Bruce Wayne may have prepared Dick Grayson for his eventual turn as Batman, but Tony Daniel is putting him through the paces.
Daniel, the artist on Grant Morrison’s bestselling “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” and “Batman R.I.P.,” followed up his 12-issue run on “Batman” (#670-681) by pulling double dynamic duty on “Batman: Battle for the Cowl” as both writer and artist.
In the three-issue miniseries, the original Robin beat out Tim Drake, who is now featured in “Red Robin,” and Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, who is now fighting crime in Gotham as Robin in “Batman and Robin,” as the heir apparent to the Batman mantle. And now that Dick is headlining “Batman”- the fifth-longest running title in the history of comics – Daniel is, once again, both writing and penciling the former Boy Wonder’s adventures.
Daniel confirmed for CBR News that he will be involved in DC Comics’ upcoming 700th issue of “Batman (though he didn’t share exactly how) and also teased about which particular rogue readers should set their eyes on heading up to the long-running series’ landmark release.
CBR News: While “Battle for the Cowl” was your big chance to show off your talents as a writer, I’m assuming that many of the details and plot threads were pre-ordained as you had to transform Dick Grayson into Batman in a mere 66 pages. First off, is that a fair assessment? And secondly, has a proper run on “Batman” allowed you to really dig your claws into the character and flesh him out as you see fit?
Tony Daniel: With “Battle For the Cowl,” there was a simple framework that I had to work within, but at the same time I had a lot of freedom with the story. Most of the ideas I brought to the table made it into the book. The page count and the fact that each issue was to be told from a different Robin’s point of view were part of that set frame-work. But other than that, I had a very good amount of freedom.
It wasn’t a traditional protagonist/antagonist story arc in that sense. We had three characters with three different points of view. I felt it made it interesting to get into these three different personas and their thoughts behind Batman.
With my first full arc of “Life After Death,” things were much different in the sense that DC trusted me and my instincts. That kind of trust put me at ease to feel confident in my portrayal of Dick Grayson as Batman. I had the luxury of space that I didn’t have before, to take my time with the scenes.
You’ve yet to write Bruce Wayne, but during your run as the artist on “Batman” with Grant Morrison, you certainly got to portray first hand how he operated as the Dark Knight. What do you perceive to be the major differences between Dick and Bruce in terms of how they operate? Any similarities?
Bruce is always five steps ahead of his enemy. He plans for every possible scenario. He can’t be outsmarted because he’s thought of every way possible that he can be attacked, like when the old man in the temple tried to give Bruce the poison tea and Bruce turned the tables on him. That’s just badass.
Dick isn’t there yet. But by the end of this arc, Dick comes into his own. He’ll find he’s become more like Bruce than he thought possible.
Why do you think Dick Grayson works as Batman, and do you believe he was the rightful successor to Bruce Wayne?
Dick was Batman’s first Robin. He was there at the beginning, he matured and led the Teen Titans, then became Nightwing. I think he’s proven himself to be a natural leader, and I think the fans have seen him for a long time as a borderline A-list character, Batman mantle or not. No one knows Bruce better, and I don’t see anyone else that could possibly handle the mantle more than Dick.
What do you think a Tim Drake-Batman would have been like? Or a Damian-Dark Knight? And would you have drawn them differently as Batman than your Dick Grayson design?
Tim would have taken more chances with his skills. He’s young and maybe a bit overconfident. But that’s what would have made it fun. He’s a top notch detective, though, so I think he’d be a very entertaining Batman.
Damian? Oh boy. He’d probably end up looking more like Bat-Mite. An older Damian? Now that might be something to discuss.
As for the designs, initially those were Andy Kubert’s. Then they got a bit altered by Frank Quitely. Then I sort of took a little from both and made it mine. But if I were to design a Tim or Damian Batman, I’d maybe look to the Batman Beyond black and red outfit for inspiration.
Drawing a monthly book is no simple task, and the same goes for writing one. How have you been managing your days? Do you write and draw at the same time, or do you write a script and then begin illustrating?
The hardest part is the planning of the issues. In this case, six issues, it’s a half-a-year’s worth of Batman. So the pressure is on to keep the story compelling enough to keep people interested for a half-a-year.
So for me, after giving the overall story arc an issue by issue outline, I’ll call Mike Marts, the Batman group editor, and discuss all the cool things I’m thinking about, hoping he likes them too. I then send him the page-by-page plot for the issue at hand and start drawing it. There is some rough dialogue to get the idea across of what’s being said and by whom.
Occasionally, I will have a better idea as I’m drawing. If it’s major, I’ll run it past Mike. If it’s just a better way of telling the story, I just do it.
So basically, I have my plot out in front of me and I draw in consecutive order. My mind is always thinking of the next page or two beyond what I’m working on. So the story is always being molded and fine-tuned throughout the whole process.
As soon as the last penciled page is turned in, I get to scripting the issue. I go back to the first page and, with my notes in hand, I script it out. This takes me three days, usually. At this time, I’m already beginning work on the next issue, perhaps doing a cover and also getting the colors from Ian [Hannin]. Thankfully, I rarely have changes for the colors since Ian is so good.
After a few days, the lettering is emailed to me. I read it over carefully to see if I want to make any adjustments. And I usually do. So, I may change a line or two before it goes to the printer.
You’ve managed to roll a number of Batman’s rogues’ gallery into the book already, namely Catwoman, Huntress, Penguin and the Riddler. Do you have a favorite, and who should we keep our eye on, especially, as we move towards “Batman” #700.
I’d say keep an eye on Riddler. Obviously there’s something funky going on with his memory. Is he getting his memories back? Some of them? All of them? That’s going to be fun. Also, Kitrina is here to stay. So look for something big to happen with her at the end of the arc.
The new Black Mask is going to be revealed in “Batman” #697. Have you enjoyed working with Black Mask as your prime antagonist? What makes him a worthy opponent for Batman?
I like the Black Mask because he’s complex. He’s not just some mobster. He has serious issues, if we haven’t already figured that out. His insanity is what makes him a worthy opponent. After “Battle For The Cowl,” all the death, destruction and chaos he caused, it only seems fitting that he’d be number one on Dick’s “to-do” list.
Any hints as to who’s under the mask?
I’ve given a few hints in the book. You just have to look closely.
What’s happening on May 10th? A quick glance at the calendar indicates that it may be the release date of “Batman” #699, but is there something more to it than that? The Riddler doesn’t look quite himself on the cover of #698…
Forget that cover. I redrew it. Batman’s no longer holding the calendar page… Oops, I don’t know when to shut up.
OK, can you tell us then if you will be involved in “Batman” #700? And if not for the landmark anniversary issue, what about #701 and beyond?
I will be involved with #700. It will be a lot of fun. I can’t say exactly what’s going on with that issue but it’s a special issue.
After #700, that’s being discussed right now. I have a few options on the table and have some hard choices ahead of me.
Batman #696 hits stores February 17.