Category COLLECTIBLES

Screenrant Interview with Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins

Screenrant
Tales from the Dark Universe: Knightfall Writers Finally Break Batman
October 16th, 2019

An Interview with Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins
Interview by Andrew Dyce

When DC’s Metal introduced readers to the Dark Multiverse, it was obvious the concept had far too much potential for just a single series. Now that roiling sea of alternate realities too violent, too grim, too hopeless to ever survive is being given its own line prestige one-shots. These standalone stories ask the same question: what if a pivotal or iconic DC storyline had turned out differently? And it’s officially begun, with the release of Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Knightfall #1.

The first ‘what if?’ nightmare brings fans back to the story that saw Batman broken by Bane, with Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) taking up the cowl in his place–before Bruce Wayne returned to put an end to his brutal reign. Bruce defeated Azrael, saving Gotham and sending Valley on his own mission of redemption… but what if he hadn’t? The answer to that question is delivered in Tales From The Dark Multiverse: Knightfall #1 from writers Scott Snyder (Batman: Last Knight on Earth) and Kyle Higgins (Power Rangers: Shattered Grid), and artist Javi Fernandez (Justice League). A vision of Gotham thirty years in the future, when Azrael–sorry, ‘Saint Batman’ rules with gleaming cross and flaming sword, and the most unlikely hero returns to free the city from his tyranny. Screen Rant had the chance to speak with both Snyder and Higgins about how this alternate Knightfall embodies the spirit of the Tales From The Dark Multiverse stories still to come, along with some “giant” events coming in 2020.

With Batman: Last Knight on Earth and Nightwing: The New Order under your belts, neither of you are strangers to hypothetical nightmare realities of the DC Universe. But how did Knightfall, and the question ‘what would Gotham have become if Azrael had won?’ make it onto the shortlist?

Kyle Higgins: The whole initiative really started with Alex Antone, an editor at DC, who started putting together–off of Scott’s awesome work in Metal, and the creation of the Dark Multiverse–this idea of, ‘would there be any interest in exploring some of the other worlds?’ Then from there it became a question of which other worlds? Which stories made the most sense to dive into? I think for Scott and myself both, Knightfall is one of those iconic stories from an earlier generation of Batman that definitely influenced me growing up. So the opportunity to dive in there and see what that might look like through the lens of a broken world, and had Bruce never actually returned to the mantle, what that might look like. Especially based on the idea of who Jean-Paul Valley was at that time, and how mentally ill-equipped he was for the mantle, and that role. It definitely felt like all the great makings to build out a pretty killer new character, and a ‘what if’ scenario, for lack of a better descriptor.

Scott Snyder: For me, I think Knightfall is one of the stories that really haunted me as a kid. Even the first time I read it. I really felt Bruce broken, and really felt he might not get back up. So there was always a question of massive possibility, and there is a real sort of uncertainty around it for me, just as a reader. I remember I genuinely believed he might not come back this time. So the idea of the Dark Multiverse, when we created it for Metal based on all our greatest hopes and fears are material and sort of bubble up into worlds all their own. It felt like a perfect starting place for Tales of the Dark Multiverse series. To go back to one of the stories that felt like it genuinely could have ended a different way, and take it to someplace really imaginative and dark. And then just give Kyle and Javi credit, I just helped a little bit in the plotting. All the great stuff in there from the psychology and the design of Son of Bane, to the way Azrael appears as this kind of broken king. That was all really their doing. So I was just happy to be a part of it and see it become something even more than I hoped it would be.

KH: It was a really cool, exciting opportunity. Because I really started my career writing monthly comics with Scott, with Gates of Gotham together back in 2010, 2011. Then leading into the New 52 with him and Greg [Capullo] on Batman, and then Eddy Barrows and I doing Nightwing, and trading off arcs and certain Court of Owls reveals and things like that. It was cool to kind of slip back into that dynamic here. It had been a few years but I think, not to put words into Scott’s mouth or anything, but it just felt comfortable. Like talking to an old friend again, breaking stories and building it out. So for me it was also a nice return to the DCU after spending the last couple of years in Power Rangers world… where I also built out some authoritarian, broken kings. I’m trying to keep it on brand.

Readers of Flash Forward are going to be familiar with Tempus Fuginaut, but a lot of people might pick up this one-shot and feel like they’ve missed an important story already being told. How much do they need to know?

SS: What I always say is we try to construct things that don’t require you to read beyond the issue itself. So hopefully even if you don’t know who Tempus is, you can get a sense from this and not feel in any way lost. We’re hoping that’s sufficient. But I always say, one of the things that we’re proudest of right now at DC is that we’re trying really hard to build one connected universe. The stuff that we started in Metal in 2017 really comes to a head this year in Justice League, as the story is ramping up to the end now. And more in Batman/Superman with what Josh [Williamson] is building, and what James [Tynion] is going to build in Batman, and in Hell Arisen at the end of Year of the Villain. It’s all connected. The hope is that you’ll read it and won’t feel left out at all by seeing Tempus in there. But you’ll be able to go read Flash Forward, you’ll be able to go read whatever else to get a bigger picture of this expansive tapestry, this immersive, giant soap opera we’re telling that’s going to end in something really huge in 2020.

Batman fans are almost guaranteed to be at least a little familiar with Azrael and Jean-Paul Valley, but for those who haven’t read Knightfall in years, what was it about Azrael that informed the Batman he would become, and the mission he would take?

KH: Well I think there’s two components to that. The first is purely from a kind of, ‘hey, what would that look like?’ standpoint of logistics. It was a lot of fun to take this character and see the longer he was Batman, the more of his authoritarian tendencies started to come to life. Then just before Bruce came back in the original story, he straight-up killed somebody. So extrapolating from that, ‘what might he look like had he defeated Bruce when Bruce came back to try to reclaim the mantle?’ And with the increased level of influence that the St. Dumas programming was starting to take in Jean-Paul Valley. How would that manifest in his leadership? Particularly as he is left to his own devices, and unopposed. So from a world-building standpoint that created a lot of really interesting questions and possibilities.

From a character standpoint though, one of the things that interested Scott and I the most was that this is a guy who knows deep down he was the wrong choice. I think there is a massive inferiority complex there. So as you see in the series, his relationship with broken Bruce Wayne is really the crux of this story, and of this world, and of his decision-making. I think there’s probably a part of me that remembers that era and thinking, ‘why didn’t Bruce call Dick to become Batman?’ Then there was the whole prodigal son storyline that came after that, where Dick did become Batman and addressed some of those choices Bruce made. I think Jean-Paul Valley would definitely feel that, and know that he’s basically another man’s stand-in. I think if they don’t have a solid enough foundation, that can drive somebody mad. That was one of the things that really attracted us to this, and building out what this version of Batman might look like, given where his insecurities and fears in this Dark Multiverse world would really be rooted.

I expected a dark vision of the future, and a pull no punches story, based on the Dark Multiverse one shots from Dark Nights: Metal, but… boy this goes to some incredibly unexpected places very, very quickly. Was that Horror part of the initial idea, or did that line of what would be too outrageous only get drawn once you started building out the story?

SS: I think it was a fun balance. On the one hand we didn’t want it to be a straight-up ‘what if’, or show what happened right in the days after. Because it almost felt like that would be too predictable, and too familiar. We wanted to really play with the idea that it’s been a long time since Knightfall came out, so we wanted to take you to a world that would reflect that. Not just, ‘what would have Gotham become in the immediate aftermath?’ Which again is something you can imagine right off the bat. I think having Knightfall take you someplace a little bit more speculative, and more surprising. And it would give us room to create a more inventive extension of some aspect of that story. Like with the Son of Bane. Take us further, really show Bruce in a way we’ve never shown him before, take him to a darker place.

The world-building is what attracted us to taking it a little bit further down the road. I think the fun of this series–and I hope people will pick up the rest of it as well, with the other classic DC stories imagined in darker iterations–they allow you to revisit some of your favorite work, but do so in a way that opens up completely new worlds. Really explore the core aspects of those stories while staying true to what those stories were about, and what Batman is about for this one, what Superman is about for The Death of Superman. Trying to say something important about the heroes in the context of the stories they were revisiting. But do it in a way that allows us to really flex these muscles creatively, and create characters that you’ve never seen before.

I mentioned Tempus Fuginaut earlier, and not to get into spoilers, but Tempus puts this Dark Multiverse tale into the context of a coming “crisis.” That word isn’t used lightly, so how much should fans read into that?

SS: Yeah… I think they should read a lot into it! These books are not meant to be–we don’t want to mislabel them, or position them in any kind of false way as a ‘prelude’ to a giant Crisis or anything like that. But what they speak to in terms of something coming, I think it’s been a drum beat that you’ll see, again, across the DCU. Both in Year of the Villain and Hell Arisen’s ending, and Batman, and Justice League, and a lot of the things that were doing in the whole line. We are planning something really big, and a giant story. Greg and I are really excited about it. And without sort of spoiling anything about it, I can just say we wanted to be able to read everything independently and enjoy it, and then at the same time feel like it will all be rewarded. My motto for 2020 is, and this is a piece in what we’re building to, is that everything matters. The idea that we want you to feel like everything you’ve read will be rewarded. There’s nothing that you’ve read, whether it goes all the way back to Metal, whether it’s Flash Forward, whether it’s Leviathan or Doomsday Clock, that isn’t revisited in a way that fits into a larger plan or a larger tapestry. We’re trying really hard to make something connected and fun and completely enveloping in that regard, that’s cumulative.

Because one of the fun things that… I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the first time I’ve seen it done outside of comics, but at its core, one of the few things that comics has that other mediums generally don’t–save that one or two examples–is their connectivity. You can immerse yourself in a world where these superheroes coexist, and the stories come together once in awhile to make something huge and amazing. That was always a great joy for me, as a kid especially, feeling the payoff and being like, ‘oh wow, this is all part of one thing!’ Or, ‘oh that’s right, that story happened over here, and this hero is talking about it because it affected him in a way I didn’t expect!’ All of that stuff to me is part of the joy of comics. I think it’s important to remember that in a world where everything is immediate, and total consumption of singular mythology–everyone binges one show or one thing and it’s done–comics go on, they continue. And the fun of it is living in that huge, immersive world.

So this is one giant story leading to something huge, and every part of it is relevant in that regard. We want you to feel like you can buy in as much or as little as you want, and enjoy whatever aspects of this you choose.

For you Kyle, how does it feel to create the most disturbing version of Batman in easily the last decade? Is this a case of the student becoming the master?

It’s pretty cool. Well, I don’t know if it’s the most disturbing of the last 10 years because you haven’t seen what’s coming next. But I also would say that it’s rare in life that we ever get to revisit eras that are ostensibly over. And for me, like I said, to come back to work with Scott again, to work on something like this where I’m able to come back and show what I’ve been doing for the last 5 years–especially all the world-building I did in Power Rangers–it was really really cool and gratifying. I feel very honored and lucky to have the trust of not only editorial, but Scott as well. I know how hard it can be sometimes to let people come in and play in your world– like I said, I literally just spent all of last year doing that with Shattered Grid, and running all of that–so I totally recognize that.

It’s very special to me to be able to come back and work on this. So hopefully people pick it up, and dig what we’re exploring here. And stick around for not only the rest of Dark Multiverse, but as Scott eluded to, all of the big things that are coming in 2020.

CBR Interview with Kyle Higgins

CBR
Dark Multiverse: Knightfall’s Kyle Higgins Talks Batman and a New Crisis
October 15th, 2019

An Interview with Kyle Higgins
Interview by L.D. Nolan

Running from 1993 until 1994, “Knightfall” remains one of the the most iconic tales in Batman’s long history. After sustaining a backbreaking injury at the hands of Bane, Bruce Wayne gives up the mantle of Batman to Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael for a time. However, Valley proves too brutal. Wayne eventually has to return and defeat his former protege in order to protect others and once again become the Dark Knight. However, Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins and Javier Fernandez’s Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman — Knightfall #1 imagines a world in which Valley beat Wayne and remained Batman.

Announced earlier this year, Tales from the Dark Multiverse is a set of one-shots set in the worst-case-scenario universe first introduced during the Dark Nights: Metal event. The book picks up 30 years after Wayne fails to take his mantle back from Azrael and explores the dystopian world resulting from such a cataclysmic change, as well as the new Batman’s extreme methods.

CBR caught up with co-writer, Kyle Higgins to talk about the new “Crisis” teased in the book, why Azrael fails as Batman, writing fascism, and world-building for the newest world in the Dark Multiverse.

CBR: My first question for you is about something right towards the start of this issue in the preview that CBR ran. Tempus Fuginaut, who’s heavily involved with Flash Forward teases a new Crisis. What can you tell me about that and how it fits into these one-shots?

Kyle Higgins: I really kind of started my career at DC. I started at Marvel, but my big breaks came at DC, and those were in conjunction with Scott Snyder, working on Gates of Gotham. And then I transitioned for the New 52 to Nightwing and Scott transitioned to Batman. Anyone who remembers that era probably would remember that we often interlinked arcs. So there’s a natural fit here as to why he and I decided to do this initial one-shot to kick off all the Dark Multiverse one-shots that are forthcoming.

And that particular point that you just keyed on about the tease of a new Crisis, perhaps the biggest yet, is absolutely a component of that… I can’t say anything specific about it, but what I can say is that it’s there for a reason, and it’s not a coincidence that Scott and I did this issue together.

Azrael really struggled with being a hero when he first took over for Batman during the original “Knightfall.” Why do you feel that he fails at being Batman?

There’s kind of two components to that. The first is that he was really kind of designed and set up to fail. From a narrative standpoint, if you look at the era that that story was built during, and you look at old interviews that Denny O’Neil gave, he talks about this kind of proliferation of antiheroes. Whether it be Lobo, Punisher, Wolverine, the popularity of these antiheroes of that era is what really sparked this idea for the Bat office, which was “okay well let’s explore this and let’s show people what a Batman that kills looks like, ultimately as a cautionary tale as to why it’s so significant that the Batman as we know him, Bruce Wayne, Batman does not.” So that was kind of the initial set up for what became the “Knightfall” event in the comics.

As far as in-story reasons, I just don’t think Jean-Paul was really equipped for the task at hand. And if you look at a lot of his conditioning under the Order of St. Dumas and his background, he did the best he could with the wiring that he had. But I think that as the pressure mounted and what it means to try to be Batman in a city like Gotham, some people are kind of cut out for that and others aren’t.

I mean, you look at quarterbacks in the NFL, and the ones that come in with immense talent and are playing off of that talent purely for a period of time. They might have success early on, but eventually, there’s enough tape on them, that opposing defensive coordinators figure out how to scheme away a lot of that natural ability, and they’re forced to actually figure out how to play at a higher level within a scheme and that’s where you see careers go off the rails, or you see them rise above… I just don’t think Jean-Paul Valley had the fundamentals. He didn’t have a strong enough foundation that would have made him the type of Batman that could have risen to the challenge.

So, going off of that: your Knightfall picks up a long time after Azrael defeats Batman. Were there any stories from that time that were kind of floating around in your head that you didn’t get to tell. Maybe of successes, maybe of failures? Because as you said, he wasn’t quite equipped for that role.

To me, because of the answer I just gave, I was only interested in exploring this era that was. I think it’s in the solicit. It’s about 30 years after he became Batman. When someone’s not equipped for it, but is either enabled, or, well, I don’t want to get into how and why he was able to, in our version here within the Dark Multiverse, stay as Batman, but to me looking at what that kind of darkest timeline with a Jean-Paul Valley who does not have the right foundation and perhaps moral compass to rise to the mantle that he’s taking on… showing the extreme of that after a significant amount of time [had] passed was the best way to explore it. I wasn’t as interested in jumping in and looking at a few months after the point of divergence and what that would look like.

To me, looking at how the city would have changed, how his support structure would have changed how the very idea of Batman would have changed some 30 years later, that started getting exciting for me.

A lot of that change is that Azrael is kind of running an almost pseudo-theocracy. And in your previous work — I’m thinking specifically of Nightwing: The New Order, which dealt a lot with fascism — what draws you to these stories about authoritarians misusing their power?

Without getting political or anything, I think they’re very timely right now. I think they often make for really compelling cautionary tales. In something like Nightwing: The New Order, or even my Power Rangers work with Lord Drakkon, the idea of someone, for the greater good, doing what is necessary, but ultimately what is necessary undercuts why they got into the work in the first place, that to me is always, like I said, a fascinating kind of cautionary tale.

And in the case of Jean-Paul Valley and the setup of this story, it was pretty ripe for that exploration. Like I said, this is someone who has not equipped morally or mentally for the task at hand, and when left to his own devices, this is a story of how things can go incredibly wrong.

I guess I hadn’t really thought of that before, that I have explored some of those kind of authoritarian tendencies in past work. But, again, I do think that there’s something very — we write about what we’re afraid of. At least I do. And there are definitely things in the world that we live in right now that, again, without getting political, echo some of those fears.

How do you view Azrael’s relationship in Knightfall with the rest of the DC Universe? What’s his relationship to all the other characters who are kind of floating around. Superman? Nightwing?

I don’t want to spoil too much here, but that was something that Scott and I talked quite a bit about. What does the outside world look like? And the idea of cutting Gotham off from the rest of the world as a result of what has happened in the rest of the world… Azrael definitely believes that the ends justify the means, and that he has kept Gotham standing, and he has turned this city into a paragon of virtue that the rest of the world could only ever dream of becoming through strong moral conviction and willpower. But so much of what the rest of the world has become, you could argue, is actually a direct result of Azrael cutting Gotham off from it. So, there’s a little bit of a chicken and egg kind of question at the core of this story.

There are little hints throughout the issue as to what things look like. Whether outside of Gotham, whether it be other heroes or other threats, different types of plagues. Even just kind of the status of Lazarus Pits in the larger DC Universe. To me, that wasn’t the core of the story. And this a story with a pretty limited amount of space. I mean, larger than most one-shots, but still, to build out an entirely new status quo, you have to really kind of pick your battles as far as where you decide to focus your page real estate for world-building. So again, we kept things pretty tight on what Gotham looks like in this world. But I think eagle-eyed readers will see hints about the fate of different characters throughout.

You have worked on a lot of alternate worlds and continuities or things that give you more room for play. When you’re writing something like Tales from the Dark Multiverse, what storytelling possibilities does that open up for you?

Well, I definitely pride myself on finding the most interesting through lines within a kind of higher concept. And a lot of alternate timeline stuff really allows for that, because at their core there tends to be a point of divergence or a higher concept that, for lack of a better term, a quote unquote “elevator pitch,” right? This is a story of where it’s this but in this era, where this happened and then that naturally leads to questions. Well, how did that come about? What is this person? As you just said, what happened to Superman? What happened to these people, and then it allows for really interesting world-building opportunities.

I kind of really spend a lot of time figuring out the world- building and in the most efficient and, hopefully, emotionally resonant way. It’s kind of like a tumbler lock, where each pin is a different possibility within a concept, and you have to get them all to kind of lineup right for the lock to open. I just really enjoy that challenge. And the “what if?” of it all, to me, is always a lot of fun to play around with. You can take it to an extreme that you couldn’t in standard continuity and use that extreme and the exploration of that extreme status quo to ultimately make whatever kind of emotional or thematic point interested you in the story in the first place.

Is there anything else you’d like to add just as we finish up?

It’s always fun to come back to Gotham, and I’m really proud of the issue and really happy to be working with Scott again and hopefully people will pick it up, give it a chance. The other Tales from the Dark Multiverse stories are all very exciting. And I think this is a really cool line that’s coming up and hopefully people won’t sleep on it.

Jo Blo Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy

JoBlo
April 23, 2019

An Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy
Interview by Sean Shirey

Sean Gordon Murphy has been producing some wildly beautiful art for years now, gaining noteriety for his lines on Punk Rock Jesus, American Vampire, Joe The Barbarian, Chrononauts, The Wake, Tokyo Ghost, Batman: White Knight and now its sequel, Batman, Curse of the White Knight, which the illustrator is again also writing. Producing some of the most vibrant, stylistic and gorgeous art for his books, Murphy took on the writing chores starting with Batman: White Knight, which found the artist pulling elements from ’89 Batman (including the alter-ego name for The Joker, Jack Napier) and pushed the limits of what a Batman story could be in terms of action, story and themes. Now, Murphy has crafted a follow-up to the successful run, which finds its way onto DC’s new mature readers imprint, DC Black Label.

I had the opportunity to speak with Murphy via e-mail and he shared his ideas and plans for the book, as well as the inclusion of some key characters from Batman’s massive library of characters and what being on DC Black Label means for readers of the title. We also have some exclusive art from the book, so get a taste of what’s to come below and be sure to pick up Batman: Curse of the White Knight, in comic shops on Wednesday, July 23rd!

You pulled aspects from 89 Batman with Batman White Knight. Should readers anticipate any elements pulled from any of the other films with Curse of the White Knight?

Yes! Not only does the 89 Batmobile make it into the book, so does Joker’s really really really long revolver.

You’re bringing Azrael into Curse. What inspired that choice and what can readers expect to see from your interpretation of him?

For Curse of the While Knight, I wanted a villain that was ancient–someone who would not only upend Batman, but the entire Wayne legacy going back to the founding of Gotham. Azrael (and the Order of St Dumas) checked all those boxes. I really wanted to get back to basics with Jean-Paul Valley, revive a lot of what made him so cool in the 90s (the fire, the sword, the over-the-top- Bible-stuff). The biggest change I made was making him much older–in Curse he’s a special forces veteran who’s misunderstood, much like Rambo in First Blood. So while he’s definitely the antagonist in Curse, there’s a lot to his back story that makes him more compelling than the other villains.

Joker has embraced his Joker identity at this point, but Jack Napier is still in there somewhere. Do you have a roadmap in your head of where Napier comes from and what his ultimate motivations are in choosing the Joker persona? Is this something we’ll see explored?

Because the Joker is such a wild, unpredictable, insane force of nature, to me it makes sense that there must be a counter-balance to that. Which is what Jack Napier is. When Napier first started out as the Joker, I imagine there was no difference between the two. But as the years went by and the Joker became more defined, I imagine Napier did as well. And it wasn’t until Joker took the medication that Jack was finally allowed to come to the surface. While he won’t admit it, I think Joker is just as surprised as everyone else that Jack Napier exists. And in Curse, Joker goes after both him and Batman!

You’re adding some historical elements into this, as well as working in some Vampire nods (American Vampire Easter Eggs?), but also the Detective piece. How important was it to make this as much a detective story than anything else?

My Batman has always been the classic “pulp” Batman from the early days. Especially the stuff that inspired the Animated Series in the 90s. So for me he’s most interesting when you bring him back to basics: as a detective. Batman has become very sci-fi in other books and has grown to include vast amounts of fantastic, otherworldly characters–I really wanted to get away from that by offering readers something less overwhelming. For my books, it’s important that the reader doesn’t need to know a lot of back story–if you’ve seen a movie or played a game or two, you’re good to start reading.

With this being a Black Label book, what can readers expect to see here that they wouldn’t get in the monthly Batman book?

In Curse, you’ll see some familiar characters die, something you don’t see in mainline DC continuity. So for me, the stakes are higher because anything could happen to anyone.

Since you’re writing and drawing the book, what is your process in putting it together? Is it a polished or loose script? Do you draw first, script later?

I’m a self-taught writer–I have zero formal training except what I picked up by reading books about screenplays. So I tend to write full scripts with 3 act structures, I don’t start drawing anything until I know the ending of the book, and I cut back dialog as much as I possibly can. I’m also one of the few writers who doesn’t use narration captions (or inner monologues). I know it’s a comic trope, but because I have full control of the art, I would rather let the line work and the rendering do the talking.

What is it about this series that makes you want to continue to mine stories?

I enjoy the challenge. Most people don’t take an artist seriously when he/she says they want to write. So White Knight is me planting a flag and saying “See?? I have good ideas, and my book sold really well–so now you have to take me seriously!”

Is there a plan to keep the series going beyond Curse or is it one story at a time?

Yes, I have 2 more installments planned. Eventually I’d like to get into Batman Beyond and maybe even Superman. But that’s a ways off.

Hollywood Reporter Interview with Sean Gordon Murphy

The Hollywood Reporter
April 23, 2019

How ‘Curse of the White Knight’ Explores Batman’s Hidden Past
Interview by Graeme McMillan

Creator Sean Murphy explains his take on the Dark Knight and the Joker.
Even Batman doesn’t know everything about what’s going on in Gotham — or about his own family history. What he doesn’t know is at the heart of the new comic book series Batman: Curse of the White Knight, launching this week from writer/artist Sean Murphy.

The eight-issue miniseries continues the story set in motion by Murphy in 2017’s massively successful Batman: White Knight, and continues that series’ combination of thrilling superhero adventure and exploration into the basic Batman concept, and the characters around him. The Joker, having “recovered” from his time as the sane (yet still dangerous) Jack Napier, has a new plan in motion, and it’s one that involves the history of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne’s ancestors and a certain religious figure with a flaming sword who might be familiar to Batfans of a certain age.

Heat Vision talked to Murphy about the series, and what other plans he may have for the future of the White Knight property as a whole.

At what point in the creation of Batman: White Knight did the idea of continuing the story occur to you? Curse of the White Knight feels like a surprisingly organic follow-up to a story that felt complete57.

When I was scripting the final issue.

I wrote the series thinking it might be my only chance to write and draw Batman. As the numbers for issue three came in — they’d kept going up each issue — I realized DC would probably let me continue a White Knight series indefinitely. I was wrapping up issue eight at the time, and thought, “I should probably add something that will get readers excited about a sequel.” So when Bruce is reading the note from Alfred, who died saving Bruce, I added a “PS: Check under the floorboard in my quarters. There’s something there you’re ready to see,” not really being sure what that would be.

My original idea for the last page was for Bruce to discover what Alfred had buried. But my editor thought it was tighter to end on Bruce revealing himself to Gordon.

One of the things that made White Knight so interesting was that it was a Joker story that was, well, about the void of the Joker. Jack Napier was — especially to hear the Joker talk about it — explicitly not the Joker, but instead an alternate persona. Curse features a very Joker-y Joker prominently; was it strange to finally use a more traditional version of the character? 

It’s funny, my editor called me after reading the script for Curse, and he said, “It’s funny — White Knight was one of the best Joker stories ever, and you did it without really writing the Joker.” So I really had to think about how I wanted my Joker to act.

So, I made Joker a fanboy. And Batman is his favorite toy.

I started with the version of him from the Animated Series cartoon in the ’90s, voiced by Mark Hamill. I kept asking myself “What would Mark do? What kind of Joker did I like when I was a kid?” and tried to go from there. Mine isn’t a super violent Heath Ledger type — in my world, GCPD have never been able to prove Joker actually murdered anyone. Even though everyone knows he’s probably a serial killer.

Talking about characters who have changed and not-changed from where we left them: It’s interesting — and rewarding — to see that Bruce Wayne is still dealing with the lesson he learned at the end of Batman: White Knight; that Batman is far from the effective tool for the good of Gotham that he had imagined himself to be. And yet, Bruce Wayne continues to be Batman, even after admitting that so much of who and what Batman is, is rooted in his ego and not in the altruism he imagined. Beyond simply, “It breaks the series too much,” why is that? After pointing out the limits of Batman in White Knight, does Curse of the White Knight attempt to rebuild Batman, in a way?

I think of the White Knight series as a constant “3rd Act” story. Meaning that each book will feel like the last chapter of Batman. But they won’t be.

In Curse, Bruce is struggling with where to take Batman. On one hand he knows Batman has helped Gotham. On the other, he knows continuing to be Batman is problematic, and that you can’t really have law, order, and justice while also allowing vigilantism. But coming out might also hurt the city.

To make things worse, Joker decides to begin his “finale” — one he doesn’t plan on surviving — by telling Batman “the greatest joke in Gotham”. The joke is this: Batman can never fix crime in Gotham, because of the “curse” brought on by the Waynes.

Batman’s working with the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit — or, at least Nightwing and Batgirl — in this series, but sees himself as separate from them; he’s clearly not lost that ego even despite what should/could have been his humbling in White Knight. The GTO is a fun new twist on the familiar trope of Batman’s family; it’s got very familiar faces, but distanced from the Dark Knight in a way that’s not been shown before. Are we going to see more of them, and the tension between them and Batman, throughout the series?

Yes — the GTO are an important element to the book because they represent “vigilantism evolved”. Bruce is tempted the join them — he very much wants to fix Batman and the damage he caused to Gotham. But it’s hard because he’s not a team player.

The GTO is an idea Bruce would have endorses long before he became Batman. But after years of being Batman, he’s having trouble accepting them. And he can’t figure out why.

Your reimagining of Azrael is arguably the biggest departure from traditional Batman canon of everything in the White Knight mythos. What brought you to this version of Jean-Paul Valley? And what can you say about him, without spoiling the story?

I based Jean-Paul Valley after John Rambo in First Blood — a misunderstood veteran who takes it too far.

Azrael’s very much the antagonist, but his PTSD and his “warrior culture” code of ethics makes him more empathetic than other villains.

Why Azrael? He’s not the most obvious character to follow up White Knight with, and a character who, dare I say it, may be relatively obscure for those who weren’t reading Batman comics of the 1990s.

I loved reading [classic Batman storyline] Knightfall back in the 90s, and I really wanted to revisit the idea and push it even further than before.

And obviously I wanted to draw fire-swords.

I actually planned on creating a new character for Curse. Part of leaving your mark on Batman is adding a great new villain, and collecting lots of future royalties. [Laughs]

What I created was actually very close to Azrael — a warrior from an ancient cult that had been in Gotham Valley for centuries. I needed a character that was ancient, one who allowed me to revisit historical Gotham, and one who offered a lot of great sword fighting action — I’m a big Zorro fan. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I should just use Azrael.

It’s been 20 years since the Knightfall stuff, so I figured the timing was right. I could reinvent him while also getting him back to basics, putting him back in his original costume. DC told me they didn’t really have plans for him, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Curse feels like a very different comic than White Knight, in terms of the scope of the comic, if nothing else: The historical opening! The mystery involving the Waynes of the 19th century! What do you hope audiences who enjoyed White Knight get from it? For that matter, what itch does it scratch for you that White Knight didn’t?

I think White Knight is about the present: our politics, our infighting, our fear of the where society is heading. For Curse, I wanted to focus on the past. If Bruce fretting about Batman’s impact on Gotham was interesting, imagine if the Wayne’s impact on Gotham was much worse! That would screw him up even more.

White Knight is a separate universe, so it deserves a separate origin. So the reader can expect to get a full history of how Gotham began. And the “curse” that eventually lead to Batman.

So what can you tell us about the future of the series as a tease to lure in those who still need to be convinced about it? You talked about White Knight continuing indefinitely earlier. Do you know what that looks like? 

Well, if Vol. 2 is about the past, then Vol. 3 will be about the future. So I’m considering doing a White Knight spin on [animated series] Batman Beyond.

And after than, maybe Superman.

DC Nation interview with Sean Murphy

Justice League Odyssey
September 2019
Issue #11

What can you tell us about the story?
If you think Jack Napier was unhinged in Batman: White Knight, that’s nothing compared to what Joker does with Azrael in Batman: Curse of the White Knight. As Bruce struggles with the idea of telling the identity of Batman, Joker threatens to expose a hidden truth about the Wayne family. Something that Bruce isn’t even aware of. Something that goes all the way to the founding of Gotham Village in 1685.

Why are you excited about this project?
I’m interested in going deep into the past about the Wayne family and how they’ve come into power in Modern-day Gotham. Batman: White Knight focused a lot on the present, Batman: Curse of the White Knight will focus more on the deep past. And if there is a third series, my plan is to focus on the future of Batman.

What’s it like to be both the artist and the writer of the series (along with your collaboration with Matt Hollingsworth)?
It’s a lot of work, but it’s the most satisfying way for me to make comics. Writing the scripts is also a great way to make sure that the artwork is the best that I can make it. I always put 100 perfect into my books, but being a writer makes me strive for 110%.

How does this tie into the current DC Universe?
This book is set aside from the current DCU. It’s marketed like a Batman movie: a familiar Batman with a different spin. One that doesn’t require the reader to be fluent in 80 years of Batman comics.

Why should fans check this out?
Readers should check this out because it’s slightly different to what they’re used to reading about Batman. And there aren’t many ‘single vision’ mainstream books these days (meaning the writing and art are handled by the same person).

Describe the series in seven words or fewer
If you miss this, you’ll regret it.

What should first time readers know before picking this up?
Nothing! You can come into this series without ever reading a comic.

The New 52 – Convergence

The Convergence story line stars heroes from the ‘Zero Hour’ arc under the banner of the
‘Batman: Shadow of the Bat’ title, each with a variant cover.

 

Batman: Shadow of the Bat
Issue No. 1 – June 2015
The Dark Side of the Street
With the people of Metropolis trapped under a dome, Bruce Wayne decides to go under cover in hopes to work for the crime boss Tobias Whale. Little does he know that Jean Paul had the same idea and is currently working as Whale’s hired muscle under the assumed name, ‘Johnny Valli.’ As a sort of initiation, ‘Valli’ must give Bruce a brutal beating before joining up.
Bruce and Valli then pay Councilman Hall a visit with Bruce under the orders to murder Hall. Days later the duo are in their batsuits working to hijack Whale’s plans. After knocking Whale unconscious the two batman come to odds in their differing ways of achieving their goals. Bruce then feels a shift in time and reality.

 

Batman: Shadow of the Bat
Issue No 2 – July 2015
Home is the Sailor
The Wetworks team is on a mission as the city’s champions and are on the hunt for Batman and Azrael. If the duo beat Wetworks however, the inhabitants of the aircrat carrier will be killed.
In the end Azrael strikes up a deal for Batman and Wetworks to team-up in an effort to break down the dome and unite with the heroes on the outside.
Azrael has other plans though and decides to stay with the people of the aircraft city to be their defender.

 

Red Hood And The Outlaws

Red Hood And The Outlaws
Bizarro Part 2: Knight Knights
Issue No 15 – December 2017
Led by Batwoman, the Gotham Knights team of Azrael, Orphan, Clayface, and Batwing are baited with a holographic message from Bizarro to stand down on the fight against crime in Gotham. The Knights confront Bizarro on his message only to combat the team in battle they easily lose.

Grayson

Grayson
Annual No 3
Who Is Agent 37? – The Savior
In this issue, Dick Grayson – Agent 37 in disguise as the Spectre, gathers Harley Quinn, Azrael, John Constantine and Green Lantern Simon Baz together to discuss their run-ins with a mysterious spy whose face none can recall. Azrael’s story titled, ‘The Savior’ sees Agent 37 in the village of Khortamor in the land of Khandaq, where he assists Azrael in guarding ‘The Abraxas Stone.’ The people referred to Grayson as, ‘Almanqidh Majhuli Alhuia,’ or ‘The Faceless Savior.’
After everyone recollect their stories they all realize that they know that the faceless stranger is none other than Dick Grayson, only it is too late as their minds are being wiped of all recollection of their encounters and are left unconscious with no memories of how they were compiled here.

Justice League Odyssey

Issue No 1 – September 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 1
Operating outside of the Justice League, Cyborg and Starfire go on a mission to into the Ghost Sector following a mysterious voice that has called them. Along for the ride is Azrael who also heard this voice calling him to the stars. The team takes in Green Lantern Jessica Cruz when she falls into a radiation gap that Starfire saves her from, pulling her into this unknown mission. The team comes to find that the voice calling them actually belongs to Darkseid as he was calling forward ‘The Goddess, The Machine, and The Angel,’ the ‘New Gods.’

 

 

Issue No 2 – October 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 2
The heroes face Darkseid in a battle where he tries to inform them of destinies they are unaware of as ‘the New Gods.’ Darkseid leads the team to a place that appears to be a shrine surrounded y death. A priest reveals to Koriand’r how his people came to this fate before passing along his language to her and dying. The team starts to believe that Darkseid was right and there are different worlds now freed from the Ghost Sector that worship each of them as gods.

 

 

Issue No 3 – November 2019
Ghost Sector – Part 3
Leaving the planet that Koriand’r was worshipped, the team finds them selves on a planet covered in snow. Azrael and Jessica Cruz explore for parts to fix Brainiac’s Skull Ship while Cyborg and a mysterious alien medic tend to the illness plaguing Koriand’r. Once cured they help their friends embattled with this planet’s race while the mysterious ‘Rapture,’ a character dressed in Azrael’s non bat armor, observes.

 

 

Issue No 4 – January 2018
Ghost Sector – Part 4
Now on the machine world, Cyborg meets the race that worships him as one of the New Gods, however he must first prove that he is not an imposter by facing Azrael in combat. Rapture shows himself to Starfire and Jessica Cruz, pledging his allegiance to Azrael while the planet’s race empart that they are are a people who model themselves after Cyborg with body modification and worship with an in progress working Mother Box.

 

 

Issue No 5 – January 2019
Ghost Sector – Part 5
While the team battles the machine army, Darkseid cuts a deal with Starfire’s sister Blackfire in an exchange for the Otherbox he has hidden on Tamaran he will never return. Meanwhile Cyborg plugs into his followers Mother Box to find out the secrets of the Ghost Sector, the reasons why it was hidden, and the effects of it being released from his chambers. Rapture reveals that it was he who killed the followers of Starfire. Now with bitterness that Azrael is not the God he thought him to be, he and his legion of Azrael inspired garb wearing disciples are ready to wage a war to kill the ‘Old Gods.’

 

 

Issue No 6 – February 2019
Ghost Sector – Things Fall Apart
In an attempt to get the next piece for the Other Box, Darkseid battles fail safes set in motion by Brainiac to stop him. Greatly weakened though, Darkseid succeeds. Meanwhile on Tamaran, the team finds the planet in ruins and faces the Queen of the planet, Darkfire who plans to take out at least one of the members thinking it will stop Darkseid’s plan to use the components and the Other Box to create a new Apokilips.

The New 52 – Batman & Robin Eternal

Jean Paul Valley makes his official return to the DC Universe as Azrael in the New 52 series
Batman & Robin Eternal. See below for the issues he appears in. Additionally the entire series
was collected in two separate trade volumes.

Issue No 9 – February 2016
The Last to Die
Red Hood and Red Robin ditch Red Robin’s plane and chute down to Santa Prisca where they run into Bane. After a brief battle, they strike a deal to take down the Order of St Dumas and their angel who has been striking many down with Bane having his island back. What the trio find is that the Order have built their church atop the Pena Duro prison. Once inside they are caught with the Order’s angel of death, Azrael. We see flashbacks to years prior where Bruce seeks out ‘Mother’ who knows his identity as Batman, and that he seeks a better Robin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 10 – February 2016
He Whom God Helps
Red Hood, Bane and Red Robin take on Azrael. Bane is show the light, as is Red Robin, but not before he and Red Hood hack the system of the Order to find records that show the man under the guise of Azrael was man made by Mother for the order. Azrael uses his tricks on Red Robin and shakes him up, leaving the two Robin’s barely a chance to get out with their lives.
Flashbacks of Bruce’s meet-ups with Mother for a new Robin, and an old quarrel with Dick from his time as a Robin.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 15 – March 2016
The Deception of St. Dumas
Azrael’s faith is starting to waiver as he meditates and ask for forgiveness at his sanctum in Gnosis. Red Robin comes to the city with an unconscious Red Hood as his gift, asking to join the order. Azrael brings him to meet the current St. Dumas who wants him to become the new Azrael. In doing this Azrael must fight Red Robin to keep his place but is taken down by an electromagnetic pulse and a concrete solution. Meanwhile Jason is caught and has to face his own mental nightmare, reliving his death against the Joker.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 16 – March 2016
The Dying Joke
Held captive, Azrael and Red Robin learn the truth about how Jean Paul Valley was shaped into the instrument that becomes Azrael. With this knowledge, and anger, he is able to break free and fight back choosing to be his own truth. Through this Tim must try to break through the trauma programming of ICTHYS that Jason is going through reliving his death at the hands of the Joker in his mind. Once free, the trio team up with the info they need, and a plane, and flee the secret land while Azrael destroys it to go on his own journey.

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 24 – May 2016
All Out
The Batfamily and company have their hands full as Mother has released her children all around the world to attack. With Cassandra captive, she has Harper right where she wants her with the promise of giving her the life she could have had if Batman let her if she kills Cassandra. Azrael goes to the Arctic Circle and Meets Agent 37, Dick Grayson, who is also there to take down Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue No 25 – May 2016
Orphans
The batfamily presses on against the children of the world under the control of Mother’s ICTHYS. With Scarecrowe’s new toxin completed, they administer it around the world through the doors to knock the children out of Mother’s hold. Dick is tries to talk sense into Azrael that he can find a better way for himself outside of Mother’s rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Issue No 26 – May 2016
New World
The batfamily and all allies take down Mother’s infrastructure base finding that it was built atop an active volcano just in case Mother ever had to erase her tracks. Azrael takes out the main satellite communications from the base to all world coms. It’s the end of the line for Mother as she is killed by her right hand man, David, Orphan.
Harper decides to put the costume away and carve her own niche, Cassandra renames herself Orphan and joins in the mission with Batman.