Kubert Shines BAT SIGNAL on "Damian: Son of Batman" and The Joker

Since the first named appearance of Damian Wayne seven years ago in "Batman" #655, the son of Batman and Talia al Ghul -- even in death -- has been one of the most polarizing figures in all of the DC Universe.

Andy Kubert, who illustrated Damian's introduction into pre-New 52 continuity, told CBR News that even he didn't like the young Robin at first, but the fan favorite comic book artist learned to love the character and returns to him next month in the miniseries, "Damian: Son of Batman," which he will write and draw.

A featured player in Grant Morrison's Batman stories, the fifth character to protect Gotham City as Robin was killed this past winter in "Batman, Incorporated" #8. However, Kubert explains in this edition of THE BAT SIGNAL that Damian's tragic and shocking demise doesn't play into his story as it was written years ago and was only recently re-scheduled for publication.

Kubert also shared details about his and artist Andy Clarke's Villains Month one-shot, "Batman" #23.1: The Joker, which is available in stores and digitally today.

CBR News: Since his official named debut in 2006, Damian Wayne has been a polarizing figure amongst comic book readers. As one of the co-creators of the current version of the character, alongside writer Grant Morrison, and your upcoming return to him in "Damian: Son of Batman," my guess would be that you are a fan. What is it about Damian that engages you as a creator? And why do you think he works?

Andy Kubert: When I spoke with editor Mike Marts about what character I wanted to write, I immediately said Damian Batman from "Batman" #666. I loved the tone that Grant Morrison set for that issue. The characterization and his visuals are great, too. I like the fact that he is violent -- even though I'm not a violent person myself, it is a blast to draw. And it's a blast to draw Batman ripping into someone that otherwise he would just punch or kick.

Damian as a kid isn't as visually pleasing to draw, but his characterization and body language are. He's a wise guy and it's a hoot just to try and get into the acting of the character through the drawing. Also, he comes across with a strong personality. He's the kid people love to hate.

Can you understand why people love to hate him? What is about Damian that you think may offend some readers?

Probably the same traits that offend some readers about Damian are the same traits that people like about him. Again, he's the kid people love to hate. I didn't like him at first. If my kids brought Damian over to our house, I'd want him out right away. Though he'd probably come back at night and torch my house -- with me in it. [Laughs]

Can you take us back to his origin? What sticks out in your mind from those first conversations with Grant back in 2006? Or the first time you read him in a script? 

I don't remember much as to what Grant said about Damian back then, but it seemed like Grant got a good handle on him as we progressed, albeit it didn't take him long to get that handle. It took me awhile to get comfortable with him. Damian was brand new at the time and new characters take a while to figure out and get used to. I also didn't know how long Damian was going to stick around. I had heard rumblings that he was to be killed off early on, but I guess he got popular and thus stuck around for a while.

Though he is the son of Bruce Wayne, he is obviously something entirely different from his father, with and without the cowl. What do you see as the major difference between the two characters?

The major difference is that Damian kills or has killed and Bruce does not. Damian is a hot head. Bruce is cool and calm. Damian is short. Bruce is -- oh, forget it.

Got it. Polar opposites. Are there any similarities?

I think their major similarity is that they both have a deep respect for what they believe is right and what is wrong. They both probably have different thoughts as to what is right and wrong, but they are deep into their beliefs of that. If Damian thinks someone should be killed, then he deeply thinks that someone, justifiably, should not be walking the Earth anymore.

They are also both psychotic in their own ways -- certifiably crazy. They're probably both destined to be incarcerated in Arkham.

The solicitations tease that Damian has adopted the cape and cowl as his own in a possible future. Is this an Elseworlds-style story, or are you writing and drawing it as something that very well could come to fruition in the future of the New 52?

That's the question I get asked the most, and honestly, I really don't know. I started this story back in 2008 using "Batman" #666 as a springboard and had to put it down to start working on "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" with Neil Gaiman. I hadn't picked it up, or for that matter even looked at it, until this past spring when DC said it was going on the schedule. There's been a lot of water under the bridge in the Bat-books since, so who knows? Again, this story was written way before "Requiem." That storyline was not taken into consideration at all.

You've stated that you will be exploring Damian's path to becoming Batman in your story. Can you expand on that and tease what that may entail?

The story shows the steps and curveballs that Damian is thrown in becoming Batman. It's nothing he has planned or even thought about, and he's not sure that he wants to take the mantle, so to speak. There are sacrifices that he has to make for himself to become Batman but he questions whether he can or even should make those sacrifices. And he's not sure he can deal with it.

Does Bruce Wayne play a role in your story? Or any classic Batman rogues?

You and all the rest of comicdom are going to have to read the pages and find out.

While you have done some comic book writing in the past, you are obviously best known as an artist -- and an awesome one at that. How have you prepared for this new challenge of writing and drawing a book? Does the storytelling and dialoguing come naturally to you or has it been a professional strain?

Well, first off, thanks for your kind comment. I truly get obsessed with the work that I do and try my best with anything whether it be drawing or writing. No matter how the final comes out or is perceived, I always try my best.

It was a bit nerve wracking at first, but coming up with the story was a lot of fun. There's a lot of thought involved, but once the general idea or theme is locked in and approved, the rest is fitting all the pieces into the puzzle to get to the end result. The storytelling and pacing is something that I do when I draw a comic. I interject a lot of myself into a script whether the script is written plot style or full script so the storytelling with my Damian story came naturally.

The dialoguing is different. That's where you have to get the characters voice and nail it down. It also has to read naturally. 

And artistically? What do you like about the look and feel of Damian? And when he becomes Batman, does he have a different look?

Damian's age in my series is roughly late teens to early twenties. He's not a little kid like in "Batman" #655, but at this point is a young man growing into adulthood. His look in the cowl will reflect his adulthood. Actually, the trench coat for Damian Batman was Grant's idea. I really liked it. I love drawing trench coats. Look at the way I handled Gambit in "X-Men." I couldn't get enough of that coat.

Attached to Damian's gloves are those familiar Batman scallops, but they are actually weapons so they have a purpose and it's not for decoration.

I read that you wanted to "push the boundaries" between the line art and color, as well. Can you explain what you mean by that?

What I'm going for is the art and color to be seamless and merge as one finished piece. Not just finished traditional black and white line comic art on my end but my intention is to have it finished off in color to form the complete look. To make this explanation simpler, I'll be leaving areas open in the art that would be better suited in terms of texture to be completed by the colorist. I'll also be putting in texture with grays and wash stuff that I think would work better with that. Plus, I'm trying to get a very different look and feel than what's the "norm" for comic art.

Brad Anderson is doing stuff that he hasn't done before, but he's taking it like a fish takes to water. He and I went back and forth on the color process as to what I was looking for, and he nailed it. I didn't want to mimic what Richard Isanove and I had done on "Wolverine: Origin" and "1602." I wanted to do something a bit different, so the art I'm doing is different insofar as using not only ink, but grey washes, pencil, whiteout, toothbrush splatter and whatever else is within arm's reach when I'm drawing. By the way, my studio is a complete mess. [Laughs]

Anyway, I want to get the reader to focus on the area within the panel that I want them to see first, then try to direct their eye around the panel in the direction I want them to go. Well, that's my plan -- whether it works with every panel or not, you can't blame me for not trying.

What I don't want to get with the art is that it's so artsy-fartsy that it's difficult to read. First and foremost, we are working with a narrative art form and the whole purpose is that someone can read the story easily and clearly without trying to figure out what is going on within the panel. When I read a comic, I don't want it to be work to try and figure it out. I don't have that kind of patience and I'm not sure that many readers do either.

Your father, the legendary Joe Kubert, passed away this past year. Did you ever speak to him about Damian Wayne?

It's funny. I did have my father read the scripts for his feedback. From what I remember, he never really commented on the Damian character himself. His only comments were on the construct of the script.

Before I let you go, I want to ask a few questions about "Batman" #23.1: The Joker. Obviously, you can't give too much away because it's a one-shot but what can you tell us about the story? 

The Joker story focuses on the origin of Jackanapes -- the ape character from "Batman" #666. Jackanapes is also featured in my [Damian] series. Joker has a big part in bringing Jackanapes into the Batman universe.

For my money, The Joker is the greatest supervillain in the history of comics. Where do you rank him and what do you think it is about him that generates such an enduring appeal?

He is the epitome of the comic book villain, in my opinion. He's the most recognizable one that we have. He's sick, sadistic, cunning, ruthless and, at times, has a very dark sense of humor that can be funny. His look, as is most of the older iconic characters, is so engrained into our mindsets. And the older costumes are just very cool. Look at the Adam Strange character. Sure, it's dated but its still off the charts cool looking in my book. If Batman's original costume gets tweaked, fans get up in arms about it. And a lot of fans flipped out when the undies were taken off DC characters. People don't like change and sometimes, I don't either.

Was it easy to find Joker's voice? And what makes him forever evil?

It took some heavy thinking to find a voice for him, along with a few rounds of tackling the dialogue. I think what makes the Joker as evil as he, is and an ongoing evil at that, is he's a very self-centered, selfish person. He couldn't care less about anyone but himself. In that context, he'll do whatever it takes to get what he wants or is after. He wouldn't think twice about blowing up a city block during a parade that was filled with people if it were in his way as he traveled to his favorite steak house.

You wrote the Villains Month one-shot issue, but you're didn't draw it. Andy Clarke did. What does he bring to a project?

I am ecstatic with the work and effort that Andy put into our issue. The art is not only gorgeous and beautifully drawn, but his storytelling, compositions and character acting are spot on. A lot of comics are drawn well, but they lack storytelling chops. I feel very fortunate to have worked with Andy. He's the total package.

"Damian: Son of Batman" #1, written and illustrated by Andy Kubert, hits stores October 30. "Batman" #23.1: The Joker is on sale now.

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