For years, the Cat and the Bat played an intense game of chase throughout the streets and rooftops of Gotham City – both in the literal sense and in a much more deeper and emotional one. The two characters long skirted the line of romanticism, finally making the leap to commitment in Jeph Loeb’s year long Batman epic “Hush.” While their romantic relationship ended at the close of Loeb’s run, the two remained closer than ever and in writer Paul Dini’s tragic “Heart of Hush” storyline, Bruce Wayne finally confessed his true love of Selina – and then he died.
Or so it seemed.
To Catwoman and many other heroes of the DC Universe, Batman perished in the pages of Grant Morrison’s “Final Crisis.” In actuality, however, the Caped Crusader founded himself tossed back through time to the dawn of man and has since been “Quantum Leaping” forward to the present day. This September, the Dark Knight returns, but what exactly his arrival means for the current Batman and Robin team as well as his closest friends, allies and enemies gets explored in a series of October-launching, inter-connected one-shots under the banner of “Bruce Wayne – The Road Home.” These single issues will highlight different characters in the Bat-family – including Batgirl, Red Robin and Commissioner Gordon – and lead into Morrison’s latest direction for the Bat-line in upcoming series “Batman, Inc.”
When it comes to the man writing the “Catwoman” tale for “The Road Home,” many readers may not know his name, but they’ve certainly seen his work. A longtime inker and penciler in the comic book industry, Derek Fridolfs has penned a few short stories recently for DC Comics and the creator spoke with CBR News about his upcoming one-shot, how he originally broke into the comic book industry and what the future holds for Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne.
CBR News: Derek, you’ve done some work in the industry before this gig, including a lot of inking, a few pencils and one or two stories here and there in Annuals and the Halloween special, but how did you first break into comics?
Derek Fridolfs: I broke in at the tail end of the ’90s. I had been going the route of mailing submission samples to companies and going to convention portfolio reviews and doing that pretty regularly for a good four or five year stretch. It was one of those situations where everything sort of all happened at the same time. I had tested to ink Chris Bachalo for the new “Steampunk” series launching at Wildstorm, but they rightfully decided to go with someone that was more well known and proven. I hadn’t really had any credits at that point, so that was understandable. Then I was one of a small group that made it to the final round of testing to get a job at CrossGen, but ultimately failed – or bullet dodged. [Laughs] I was pretty disappointed as it felt like I had come so close twice but still couldn’t get work. Fellow inker extraordinaire Tim Townsend heard about my troubles and, out of the goodness of his heart, took pity. He offered to pass along my samples to the editor he was working for at Marvel. No guarantee of anything to come out of it, other than it would get in the hands of his editor rather than just the normal submissions pile. Jumping at that chance, I sent him some photocopies, and within a week I heard back from editor Mark Powers who gave me a gig inking half an issue of “Wolverine.” At the same time, I got contacted by Wildstorm who somehow pulled my samples from a huge submission stack and wanted to give me some work. So yeah, I feel very fortunate having broke in two separate ways at the same time through networking and through the wonder of post office submissions mailing.
As far as DC, after a number of years, I had done work for most of the major and minor companies out there, but DC was someone I hadn’t had a chance with. I had always heard that they were a great place to work for and they had a tendency, like most companies, to work with their regular stable of workers first and not have much to go around to bring in additional people. That always makes it that much tougher to crack. I would constantly send samples and talk to editors, but I didn’t have much luck. Enter Dustin Nguyen, who has worked for them his whole career. We’d always kept in contact, and when the time came when he was going to work on some Batman work, he called and wanted to see if I’d be interested. It was through his exclusivity with the company that he could recommend who he wanted to partner up with and I got the nod. It’s been full steam ahead ever since.
You mentioned getting the go ahead through your friend Dustin Nguyen. How did you guys meet?
â€¨We both broke in together at the same time. Our first work at Wildstorm was when they launched the Gen Active anthology and I was the first inker they paired him up with. They tried a few inkers over him on other stories, but sort of settled on me when we worked on the “Jet” miniseries for them. After that, they moved Dustin over to “Authority” and decided to go in-house with the inks. It was a crushing blow initially, since it was tough to find work after that, but it made me better in the long run. I had to get out there and pound the pavement. During that time, I was able to work for Marvel and Dark Horse and just develop better technique over other artists. When it came time to work with Dustin again, I could bring some of that newfound experience with me. So yeah, it’s weird to think that the first guy I got to work with early in my career is the one I’ve gotten to continue a long stretch with. I always admired the penciller/inker teams that really established themselves over long careers – Jim Lee/Scott Williams, Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti – and I just wanted to have that same type of career. It makes it that much better that Dustin is a great guy. We share a lot of the same enjoyment in comics and animation, he has a fantastic family. It’s always great to travel with him to various conventions and get a chance to hang out.
As mentioned, you moved from inks to pencils to now writing. What made you want to write comics as opposed to the other creative tasks? Is there a preference at all for one over the other?
â€¨I stumbled into inking. It was a situation where there was a local group of people wanting to make comics and all of them were pencilers and they needed an inker. So I sort of fell into it, not knowing anything about it. It’s cringe inducing to think I started inking with Sharpies before learning the proper tools. I just sort of grew to love it.Â Penciling I’ve dabbled at here or there, mainly just for my own amusement. As far as writing, it’s something I’ve always loved and wanted to do more with. I went to college, taking a lot of creative writing classes and graduating with a Bachelors Degree in English, but it was sort of getting my foot in the door of comics on the art end that I thought I would take advantage of any opportunities to stretch out and do other things – including writing. As most would attest, it’s tough to break in as a writer since most companies can hire new artists on sight, art being visual, but writing they shy away from taking the time to read any novice submissions and just go with people who have published credits.
How did you get involved with the “Road Home” event as a whole?
â€¨My editor Mike Marts asked me. It’s been extremely gratifying and comfortable working in the DC Bat Office with Mike and Janelle Siegel. They’ve been really ideal in that they juggle so many books to keep us all on time and really have a hands off approach to letting us do the work, not constantly checking in every hour like I’ve had in some past situations. It’s been a few years of working with them on “Detective Comics” and “Streets Of Gotham,” and during that time, I’ve been sending in story ideas and trying to wiggle my way into pitching stuff to them. Anything to humor the tracer into spreading his wings creatively. [Laughs]
How did you get involved with the Catwoman one-shot specifically? Was this an idea you pitched or did they ask you to write it?
â€¨The idea is that most of the Bat books would go on hiatus during the month of October, and each of these one-shots would take the place of those specific books for a month-long connected story arc. It wasn’t something I pitched for, but they had the idea of what each character would be in each title and the general idea for what the story arc was about. Then it’s up to each of the writers to do their thing. It didn’t matter to me who I got to write. I was happy to be invited.
Catwoman has been portrayed in various ways throughout her long history, from gimmicky villain to sexual foil for Batman to a hero in her own right and genuine romantic partner for Bruce. How do you see her and how do you approach her in this story?
â€¨I think you’re right in that she started out as a real themed visual foil to Batman but has grown and developed into something larger. As far as I’m concerned, she’s always been a thief, whether of objects or of hearts – and that much will continue in my approach to her. She’s the closest that anyone has gotten to Bruce, of all his flames. At the same time, it’s one of those things where Bruce is probably hesitant to fully let his guard down with her. It’s the fear of embracing that other side, which is the opposite side of the law that he’s about. It’s that whole thing about girls liking bad boys and this is the other side of that – of a guy that seems to find himself liking a bad girl. But only to a point.
What can you say about the story itself that you’ll be telling in “Catwoman?” Where is Selina’s mind at now that Bruce has returned?
â€¨Dini’s “Heart Of Hush” was a pretty monumental point for their characters and relationship, as damaging physically as it was emotionally. I wanted to sort of try to pick up from there and find where Selina is as a person and what her future holds. That’s about as vague as I’ll put it.
In many fans eyes, Batman and Catwoman are pretty much made for each other. What are your thoughts on this and how does the story you’re telling set up the future of these two characters, both independent of one another and together?
â€¨No matter what happens to these characters, they always find a way back to each other. As for their futures, I’m as interested in seeing what happens as the rest of the readers out there.â€¨â€¨We touched a little on this earlier, but these “Road Home” titles address various characters in Batman’s life now that Bruce has returned. That said, what do these titles mean for the future of these characters?
â€¨I think fans are going to find this is a well put together story arc that touches on quite a few characters in Bruce’s life. I think it touches on what these characters have done while Bruce has been gone as well as leading into the direction and purpose for Batman and his extended family in the future.
As a last question, Batman certainly has a number of females in his life – Catwoman, Ivy, Harley Quinn, Talia, to name a few. Who would you choose and why?
â€¨All of them are femme fatales in one form or another. Enticing and dangerous. At this point, I don’t know if I’d have a favorite. I think people like Selina because she’s as complex a character as most people are in life. Not all bad and not all good, various shades. Dark, vulnerable and maybe there’s some redemption in there. Sounds sort of like her counterpart.
Selina Kyle faces her lost love in “Bruce Wayne – The Road Home: Catwoman” on sale October 20.