The human psyche holds the potential to create acts of heroism and kindness and acts of evil and depravity. In his two latest projects, Paul Jenkins tries to discover what exactly causes the dark side of the human psyche to hold sway over the light. In "Batman: Jekyll and Hyde," a six issue mini-series from DC Comics starting this April, the writer along with artists Jae Lee and Sean Phillips examine the dark past of Batman's foe Two-Face and his relationship to the Dark Knight Detective. In the music video for "Get Your Dead On" by the band Scum of the Earth, which Jenkins and his partner Rob Prior co-directed, a young girl is transformed into something vicious, supernatural and evil. Jenkins spoke with CBR News about both projects.
"Batman: Jekyll and Hyde" came about because of a conversation Jenkins had with DC Executive Editor Mike Carlin at Comic-Con International in San Diego a couple of years ago. "Mike had said to me, 'Why don't you work with DC anymore?'" Jenkins told CBR News. "There was no answer to it. It was only because I finished 'Hellblazer' and gone on to have some success at Marvel. So I just said, 'I've never really found my way back.' Mike said, 'Well what would it take to get you back working with us?' I said, 'I'd kinda like to work on Batman. I've got some things to say with him. I certainly have this thing to say with one of his supporting characters which is Two-Face.'"
Jenkins felt there was quite a bit to say about Two-Face. "Two-Face, I just never believed. It doesn't make sense that this guy is the person he is because somebody splashed acid in his face. That just didn't hold with me. So I didn't really present it that way. I said the acid being splashed in his face was certainly a catalyst. It's the last straw kind of thing because that could not be true. It couldn't be that someone got hurt and then went out of their mind."
Jenkins believes a person is the sum total of their experiences and wanted to examine Harvey Dent's life before the acid splash, which was the final catalyst for his becoming Two-Face. "I talked with Mike Carlin. I told him what I wanted to do, in a sense, to explore his personality," said Jenkins. "Mike said, 'Wow. No one ever really has gone too far in exploring Two-Face's past and who he is and what makes a person the kind of person that they are. What the reason was for someone to have a dominant darker side to their personality.'"
Two-Face sees a kindred spirit in Batman. Jenkins said, " In a sense he can kind of turn to Batman and say, 'This is me, Jekyll and Hyde. That's what we all are. You're the only one that won't admit it, Batman. Your daytime personality, you're nice part, that's your Jekyll. Batman, that's your Hyde. I think the part that you need to understand, Batman is that if you had a choice between a nice walk in the park or kicking the shit out of some criminal in the middle of a dark alley and getting half your ribs broken, you would go with the second option. You're going towards Hyde, but you just won't admit it.'"
Jenkins will also examine Bruce Wayne's motivation for becoming Batman in the same way he examines Harvey's Dents transformation in to Two-Face. " Once we get into where Harvey came from, we also get into Bruce Wayne. We kind of know where he came from, but could it be that this one defining moment in his life is the only catalyst for the person that he has become? I just don't think so."
Jenkins believes that Batman has more in common with Shakespeare's tragic characters like Othello and Hamlet, than he does with many super heroes. "I just happen to believe that Batman is really like one of the greatest tragic characters in modern literature," Jenkins explained. "If people don't see it as literature that's their problem. But here's this guy, and I've written him this way, He witnesses the death of his parents and he spends the rest of his life trying to bring them back to life. He can't fix it. Because he can't fix it, the dark side of him that's sort of dominant is totally tweaked. He's trying to bring his parents back to life, but knows that he's never going to succeed."
"Batman: Jekyll and Hyde" does not take place in present Batman continuity. "It's entirely relevant, where ever it's placed, it doesn't matter. It's probably not in current continuity because I like Jim Gordon as a character. I like to write him as a person in the story." And while Jim Gordon does have a role in "Batman: Jekyll and Hyde," no other Batman related characters are featured.
The distinctive style of each artist working with Jenkins on "Batman: Jekyll and Hyde" becomes part of the story. Jae Lee will illustrate issues 1-3 and Sean Phillips does issues 4-6. "I consider myself to be a very lucky person because those are two people I've worked with extensively, that I'm just really proud to be working with," Jenkins said. "People look at Jae and I having done the 'Inhumans' and 'The Sentry' together. We have a great connection there and good history together. People look at Sean and I for the work that I did for my first four or fiveyears in comics with 'Hellblazer' and I trust Sean implicitly. So, he's doing the second half and sort of bringing the story home."
If the story and the art aren't enough, Jenkins promises one more thing to readers of "Batman: Jekyll and Hyde." "We reveal something about Two-Face that has never been revealed before," Jenkins explained. "It's something that DC seemed quite high on."
Jenkins and his partner Rob Prior have decided to take another dark character driven comic story and bring it into new territory -- the music video. The two co-directed the video for "Get Your Dead On" by the heavy metal band Scum of the Earth. The video, which is in rotation on MTV right now, introduces the world to the mythology of Jenkins and Prior's latest creation, the Shadow Walker. "We managed to find a way to have a reciprocal deal with the band. They'll cross-promote Shadow Walker and they'll use Shadow Walker paraphernalia when they tour and we brought our character into the video," Jenkins told CBR News. "Through effects you see this girl becoming a Shadow Walker."
The girl in the "Get Your Dead On" video is not the only Shadow Walker and she's not the same Shadow Walker in the film that Jenkins and Prior are writing. " A Shadow Walker is the actual literal version of what a vampire or a zombie or all of this sort of undead mythology is," Jenkins explained. "All of the human stories about bloodsuckers, needs for blood or blood sacrifices are actually this type of creature. They're rotten evil bastards."
Jenkins and Prior are also planning on bringing their Shadow Walker mythology to the four-color word of the comic page. "We have a short comic that we're doing with 'Heavy Metal' magazine right now," Jenkins said. "We will probably do a comic at some point, but our focus is making the film. I just did the third rewrite on the script."
Along with the movie and comic book, Jenkins and Prior are also considering developing a "Shadow Walker" video game and are currently shopping around the film and video game rights. "We have a certain amount of interest from different places and that's cool. The video game is the same thing. If you get realistic with Hollywood the other part of that is nothing is real not even when you get a check in the end. It's only real when the fucking check clears. We've already had that happen to us once."
Past experiences with Hollywood is one of the reasons Jenkins has taken up directing. "I got to a point where I just said, 'Look, my interest in making films only lies as far making the film right and the characters real,'" Jenkins said. "My only way of being able to do that is to direct films. That's the only way to do it. I'm not going to allow it to happen unless I'm doing it. So, I'm not going to write a script that gets destroyed by somebody else's lack of creative vision or by the politics of a studio or any of that kind of stuff."
Jenkins found his first directing experience brilliant. He is very proud of the way the video for "Get Your Dead On" turned out. "Its got this very retro kind of feel to it," Jenkins said. "It's very grainy and it has this kind of Hammer House of Horror thing to it. I think you can kind of put that up against videos that show up next to it. What you see in those other videos is people just kind of singing and standing on a live stage show because its cheap to do them that way and
we said we're absolutely not going to do that. We're going to make a story in a video and have some special effects and make it interesting. Then it went to MTV and MTV blurred the shit out of it, because it couldn't have this and that. What Rob and I will do and its just a matter of time because we're busy working, but we're going to do what's in a sense a directors cut of that video. I talked to Kevin Eastman, because we're doing a 'Heavy Metal' story for those guys, and a couple of other places like Launch that will make [the director's cut available online] so people can actually see it."
Comic fans shouldn't worry that Jenkins is abandoning comics for film. He said he's just starting a different phase of his career, but plans to stay in the comics world. "I'm booked on 4 comic series right now. I'm not dropping out of comics, but I do find myself going in different directions a lot."
Whether he's writing superhero comics, psychological crime stories, or supernatural horror movies, there is one motivating force behind all of Jenkins writing. "I have always been the kind of person who wanted to write about people and emotions," Jenkins said. " I don't have a big affinity for big events such as 'Secret Wars' or something like that, or pure science fiction, experimental ideas. I'm not really into that. I like the idea of what makes somebody tick. I'm very interested in why two people who share the same experience go different ways."