Tony Daniel has grown synonymous with the Dark Knight since taking over art duties from J. H. Williams III during Grant Morrison’s run on “Batman.” When DC Comics looked to relaunch its long-running flagship series, “Detective Comics,” as part of its September relaunch, the publisher tapped Daniel to serve as the title’s writer and artist.
Pulling double duty is old hat for Daniel. After drawing 12 issues of “Batman,” including the bestselling “R.I.P.” storyline, Daniel wrote and illustrated the game-changing “Batman: Battle For the Cowl” three-issue miniseries, which pitted Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne and a cast of others from Gotham trying to outmaneuver one another in attempt to succeed the presumed-dead Bruce Wayne as Batman.
At the end of “Battle for the Cowl” Dick became Batman and Judd Winick and Mark Bagley completed a four-issue stint on “Batman” before handing the writing and art reins over to Daniel beginning with #692. Daniel told CBR News that he’s learned plenty navigating the alleys and dark corners of Gotham these last three-and-a-half years, and also gleaned as much as he could from Morrison.
This September Daniel is also writing “The Savage Hawkman” for DC, a new series featuring Carter Hall and illustrated by Philip Tan. CBR News spoke with the writer and artist about both titles and found Daniel was ready to “spread his wings” in the new DCU.
CBR News: When The Source revealed “Detective Comics” was relaunching in September, “the solicitation copy called the series DC Comics’ flagship title. You’re writing and drawing DC’s flagship title. That must feel pretty good, right?
Tony Daniel: It is an incredible honor. It’s really sort of surreal if I step back and think about it, so I try not to. I’m pretty focused right now on producing my best story and artwork.
We’ve talked about your love for the Caped Crusader in the past when you were writing and drawing “Batman,” but now that you’re tackling “Detective Comics,” not to mention the relaunch of the series, what does this opportunity mean to you as a creator in terms of not only the historical significance but your first memory as a kid picking up a copy of “Detective Comics?”
It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I know that it’s a very big deal. I found out early this year, maybe February. So the enormity of it has had time to settle down a bit now. Thankfully, I didn’t start writing the first story until a few months later, so by the time I sat down I already had thought out my approach and look.
The first Batman book I ever picked up was Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” That’s the book that got me hooked on comics and also going to the comic shop regularly. I can’t remember the first “Detective Comics” I ever picked up. When I was a kid, the cover is what sold me. My comics never lasted long. They were always being confiscated by the evil nuns in my school. Don’t get me started on the nun thing.
What did you learn from your previous writing gigs on “Battle for the Cowl” and “Batman” and collaborating with Grant Morrison that prepares you for this next major assignment? Do you need to go bigger with your ideas? Tighten the scope? Take more risks? Take less risks?
I think I retain traits and methods that I find organic to my way of thinking. I pick up things here and there from everywhere. From Grant, I learned what a master craftsman he is. He plans a long way out. I certainly admire his ability to pull the strings and to lift the curtains to unveil only what he wants to. He knows how to work the audience.
But to answer your question, what did I learn that I’ll carry over to “Detective?” I think there’s a natural growth that comes with doing. I’ve learned something from each book and each arc I’ve done so far. When you can look back and see where your missteps were that means you just grew a little bit.
I approach each story differently. But certainly, the ideas will be bigger here. Much bigger. I think writing Bruce has a lot to do with that. I kept the Dick Grayson stories as compact as possible. Sort of like renting an apartment — you don’t start doing construction and changing things because you don’t own it. Bruce though, well that’s a different story. He is Batman. It’s okay to go out on a limb because Batman can handle the consequences.
Like you said, you’re writing Bruce Wayne now instead of Dick, Tim or even Damian. He’s obviously the most iconic of the Batmans, but what separates Bruce Wayne’s voice from the other superheroes who sought the cowl?
Bruce is Batman. The original. The icon. There’s a certain weight he holds that no one can come close to. I can tell you he certainly isn’t light hearted when he’s wearing the cowl. He won’t be cracking jokes. He’ll be too busy planning your downfall and then executing it. Damn that sounds good.
The cover teased for “Detective Comics” #1 brings a familiar face to the forefront of your first story. I know you can’t talk specific plot points, but what does the Joker mean to the Batman mythos and what is it about the character that makes him the perfect yin to Batman’s yang?
Your heroes are only as strong as their enemies. The Joker is Batman’s nemesis. Chaos to Batman’s order. Batman might not be the hero he is today if not for the creation of the Joker.
OK. One more Bat query before we change gears to “The Savage Hawkman.” We’ve also been teased that Bruce Wayne is on the trail of a dangerous serial killer known only as the Gotham Ripper. What can you tell us about this new villain and what other details can you share about your first arc?
I can’t reveal a whole lot. But this is no ordinary serial killer. He proves no one is safe in Gotham. We will learn his true name in September, but the police and the news media have dubbed him the Gotham Ripper because of the gruesome similarities to Jack the Ripper.
Your other major assignment when everything relaunches in September is “The Savage Hawkman.” Did you pitch to get this series or did DC come to you?
I was approached by DC. They had a vision for it and thought that I could bring those elements to the table. I am very excited about this book. It is very different from writing Batman. But that’s great. It allows me to spread my wings, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The copy for the first issue reads very much like an origin story. Is that the case? And if so, was it necessary to do an origin due to the character’s long, and sometimes convoluted, backstory?
It’s not an origin story, but the approach is, as if we’re meeting this guy for the first time. He’s already Hawkman. He’s already lost the love of his life. It took me several months to work through his initial arc. It was very, very hard work. He’s setting up new roots in NYC. I’m establishing a supporting cast of characters. Some are human, some are more than human. Some friend, some foe. I didn’t feel I had the luxury of a great rogues gallery, such as the likes of The Flash or Batman. I need to make challenges for Carter Hall/Hawkman from the ground up.
My first priority was to introduce a character who will eventually be his nemesis. His arch-enemy. I’m very excited about that.
You mentioned he’s already lost the love of his life. So may I ask, what role, if any, does Shiera Saunders/Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman play in this series?
For now I can’t say a whole lot. People will have to wait and see how things develop this fall.
As an artist yourself, can you break down the strengths of Philip Tan? As the book’s writer, what do you feel he brings as a collaborator?
I’m very excited about Philip Tan’s incredible artwork. People are about to have their socks knocked off when they see what this kid is doing. He’s come of age here. Philip has been dying to do a Hawkman book for a long time. He has so much built up energy and excitement for this book. He’s worked many, many hours working on character designs, layouts, cover ideas and that was way before he even had a finished script.
The passion he has is definitely translating onto the page. He’s doing a great inkwash technique that is mind blowing. So he brings a lot to the table as an artist. This is important to him and he’s working his butt off with the art. I’m happy I have him as my artist.
What else can you tell us about “The Savage Hawkman” as it appears much more Indiana Jones in style than the gritty Bat-books you’re known for?
Maybe a bit more Sherlock Holmes, the Robert Downey Jr. version, than Indy, but some of that too. Plus some savage beatdowns. It’s going to be very exciting. Lots of adventure. Lots of fun characters being introduced.
So we should take note of the word “Savage” in the title?
He’ll be savage when he needs to be, which could be a lot.