Though he had his superhero breakthrough as one of the head writers for the classic “Batman: The Animated Series,” Paul Dini has over the years turned himself into one of the biggest contributors on the comics side of the DC Entertainment coin with a special focus on the Bat Universe over the past few years. From his “One Year Later” run of solo stories in “Detective Comics” to his current series “Batman: Streets of Gotham” and “Gotham City Sirens,” Dini has put the extended cast of the Dark Knight’s world front and center.
So this week, CBR News shines its regular interview column THE BAT SIGNAL on the writer as he prepares two new storylines in his ongoing Bat-series. On tap for June and July is a return to the villainous Hush in a major way with July’s “Streets of Gotham” #14 heralding a sequel arc to Dini’s “Heart of Hush” epic. And on the ladies side of town, Poison Ivy takes a summer spotlight in “Gotham City Sirens” with a new job at STAR Labs. Dini discusses all of this below as well as what makes good Bat-villains tick, why his books will carry on after the return of Bruce Wayne and how he collaborates on writing chores with “Streets” art team Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs.
CBR News: Paul, I think when the Bat books relaunched after “Battle For The Cowl,” some people thought that the books would be operated on a limited basis or some kind of time clock while Bruce Wayne was still out of the picture, but both “Streets” and “Sirens” have grown a bit to be the kind of franchise that can exist no matter who’s wearing the cowl. How have things changed for each title over their first year?
With Ivy, she’s the most powerful one of them, but what is she doing? She’s got no place to be, and she doesn’t really need to be a criminal. We established in the early issues that she doesn’t need money because she’s above the material things of the world. To her, it’s like, “If I need money, I can charm anything out of anybody. The world is my oyster. If I need a place to stay, I can hypnotize the Riddler. And if we’re going to do this girl empowerment thing, fine. Until somebody pisses me off, I’m staying there.” And that’s fun, but it doesn’t give her any forward momentum as a character. So I’ve been working over the past few months to build on the conflict in her head of “I love the green world, but I’m also a product of the human world, and I’ve got to bring those two sides together. I can’t just go to the jungle because my restlessness will drive me back to the city.” And she is intelligent. She’s probably one of the smartest people in the DC Universe when it comes to Botany and Chemistry, so it makes sense to not have her stick around the townhouse for too long. She can control her appearance a bit, so why not send her to STAR Labs? She can play with stuff for free, and she’s not harming anybody. She should be allowed to do anything. She hypnotizes whoever she has to to get security clearance so she’s still a villain, and it gives me a chance to play with how ruthless people can be in a corporate environment where she just fires people because “You’re not my people, so you’re all redundant. Get out.” It shows her as a villain on two levels. And yet, there is good in a character like that. She’s smart and if properly motivated, she can work towards the general good. And there are some surprises as far as her role at STAR Labs is concerned. There are surprises coming for her role there – not totally evil, but someone who plays by no rules but her own.
Paul, looking towards the future it feels like you could come up with stories for some of these characters for 50 years or so.
I don’t know about that, but it is fun to play with them for a while. I have to take breaks because of my workload on TV and “Zatanna” and elsewhere, but hopefully I can continue to keep these going and show folks some surprises.
But once Bruce Wayne is back, we know some things will have to change for the Batman world. Is there any plans to change too much about these books in the near future?
No. I think “Streets” will work very well with Tommy and what current members of the DCU will play into it. As far as Batman, whoever he is there will be a place for him in that story. With “Sirens,” I wanted to expand out what those characters are so they can exist without Batman or with just very tangential links to him if need be, so I don’t see that it needs to rely on what happens in the core Batman books this month in order to proceed.