When CBR connected with Tom King and Mitch Gerads to discuss this week’s Batman #22, which features a monster team-up with Dark Knight and Swamp Thing, DC Comics’ public relations team stipulated that no questions could be asked about the title’s ongoing ‘The Button’ crossover with The Flash.
We’ve learned since the interview was conducted at the end of last week that the epilogue for this week’s The Flash #22 features revelations about DC’s Rebirth connection to Watchmen, the watershed limited series from the 1980s that christened an era of grim-dark storytelling in comics.
Fair enough. But we did discuss the massive influence of another famous Alan Moore work, Saga of the Swamp Thing, as it relates to their stand-alone issue of Batman and King and Gerads also shared their thoughts on another major inspiration for their story, titled playfully ‘The Brave and the Mold,’ Frank Miller’s runs on Batman and Daredevil.
The creative team, who previously collaborated on the critically acclaimed Sheriff of Babylon, also teased their upcoming series Mister Miracle, which King called “the most ambitious thing that I’ve ever tried to write.”
CBR: I promised I wouldn’t ask you about ‘The Button’ storyline in Batman and The Flash, but as we await the full-blown arrival of the Watchmen, we’re here to speak about another character that Alan Moore did fantastic work on and that’s Swamp Thing. Are you a fan of his run on Saga of the Swamp Thing?
Tom King: Not as a kid. Thank God, I didn’t. I’d be even more warped than I am. [Laughs] I read Watchmen way too early. I was probably 10 or 11 when I read it, but I came to Saga of the Swamp Thing in my twenties. When I knew I was going to write comics for a living, the first thing I wanted to do was read all of the best issues of comics so that’s when I really got into Saga of the Swamp Thing.
Mitch Gerads: Like Tom, I came to it in my twenties not when I was a kid. What I do remember as a kid is loving the terrible Wes Craven movie, and the even more terrible cartoon.
King: There are runs that I love. I love Scott [Snyder]’s run but to me, one of the reasons that I would think Swamp Thing would be so hard to write is because he is one of those characters that has something definitive done about him. The Alan Moore stuff is just so perfect. It’s hard to get away from that iteration of the character. When I close my eyes and think of Swamp Thing, I think of Rick Veitch and Alan Moore. I have a Rick Veitch page that hangs above my desk that I am constantly looking at. No one drew him better than Berni [Wrightson] but to me the Alan Moore is where it is.
Gerads: I loved Yanick Paquette’s Swamp Thing run with Scott Snyder. Yanick is amazing. And that was what I was going to use as the visuals cues about the character and then, I started the issue a couple of days before learning of Berni Wrightson’s passing. I was at my desk when the news broke on Twitter and I was sitting there drawing Swamp Thing. And from that point on, it became a lot more Berni influenced. I got out the Berni books and printed off some Berni pages and stuff.
Both Batman and Swamp Thing can be extremely dark characters. They both have moments of light but overall, a lot of their time is spent in the shadows. I don’t want to spoil too much but there is a two-page spread in this issue that shows Bruce Wayne and Alec Holland sharing a moment – and a cup of tea – in the study at Wayne Manor with Alfred frantically sweeping up behind Swamp Thing that filled me with such joy, it’s one of my favorite comic book scenes in some time.
Gerads: I laughed maniacally the whole time that I drew that two-page spread.
King: That’s what makes working with Mitch so fun. I knew that if just put the most crazy Swamp Thing in the most quotidian place that I could that contrast would create something that you hadn’t seen in comics before, especially the way Mitch drew it. And that’s exactly how it came out. It’s hilarious and normal yet deep. I felt I just needed to put as little words as possible on those pages. People just had to look at the art.
And they’re drinking tea, right?
King: Yes, Bruce is drinking tea and Swamp Thing is drinking his own sap. He’s drinking himself.
As you would. [Laughs]
King: I’m such a subtle metaphorist. [Laughs] At the time, he’s talking about how life and death are all about change and he is literally consuming himself to make more of himself. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a silly one.
This isn’t a spoiler as the story for this stand-alone is revealed in the preview. And it’s something that Bruce Wayne, sadly, knows all about and that’s the death of Alec Holland’s father. Can you talk about these two characters now having that connection?
King: That’s the heart of the book, this idea of two people dealing with their fathers’ death but dealing with it in two completely different philosophical ways. For Batman, he sees his father’s death as this epic moment that can never be undone whereas Swamp Thing sees death as a continuum of the Green and part of life. He sort of relaxed about it. In some ways, they are sort of a crooked mirror of each other. And this issue shows how they react to each other. And while these are their views, but maybe their views are a little bit deeper than that. Maybe that’s just the surface and underneath that, maybe there is something even more true. That’s what the issue is about. And that’s why we start with them both presenting their views on what it’s like to have a father dying. And then we start digging and chipping away at that to see if what you say about death is what you feel about death… plus a lot of comedy.
I’m glad you mentioned comedy, because not only do we get Swamp Thing in this issue, we also get more Kite Man! What’s with your obsession with Kite Man, Tom? Something is not right.
King: [Laughs] Originally, he started off as a tribute to Frank Miller’s Stilt Man in the Daredevil run. I loved that run, and I love how Stilt-Man always came back throughout it. But now we’re getting deeper into Kite Man and he’s going to get a solo issue of Batman. It’s coming up, and it explores his origin. You’re going to see that there is more to him than just kites. Maybe it’s just kites… but they’re amazing kites.
Mitch, honestly, were you more excited to draw Swamp Thing, Batman or Kite Man?
Gerads: That’s a tough question. I was definitely got super excited when I was reading the script and I got to the Kite Man part. I crack up every time one of those scenes plays out. But to answer the question, I have to say Batman. I love Batman.
Like Swamp Thing, is there a definitive Batman artist than you looked to for inspiration?
Gerads: I don’t know if there is a definitive Batman. When I think of Batman, I think a lot of what I think about comes from Batman: Year One. I’m pretty obsessed with that book. I read it all of the time. But I think a take in a lot of different things when it comes to Batman. I would love to do something with Batman still in continuity but I would also like to do something very dark. I have a Batman: Black and White issue in my head somewhere.
King: Let’s do it! After the other thing.
Tell me about the other thing. Is it more Batman?
King: We’re working on the most ambitious thing that I’ve ever tried to write right now. We haven’t announced it yet. I have hinted it about it on Twitter, maybe. [Laughs]
Yes! So we are getting a Mister Miracle series!
King: [Laughs] I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Gerads: I will say, no matter what it is, that it is completely not what you are expecting.
King: But now I regret that it’s not Batman: Black and White. We can start over. [Laughs]
In Batman #23, we return to the Bane storyline that really started with your run on the title, Tom. Will you return to the Batman and Swamp Thing story at some point, too?
King: The story doesn’t complete itself. It leaves a question open and we’d like to revisit that but what Swamp Thing does to Batman in this issue and the pain he releases in Batman pays off over the next year and goes right into what ‘Jokes and Riddles’ is about. In that way, the story continues.
Batman #22 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads is available now.