To The Batcave with Paul Cornell

In possibly the best free agent signing since the San Francisco Giants landed Edgar Rentería, DC Comics is certainly getting its money's worth from recently signed exclusive writer Paul Cornell.

The Hugo Award-nominated British writer has delivered a critically acclaimed run on "Action Comics" since kicking off his Lex Luthor-centric arc in #890 and his "Knight and Squire" miniseries is sizing up to be a genre-bending romp through London's superheroic boroughs.

Last week, DC Comics released news that Cornell will now write a three-issue arc of the best-selling "Batman and Robin" series, collaborating with fan favorite artist Scott McDaniel ("Nightwing") on #17-19. 

Cornell's recent appointment to the title was necessary to give the incoming team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason a few extra months to prepare as both have been busy with DC's bi-weekly series "Brightest Day." Grant Morrison, who launched the series, is leaving the "Batman and Robin" following #16 to kickstart a new Bat-book, "Batman, Inc."

Cornell told CBR News he's thrilled to be writing the dynamic duo and has high hopes that his new supervillain will become a mainstay in Batman's rogues gallery. He also discussed the differences between writing Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson under the cowl, which iterations of the Dark Knight he believes the title channels and how he landed the late inning save in the first place. 

CBR News: And the hits keep on coming. When did you learn you would be jumping onto "Batman and Robin" and more importantly, how quickly did the story you're going to tell come together?

Paul Cornell: Mike Marts contacted me just a couple of weeks ago. It was quite easy for me to say yes, because I've had this story, and this villain, in my head since I tried to pitch a badly written version of it to Bob Schreck about a decade ago.

Does your tale pick up right after Grant Morrison's story ends in "Batman and Robin" #16?

Not exactly. We're a little while into "Batman Inc.," and Bruce is abroad. I keep the heat up by playing my biggest possible story, and hopefully I don't mess it up before Peter arrives.

You've already been working within the Batverse with "Knight and Squire." How did writing that project prepare you for this one?

Hmm...there must be something. They're chalk and cheese, really.  "Knight and Squire" is absurd fun, and this is absurd bloodthirsty madness.  Although "Knight and Squire" does get chillier towards the end.

You were obviously familiar with Batman and Robin before landing this gig, but what is your history with the characters? Did you love the Tim Burton movies? Or are you more of an Adam West guy?

What I love about Grant's Batman and Robin is that it's successfully integrated a flavor of Adam West back into the seriousness of the Chris Nolan stuff.  There's something genuinely groovy and meaningful about those performances and the sheer excitement and glamour of that show when you're eight. You can feel that ballistic, crazy vibe to what Grant's doing. Apart from West and Ward's excellent comedy performances, that show has a really good Joker, Riddler and Batgirl.

From the recently released solicitations, it appears your story features Dick and Damian, so the question has to be asked. Where's Bruce Wayne? And will he be playing a role in your arc?

Bruce is away, and I think we only see him on one page, at the end of a phone line.  He's got important stuff to do in another country, so it would be now that something from his past rears up out of the river.

Are you writing Batman any differently with Dick under the cowl than if it were Bruce?

Yes. He's got a distinctly different voice from Bruce. Indeed, I have Damian remarking on how that might go now that Batman Inc. is in the world.

Any disappointment that it isn't Bruce?

No. I've always enjoyed Dick.

Can you share any details about the story you're going to tell in "Batman and Robin" #17-19?

It's a nasty, mad story about a new villain. It's Dick and Damian dealing with something that isn't their fault, and it lets us see something of how they relate to Bruce in different ways.

I'm not familiar with Una Nemo. Is she a new character you've created for the arc or an existing one from the Batman mythos? What can you tell us about her?

She's new. She's one of those "girls on Bruce Wayne's arm" who suffered from being associated with him.

What about The Absence? Again, according to the solicitations, he's a "mad, gory villain," but that could best describe half of Batman's rogues gallery. What separates him from other mad, gory villains like The Joker and The Scarecrow?

He's nothing in particular. There's nothing to him. There's nobody at home.

OK. Fair enough. But all the same, it must be pretty intoxicating, adding a new supervillain to the Batman mythos?

Absolutely. It'll be interesting to see if he catches on. That's what everyone wants to do, really, add to the pantheon.

Have you seen any of Scott's pages yet?

Oh yes, he's way through it. I've loved his work since "Green Arrow," and was so pleased when he was chosen to do this. He's been giving me a say so on certain aspects of character design and costuming. I think there's something about his art which is really dynamic and Batman-like, perfect for this book. He makes the costumes, in particular, look stunning.

You sneaked this project past us as we weren't expecting it. Can we expect more news from you in regards to more DC projects in 2011?

I hope so!

"Batman and Robin" #17, written by Paul Cornell and featuring art by Scott McDaniel, is due in stores on November 24.

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