Forwarding with Dennis O’Neil

DC Comics
November 1994

A Forwarding with Dennis O’Neil

We knew we needed him. We just didn’t know his name, who he was, what he did, or why.

We became aware of the need when we first began discussing Knightfall, the 71-issue monster continuity that eventually appeared in Batman, Detective Comics, Shadow of the Bat, Robin, Catwoman, and Legends of the Dark Knight, with brief side excursions into a special, a mini-series, Justice League Task Force, and Outsiders. We agreed that the bonafide, original Batman would be severely disabled, retire, and be replaced. This replacement, though an ideal choice for the job, would eventually reveal a hidden, ugly side which would force Bruce out of retirement and into a direct confrontation. The WE I’m referring to consisted of our editorial team – Archie Goodwin, Scott Peterson, Jordan Garfinkel, and Darren Vincenzo – and what I believe to be the best crew of comic book writers in the comic book business – Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, and Jo Duffy. They’d do most of the work. I’d supervise the editorial chores and do a bit of scripting. Oh, and one small additional job: I’d create the character who would eventually become the anti-Batman.

Anti-Batman huh? Okay, should be do-able. Let’s try to find a name and see what develops from that. Something animal or avian, maybe. Go to the research sources and learn what the natural enemies of bats are. Surprisingly, despite the bad reputation bats have they’re pretty friendly creatures. Among their airborne contemporaries, their only real foes are owls. Anything we can do with owls then? Well, owls are predators, but they’ve had great public relations over the centuries. The popular notion of an owl that is not that of a feathered terror who swoops from the night sky to make a snack of a smaller beastie, but of a placid old critter perched on a limb being benign and wise. Definitely not what we were looking for. Any other possibilities? Just one: the greatest danger to the bat population is us – people So, the anti-Batman is what? The human man? Man-man? The incredible person? Fella? Maybe we should reconsider owls…

No, we shouldn’t. We should look elsewhere. I was (and am) interested in mythology and religion. Anything in those areas?

I really don’t remember if I began searching for a celestial avenger or if I merely went for a random saunter through Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. Probably the latter. It’s likely that the name Azrael caught my eye, there on page 100, and I scanned the accompanying text, “…terrible angel of death…forbidding aspect and horrible presence.” …Well, well. Let’s consider this for a moment: As Eric Lusbader observed, Batman’s costume – the horns, the dark colors, the scalloped cape – is reminiscent of medieval depictions of devils. A devil’s opposite is of course, an Angel. So if Batman is a devil co-opted by good, an anti-Batman would be an angel co-opted by evil.

Owls could stay on their branches. I’ve found my man on a higher locale – much higher. Once I’d decided on the angel motif, and editor Archie Goodwin agreed, the rest followed pretty easily. Azrael’s other identity as shy computer student Jean Paul Valley, the clandestine and immensely powerful Order of St. Dumas, Azrael’s position as hereditary assassin, the death of the elder Azrael, and, most important, Batman’s involvement. We enlisted one of comics’ most impressive artists, Joe Quesada, to design Azrael’s costume and, after several conferences with Archie and the other writers, I placed myself proximate to a word processor and began scripting our anti-Batman’s four-issue debut, Sword of Azrael. Joe with fine assistance from Kevin Nowlan, Ken Bruzenak, and Loverne Kindzierski, did a superb job on the graphics and, about a year later, the series appeared.

We chose not to reveal our plans for Jean Paul; I think we were able to con readers into believing that Sword of Azrael was simply the introduction of a new hero. That choice may have cost us a few sales, but it seemed vital to the eventual success of the above mentioned monster continuity that we upset our audience’s expectations. I’m told we succeeded.

Maybe too well. As the monster progressed, as Azrael deteriated into the monomania and violence, mail indicated that readers were starting to hate the young Jean Paul – which of course was exactly what we hoped would happen. Clearly though, there was interest beyond the loathing. Enough interest to justify giving him his own monthly title? The decision makers said yes. Since Archie and I were the architects of the original miniseries, we inherited the job of doing the monthly. Neither of us protested, at least not too audibly; it could be a provocative project, but it had unusual problems. At the end of the monster, Jean Paul is broken, homeless, virtually without an identity and, let us remember, he was despised – not exactly prime hero material. We’d be starting way behind square one. We’d have to tell the story of his redemption and then let him find his own place in our fictional universe.

That’s what we’re in the process of doing. At least this time we know his name. In the months ahead, we may learn who he is, what he does, and why. Stay tuned.

KnightsEnd – Aftermath

KnightsEnd – Aftermath
Issue No 9 – August 1994
The Triumph
With Jean Paul now good, Robin returns to the Batcave to find that Bruce is about to announce some changes. Robin does not have time to hear this though and returns home to see his father, Ariana, and they buy a new family car now that Tim can drive. Later, Batman and Robin foil a bank robbery and the police see that everything is seemingly back to normal.






KnightsEnd – Aftermath
Issue No 13  – August 1994
Reflecting on the events that led to the enabler being lost into the Gotham River, Catwoman decides to go for an expedition to find the missing unit. After going against Selkirk’s men, she is able to use the unit on her friend.







KnightsEnd – Aftermath
Issue No 10 – August 1994
Showcase ’94
Now in a state of shock and disarray, Jean Paul reflects on his rise and fall as Batman as he lives amongst the homeless of Gotham City. Practically mute, he saves a paraplegic from being beaten before aimlessly walking alone.


KnightsEnd – Part 1
Issue No 509 – July 1994
Spirit of the Bat
In order to get back into fighting shake, Bruce Wayne contacts Lady Shiva to train him. After two weeks of training, she gives him a bat mask to wear. The only problem is that this is the same mask she wore when she killed the world’s greatest martial artists and his followers are looking for that person, unknowing that it was actually Lady Shiva. These attacks Bruce does not kill, so Shiva finishes them for him. Meanwhile, Robin is keeping tabs on Jean Paul as his sanity starts to slip. Jean Paul discovers a gang of gun runners has a medallion of the Order of St. Dumas; which happens to have belonged formerly to Carlton LeHah, the man who killed the previous Azrael, Jean Paul’s father Ludovac!




shadowbat29coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
KnightsEnd – Part 2
Issue No 29 – July 1994
Manimal Proving Ground
Still being tested by Lady Shiva, Bruce is ambushed by ninja’s. Now asking for Nighting’s help, Bruce briefs Robin and Nightwing on a bit of Jean Paul’s Azrael background after Robin tells how the medallion of the Order of St Dumas seemed to trigger something in Jean Paul. Still wearing Lady Shiva’s Tengu bat mask, he is again assaulted by ninja’s who think he is Shiva.
Jean Paul starts having hallucinations of his father dressed in his original Azrael garb after seeing the medallion. In a quest to find Carlton LeHah, he sets up a trade with an arms dealer as a trap to find out where LeHah is.





detective676coverDetective Comics
KnightsEnd – Part 3
Issue No 676 – July 1994
Too Many Ninjas
As Bruce continues through lady Shiva’s tests, Robin takes Nightwing dow to the batcave where he is introduced to Harold. From here they quickly set up surveillance equipment to monitor Jean Paul’s moves while in the cave. When Jean Paul returns from harassing arms dealers on the whereabouts of LeHah, Nightwing and Robin witness Jean Paul hallucinating and come to the conclusion that he is losing his mind.






legendsof62coverBatman: Legends of the Dark Knight
KnightsEnd – Part 4
Issue No 62 -July 1994
While Batman is on his quest for the mysterious arms dealer, Lady Shiva’ continues to test Bruce and corrupt him to her level as her final test appears to have Bruce actually kill one of the ninja assassins, viewed by both Knightwing and Robin!







KnightsEnd – Part 5
Issue No 8 – July 1994
Death’s Door
Knightwing and Robin are horrified to witness Bruce murder the ninja assassin. Lady Shiva is satisfied now that Bruce has broke his rule and leaves. After this the ninja assassin awakes from consciousness Bruce has decided he is ready to reclaim the mantle of the bat from Jean Paul is continuing down the depths of insanity.







KnightsEnd – Part 6
Issue No 12 – July 1994
Fire In The Sky
Bruce has donned his Batsuit again and is ready to take on Jean Paul with the help of Knightwing and Robin. Jean Paul saves Catwoman from her captor Selkirk and is interrupted by the batfamily. Things get explosive on the top of the penthouse.







KnightsEnd – Part 7
Issue No 510 – August 1994
Return of the Bat
Things get hectic atop Selkirk’s penthouse as Batman and Jean Paul battle while Knightwing and Robin get caught in the crossfire between Catwoman and Selkirk who is attempting to escape via helicopter. Jean Paul tries to stop the helicopter from getting away by using his gloves grapnel but finds himself, and Bruce hanging above the city for dear life.







shadowbat30coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
KnightsEnd – Part 8
Issue No 30 – August 1994
Wild City
Selkirk’s helicopter ends up crashing into the Gotham bridge which is now a battle ground for the two Batmen while Catwoman is still trying to get the enabler from  him. Jean Paul falls into the river while Bruce tries to get everyone in the area to safety before the helicopter explodes, however doesn’t anticipate Jean Paul booby trapping the Batmobile which explodes, leaving Jean Paul to emerge from the water as the one true Batman.






detective677coverDetective Comics
KnightsEnd – Part 9
Issue No 677 – August 1994
Flesh and Steel
Believing Bruce to be dead, Knightwing attacks Jean Paul as he proclaims himself the one true Batman. Their fight takes them onto a gambling boat where Jean Paul knocks Knightwing unconscious and throws his body at the police before retiring to the Batcave. Meanwhile it appears that Bruce has in fact survived the explosion of the Batmobile and is headed to the Wayne Manor to confront Jean Paul.






legendsof63coverBatman: Legends of the Dark Knight
KnightsEnd – Part 10
Issue No 63 – August 1994
Jean Paul comes to find Bruce waiting for him at Wayne Manor to reason with him, asking him to step down as Batman. Jean Paul tells Bruce his time has come and gone as he was defeated by Bane and that he should stick to his playboy life. They fight through the mansion before Bruce slips into the cave through the entrance he fell through as a boy, knowing that Jean Paul would have the normal entrance trapped. Bruce taunts him by echoing his voice throughout the cave until he gets him to come through the small entrance, knowing Jean Paul would have to take off his armor. Eventually he is left to his mask, blinded by the sun and proclaims that Bruce is the true Batman. Forgiven, Bruce bids Jean Paul farewell.

Knightquest – The Search

jltask5coverJustice League: Task Force
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 5 – October 1993
Death In The Caribbean
Outfitted with a wheelchair ready for battle, Bruce and Alfred head to the island of Santa Prisca in search of Jack Drake and Dr. Shondra Kinsolving. Upon arrival, they are attacked by local assassins but are saved by Bronze Tiger. After checking into a local hotel that caters to drug dealers, Bruce meets up with Gypsy and Bronze Tiger who spy on the locals to find that Jack Drake is not doing well while the locals shoot a bazooka directly at the hotel to kill Bruce and Alfred!






jltask6coverJustice League: Task Force
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 6 – November 1993
Bronze Tiger and Gypsy are ambushed as they try to uncover Bruce and Alfred from the rubble of the hotel, unbeknownst to them that they are safe by way of a tent in the chair off grounds. Bronze Tiger and Gypsy meet up with Green Arrow to face Asps, kidnapper of Dr Kinsolving and Jack Drake. Though they are able to rescue Kinsolving, she willingly boards a helicopter with Asp not wanting to leave Drake in his current state. Bruce charters a yacht more determined then ever to rescue to the two.






shadowbat21coverBatman – Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 21 – November 1993
Bruce Wayne: Part 1 – The Hood
Now in London, Bruce and Alfred seek out local vigilante The Hood to break into MI5 to steal the file on Dr. Kinsolving and Jack Drake’s kidnapper, Benedict Asp. They come to find out that Asp is described as a ‘freelance psychic consultant,’ and his intentions with Dr. Kinsolving are to use her long dormant healing powers to harness and reverse, causing death instead. In London, Asp is to hold a ball which Bruce intends to attend.






shadowbat22coverBatman – Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 22 – December 1993
Bruce Wayne: Part 2 – A Day In The Death of an English Village
Attending Asps’ ball as Sir Hemingford Grey, Bruce gets closer to finding Dr. Kinsolvng and Jack Drake. Using her powers, Asp demonstrates the death of a small nearby village. When she steps out, Bruce recognizes her but not him in his disguise. The Hood, along with an agent from MI5 also close in on Asp.








shadowbat23coverBatman – Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 23 – January 1994
Bruce Wayne: Part 3 – The Curse of the Bat
Not pleased that Sir Hemingford Grey seems to know Dr. Kinsolving, he orders his men to dispose of him. Bruce however holds his own and is saved by the Hood after he crashes in having discovered the death of the nearby village. Hood promises not to tell anyone that Hemingford, Bruce, is actually Batman and Bruce vows to bring down Asp for his crimes.







legendsof59coverBatman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 59 – March 1994
Quarry – Part 1
Bruce continues in his pursuit of Dr. Kinsolving and her captor, Benedict Asp when their secret is revealed; they are brother and sister who can harness their power only when in each others presence!








legendsof60coverBatman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 60 – April 1994
Quarry – Part 2
Asp threatens to kill four heads of state through his combined familial powers. Afraid that Bruce Wayne may become a target, Alfred leaves Bruce and heads back to Gotham to ask Batman if he can look after Bruce, but Jean Paul is reluctant. Bruce plans to be captured by Asp in an attempt to get closer to the duo.







legendsof61coverBatman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Knightquest – The Search
Issue No 61 – June 1994
Quarry – Part 3
Going according to his plan, Bruce is captured by Asp during a hurricane hitting the island. Asp figures out that Bruce Wayne is really Batman and Dr. Kinsolving uses her powers to heal Bruce, but in doing so mentally reverts herself to the state of a child. Asp disappears and is assumed dead.





Knightfall – Who Rules The Night

detective664coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 12
Issue No 664 – July 1993
Who Rules The Night
To prove supremacy, Bane takes Batman’s unconscious body into the heart of Gotham and throws him from a roof into the town square for all to see. Disguised as medics, Alfred, Tim and Jean Paul arrive at the scene in an ambulance to take Batman back to the cave to stabilize him. Robin calls in a favor from Commissioner Gordon for medication to aid in Bruce’s condition. Meanwhile upon hearing the news about Batman Joker sees no need to work with Scarecrow anymore and turns on him.





showcase937coverShowcase ’93
Knightfall Part 13
Issue No 7 – July 1993
Face 2 Face Part 1 – Double Cross
As Alfred and Robin look after Bruce, Robin recounts an event a few weeks prior where he felt just as helpless when Two-Face returned to Gotham. While investigating, Batman is set up and a bridge is blown, sending the Batmobile into the river.







showcase938coverShowcase ’93
Knightfall Part 14
Issue No 8 – August 1993
Face 2 Face Part 2 – Bad Judgement
An exhausted Batman is captured by Two-Face as his body is fished out of the river. Batman is brought to the original Gotham City Municipal Courthouse where the trial that scarred him, turning him into Two-Face occurred. Robin is able to figure out where Batman is taken and crashes the party, enabling Batman to gain the upperhand and initialy saves Two-Face from falling from the building after a bad decision made by Robin. Meanwhile Batman begins to become conscious.






Knightfall Part 15
Issue 498 – August 1993
Knights In Darkness
With Batman out of commission, Bane begins to attack and absorb gangs in Gotham as well as capture Catwoman and want her to pay tribute to him.  and Tim create a mock car wreck and ask Dr. Shondra Kinsolving to be Bruce’s personal Doctor in aiding in his recovery. Bruce asks Tim to go to Jean Paul and ask him to become Batman with the explicit instructions not to go after Bane. The duo meet Comissioner Gordon letting him know that the Batman may be injured but is not out of the game just yet and will make Bane pay.






shadowbat16coverShadow Of The Bat
Knightfall (Interlude)
Issue No 16 – September 1993
The God of Fear – Part 1
Note: Though not a numbered issue of the Knightsaga, this issue is considered a part of it due to being a mission with Jean Paul as Batman prior to batsuit modifications. Scarecrow uses his fear toxin to get a group of Gotham University students and staff. Meanwhile Anarky escapes believing that Batman is the cause of the city’s problems and must be stopped.







shadowbat17coverShadow Of The Bat
Knightfall (Interlude)
Issue No 17 – September 1993
The God of Fear – Part 2
Discovering that one of the students is the son of the first man that he ever killed, Scarecrow uses him as a special part of his plan. At 10 at night, the Scarecrow has the students release his fear toxin throughout the city and claims himself the ‘God of Fear.’ In discovering Scarecrow’s plans, Anarky devises a plan to ry and take down both Scarecrow and Batman at once.







shadowbat18coverShadow Of The Bat
Knightfall (Interlude)
Issue No 17 – September 1993
The God of Fear – Part 3
With both Batman and Anarky after him, Scarecrow gives the people of Gotham City 2 hours to declare him the ‘God of Fear.’ Being caught on a rooftop, Scarecrow throws the student over the building as bait; Anarky saves him while Batman goes after Scarecrow who is able to overcome his fear toxin. He ten lets Anarky know that next time they meet he will kill him for standing in his way.







detective665coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 16
Issue No 498 – August 1993
Lightning Changes
With the city in chaos, Robin and Jean Paul as Batman go into the city to start breaking up street crimes and make the presence of Batman known. Jean Paul begins to go a bit too far with his brand of justice and is reminded that Batman does not go the way of brutality. Robin sticks by Jean Paul to keep an eye on him deciding against telling Bruce. Batman shakes down ‘Tough Tony’ Bressi to get a lead on Bane. Meanwhile Bruce pays Dr. Kinsolving a visit next door at Jack Drake’s home where he witnesses her being kidnapped. In trying to stop it, Bruce is further injured.





Knightfall – Part 17
Issue 499 – September 1993
The Venom Connection
Bruce and Alfred ready for a trip to Santa Prisca to rescue the kidnapped Dr. Kinsolving and Jack Drake. Bruce tells Jean Paul to keep up the good work while he is gone. While in flight, Bruce and Alfred discover that Selina Kyle has stowed away on the Wayne jet. After taking down some of Bane’s men, Jean Paul returns to the cave and designs new gauntlets as an addition to the costume to become tougher.






detective666coverDetective Comics
Knightfall – Part 18
Issue No 666 – September 1993
The Devil You Know
With Bane’s men in custody, Batman devises a plan to find where Bane is hiding out. Batman breaks out Bane’s main henchman – Zombie, Trogg and Bird, leading them to believe that Bane helped them escape. He follows them to the hideout to encounter Bane, not realizing Bane is ready for him.







Knightfall – Part 19
Issue No 500 – October 1993
Dark Angel
Note: This issue was released with two covers, the newstand version (Shown to the left), and a foil die-cut variant, seen in black and white below.
Showing supremacy over ‘the imposter,’ Bane dangles the new Batman over a building in the same square where he threw Bruce. Batman is able to overcome serious injury from the fall but blames the suit for his failed encounter. Allowing ‘The System’ to take over, Jean Paul designs a new batsuit that he feels will be better suited for him over the classic batsuit. Meanwhile Nightwing meets with Robin to discover Bruce gone and Jean Paul as the new Batman, wondering why he was not asked to stand in.
In the second part of the story, Jean Paul is now clad in his new batsuit and ready to take down Bane, publicly. As the police watch, Mayor Krol intervenes and asks the police to stand down and let Batman take care of Bane. The battle ensues throughout Gotham until Jean Paul discovers Bane’s weakness is his dependency on Venom. Once he shuts that off, he unleashes his new suits full arsenal on him, leaving Bane begging Batman to take his life as he declares him the real Batman. Robin also congratulates Jean Paul, letting him know he has earned the right to be Batman now before heading off into the night.

Knightfall – The Broken Bat

Knightfall Part 1
Issue No. 492 – March 1993
Crossed Eyes and Dotty Teas
Following the massive Arkham breakout, the Mad Hatter is the first to make a move. He sends Film Freak to find out who sprung them from confinement and then invites Batman to a tea party. The thugs at the tea party are easily defeated, and Film Freak is killed by Bane.








detective659coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 2
Issue No. 659 – May 1993
The Ventriloquist and Amygdala team up to find Scarface. Batman find them at a toy store break-in while Robin follows a falcon that leads him to one of Bane’s henchman, Bird. Bane does not allow Robin to take Bird as he retreats. The story ends with the duo hearing that Zsasz has taken hostages at an all girls boarding school.







Knightfall Part 3
Issue 493 – May 1993
Already feeling exhausted from capturing the escaped Arkham inmates, Batman and Robin enter the boarding school where Zsasz is holding 15 girls hostage and has killed two police officers. Bane and his crew watch the story unfold via televised coverage as Batman is assisted by officer Montoya. Bird reports to Bane that Batman is appearing to look physically exhausted.







detective660coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 4
Issue 660 – May 1993
Crocodile Tears
Still trailing Bird, Robin is captured by Bane and questioned when Killer Croc intervenes to  battle Bane. Batman is discovered by  Detective Bullock unconscious, unable to come to Robins aid. The boy wonder is caught between the two as they do battle.







Knightfall Part 5
Issue 494 – June 1993
Night Terors
Narrowly escaping the sewer brawl between Bane and Killer Croc, Robin returns to the Batcave. Cornelius Stirk teams up with the Joker to go after the Mayor. When Stirk fails the Joker teams up with the Scarecrow to attack Mayor Krol.








detective661coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 6
Issue 661 – June 1993
City On Fire
Firefly returns and sets Gotham ablaze while Batman sends Robin after him as he continues his battle against the escaped Arkham inmates and captures Cavalier. Meanwhile the Joker and Scarecrow terrorize the Mayor.








Knightfall Part 7
Issue No. 495 – June 1993
Strange Deadfellows
Exhausted, Batman fails to capture Firefly. Bruce Wayne attends a Wayne Foundation Charity dinner with Dr. Shondra Kinsolving which is commandeered by Poison Ivy. Bane watches from outside and immediately knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Elsewhere, the Joker and Scarecrow continue to torture Mayor Krol and lure 20 police into a fun house, detonating it and killing them.







detective662coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 8
Issue No 662 – June 1993
Burning Questions
The Riddler hijacks a TV show but is quickly taken down by Robin, the police, and the bomb squad! Huntress gets the drop on the Riddler’s crew and Batman finally catches Firefly.








Knightfall Part 9
Issue No 496 – July 1993
Die Laughing
With Mayor Krol in a state of shock thanks to the Scarecrows fear toxin, the Joker and Scarecrow devise a plan to lure Batman to the Gotham City River tunnels. They then call Commissioner Gordon and ask to send the National Guard, however Batman is on their trail and bests the Joker, but not before being gassed by his fear toxin. The fright sends him mad and he seeks revenge on The Joker for the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Joker and Scarecrow narrowly escape, leaving Batman and Mayor Krol to deal with the flooding tunnels.





detective663coverDetective Comics
Knightfall Part 10
Issue No 663 – July 1993
No Rest For The Wicked
The longest night in Batman’s life continues as he and Mayor Krol are swept through the flooded tunnels of Gotham City as Batman gets him to safety. Only afterwards is Batman ambushed by Bane’s men, Trogg, Bird, and Zombie. Meanwhile the final showdown is being put into play as Bane take out Alfred at Wayne Manor and awaits the Batman.







Knightfall Part 11
Issue No 497 – July 1993
The Broken Bat
Batman returns to Wayne Manor to find Bane waiting for him, revealing he knows that Bruce Wayne and the Batman are the same person. When Batman refuses to submit to Bane he is beaten harshly, first upstairs in the house, and then below in the cave where Bane takes Batman over his knee and breaks his back, leaving him broken on the floor.


Overstreet Fan Quesada 97 Interview

Overstreet’s Fan
February 1997
Issue #20

Burning Down The House – Ash and Azrael fan the flames
By Arnold T. Blumberg

In 1997, The year of the crossover part 2, comic book readers will witness some of their favorite characters and creators joining forces for the first time. With so much comic history being made, it will be difficult to decide where to look first for action and excitement, but if the logic behind one particular crossover pairing  is any indication, the Ash/Azrael project spearheaded by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti will be one to watch. This one-shot, 48-page prestige format book scheduled for March will bring together the two characters who not only share an artist, but the same affinity for fire. Fan braved the heat to get the scoop from Quesada himself, though our intrepid interviewer seemed to have something else on his mind as well…

I’m going to see Star Trek: First Contact tonight!

Um…nothing. Let’s talk about the Ash/Azrael crossover.
Ok. What you have to look forward to is, without a doubt, the best of all the crossovers.I guarantee it.

Good selling point.
This crossover was based on complete and total logic. Jimmy Palmiotti and myself created Ash, Denny O’Neil and I created Azrael, and I had a hankering for drawing Azrael and Batman again. Since Azrael and ash are both fire based characters, it was a natural thing.

[While playing with a couple Borg figures] How did the project come about?
It started with a phone conversation with [DC Editor] Archie Goodwin. We were catching up, and I said if ever there was an opportunity for Ash and Azrael to meet, and possibly even get Batman involved, I would drop whatever I was doing to do it.

This is your first time back on Azrael since the Borg war of 2366. I mean uh, since you left the title.
Absolutely, and another bonus was coming back to DC. Working for DC remains one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had in the comic book industry. The only other thing that would’ve been cooler is if we’d thrown the Ray in there too. But maybe somewhere down the line…

So what’s the story going to be?
Well, we’ve been discussing this for quite a while, making sure the team behind it was the best quality, and I told Denny I didn’t want to do a story where they meet, fight, and then become friends. So they’re friends from the onset. The book actually opens up with a big fire.

What? Aren’t the fire suppression systems working? I’d better get Geordi on that right away.

Uh, well, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. Anyway, will this crossover involve some sort of temporal rift or spatial distortion?
No, there’s no time portal or anything like that. We start in Gotham City, get a little Batman in there, and then Azrael comes to New York to meet up with Ash. He’s actually sent by Batman to clear his name in Batman’s eyes. Firefly and Oracle are in the book, and we created a new villain to antagonize our heroes.

This crossover arrives right in the midst of a wave of similar projects. Why do you think there’s so much ‘crossover mania’ these days?
I think it has to do with economics. Even the bigger companies are realizing that they should expand their relationships. But it also has to do with people saying, ‘let’s get back to having fun.’ There’s nothing to lose here, and readers finally get what they’ve been asking for all this time. The first set of Amalgam books for example were so much fun!

Yeah, why can’t they do that all year?
It’s almost like they were able to loosen up for a second, and not take it too seriously. I thought they were some of the most brilliant books of 1996.

Well, as we say goodbye to 1996, just what do we have to look forward to in 1997?
We’re committed to getting Ash out monthly. We have a plan that involves Humberto Ramos, Mark Waid, and Brian Augustyn. And this isn’t me abandoning my character. While Humberto is working ahead on Ash and getting momentum going, I’ll be working as well, with a story arc by James Robinson. So there will be Ash out on a monthly basis, and Humberto is kicking it all off for us, allowing me the time to finally get some books in the bag.

It sounds like Event is boldly going where it’s never gone before…schedule wise that is. You also have a lot of big players in the industry lined up to help you.
Whatever you want to call them, I think the most important thing is to roll the dice with these guys, you generally roll sevens 90% of the time in terms of story. In terms of respect, you roll sevens 100% of the time.

(Looks up from tricorder he’s fiddling with) Mm-hmm, sounds like a warp field equation.
I don’t…

(Closing tricorder) Nothing, forget it. When will we see these issues of Ash?
Mark, Brian, and Humberto’s first issue of Ash will probably be in May or June. Mark and Brian will also be working on another ongoing series for us, Painkiller Jane, drawn by Rich Leonardi. Before that comes out though, we have Painkiller Jane/Darkness crossover, a one-shot written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Amanda Conner. So you see again we shoot for the top.

Well sure, it’s always best to target the bridge area for maximum effect.
I’m not following…

What I mean is, you’re sticking with just two monthly books?
Yes, we’re not expanding to a thousand titles. Our aspirations are not to be Marvel or DC. We want to keep it small and manageable. It’s the same sort of goals Valiant started with, and when it was manageable it was good. When it became unmanageable it lost it’s charm.

Right, it mushroomed out of control, like a warp core explosion.
…Right. There’s only so many good creators out there, so there’sonly so many good books you can put out.

Why do you think all of these talented people are drawn to work with Event and Ash?
I think the draw has always been there. We’ve always had good relationships with all these creators, it was just a matter of working with everybody’s schedule. A year ago, we wouldn’t have been ready, but now things have started to gel. We’ve made a lot of mistakes at Event, and I’ve been the most guilty party in terms of lateness. When we first started, we solicited for our company before the books were even done. That was a big mistake, and the people who end up getting hurt are te retailers and the fans. I’m tired of blowing my commitment to all of them, so I’m stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘I’m taking the time to put some books in the bag, but I’ll be back. In the meantime, here’s someone who is really friggin’ good to draw the book.’ Plus the fact that me and Humberto have a standing bet –  but we’ll let the fans decide. Humberto swears that he draws Ash better than I do, so we have a little bit of a grudge match going. I’ve already seen how he draws Ash, and I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Sounds like you’ll be in the trenches for a while.
You’ll still here from me, mostly with covers for Ash and editorials, so I’m not disappearing by any stretch of the imagination. The result is that next year, people will see two thigs they’ve never seen before. One, they’re going to see Ash monthly. Second, by the end of the year, they’re going to see me coming out monthly. Now that probably means the end of Western Civilization as we know it, so just hold onto your hats. It’s going to be really crazy.

Any desire to try other projects along the lines of Ash/Azrael with the big boys?
In terms of working with DC or Marvel, it has to have a certain appeal. The Ash/Azrael one was a natural and not just a paycheck. I didn’t know on Marvels’s door asking for an Ash/X-Men crossover.

Oh, that’s something we need.
I have no interest in it. It would be a huge paycheck, but that’s not what we’re about. We want what’s going to read and look best, and what’s going to work best for the characters. Besides, I don’t think that DC would’ve agreed to this if it wasn’t the perfect character matchup.

Besides which, it seems like many creators are rededicating themselves, as you are, to the utmost quality in their work.
I can’t speak for anybody else, but at Event, we’ve always been true to the fans when we guarantee that no book we put out will be of substandard quality. Even our new, creator-owned title that’s coming out Dave Ross’ Thrax, is a magnificent book, and we hope people will pick it up and give it a shot. We always stay true to that commitment.

That’s an admirable notion.
In the recent past, people have been late on books, which is a constant industry problem, especially for the smaller guys, or they’ve been putting gout schlock, for lack of a better…well actually a have a better word, but you know what I mean. We’ve never really stooped to the latter as far as I’m concerned, but we have been late, and I think it’s a case of the industry going through an evolutionary pattern. During the glut, there were a lot of people who really had no right drawing comics. Ten years ago they would’ve still been showing their portfolios around, so the industry is sort of digesting and getting rid of what it doesn’t need, and there were a lot of books that should have never been printed.

Now we’re weeding off the chaff.
Exactly, and I think it’s something that would inevitably make the industry stronger. I think all the publishers are realizing this is a natural progression, and the guys who are left are hopefully the ones who always do good work. Guys like Simonson, Chaykin – they’ll never want for work, and there’s a reason why they’ve been around for all these years. They’re still great.

Let’s alter course for a moment and come about on a bearing of…um, sorry. I’ve had some experience with conventions over the years (shining up his communicator pin), but what was your impression of the convention circuit this year?
It’s always enjoyable, but this was a rough year. Because of the political conventions and the Olympics, every con got slammed together within a week or two around the 4th of July. I was concerned too because I didn’t see kids at the cons up until New York. That was the brightest spot at the convention, the fact that there were little kids again. That was a really good sign to me, and it was a major concern. I talked to a bunch of people at the beginning of the year, and we were all wondering, ‘where are all the kids?’ everybody is sixteen or over, checking out all the half-naked spokesmodels.

(Looks up from a model of the Enterprise that he’s flying toward a Klingon ship, making torpedo sounds) Where?
At the conventions…

And I can’t blame them, but at the New York con, I was the first autograph ever for about three kids, and that’s never happened to me. At the Event booth, I was telling our employees that any kid they see on line who looks to be about seven or younger can cut the line and they each get a free book. These kids are the future of our industry, so we have to plant the seeds again and get it growing.

Is that an influence on what you choose to portray in your comics?
Absolutely, and especially with Ash, we have a certain set of guidelines that we adhere to, sort of our own Event Comics Code for Ash.

Ahh, regulations, excellent. My favorite is the Prime Derective.

Ummmm..So no half-naked spokesmodels for you?
Not in Ash, but maybe at my house later. But that’s beside the point. Our Ash-universe books are a little more family-oriented.  With a fireman superhero there’s a little bit more responsibility I need and want to take. The shame about the industry today is that aside from Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, there really haven’t been any conic characters created in years. As wonderful and successful a book as Spawn is, the mothers of America will never embrace that character, and I think Todd McFarlane knows it. With Ash and our deal with Spielberg’s Dreamworks company to adapt the character to film, we have a good chance to turn it into something that will hopefully last longer than I do.

Yes, something that lives long and prospers. Do you think 1997 will see some positive changes for the comic book industry as a whole?
I’d like to think that things are turning around. There used to be a point where you could predict which books would sell and which books wouldn’t sell. But this has been such a year volatile year, I don’t even want to hypothesize. I’m just wishing everybody well, and I hope it’s a good year for all of us. We’ll just see how it goes.

I agree, we should all just relax and enjoy the infinite diversity of the industry and the ways in which we combine to form meaning, and beauty. (Shows off his IDIC medallion and grins).
Right…I think. We can’t take ourselves so seriously. It’s comic books! It was always meant to be fun. It was fun when I was a kid, and it’s still fun for me today. Even the tactile smell and feel of a brand new comic book, especially on cheesy newsprint, means something to you.

Ahh yes, just like the warm tingle of a transport cycle…
What is with you?

Thanks for your time, and good luck in the new year.
Thank you.

CVM 1993 Knightfall Feature

October 1993
Issue 86

When the Bat Breaks…The Knight Will Fall
By Neil Hansen

“…and down will come Batman, costume and all…”

Two new additions to the Batman mythos have turned the caped crusader’s world upside down. One, a villain named Bane, has broken Batman’s back in a quest to ultimately humiliate the spirit of Batman; causing the second, a hero called Azrael, to take over the role that millionaire Bruce Wayne created to fight the forces of evil.
Holy setbacks Gotham City! Will Batman be able to get out of this, or is this the beginning of the end? Readers have already seen Superman killed fighting Doomsday; the world doesn’t seem to be safe for superheroes anymore. Why?
In actuality, the DC creators wanted to explore what it would be like if someone else became the Batman. “To get a different Batman,” said Doug Moench, writer of the Batman comic, “obviously, the original Batman had to step down for a time and a new one had to take his place. Of course, the Batman costume, which has been a classic for so long, also needed a new look. What kind of twist could be done on that? What would the classic design look like if it were altered for the nineties?”

The Beginning of the Break
The genesis of the story called, ‘Knightfall,’ where the old Batman was forced to step down, and the new Batman took over, started two and a half years ago.
“I was having lunch with Peter Milligan, and at the time he was writing Detective Comics,” said Batman group editor Dennis O’Neil, “and we were just talking over story possibilities. He mentioned that it would be a good idea to put someone else in the Batman suit for a while. Peter left meetings,” revealed O’Neil. “I had about four or five of them. We decided that we needed a new villain for this. The only villain that was even close was maybe the Joker; but he’d been used a lot. And even then, he was not emotionally right for this storyline, the way it was developing.”
“The Joker is much more of a psychological villain, “ said Moench, “than a physical villain, and we wanted a physical villain. Bruce Wayne had to be physically unable to continue as Batman to bring about a new Batman.”

The Bane of Batman’s Existence
Bane was created as the instrument of batman’s downfall in a one-shot called Batman: Vengeance of Bane, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan and Ed Barreto.
“I don’t remember who exactly said what, said O’Neil, “but most of the credit would go to Chuck Dixon, because he actually wrote the story and filled in the blanks; and without all of those blanks being filled in, you don’t have a very good character.”
Bane was connected with the ‘Venom’ storyline created in Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20, written by O’Neil himself. “I had created him for a completely different story,” O’Neil remembered. “When I wrote that story for Archie Goodwin (Legends of the Dark Knight editor), I certainly didn’t think it would have any ‘life’ beyond those five issues, but that was the one piece that was just serendipity.”

O’Neil’s experience with Batman first started as a writer. He was instrumental in first bringing the character back to his grim roots in 1970 (Detective Comics #395) with artist Neal Adams, following the demise of the popular but campy Batman television series of the 1960’s. Through this foundation, subsequent writers like Frank Miller built on this base, amplifying the grimness that O’Neil originally instituted. Moench, who wrote Batman from 1982 to 1987 had to play catch-up when he returned to the title using Miller’s increased grit and appreciated the fact that O’Neil wanted to go the same way.
“It does feel a little odd,” said Moench, “but I think I’m up to speed now, and I have been since ‘Knightfall’ began. It was strange getting back into it because I no longer read the book after I stopped writing it, so I had to read all of the back issues. One of the good things about it was that, after I left, Batman had been done in the way that I wanted to do it – and did do it to a certain extent, but not as much as I wanted to. At the time, I guess they weren’t ready for a dark, gritty Dark Knight kind of thing which Frank Miller’s book (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) convinced them that was the way to go. So, before Miller did it, that was the way that I had wanted to go. The editor, Len Wein, kept saying, ‘No, no no! It’s perfect like this!’ and I kept saying, ‘I don’t think you quite know what I mean.’ O’Neil’s critical slant is closer to what I’d wanted to do all along.

The Avenging Angel
The character of Azrael taking over as Batman will push the grit to the limit. In creating Azrael, O’Neil said, “Again, we’d decided that we needed someone fresh.”
For instance, Nightwing, the first Robin and leader of the Titans, was given the thumbs down for the role. However, O’Neil had a bit of a struggle in creating the new character.
“I first looked at animals,” said O’Neil, “trying to think of what’s the natural enemy of the bat. I did some research – which is something writers get to do and pretend that they’re working – and found that the only natural enemies that bats have are men. That seemed to be a dead end, so from there we began to look at mythology. I don’t know how I stumbled onto Azrael, who was an angel of vengeance in two different mythologies, but once we had that – the idea of an angel of vengeance – the rest of it kind of fell into place.”
Azrael, like Bane, didn’t originate in the regular Batman continuity of titles, but began in a four-issue mini-eries called Batman: Sword of Azrael, written by O’Neil and drawn by Joe Quesada and Kevin Nowlan (Quesada, who designed Azrael, is also designing the new Batman costume).
“There was no way to bring them onstage in the current continuity,” O’Neil pointed out, “without bringing everything to a screeching hault, and we didn’t want to telegraph our intentions that far ahead. I’m not sure that the way we did it was the right way, but there was no other way, those two books came out after there had been an awful lot of Batman out, the second movie – so they didn’t get as much attention as they probably would have, even if they weren’t going to be important to later continuity.”
Unfortunately, sales on the Azrael and bane titles weren’t as high as O’Neil thought they’d be.  “We were a little disappointed,” O’Neil said, “at the reception of both, because we felt that they deserved better. On the other hand, we couldn’t put a blurb on the cover that said, “This is going to be rally important, dear reader, buy this book!”
However, initial disappointments on the two books turned into big money for comic book dealers.

“I’ve seen Batman: Sword of Azrael #1 go for as much as $25,” O’Neil said. “If I had to do it again, maybe we could have found a way to bring Bane on stage. I work with consummate craftsman, and I will stipulate that even if you never saw those books and will never see them, there’s plenty of information in the stories themselves. You have everything you need to know about those guys if you read Batman and Detective Comics. That’s one of my criteria for doing comics. I don’t think it’s fair to the reader to force them to go outside of what they’ve just bought in order for them to understand what they’ve just read.”

Building Batman
Before Knightfall, there had been complains in fandom that the Batman titles lacked continuity, but O’Neil claimed it’s always been there.
“It just hasn’t been the kind of continuity that Mike Carlin does in Superman, said O’Neil, “where one story ends and the next book picks up ten seconds later. There’s a lot of reasons for that, one of which is that I keep wanting to put emphasis on the story with continuity as a part of that; so I insist that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that THAT be finite. A writer is really going to have to work to convince me that he is going to need more than three issues to tell a story, so we do that, but I think of it as a mosaic. At the end of the year, all of the features fit into one big picture.  We don’t ever contradict unless we screw up, which is a distinct possibility, albeit a distant one. I was being facetious of course. We make mistakes all the time. But, if Tim Drake’s father is kidnapped in one book, he stays kidnapped in the next book; and we can generally figure out that these three issues took about three days of Batman’s life, and that’s this week. The next story takes about two days, so that winds up the week. I’ve got on my computer an outline for the next year,” O’Neil continued, “which never gets more detailed than who the villain is, and if the villain doesn’t exist, it says, ‘new villain,’ which when we’re dealing with something like Knightquest or Knightfall, then there are other things. Where is Jack Drake’s health at a given time? Has Bruce recovered at al by whatever issue it is we’re dealing with? We can maintain that continuity that we spoke of earlier. I’m not going to say it fits seamlessly, but pretty close to it, so at the end of the year you can make sense…assuming that these guys lead very busy lives! I would say that we have continuity working through the strengths of my creative people.”

With Knightfall, and later, the Knightquest storyline demand the other kind of continuity,” said O’Neil, “stillnot as tightly as Mike does it, but a lot more. Even having said that, we ry to keep the story self-contained enough, that if for some reason Batman isn’t available to you, but Detective Comics is, you’ll get enough of the backstory and surrounding information in Detective Comics to understand what is going on here and now.”
However, fandom has noticed similarities between the physical powers of Bane against Batman and the physical powers of Doomsday against Superman. According to O’Neil, this is just confidence.
“If I had known that Mike was going to do his storyline this year,” O’Neil commented, “I would have considered delaying mine. We were both working independently. There was no reason for me to check what he was doing and vice versa. By the time that we figured out that we were both working on major continuity-altering storylines, it was too late to do anything about it. I read Superman as it comes out. I don’t really read other editors’ stuff except as a reader, but I want to enjoy it. Therefore, I don’t look at scripts or artwork ahead of time. Again, if Batman or Robin makes an appearance, I have to look at it, and complain if necessary.”

The Changing of the Guard
Knightfall reaches its penultimate chapter in Batman #500. Among the creative changes that occur are the changing of artistic guards from Jim Aparo to Mike Manley. Aparo moves to Green Arrow after a long run on Batman related comics.

“I left Darkhawk (for Marvel Comics) with #25,” said Manley, “and I was lining up to do some special projects stuff, and Brett Blevins, who’s a really good friend of mine, left his contract at Marvel to look around and see stuff. He went over to see Archie Goodwin (Editor of Legends of the Dark Knight), who we both know at DC, and Archie gave him some work. Bret was saying, ‘You should go see Archie.’ He gave me Legends of the Dark Knight Annual, and a couple people were in the office – Neal Pozner, Mike Carlin – and they asked me if I would be interested in doing some stuff.”
“Then one night,” continued Manley, “at 7:30, Denny O’Neil called me up and asked if I wanted to do Batman. I thought about it for about 30 seconds and said ‘Yeah!’ I had no idea about Batman #500. I hadn’t read Batman in years. His first artwork is chapter 1 of Knightquest: The Crusade,” which focuses on the adventures of the new Batman.”
“I was sort of coming in at the end,” Manley said, “the beginning and the middle because it’s the end of the first part of the storyline they had come up with. I was the new kid on the block. It’s in the middle of the storyline, and it’s at the beginning of the whole big new thing with Batman. Maybe in a way it’s a good thing I haven’t read Batman comics in years, because I’m trying to come at it from a fresh perspective. It’s enjoyable, and I feel I have a lot of freedom. My preconceptions of the character are basically the stuff Neal Adams did when I read as a kid, and the stuff that Frank Miller did himself, and with David Mazzucelli. That’s the stuff I have in my head. It’d be like, if I did the Fantastic Four. I’d think about what Jack Kirby did. I think all creative people do that when they come on. If you were going to do Spiderman, maybe you’d go back and reread the old Steve Ditko and John Romita issues. Maybe for a young guy, it would be Todd McFarlane.”
Still, Manley has admiration for his predecessors.

“I didn’t sit down [when I was hired],” Manley explained, “and think I was following in Jim Aparo’s footsteps. I feel that if it’ a new character, it’ll be different from what Aparo did. I fondly remember the Aparo stuff from when I was collecting the Neal Adams stuff too. I used to confuse his stuff with Neal Adams stuff when I was a kid. He was one of the best guys in the field. He had a great flair for storytelling. I think to some extent, Neal was a better draftsman, coming from the old strips, but Aparo had a lot of dynamic storytelling to his stuff. He’d chop up panels. He was very good at layouts and treating the whole page as a unit.”
“One of the things that I’m trying to do with Batman,” continued Manley, “is bring up the elements of Gotham City and work very hard on the backgrounds. I’ve really cut down on my workload, and I am just working on Batman, not two, three or four projects at the same time.”
Knightquest: The Crusade will be seen in both Batman and Detective Comics, but what will happen to Bruce Wayne?”
“Denny will take Bruce off in Knightquest: The Search,” said Moench, “and Justice League Task Force, for a three-part story in which Bruce Wayne is trying to solve the mystery of Dr. Sondra Kinsolving and the adduction of Robin’s father.”
“We thought we’d have to logically deal with Superman,” said O’Neil,  “so a scene has been written by one of Mike’s guys. We’ll have to deal logically with Nightwing, so that will pop up here and there. We’re dealing with Green Arrow in Justice League Task Force. Our version of Batman is that he is not a very public guy. I don’t think there are a dozen people in Gotham City who have decent photographs of him, and he certainly doesn’t hang around talking to crowds. What the world knows is that he’s changed clothes. A few people in Gotham City – Gordon, Bullock, and Sarah Essen – will react to his personality change. Gordon will be shocked by it, and wonder if he’s gone over the line. Bullock will applaud it like he’s finally figured what to do with the lowlife scum: beat them senseless.”

What Makes A Hero?
“A lot of heroes in movies,” continued O’Neil, “and in other comics, commit whole slaughter pretty casually. That’s another idea that we’re playing with in this series.”
O’Neil to use Bruce Wayne and Azrael to explore different aspects of the same theme. “We decided to not just let Bruce be an invalid,” said O’Neil, “but to tell a story of a different type of heroism. In real life, I have not a great deal of admiration for somebody who charges a machine gun nest because that’s adrenaline, but someone who is in great pain, gets up and makes their life work despite that: that’s a real hero. The story will start in Justice League Task Force #5 and 6, then Shadow of the Bat #21-23 – that’ll be written by Alan Grant and done by the regular shadow team – and I will finish it up in a three-parter in Legends of the Dark Knight, again emphasizing that each of these will be self-contained stories in which a problem will be solved. I would like to believe that anyone who reads just one of these stories will be perfectly satisfied and feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth. If you read all three of them, you get the big picture and find out all the details. “A model for this sort of thing,” continued O’Neil, “is a Dashiell Hammett book called The Dain Curse, which is made up of three novellas, and they were each published separately. Nobody ever knew that they were all part of a large novel, so therefore, everybody who read them – they were serialized in Black Mask (a pulp magazine) – got their money’s worth. Then Hammett pulled them all together with very little rewriting into one novel, and you’d say, ‘Oh yeah, man! Now I really see what this is about!’ That’s what we’re trying to do with Knightquest: The Search. We will have failed if we don’t provide lots of action, melodrama, and larger than life characters; but underneath that, [we’re dealing with] heroism. Is it the very violent action that Azrael does? Is it the thing that Bruce Wayne is doing?”
While O’Neil couldn’t divulge the length of Knightquest, or the permanence of the changes, he did disclose, “We’re going to build it to a dramatic conclusion. We’re exploring the character of Azrael. To some degree, we are waiting for feedback. We’re seeing how readers feel about it. We’re seeing how readers feel about it, and how we feel about it.”

Anniversary Shakeups
Between the publicity of the death and resurrection of Superman in Superman #75 and Adventures of Superman #500, and the current goings on with the Caped Crusader with the new armored Batman debuting in Batman #500, violent occurrences and radical changes seem to be the new milieu for DC superheroes anniversaries.
“Mike Carlin and I arrived at our ideas completely separately,” said O’Neil, “without so much as ten seconds consultation, but I can pretty much figure out why we did it. We both have the same problem to solve, and that is that we have characters that are half a century old. In my case, I made a guess based on my 26 years’ experience that maybe we were getting routine.  I know that movies and television shows would draw attention to the character, and we’d get hepped on that, but all of that was going to be over now. It’s deadly to let a character like Batman or Superman go on autopilot, and it’s easy enough to do that. Both characters have had stretches in their history where it’s happened. You still collect your paycheck, and sales don’t slide dramatically, but you want to keep the stuff fresh.”
“The trick,” O’Neil continued, “is to keep it interesting for you.” Then, if the writers or artists have interest or are having a hard time doing their jobs, that’s probably going to have a lot of interest for the reader. There’s always people who hate what you’re doing, but if you didn’t do this shakeup once and a while, there would be a danger of the characters repeating themselves, going on autopilot. That would be the death of them.”
O’Neil described how he handled that major shakeup. “What we’ve attempted to do,” he explained, “is preserve the essence of the character, that core identity, what made him a hero in the first place. Then, either allow the externals to evolve or every once and a while give the externals a kick in the slats to make them evolve, to keep them contemporary. If we’re doing our jobs right, we’re doing stories that appeal to a twelve-year-old or a fifty-year-old. When I started in this business, there were all sorts of rules. Some of them made sense. Some of them were simple rules someone that of at the time; but we had far less freedom to deal with the essence of the character then. Any changes that happened during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, happened as a sort of evolution. It happened when people weren’t really watching. Now, we are allowed to actually tell dramatic stories, and dramatic stories always involve change.”

Previews Interview with Dennis O’Neil

Previews Magazine
June 1993
Volume III, No 6

Night Moves
Interview by Michael Smith

Dennis O’Neil, the Caped Crusader’s long-time editor and caretaker, perhaps knows this better than any other writer or artist currently associated with the character. As editor of the Batman line for the past eight years (Before which he wrote Batman stores for 15 years), he’s watched the elder half of the dynamic duo endure everything from Year One and Year Two, to A Death In The Family and A Lonely Place of Dying. Now, as Batman prepares to celebrate the 500th issue of his own magazine – from which, presumably, yet another new Batman will emerge – Batman spoke to us about where Batman’s been…and where he’s going…

Have Batman’s motivations changed since Bruce Wayne first swore to avenge the death’s of his parents?
No, that’s been fairly constant. Of course, back I the fifties – which I refer to as the ‘the daytime era of Batman,’ when he’d walk down the street in the middle of the day, wave to his fans, present medals to Boy Scout Troops, and that sort of thing – it was pretty much ignored. But it’s always been there – sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the deep background. It will always be the reason for his existence.

You mentioned the many different, ‘Batmen,’ – one of which you and Neal Adams were responsible for creating back in the early 1970’s. Would you say that Batman is now heading into another era with ‘Knightfall,’ and Batman #500?
That may be true. I think Batman may lighten up a bit. If nothing else, the mood of the country may be improving, so maybe we’ll see some of that reflected in Batman’s adventures. Of course, this may also be false euphoria on my part, so I’ll stay away from politics, lest my notoriously liberal tendencies begin to articulate themselves. Like I said, Batman and his fictional environment may lighten up a bit. But if you’re asking whether or not we’re planning a shift in mood, then I’d have to say no. I think that we’ll stick with our current approach for the foreseeable future, simply because I don’t see any need to change it. Moreover, I don’t sense any demand on the part of our readers to change it. I could be wrong about that – my antennae may be screwed – but that’s how I see it and that’s fine with me because the kind of Batman we’re currently working with is very similar to the Batman that Neal [Adams] and I were working with back in the seventies. Of course, Batman is a little bit darker now, partially because we’re allowed to do somewhat grimmer stories. There are things that we’re doing now that we might have wanted to do back then, but because of certain implicit restrictions didn’t dare.

Let’s talk a little bit about Batman #500. We’re heard everything from, ‘It’s the Death of Batman,’ to Naw, Bane just roughs him up real good.’ Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about it?
For starters, nobody is going to die. Just because Superman died, that doesn’t mean that Batman is going to die. My plans have changed a bit since we started working on this storyline – which has been in the works for about 16 months now- but they have never included ANY significant funerals. Azrael will become Batman, at least for a while, while Bruce Wayne will endure a very traumatic period of his life. After Batman #500, the story will split into two different parts: One Following Azrael, and the other following Bruce. The Azrael arc – Knightquest: The Crusade – will appear in Batman and Detective Comics, and partially in Shadow of the Bat. The Bruce Wayne story – Knightquest: The Search – will begin in Justice League Task Force. Then we’ll do a three-part story arc in Shadow of the Bat, and we’ll wind the whole thing up in a three or four part story in Legends of the Dark Knight.

It’s interesting that someone other than Bruce Wayne will choose to adopt the Batman persona. I mean, can there be a Batman who isn’t Bruce Wayne- That is, someone who doesn’t share Bruce’s unique motivations and obsessions?
Good questions. Part of this storyline will be an exploration of that theme. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not a satisfying answer will emerge. But like I said, Batman is partly an archetype, so when we do an Elseworld’s story, for instance, the simple trick is to make the archetype work in a different context – historical, science fiction, fantasy, or whatever. But you’re right. After 54 years, the whole Bruce Wayne/Batman identification is pretty firmly entrenched. In a way, we’re taking a chance with this, and I’m sure some people will resent what we’re doing. Still, that was never our intent. The genesis of this whole storyline goes back about two or three years, when I had a sense – little more than a gut feeling, really, based on plenty of experience, that the Batman story needed something to pep it up. The idea gradually evolved from there. Pete Milligan contributed to it, as did the other Batman writers and artists. So ‘Knightfall’ is really a solution to what I perceived as a possible ‘slowing down’ of the Batman books – both in terms of story content and reader interest. We also wanted to do something that would be interesting to work on – something that we as writers and artists, would find compelling, because that’s as good a barometer as any. If the creative people associated with a character are really enthusiastic about a project, that probably means that the readers will be interested too. And that’s been the case with this storyline. I’ve had no problem convincing any of my creative people t greatly inconvenience themselves for Knightfall. As Doug Moench said a couple of days ago, this story really deserves everybody’s best effort.

Mike Carlin told us recently that the most vigorously negative responses he received to the Death of Superman storyline came from people who hadn’t read a comic book in over 20 years. Do you anticipate a similar backlash from long-time Batman fans?
Definitely, because we’ve already been through it with the death of Robin. The anger that we experienced – aside from that of our regular readers who didn’t like the story, came from people who hadn’t read it, and who, in fact, weren’t comic readers at all. Of course, that taught me quite a bit about what I do for a living. I started in this business as a writer, not as a comics guy, so until then, I tended t think of comic book as stories – stories with very special requirements maybe, but just as stories. The death of Robin taught me that I was wrong. These characters, because they have been around for so long and have appeared in so many different media, are familiar to nearly everyone. Nuns, cloistered deep in convents with vows of silence know about Superman and Batman. So what we’re doing is working with folklore – post-Industrial Revolution folklore maybe, but folklore just the same. And as such, Superman and Batman carry psychological weight than merely fictional characters, which is another thing that makes our jobs interesting. We’re the caretakers of folk heroes. Of course, you can’t let that get in your way. I mean, if you approach the job with too much reverence, then you’re going to start turning out very dull stories. So the storyteller in me is still about 90% dominant, but there’s still 10% of me that realizes that what we’re doing is something much larger than that. So yes, we will get a backlash, which only means that we’ve upset a few people. But from where I sit, that’s ok, because if you play it safe you get dull.

So you never said to yourself at any pint during this storyline, “I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this?”
No, not at all. I had some reservations about the death of Robin, but with Knightfall, I think that we’re doing something that’s both significant and entertaining. It’s going to be one hell of a story, if we bring it off that is. Right now, it’s still in the process of being written. Obviously, we don’t know how successful we were until it’s over, or maybe even ten years after the fact. But so far, I have had no reason to be displeased with anything that’s crossed my desk. Again, what we’re attempting to do is very nifty because it’s something that’s never been done before. We’re working on an enormous, 30-some part story that’s broken into units. With Knightfall and Knightquest, readers and pick up any one segment and read a good, self-contained story that also contributes to a great-big, cohesive adventure about two men, their coming together, and their eventual falling out. From a storyteller’s standpoint, it’s a really interesting project. And make no mistake: this one is story driven, as was the Death of Superman. We’re not relying on any merchandising gimmicks to sell this thing. So far, the responses I’ve received, which to put it mildly – have been very gratifying responses to the story.

Why was Bane chosen as the engine to power this whole thing?
Bane was chosen, he was created. In fact, both Bane and Azrael were created in anticipation of this storyline. A long time ago, six or seven people met in a hotel to plot this thing out, and almost immediately we realized that we needed a new major villain. We didn’t want to use The Joker again because we’d used him in A Death in the Family. He’s still the best villain we’ve got, but he just wasn’t right for this story. Similarly, neither was Ras Al Ghul. So like I said, we just figured it was time to create a MAJOR new player.
Now before all this, I had done the Venom storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight, which was written long before – and therefore, quite independent of Knightfall. Since it established the existence of Venom (the experimental drug that Bane uses to ‘pump up) …well, it seemed to fit in nicely with what we were planning to do. So we co-opted elements of it for Vengeance of Bane. But I would have to say that Chuck Dixon was, in a sense, primarily responsible for Bane- even though everyone at that plotting session had a hand in it – simply because he wrote the origin story.

If nothing else, Bane seems as obsessive as Batman. How would you describe his motivations?
Bane is genetically gifted. From the moment he was born he had the potential for great intelligence and strength. But instead of a normal childhood, he was raised in a totally vicious, amoral world: a prison. So his values are those totally of a prison inmate: the need for dominance, the need to be the baddest guy on the block. I think Chuck did a great of job experimenting with it in the one-shot. Bane defeats, and then subjugates everyone in his immediate environment. Then he hears a rumor about a single man who dominates an entire city: Batman. So his ego – and buried deep beneath that – his insecurity – forces him to confront what he sees as the ultimate challenge. But because he’s cunning and sly, he devises a way to stack the deck in his favor, which is the substance of Knightfall.

Could Bane ever become a hero? He seems complex enough to endure the transition.
I really don’t know. But, never say never, right? Still, I don’t anticipate that, because Bane is fundamentally vicious, whereas a character like Ras Al Ghul…well, there’s something vaguely noble about him. But I’m going to meet with my creative people next month and plot out the last third of this storyline. We know where we’re going, but we’ll discuss – in greater detail – it’s ramifications, as well as possible spin-off books. We know how the story ends. But I really don’t know what Bane’s fate will be after that.
Still, I try not to nail these things down too tightly. I’m working with good people, and because of my experience as a writer, I also know that ideas can emerge as you become immersed in a project…that the process often suggests certain avenues that you couldn’t have possibly seen on the outset. So I always like to leave things loose enough to accommodate any germinating ideas.

How will the rest of the DC Universe respond to the resolution of Knightfall?
We’ll explore that in Justice League Task Force. But I don’t anticipate that the rest of the DC Universe will be too bothered by it, apart from the fact that five of this year’s annuals – which will be done in continuity – involve Batman characters. Mike [Carlin] and I have also discussed a scene between Superman and Batman, simply to acknowledge the fact that Superman is bright enough – with a little help from his X-ray vision, of course – to deduce what’s going on. But the way we’re playing it, nobody else in the DC Universe, with the possible exception of Green Arrow, should have any reason to believe it’s anything other than business as usual in Gotham City.

That makes sense, because Batman really doesn’t ‘get around’ that much…
Right. We try to confine Batman’s activities to Gotham City, which seems restrictive, but it actually gives us more freedom then you can imagine. I won’t ‘blow up’ Gotham City, for instance, because everyone on the planet would know about it, and all the other DC books would have to reflect it. When somebody else does something equally earth-shattering, we’ll acknowledge it in our continuity, but our characters tend not to become too involved with it.

So I suppose that explains why the Justice League wasn’t contacted to help Batman round up the Arkham escapees in Knightfall.
Well, that, and the fact that without them, we wouldn’t have had much of a story now would we? But in comics there are always anomalies like that. As Mark Gruenwald would tell you – at length, and quite eloquently – one of the biggest of them is the whole notion of time. There are things in our fictional universe that we simply can’t square. Logically, the Justice League would try to solve every problem, but what fun would that be? To me, that would be a very dull fictional universe. I mean, what stories would be left to tell? Of course, I could put some more legs under that response, and say that Batman’s price won’t allow him to ask for help. And since both Tim and Alfred take their cues from Bruce…well, you get the idea.

What, if anything, have long-time Batman writers and artists like carmine Infantino, Bob Kane, or Julius Schwartz had to say about this storyline?
I recently did a convention with Julie Schwartz, and he seemed very enthusiastic about it. He cornered me and insisted that I tell him even more than I’m telling you, which tells me that he’s genuinely interested in the future of this character. He did say that we were doing things that he, as an editor, simply could not have done. In fact, I’ve often heard him say that editing comics in the 90’s is NOTHING like it was back when he was doing it in the sixties. I was writing for him then, so I know from personal experience he simply could not have envisioned a ‘macro-plot,’ like the one we’re doing now, nor could we envision graphic novels or paperback collections of our work. Comic book editing has become a very complex job. I’ve worked as both a magazine and newspaper editor, s believe me, I know: Nothing comes close to editing for our five monthly comic books!
As a would-be historian of the field, this interests me more than anything else. What we’re creating is – for lack of a better term – ‘meta-fiction,’ where you find hundreds of people contributing to what is essentially one big story (Or in our case the DC Universe). Again, something like this has never been done in almost 15,000 years of western narrative tradition. Of course, we didn’t envision it. We just woke up one morning and discovered that we’re doing something for which there are no rules…something for which nobody has had time to analyze or codify. In fact, it’s only been about ten years since anybody’s really thought about what writing for comic books entails. But nobody has examined our creative process as thoroughly as scholars and critics have analyzed our narrative forms (like dramas or novels). We’re just making it up as we go along, and what we’re creating is, in a sense, doubly interesting, because it lives two separate lives: On the one hand it’s a form of fiction that’s only supposed to provide 20 minutes of escapist entertainment; on the other hand, it’s also an immensely complex undertaking that, in some cases, leaves an undeniable mark on pop culture. As far as I can tell, the academics haven’t noticed us yet, but I think what we’re doing what make for great doctoral dissertation.

Finally, will Bruce Wayne wear the Batman costume again?
Likely, but I’m not going to give that much away. I don’t want to reveal all of my surprises…and believe me, we’ve still got plenty of them up our sleeves.

Previews Interview with Joe Quesada

Previews Magazine
June 1993
Volume III, No 6

Bat Man-O-War
Artist Joe Quesada discusses the Dark Knight’s New Suit of Armor
Interview by Michael Smith

Back in 1964, when then editor Julius Schwartz decided to, ‘Shake up,’ the new Batman titles, the Caped Crusader’s ‘New Look,’ amounted to little more than the addition of a bright yellow oval around his traditional, bat-like chest emblem. Years later, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams completely overhauled the character, returning him to his gothic – expressionistic roots. They lengthened Batman’s cape and ears, altered his color scheme (more blacks and greys then blues), darkened his environment, and gave him a sleek, super-stylized Corvette in place of a more traditional Batmobile.
Since then, Batman’s appearance and accessories have changed very little. With the possible exception of the Battle armor found in post-apocryphal stories – The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Vs Predator – the Batman’s costume remains much as it did when it first appeared over 50 years ago.

Of course, that’s all going to change in Batman #500.

Here is what artist Joe Quesada had to say about the enviable – or perhaps unenviable task of re-creating Batman’s image for a new generation of readers.

How did you become Batman’s new costume designer?
It all began with Sword of Azrael. At that time, the whole ‘Knightfall’ saga had been in the works for some time. When the Azrael proposal came across my drawing board, and Dennis [O’Neil] described what they had in store for the character, and that what I would be doing would have a major impact on the Batman mythos…well, I just said, “Absolutely, count me in.”

Is the new costume a logical successor to Azrael’s battle armor?
Definitely. It’s sort of a hybrid between Batman’s costume and Azrael’s armor. In fact, it begins as a fairly simple costume design, and then evolves into something really nasty! As a knight for the Order of St. Dumas, Azrael was trained to be a finely-tuned super-soldier…a sort of ‘vengeance machine.’ In many ways, his conditioning was similar to Bruce Wayne’s, so he’s sympathetic to Batman’s mission and some of his methods. But he also targets some weaknesses in Batman’s costume, and decides to improve it. Basically, he adapts the Bat-costume to reflect his unique crime-fighting methods.

Does Azrael construct the costume himself?
I’m not really sure. That’s an editorial decision, so you’ll probably have to ask Dennis.

If the purpose of Batman’s original costume was to, ‘strike fear into the hearts of evil-doers,’ how would you describe the purpose of his new costume?
To make them go in their pants! It also represents a more ‘hands-off’ approach to crime-fighting, which I think is something of a departure for Batman. In designing the costume, I tried to think like Azrael. I mean, he would probably look at Batman’s utility belt and say something like, “Nice idea, but I could probably improve it a little bit, because it takes too much time to fumble for the right gadget, flip the compartment open, push the right button, etc.” So what I did was computerize the armor and make it a little bit more, ‘hi-tech.’ Now, Batman doesn’t have to reach for anything. Everything he needs is at his immediate disposal.

So this thing is loaded with bells and whistles…
You bet. As far as I’m concerned, the gadgets have always been part of Batman’s appeal. Sure, he’s the world’s greatest detective, and a superb physical specimen and athlete, but he’s also a technological marvel. I mean, how many times have you read a Batman story and thought to yourself, “Hey, where did the grappling hook come from anyway?” Batman has always had plenty of gismos stuffed into his utility belt. Now, they’re just a little bit more realistic, simply because we’ve built them into a more technologically sophisticated suit of armor. It’s all part of the fun.

Meaning that Batman is now a ‘Knight,’ in the more traditional sense of the word…
You got it. That’s the point.

Was your costume design at all influenced by any of Batman’s other battle suits, particularly as seen in The Dark Knight Returns or Batman Vs Predator?
Not really. I’ve seen them all of course. I mean, The Dark Knight Returns is like a creative bible to me. But I didn’t want to look at that stuff because I was really looking for a fresh approach. Those were both great designs, but they just wouldn’t have been appropriate to Azrael’s character or purpose.

What guidelines were you given by the Batman editorial team?
They just said, “Go for it.”

It looks like you’ve eliminated Batman’s traditional insignia. What’s the story behind that?
Well, depending on how the costume is drawn, Batman’s body and cape form its own Bat signal. You’ll notice that the peak of the insignia runs down into his chest cavity, so that if the cape is drawn properly, he looks like his old chest emblem, particularly when seen from a distance. We’ve also given him a spotlight (situated just below his cowl), which, when lit, projects its own Bat-signal. Great for scaring the bejeebers out of bad guys!

What other goodies have you built into this thing?
For starters, the cape will be VERY unusual. It’s probably his most deadly weapon. If nothing else, it’s a very dramatic costume element, so artists who enjoyed playing with the cape before can still have fun with it now. Of course, Batman’s cape has always been part of the ongoing artistic battle…you know, the whole question of, “how can he wear a twenty-foot-long cape and not get tangled up in it?” Anyways, I wanted to give artists a nasty looking cape that was open to interpretation. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy drawing his costume as much as they did the old one.

Can Batman fly in this new get-up?
Probably not. He might be able to get some lift out of his cape, and sort of hang-glide a bit, but I don’t think that its cut out for aerial action.

How does it feel to be the guy who helped re-envision the Batman?
Absolutely wonderful! Batman has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. He inspired me to do comics, particularly after I read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Luckily, I landed the Azrael project, and I’ve had a ball ever since. Still, I have to say this: There’s simply no way to really improve on Batman’s original costume, ‘cause it remains one of the greatest superhero outfits ever designed. But the way I look at it…well, it’s sort of like ‘old Coke; new Coke,’ you know? Some people are gonna say, “Hey, you can’t do that.” I just hope that most readers will be pleased with the new look, and I can honestly say that I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m just honored to be a part-if only a small part-of Batman history.