This November, DC Comics' Batman franchise will literally see business expand as a wave of new titles, creative teams and directions join a returned Bruce Wayne to Gotham City. And this morning, one of the most vital members of the "Batman board of directors" has fallen into place as the publisher announced that joining writer Scott Snyder on marque title "Detective Comics" will be the artist Jock starting with issue #871.
"I always wanted to work on a Batman story...something I could be proud of," said the artist most known for his acclaimed "Losers" series, whose stripped down style most recently graced an arc of "Detective" when Batwoman headlined the title. "It's true I prefer stand alone stories, and I'm probably not the guy to go to for big crossover events, but I feel Batman is a pretty good fit for what I try and do. I love the character, and Scott's idea just seemed so good that everything just clicked for me. So it was the story rather than the idea of taking on a monthly book that did it."
Snyder explained that he went after Jock specifically for the gig, noting, "The reason I had him in mind from the beginning is because it is Gotham, and there's some very dark themes and concepts behind the whole run. The whole run is going to be called 'The Black Mirror,' and there's a lot of trials for Batman that are psychological and personal for Batman that run deep. My favorite runs are those kinds. Jock's style, in terms of the darkness and the edginess - the kinds of ragged lines he sometimes uses and the gravity his figures have on the page - will work great along with the darkened cityscapes. In that way, it'll be a very classic Batman look.
"On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of the way Grant Morrison did 'Batman & Robin' by giving it a very updated look, and since Batman is going to be using some new tech here and since we want this to be about how Gotham's changed since Bruce Wayne came back, we really want to give this a super modern edge in terms of the tech and the action and the dynamism. It's not just Batman lurking in the shadows."
However, there are some details of the run which will remain in the shadows for the time being, including which particular Dark Knight will be starring in the arc now that Grant Morrison's "Batman Inc." series will be establishing a number of Batmen working across the globe. But Snyder pointed out that whoever wears the cape and cowl, fans will get a new twist on what they've come to love about "Detective Comics." "It's Batman back in Gotham City," he said. "It's got the basics, but it's going to have really high-tech gadgets and all-new C.S.I. stuff going on. It's going to go back to being Batman at the center. As much as I absolutely love Batwoman and Greg's run on 'Detective,' I'm really glad she's going to have her own book with J.H. Williams. That'll give us a chance to go back to that classic concept: Batman, the world's greatest detective solving mysteries in Gotham."
Jock added of the hero in the lead, "There is going to be specific things here about how I approach the costume that ties into the themes of the story. It won't be the 'classic' look that you saw in the three issues of Detective that you saw - there'll definitely be a different look to it appropriate to this story.
"I love a stripped down story," the artist continued of what brings him into a rare run at the superhero genre. "That's why I loved working on 'Green Arrow: Year One' with Andy Diggle so much. It let us tell a simple story about this character and who he came to be without too many constraints, and Scott's sensibilities for this arc seem very similar to me. You won't have to have read everything in the last five years to get it, it feels like a stand-alone story that has a lot of the basic values of what makes Batman such a great character. Of course, there are some issues occurring right now that will be dealt with! But for that, you'll have to read the arc to see."
One element that is known in advance is which Batman supporting cast anchor will feature prominently in this series as well as his own co-feature. "The backup is going to be Commissioner Gordon, and the two stories are connected to make it one big story through and through," Snyder said, teasing that an artist on that particular element of the series is forthcoming. "We don't want somebody who's going to mimic Jock's style at all. The Gordon stuff is an organic counterpart to the feature. At the same time, Commissioner Gordon is being challenged by a dark figure from his past, so this is a very individual and personal story where I wanted it to have its own look. The trick is finding somebody as bold and distinctive as Jock that doesn't completely clash."
Though Jock does promos that he'll be playing with the Gotham police commish in his pages as well, saying, "Gordon does feature a lot in this - I love drawing him, and the way Scott has intertwined the back up feature with the main story should be a very satisfying read." The artist also told CBR that he's been limbering up a bit with convention work on some Batman villains, without saying for sure who would appear in the series. "I get asked to draw The Joker a lot when I'm sketching at cons - he's always a lot of fun. But saying that, the specific villain we have in this upcoming story should tick all the boxes."
The origin of the collaboration between Snyder and Jock goes back to the earliest days of this new run, as Snyder said he knew who he wanted to work with before he knew it was possible. "Honestly, Jock was my #1 pick from day one, but I never knew if he would do it because he'd never done a long run before on a Batman book," the writer recalled. "It's a big commitment to do 12 issues, and he's so in demand that when I heard he was also working on a creator-owned project with Andy Diggle, I assumed he wouldn't be available. Then I got word from a couple of friends who are writers that the project with Andy might leave him some space, actually. So I just called up Vertigo and got his number in England to ring him up without even telling the DCU guys I was so excited. I called him cold.
"We had communicated on Twitter a few times, and I'd told him what a huge fan I was of his work, but I hadn't mentioned 'Detective' because I didn't think he'd be free. There was never a time where he wasn't my absolute top of the list, but when I brought him up, people would say, 'He does covers. He's doing video game stuff. He's doing this creator-owned thing.' So I called him up and said, 'I know we've talked a bit on Twitter. I have this big run on "Detective," and if you're up for it, I'll work it all around your schedule. Anything I can do to get you on this book, I want to do...let me tell you my ideas for it, and we can discuss them in San Diego if you want.'"
Snyder explained that he wanted Jock to sign on for a full collaboration on the story and art. "That's one of the things I wanted to make sure Jock liked -Â that it was big organic book -Â so I'd have a teammate who was into the ideas and was up for putting as much into it as he wants to," he said. "That's how Raphael [Albuquerque] and I work on 'American Vampire.' I said [to Jock] 'All I want is your absolute input from story ideas to layouts. I'll give you a full, detailed script, but if there's ever a way you think it'll work better, you tell me and we'll do it.' So he seemed really excited by that, and we got along great. We decided to meet in San Diego and talk ideas. We went out and got a beer with Dave Baron, the colorist. I told them the whole cycle, because I have really big ideas for 'Detective.' It's going to have one over-arching story with some mysteries in three or four-issue cycles that move toward a big ending. There are some themes throughout the whole run that are pretty close to my heart in terms of my take on Batman."
"It was speaking to Scott and being so taken in by his idea for this story arc that I was completely seduced," Jock agreed. "It helped that Scott and editor Mike Marts were very accommodating about me doing it and helped work out a schedule that I can commit to alongside my other work that I have going on. But really, it was a phone call from Scott that got me hooked. His idea is so fresh I can't believe it hasn't been done before. Not an easy feat with a Batman story."
And while fans will have to wait until November to see how that story turns out, the pair of creators are already on the job with "Detective Comics" as Snyder concluded, "We're talking tomorrow to discuss character designs for a character in the second cycle and what Jock thinks will make him look best on the page. We're trying to be really involved in this together. I'm not just sending scripts and having him draw this at all."