Under the Hood with Judd Winick, Part II

Yesterday in the first of our two-part interview with Eisner Award-nominated writer Judd Winick, we discussed why he digs Jason Todd, what to expect during his run on DC Comics' "Batman," and perhaps more importantly, for his haters anyways, what not to expect.

In today's conclusion, Winick speaks extensively with CBR News about how he was originally handed "Battle for the Cowl" and wrote two issues before he was taken off the project.

CBR: Obviously, you can't talk about who is under the cowl in "Batman" when you take over the title in June, but what about his supporting cast? Does Alfred play a major role? What about Commissioner Gordon?

Judd Winick: For me, I think the best Batman stories are not only about him but they are about how people revolve around him. And I love Alfred. I love Alfred so much I can't even tell you. I think he is one of the greatest characters in comics. You can call him a dutiful servant but man, he is just so much more than that. Batman couldn't remotely be Batman without him. It's one of the things, amongst many things, that I loved about the last movie, "The Dark Knight." What a strong role Alfred played. And he was stronger in a lot of ways than he is allowed to be in the comics. We don't allow him to be too critical. It's hard because there is so much history with the characters. He can't beat up on Batman, but him beating up on a younger Batman, that's much more acceptable than an older Batman. And considering they have a relationship where Bruce Wayne virtually ignores Alfred at every turn, seemingly, hence the wonderful sarcasm and back-and-forth, Alfred raised him. And there's really something to it.

And I love Commissioner Gordon; the man who keeps the secret, the man who knows but does not know, and I think who has an internal battle with the city that he loves and hates but knows he needs Batman, who he also loves and hates. I love that quality about the character. I think he would be happiest if the world didn't need this man. He always lets him go a little bit too far but there's a wonderful complexity to him, as well, which I hope to explore.

Is it any more special writing "Batman" at a time when the character may be as popular as he has ever been, coming off the success of "The Dark Knight?"

I hadn't thought about that at all, I swear to God, until you mentioned it. But yeah, it's kind of cool. The truth is it's always kind of cool to write "Batman." Let me put it to you like this: you tell people what you do -- and I do a grab bag of things -- but if I say I'm a cartoonist, or I draw some indie comics, or I developed some stuff for television, or I write comic books, they'll be like, "Oh, what comic books?" And if I say, "Green Lantern," I'm met with a little bit of confusion. And I have to explain who that is. And when I was writing "Green Arrow," I was met with more confusion. "Outsiders," forget about it. No one knows that. This is the mainstream public; regular non-comic-book-reading people. Even doing "Titans," no one knows what that is. But you tell any regular person you're writing, "Batman"...

Ed Brubaker and I used to talk about it. It's cool to be writing Batman just to hear people go, "Really. That's cool. But you write the 'Batman' comic book? Really?" Yes, I do. Then you talk about it for 30 seconds and then they want to know if you have anything to do with the movies and then you say, "No, I don't."

And they say, "You should. You should really get involved in that."

"You know what, I hadn't thought about that. I'll look into it."

The June solicitations are out and "Batman" #687 is promising a meeting between the "new" Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman. What can you tell us about that first meeting? Is it safe to say the comicdom royalty are not amused?

I can tell you that Superman and Wonder Woman are absolutely in the comic book. The nature of their meeting with Batman is something that I will have to keep quiet about until June 10. Where's the fun in that?

Sorry, we had to ask.

I was quite pleased with the first issue. It's sort of a #0 issue, if you will, which came about after a couple of manifestations. To explain that, I should talk about "Battle for the Cowl." I was writing "Battle for the Cowl." I actually wrote the first two issues. And I was very, very ahead of schedule. I knew where things were going to end and I was excited to do it, so I decided to get a jump on it. So I had two issues in the can and was moving along while the other six titles were picking the creative teams and getting going. But once I sat down with the editors for these books, Mike Marts being one of them, because of the immensity of the story I was writing, we found I was actually mining territory that they wanted to touch upon in the other monthlies. I was burning a lot of fire wood, because those were my marching orders. I was supposed to tell this big, gigantic story of what got us here. "Battle for the Cowl" was going to be big. It was going to be four issues and we were going to double ship each month and I think they were going to be 30 pages each. It was going to be a big, big thing. So there was a lot of ground to cover. All the characters were going to be represented. And I was robbing, inadvertently, all of this great story from the monthlies. And a lot of their motivations for things they were going to come to and what not, I was covering.

So everyone took a breath and they came back to me and first they said, "We have to scale it back." And then [DC Executive Editor] Dan [DiDio] and Mike Marts just said, screw it. "We're going to take 1/8 of the story you are working on, just this part, this part right here, and that's the part we're doing for 'Battle for the Cowl.' You take the rest of what you're working on and put it in the monthly. But let's take these elements out, so the other monthlies can have it and go to work.' And I offered to finish "Battle for the Cowl." And they were like, "No, screw it. Go keep running with the monthly." And I was pretty much on fire at that point. So instead of me going back and re-working it, they said, "Let's give it to Tony. He's geared up. He's working on this story anyway. He's right here." Because Tony and I were going to do it together. "Let him do that. And you just merrily march forward with the monthly." Which is what I did.

But I basically said, "No, there are things we have to tell. There's one last chapter we have to tell after 'Battle for the Cowl.'" So "Batman" #687 is the very last chapter, which leads us to the jumping off point. Read this and you can go right to "Batman & Robin." And then everything looks up. We would've skipped a step, if we hadn't done this.

What can you say about the artist on the book, Ed Benes?

I can't talk about the artist. I can tell you Ed is working on this issue. Beyond that, I can't say what we're doing. I will say that Ed is someone I have been trying to work with for years. And I'm thrilled. I could not have been greener with envy when Brad [Meltzer] got the opportunity to work with him. I've always wanted to work with him. It was always just a timing thing. He was always locked up with something else or I was doing something over here. He draws a mean Batman. People have seen plenty of him in "Justice League of America," so it's no surprise. It's fun to watch him work.

And you have a couple of up-and-comers doing covers, Tony Daniel and J.G. Jones.

Yeah right. This is "Batman" for God's sake. It's not some lower-tiered book that might get through 12 issues before we get a trade. It's "Batman." We may want to bring our 'A' game.

Judd Winick's first issue, "Batman" #687, all 40-pages, comes to comic books stores June 10. The book features art by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter, cover by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea and a variant cover by JG Jones.

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