash a sign of things to come for your story — are you setting out to make this Batman and the relaunched “Detective Comics” bloodier and more grotesque than before?
Each story will be different, and they won’t all be this graphic. The style of “Detective Comics” will continue to be bold and in your face; these are the stories that suit me best and I’m looking forward to telling many more in “Detective Comics.”
“Detective Comics” #2 hits stores October 5.