A serial killer is stalking the alleys and sidewalks of Gotham, and Batman and Commissioner Gordon are next to go under his knife in DC Comics’ and writer/artist Tony Daniel’s newly relaunched “Detective Comics.”
Launching his renumbered series with a brand-new bad guy named the Dollmaker, Daniel’s “Detective” has been on peoples’ lips since the first issue ended with the mother of all cliffhangers: the bloody skin of Joker’s face, peeled off and nailed to a wall. Subsequent issues have continued with Daniel’s horror-comes-to-Gotham tone as he revealed the killer to be the patriarch of a family of murderers, throwing Batman and Gordon right into the middle of their lair.
Wherever there’s murder, mayhem and Batman, THE BAT SIGNAL is there as well. Emerging from the shadows of his dark and gruesome Gotham, Daniel spoke with us about his ongoing series, touching on Batman’s new supporting characters, new bad guys and what goes into creating a skin-crawlingly evil Batman villain.
CBR News: In the current storyline thus far, you’ve got Bruce taking on the Dollmaker, a new Batman villain. What was the inspiration for the Dollmaker?
Tony Daniel: I wanted to create a new kind of villain who reflected some of modern society’s interests. In the Dollmaker’s case, his doll making is a twisted take on plastic surgery, you could say. He takes pride in his work and considers his conquests “collectibles.” As for inspiration, I think I probably pull from within my subconscious. Though that sounds pretty disturbing, it’s probably not so far-fetched. Horror movies scare me, ever since I was a young child, but that nervousness in the pit of your stomach when you’re watching something truly disturbing, that feeling you want to push away, I think made an impression upon me. I think the things we know about the Dollmaker, and the things I haven’t revealed yet, leave my stomach a little on the uneasy side.
Along those lines, how is Dollmaker different from or more dangerous than other deranged bad guys Bruce has faced in the past?
He’s different in that he looks at his victims as flawed pieces of art that he can improve upon. Any money he makes is to help fund his craft and sustain his family. He’s not doing what he does so that he can become a rival to the Penguin or Two Face. His own justification for doing what he does, like supplying life-saving organs to the black market, shows that he’s pretty complex. In the death he creates, he thinks he evens everything out by giving life in the form of those organs.
With the Dollmaker story arc wrapping up in December, What can you tell us about the following Penguin story?
We’ll be seeing how the underworld works a little bit as Penguin opens up his new floating Iceberg Casino. There’s a hit man, his gal, stolen money, a string of murders in the underworld and some secrets revealed about Charlotte’s past. Also, we’ll see if Batman would ever hit a lady. It’s a shorter arc, but explosive.
In your pre-September “Batman” series, you were playing with a lot of the classic Batman villains, and the next arc after the Dollmaker reintroduces the Penguin. With “Detective,” are you equally interested in reestablishing classic Batman villains as you are creating new bad guys?
That’s exactly it. I’d like to bring new challenges to Batman as well as take the opportunity to bring in some of the classics. There’s also a Scarecrow story in the pipeline that I’m looking forward to.
I’m trying to keep “Detective” as fresh as possible. Even in the Penguin arc, we meet a couple new bad guys who might be worth keeping around, who might make a formidable foe in their own right one day.
In your opinion, as both a writer and fan, what goes into making a good Batman villain? Is it more than just physical intimidation?
It starts really with the villain’s motive. What does he want? What does he do to get it? Is he deranged or just a criminal-minded genius? Whatever the motive is, it ideally would challenge Batman mentally. With someone new, like the Dollmaker, Batman is figuring this new challenge out, learning about him as the story unfolds. It’s an unfamiliar path he would have to go down to get this guy.
Besides new villains, you’ve also got a new love interest for Bruce Wayne in TV reporter Charlotte Rivers. What can you tell us about Charlotte? And does this mean Bruce has put Selina behind him?
Charlotte is an investigative reporter who specializes in uncovering scandals and corruption, and has seen her share of controversy over her career. She does the kind of reporting that has and will continue to make her enemies, especially as she spends more time in Gotham City. She’s really a strong woman and is independent. She’s a pretty good match for Bruce, and that’s why he likes her. She’s crafty, smart and daring, too. There’ll be some secrets unburied from her past at some point that might put a strain on their relationship one day, but we’ll get there in time.
As for Selina, I don’t know if she’s someone Bruce could ever completely put behind him. I’m sure she’ll rear her head at some point in “Detective,” and that will be fun when it does happen.
With the Gotham City Police seeing Batman as an adversary, how would you sum up the new relationship between Gordon and Batman in “Detective?”
I thought, looking at this from Gordon’s perspective, he can’t be so obvious about the help he gets from Batman, at least not at this point. I think they have an understanding, but I like that both are a little bit guarded around each other. I think it’s a little more realistic of an approach than having Batman trounce all over a fresh crime scene as the CSI are trying to do their own investigation. Batman and Gordon are discreet about it.
Now that you’ve settled into “Detective,” have you found that your art and writing styles have changed a lot from what you were doing in “Batman,” evolving to fit your new book?
Yes, actually. I knew right away how I wanted to approach “Detective” and luckily the people at DC gave me the freedom to do it. I wanted bigger and bolder art and in-your-face kind of stories, where I can tap in to my love for noir and hard-boiled. Though it’s not truly either of those genres, I feel it doesn’t have to be placed into a box and labeled. I didn’t know how it would be received, but I’m the kind of guy who’s not afraid to take chances, especially if I believe in something.
In a similar vein, your art and layout on the book is very complex and detailed, more so than I think many fans have seen before. Do you feel your style is becoming more detail-oriented as you continue to work on the series?
The funny thing is, I envisioned this book being simpler in style than before. I think I just got carried away. I’m a fan of details. I think part of it is the coloring. Tomeu Morey’s colors have had such an impact on the look of this book, I need to make sure he gets the proper credit. He’s done exactly what I envisioned before putting pencil to paper. The art looks painted a lot of times and has a watercolor, hand painted look reminiscent of the way comic books used to be done. I really love that look. He marries modern computer coloring to a look that is usually only achieved by hand.
Art-wise, what is your favorite part of “Detective Comics” to draw? Is it Batman, or is it some of the newer characters, like the sewn-together Dollmaker and his “family?”
My favorite part is usually where some kind of action is taking place. I can play with the flow and the rhythm of storytelling and lead your eye to all the points of impact. I also am really enjoying Charlotte. Some things are easier for me, and I love when I’m able to roll through the day and get a lot of work done.
Finally, as both a writer and artist you’ve been working on Batman for years. What is it about the hero that fascinates you?
I’m fascinated with the world he lives in and how he approaches trying to make it better. He’s consumed with fighting a battle that most would say he can never win in Gotham. He doesn’t believe most people. I think that’s cool.
“Detective Comics” issue #4 hits stores 12/7.