Comic Talk Magazine
First off, can you tell me how you ended up getting involved with Batman?
After issue 25 of Darkhawk, I decided that I was going to leave the title because I had done 25 issues straight. I figured 25 issues in a row is a pretty long run by today’s standards. I was getting a little burned out and didn’t want to start doing poor quality work. So I wanted to leave after issue 25, which was the biggest selling issue, probably since the first issue.
I’d known Archie Goodwin for several years, so I decided to go over to DC to see if they had any Legends of the Dark Knight for me to do. I figured what I would do was float around and see what else I could pick up. Archie gave me the Legends of the Dark Knight annual to do, which, in turn led to other people seeing samples of my work – specifically Neal Pozner and Dennis O’Neal.
Than one evening at around 7:30 at night, Dennis calls me up and goes, ‘Would you like to do Batman?’ I thought about it for about 30 seconds and said, ‘Yeah, sure!’ It was great because they asked me, so I felt very flattered.
Have you always wanted to do Batman?
I would say he was one of the characters from when I was a real fan, back in my teens, that I liked. Specifically, what Neal Adams did on him. I was a super big fan of his stuff; I used to blatantly imitate his stuff. I used to draw so much like Neal Adams that it hurt.
Maybe I’m different from some other people, because it was rare that I would fall I love with a character because the artist that I like is doing the book. Since Neal did a lot of Batman stories, I ended up liking the character.
How do you see Batman? Do you see him more as a grim and gritty Dark Knight, or as a reasonably well-adjusted caped-crusader? Or as something entirely different?
It’s something that I had to ask myself because I hadn’t read Batman comics for a very long time really – besides the ones that Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neal did. Occasionally, I would look at the title of someone like Michael Golden or somebody that I liked worked on it.
That was my reference point, basically, until Frank Miller and then with David Mazzucchelli did Year One. That seems to have set the tone.
Adams came back and established the creature of the night, the dark aspect of the character, being spooky and creepy. I imagine it will take a few issues to get my own feeling of the character because in a way, I’m working off of the inspiration of the artists that I admired as a teenager. That’s what’s firing me right now.
I don’t really know. He’s pretty much a dark, grim character. I think he has a pretty bent personality in some ways. He’s obsessing over this one event so much that he’s willing to put himself through this torture and pain, mentally and physically, to avenge the death of his parents.
It also has to do with what Doug Moench has in store for the character. At this point I have just received the script for Batman issue 500 and I will be starting on it in the next week or so. I’ve talked briefly with Jordan Gorfinkel, Dennis O’Neal’s assistant, and Doug. It’s like everything is speeding along so fast you just have to grab on.
What’s it like coming in at the tail end of a rather exciting timeline?
There are four or five Batman books right now, so different parts of the story take place in different titles. I get a script from Doug Moench and it’s like a telephone book. It’s huge compared to the plots I usually get from Marvel.
So there is a big of an adjustment working from a full script. That’s going to take a rearranging of the creative process at the beginning.
Are there any other differences you noticed in making the switch from Marvel to DC?
Well, I would have to say that for me, I would say that DC wants me to be the best Mike Manley on the character. They all seem to be very encouraging and very excited to see what I’m going to turn out. I hope I don’t disappoint everybody and send the sales into the dumpster.
I think there is a difference in personalities of the people that I’m working with, just like when you change any job. You go from one job to another. You have to get to know the people at the job and then you develop a rapport and a routine with them.
I’m really looking forward to collaborating more closely with Doug Moench and Dennis O’Neal on this stuff. It’s hard to say how things are going to turn out because at this point, I have drawn only seven pages for Legends of the Dark Knight Annual. I am also inking an issue of Shadow of the Bat that my good friend Bret Blevins is doing. In fact, he’s the guy who recommended that I go see Archie. Bret Broke his contract at Marvel, went to DC and got a good reception there. They gave him Legends of the Dark Knight issue 50, which is retelling the first meeting of Batman and the Joker. He was very ecstatic about the way things were going, so he said, ‘You should go. You should call Archie, you should go see him!’
So I did, although it did make me feel a bit strange because I did know Archie to a degree socially. I felt like, ‘I don’t want to call him up and ask for a job.’ [Laughter] That’s what I did anyways.
You mentioned that you want to collaborate with Moench. Do you want to write any Batman stories on your own?
At this point it’s too soon in the creative process for me. I think what I really want to do now is concentrate on the art side of it. I think that they have the plot for the next eight or nine stories at this point. I would imagine to Batman issues 510 to 512. I just want to concentrate on the artwork right now. I think if I was to concentrate too heavily on the plotting, it would become too much.
Sure, I would like to do a Batman story myself somewhere down the road or stories with other characters. But I’m quite happy at this point to be able to pencil and ink my own work on a monthly basis and I’m trying to take my work up a level or two. That’s very difficult when you have to produce a certain amount of pages per day. Day in and day out, week after week, you can’t fall behind work or books start missing shipping.
I think if I was to try and write…I’m so booked now, even besides Batman, with other special projects, I really don’t have the time.
So you’re going to ink Batman as well?
That’s a goal I made for myself after doing that on and off with Darkhawk. Nothing against other people that I’ve worked with, Ricardo Villagran is a great guy. I have had other people from time to time on the book, but there is a certain satisfaction that you have when you finish the artwork yourself. If you mess it up, at least you mess it up. If it’s successful, then you feel good. I look at the inking really as the drawing.
The way comics are set up today, they specialize everybody so that you have guys that just pencil, guys who just ink. You have guys who pencil who, if you asked them to ink their work, would be absolutely lost. I try to take after more the old school where most of the guys inked their own work. Besides the layout, the inking is the most important stage. Because after you erase the page, the pencil is gone and all you have left is the ink. If the inker isn’t very good, if the inker you’re working with loses your drawing or the emotional quality of your work, it can seriously alter the impact that you’re trying to give the reader on the page, besides destroying the drawing.
I guess you’re aware Batman gets a new costume as you come on the book.
Yeah, he’s getting a new costume. I’ll be working on that now. Issue 500 is split into two parts. Jim Aparo is doing he first part and that’s going to be inked by Terry Austin. And then, starting right on the first page that I do, he’s in his new costume.
How long he will have the new costume, I don’t know because I’m just as surprised as everybody else at this point. I don’t know the full story.
Graham Nolan told me that the new costume was a little difficult to drawn.
It’s pretty complicated. But if you draw them 400 times over the course of a year, you can generate ‘em out of your imagination, no problem. It’s just part of the job.
Batman is going through a lot in this story. What did you think when you heard about all the stuff that was happening to him?
I think they’re doing a real smart thing. They had a great success with The Death of Superman. With competition being the way it is in the marketplace today, you’ve got to come up with some good ideas to capture the readership. Everybody has a lot more choices today. I think what they’ve come up with is great so far and I think that some people may have guessed what it is while some people won’t have guessed at all.
I think the best thing about Batman is that he’s such a basic, simple character that so many people can do so many different takes and interpretations on him. I think that’s why he’s lasted 50 years. There are a lot of characters who are interesting, but they lasted 50 years.
It’s the same with Superman. Maybe it’s a little more difficult with Superman, because you can’t make him a dark Superman. It might be a little bit harder to do certain things with a character like that. Whereas Batman is a vigilante and I think that those are timeless characters. They can appeal to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.
Do you think Batman goes far enough in his dealings with criminals? Do you think he should be a bit more ruthless or is he fine as he is?
The Batman of old of new?
The Batman of new
It’s hard to say. I think it really depends upon what each creator, what each writer or each artist is going to bring to the character and what kind of story they’re trying to tell. If you’re trying to tell a story of a guy who’s slowly, inch by inch, losing it, he may slip. He may go a little too far; he may whale on somebody a little too hard.
That is something that has also been done a lot. Part of the problem that people face in this business now is that you get on a character like Batman who has been around so long, you have to ask yourself, ‘What haven’t they done with him?’ There’s been so much done with him.
Also, I think with the movies and things like that, there’s a certain amount of restriction as to what they can do with the character.
Is there anything else you want to say about being the artist on Batman?
I guess I’m going to try harder than ever to do the best I can because the competitions stiff. If you can’t hack it you can be replaced easily.