On the heels of today’s DC Comics Batman announcements comes one more as creative team Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato officially take over writing and drawing “Detective Comics” beginning in 2014.
The team behind the New 52’s “The Flash” for the past three years, and the artists for DC CCO Geoff Johns‘ Flash revival before that, Buccellato and Manapul will leave the Scarlet Speedster to take over “Detective Comics” from current creative team of writer John Layman and artist Jason Fabok. With Buccellato and Manapul’s run kicking off next year, the writer/artist duo spoke with CBR about leaving Barry for Bruce, their noir-influenced artwork and why they’ll be putting the detective back in “Detective Comics.”
CBR News: You guys have been working on “The Flash” since before the start of the New 52. Why did you decide to leave Flash behind and tackle Batman in “Detective Comics?”
Francis Manapul: I’ve been working on “The Flash” for nearly three years now —
Brian Buccellato: More! More!
Manapul: Even more, wow — that’s a lot of Flash. I was discussing it with Brian and we were talking about, “Hey, where should we turn to next?” I kind of let it be known to editorial; we had discussed when would be the right time to leave “The Flash” and issue #24 would have been the perfect time to jump off since we were finishing the Reverse Flash story arc. Everyone in editorial knows I have a real itch to dive into the Bat universe and the opportunity opened up, and that was that! I’ll add a slight correction, issue #25 is our last issue as that’s a tie-in to “Batman: Zero Year” and it was a good opportunity for Brian and me to bridge the gap, so to speak, between “Flash” and our “Detective Comics” run. So there is a sense of continuity there.
Buccellato: I think we both wanted to work on Batman for a while. Tonally, it’s not what people would expect; they’re used to the bright, vibrant, speedy world of “The Flash” but Francis and I actually have another side to our personality and to our creative mind that’s darker and grittier. I think we were itching to tap into that.
That’s actually a great segue into the visual side of the comic, as the artwork you two did in “Flash” is so bright, playing with colors to represent speed and experimenting with those Eisner-esque breakdowns of panels and words. How are you guys approaching the art of “Detective Comics?” Will it look anything similar to what you were doing on “Flash?”
Manapul: No. The thing is, the way Brian and I approached this is similar to an actor coming onto a different project; everybody enjoyed more or less what we did with the Flash and we’re really grateful for that, but at the same time we don’t want to be pigeonholed into a specific style. So that’s why for us it was important to jump into a different project that would be very stylistically different from what we were doing before. Flash, Barry Allen, is one of my favorite characters at DC Comics and whatever it was we did with the Flash stylistically in terms of the art of the story, that’s something we feel is special for that title. For “Detective Comics” we plan to do something different in terms of tone, to show that we’re very versatile storytellers and this has been a good opportunity for us to expand reader’s perceptions of us as creators. We’re hoping “Detective” will allow us to continue that trend.
Buccellato: I want to make a slightly different comparison with film directors, like Martin Scorsese — not to compare ourselves to Martin Scorsese, giant in the film world! [Laughs] But directors, the great ones, don’t just do comedy or sci-fi or horror. We know what a Scorsese movie will look like but he’s done comedy, he’s done darker material, he’s done lighter fare. I think it’s the same thing with any creative process. We’ll bring our tools to the table; it’ll look and feel like a Francis and Brian joint because we’re the ones doing it, but it’s not going to visually resemble Flash in any way.
DC has a ton of ongoing series set in Gotham and featuring Batman as a protagonist already, “Batman,” “Batman And…,” etc. So how does “Detective” stand out? Are you focusing on Batman or are you changing the perspective on him or following other related characters primarily in your run?
Buccellato: I don’t think we’re looking to change anything; Batman is Batman, he’s been Batman for a long time. I think we’re going to bring more of our aesthetic and our experiences to the table. We’re probably going to do more personal Batman stories, maybe a little more mystery and detective style, but we’re going to focus on Bruce Wayne — and bringing our mojo to the table! [Laughs]
Manapul: Let’s be honest — we didn’t ask to work on a Batman book to not have Batman be the main focus! [Laughter] The thing is, with it being called “Detective Comics” it feels very on the nose that it should be about detective work. I think that every now and then you lose sight of that and it leans more towards him as a superhero. Our goal is to basically have it more like a detective book, similar to what Paul Dini had done with the original “Batman Adventures,” very street level. It’s a hardboiled take on Batman and less super heorics.
Buccellato: Which is not to say there won’t be super bad guys or he won’t be kicking people’s butts. That’s all going to be in there, but it’ll be in the fabric of detective stories, something a little more street-level like Francis said.
So, you guys are embracing that pulp noir aspect of Batman through the story and artwork.
Manapul: Oh absolutely! Tonally that’s something we’re very eager to explore. We sort of touch on that a little bit with the Flash with him being a forensics scientist, but for the most part that one leans more towards science fiction. With “Detective” we get to explore that aspect of the hero, which is interesting because out of the costume [Flash’s] job isn’t too different from what Batman does in costume in this particular run. It should be exciting, and that’s the great thing about Batman. We’re telling these mystery stories where the reader goes on this journey with Batman and they delve deeper and deeper as he’s getting into it.
Buccellato: To add, Francis and I like a lot of different genres and stories and I think noir and crime are two that we haven’t gotten much of a chance to play around with in the DC Universe. I’m looking forward to it, I like the darker and grittier stuff; anyone who knows me personally knows my favorite movies are the ’60s and ’70s crime movies, so its probably even more fun for me to work on because it’s natural to the things I like to read and watch and do.
Brian, you’re currently doing “Black Bat” for Dynamite, which is also very pulpy and in line with that genre.
Buccellato: Yeah, absolutely. With the “Black Bat” I’ve got a 12-issue run that’s about halfway done. He’s not Batman, he’s not Daredevil or punisher, he’s his own thing — that’s more of a realistic telling of a vigilante so I’m not really drawing any parallels to Batman and I don’t think it’ll come into play in “Detective.”
Manapul: Yeah, Brian shared the scripts with me so it’s more — I don’t want to say it’s Batman gone over the edge but it’s very different in terms of the values the character holds. The only similarities they have is the word “bat” in it and the pulp nature.
Buccellato: And that they were created in the ’30s.
Manapul: Yeah! [Laughs] I also want to take the opportunity to say Brian will be writing issues #27 to #29 of “The Flash” and hopefully the idea is to wrap up some of the things we didn’t quite get around to during our run. Unfortunately I’ll have to be jumping ahead to get rolling on “Detective” but I think if anybody is a fan of our work they should definitely stick around for that. And another teaser is if anybody reading “Flash” #25 which is a Batman “Zero Year” tie-in our story continues in “Detective” from there. There are definitely elements in there that will carry over into our “Detective” run.
I know from talking to you both about “Flash” that, though it’s organic, one of the things you really embraced was exploring big ideas or themes in every single arc. Going into “Detective Comics” are there big ideas behind Batman or themes you are looking to explore or that readers should look out for?
Buccellato: That’s a tough one! [Laughs]
Manapul: We will be introducing some new characters into Bruce’s life that will more or less drag him into their personal lives both as Batman and as Bruce Wayne. I think one of the things Brian and I are really excited to explore is that he’s going to be meeting the widower of an ex-Mob Boss, and you’d think these two don’t have a lot in common but they were both parents and I think they’re leaning on that very personal level.
Buccellato: Yeah, I think the new characters that we create and the new villains that we create we want to reflect that aspect of who Bruce and Batman are. Hopefully fans will pay attention to the deliberate choices we make in the new people he meets and villains he faces are. We aren’t just making bad guys to make bad guys. Batman’s full on got the best rogues gallery so we’re not going to make new bad guys unless there’s a solid reason to do so.
Manapul: It’s also very interesting in that with “The Flash” we introduced a new love interest for him and other things were just blossoming in the beginning. With Bruce there’s a lot that’s happened to him in the past and a sense of loss he deals with on a regular basis, even more so than Barry. So we’re going to be introducing a bunch of characters he can relate to on a very personal level who have encountered similar types of losses in their lives. That’s going to be a really meaty subject matter to really explore.
Buccellato: I also want to add in “Flash” we had the idea of moving forward and that was sort of the theme. We’re going to be forward-looking as well; I know a lot of what Scott [Snyder] writes has one eye on the past and setting up the mythology. I think we want to go in the other direction and just look ahead, so I think our run will be more focused on those types of stories and less on what happened before.
Manapul: Yeah, in the same way early on in “The Flash” Barry wanted to affect the city in a positive way as more than just a hero, we take a similar approach with Bruce. He wants to affect the city in a positive way, both as Batman and as Bruce, and there are things that he can be focusing on in terms of bringing Gotham towards the future and trying to make it a better place.
Francis, I know you have a giant love of Flash and when you two first began on “Flash” you looked at a lot of old “Showcase” issues. For “Detective Comics” were there any specific eras or stories you were looking at for inspiration for your pulp/noir take on Batman and Gotham?
Buccellato: I think personally our role is different here than it was in “Flash.” In “Flash” we were presenting a new Flash for a new universe, so to speak. Batman is so well established in the New 52 and throughout all of pop culture that I don’t think there’s one single story or one single iteration we can call upon. Obviously there’s Frank Miller’s Batman, there’s film, there’s television, there’s so many versions. I think he’s all those things and we’ll cherry pick the elements that are true to us and true to who Bruce Wayne and Batman are.
Manapul: I think like what Brian said, Batman probably has the biggest roster of stories that are game-changing: Alan Moore’s “Killing Joke” to Miller’s “Batman Returns,” that’s a lot of heavy-hitting bat books, and let’s not forget Paul Dini’s “Batman Adventures.”
Buccellato: Scott’s had a pretty good run too!
Manapul: Oh yeah, there’s that guy. He’s not doing too shabby! [Laughter] I think there are so many different facets to Batman that excited us the most. With Flash there are certain ways you portray him and it feels right, there’s probably one or two ways to do that, but with Batman there’s many different ways. There’s horror, there’s pulp, there’s action adventure — I think as long as you stay true to the character of Batman it will feel like a Batman story. That’s what’s exciting about him creatively. I don’t think there’s one particular Batman run we’re taking our cue from because there are so many to be inspired by.
Buccellato: We’ll just carve our own little corner of the universe!
Buccellato and Manapul’s “Detective Comics” run begins spring 2014.