As part of DC Comics’ ever-expanding online empire, in April the publisher announced a new “Batman” digital series which will feature stand alone stories by all-star creative teams like B. Clay Moore and Ben Templesmith; Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman and Joshua Hale Fialkov and Phil Hester. But the dynamic duo that had everyone seeking out the proverbial Bat-Signal was Hollywood heavyweight Damon Lindelof and multiple Eisner Award nominee Jeff Lemire.
For those who missed Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, Lindelof co-created “Lost” with J.J. Abrams and Jeffrey Lieber and is now a highly influential writer/producer having worked on such tentpole projects as “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Star Trek” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel “Prometheus,” which will be released on June 8.
Lemire’s star has also risen mercurially the last few years as the Canadian cartoonist has told epic stories with some of DC’s second(“Superboy”), third (“Animal Man”) and even fourth-tier (“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. “) superheroes. But it was his creator-owned Vertigo series “Sweet Tooth”, which he writes and illustrates, that captured Lindelof’s eye.
After Lindelof tweeted about the series shortly after its debut, the two became friends, leading the Hollywood power player to write the introduction to Lemire’s forthcoming graphic novel, “The Underwater Welder.”
Lindelof told CBR News exclusively that his obsession of all things Lemire is what lured him to the Batcave, but as a long-time fan of the Dark Knight, writing the Dark Knight Detective is also a childhood dream come true.
The master storyteller also shared which Batman comics influenced him growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, which part of the Dark Knight’s lore drives his and Lemire’s story and why writing digital comics is the perfect part-time medium for him.
CBR News: What was your introduction to Batman?
Damon Lindelof: “Super Friends” and the Adam West “Batman” were my fundamental introductions to the character. I had a Batman alarm clock when I was five years old. It was a talking alarm clock with Batman and Robin on the front. When it went off every morning, Robin would say, “Jumping Jehoshaphat, Batman” and then the two of them would have a whole little dialogue. I had bed sheets and all that stuff too, but that was my first exposure to him.
What is interesting is that Adam West gave me a fundamental understanding of who Bruce Wayne was, but Bruce Wayne isn’t even in “Super Friends.” He was only Batman. At the time, I didn’t really group them in the same category because one was animated and one was live action.
What about as a comic book reader?
I remember “The Dark Knight Returns” really specifically, because my dad was reading it and I knew that it was very cool and very dark. Obviously, that whole shift was happening in terms of the deconstruction of superheroes. I remember “Year One,” which was also [Frank] Mille,r and then, of course, “The Killing Joke,” with Barbara getting crippled. I feel like those all came out within a week of each other, but I know I’m covering something like a three-year period. That was really my primary exposure to the comic book Batman.
Since then, I’ve dropped in and out over the years. I remember getting back in during the early 2000s when [Jeph] Loeb and [Jim] Lee did “Hush,” and I followed [Grant] Morrison’s run, too. All the Batman titles aren’t on my weekly pull list today, but I am aware of what’s happening with the character.
Last year, you did a Superman story for “Action Comics” #900. What brought you back to DC Comics to do a Batman story?
What happened was that I basically became obsessed with Jeff [Lemire]. [Laughs] I read “Sweet Tooth” and was like, “Holy shit. Who is this guy?” I googled him and found out about “Essex County,” so I ran out and grabbed the collected edition and read it cover to cover. Then I tweeted about him and about how awesome “Sweet Tooth” was. And then, he tweeted back at me, we exchanged email addresses and just started talking to each other.
For this project in particular, it all happened through [Editor] Ben Abernathy at DC. I’m trying to remember if Ben reached out to me first, or if Ben reached out to Jeff and then Jeff emailed me and was like, “Do you want to work on a Batman story?” When Jeff Lemire asks you if you want to work on a Batman story, you say, “Yes.” First off, that guy can write, so he’s not just doing the art; you’ve got a collaborator all the way. And he’s never drawn that character before, so I was like, “This sounds like the greatest thing ever.” Except, I have no time to do it. Having made the mistake on “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk,” which essentially saw me take four years to write six issues of a comic book, I am never going to say, “Yes,” again unless I know I can deliver the pages.
But this became the perfect opportunity because Ben said it was going to be digital, so we didn’t have to do any more than eight or ten pages. When he said that, I was like, “Okay. I’m in.” That length worked out really well for me on “Action Comics” #900. In a lot of ways, it’s harder to tell a story in 10 pages in terms of crafting how the beginning, middle and end are going to be. The easy part is actually generating the material.
Jeff and I started emailing back and forth what kind of story it should be — just complete blue sky. Eventually, we landed on something that we thought was going to be really cool. We worked on an outline together, which would be sort of the broad construct, and then he started working on the art while I worked on the script. In certain instances, I would actually get the page and then I would just write the captions for it, and in other instances, I would send him dialogue and he would do the art around that. Because he is who he is and because he is a writer and because he understands story and because he is a genius, the process could not have been easier and more wonderful for me. Whatever people think about the story, everyone is going to love the art. [Laughs] It’s just super-great. Everything that Jeff does well really transmutes into the Batman universe.
All the guys at DC were really incredible in terms of not hamstringing us with any canon. The idea was we could set the story whenever we wanted to. It didn’t have to be married to any of the other continuities in the other books. They just wanted us to tell a cool, little Batman story, and it was a lot of fun. Writing a Batman story was definitely on the bucket list. And so was working with Jeff Lemire, so it was a twofer.
Realizing it’s only 10 pages, what can you share with us about your story?
All I can say is that there were two things that we both agreed upon that would make the story really interesting. The first was that the story had to, in some way, reference the origin story. That’s what I wanted to do with my Superman story too, which was like, “Here is a story that everybody knows,” and it doesn’t matter if you’ve ever picked up a comic book in your life or you’ve read every single title. That’s the common language that we all speak. We all say, “Buenos dias.” It’s not a re-telling of the origin story in any way, shape or form, but it scrapes the surface of that.
The second thing was to set this thing at a point early in Batman’s career where he’s still working out the kinks, as it were. One of the things that I really like about Jeff’s writing that not a lot of people are doing right now in the industry is that it’s funny. It’s fun. It’s not funny like a wink outside the panel where it’s broad humor. There is just a sense of amusement about everything.
There is something about his art too that I just find doesn’t take itself too seriously. But at the same time, deals with some very serious subject matter. Both in tone and the time in his life, the idea of doing a “Batman fucks up” story was alluring to both of us. We haven’t seen a lot of those.
Any teases about who Batman is up against?
No, but I can say is that who he is up against is the whole point of the story.
I recently read an advanced copy of Jeff’s forthcoming OGN, “The Underwater Welder,” which he wrote and illustrated, and you provided the foreword for. You discussed your obsession with Jeff’s comics work, but now, having worked with him, are you going to try and get him to Hollywood anytime soon?
God knows I’ve tried. [Laughs] But here’s the thing about Jeff — Jeff is never going to work on someone else’s show. And he shouldn’t. His voice and his talent are so unique and incredible, to subjugate him to working on someone else’s show would be a mistake. That’s one of the mistakes that I made with Brian Vaughan. I was such a massive fan of his that I hired him for “Lost.” He was incredible, but he was like, “I can’t do this.” He’s basically managing his own creative fiefdom, so we had him for a couple of years, but then he’s going to go off and be Brian K. Vaughan. He’s not the guy that you have working in the stable. My hope is that one day Jeff and I will partner on something and create something cool together where we are equals as opposed to subjugating him into this ruthless system that exists out here. I would never want to see that happen to him. His voice is just so special and unique. It has to be cultivated and nurtured, not bled dry as it sometimes happens in Hollywood.
“Batman” Digital arrives online in June.