Comic Talk: Doug Moench

Comic Talk Magazine
August 1993
Issue #7

Can you tell me how, after a rather long time off the book, you ended up writing Batman again?
The short answer is that Denny O’Neil asked me. What happened was, Peter Milligan had been writing Detective Comics and was getting off. Then Dennis asked me if I wanted to write Detective Comics and I didn’t really want to at first. I mean, I did, because I really liked Batman. He was also my favorite costumed character. But because of the past, I was a little hesitant. Than I thought, “I needed the work. Why not. He’s my kind of guy. I’ll do it again.”
Then we had this first meeting before I even wrote one issue of Detective Comics, one of those Bat-summits. At this meeting, a new book was created, Shadow of the Bat. Alan Grant, who had the tenure on Batman, was awarded the new book. Then Dennis said, “Well, I guess you move from Detective Comics to Batman.”
That’s how I got on Batman. Chuck Dixon was there because we were going to discuss the Robin mini-series. Now we have Alan Grant on Shadow of the Bat and me on Batman and no one on Detective Comics. Then Dennis said, “Hey Chuck, how about you do Detective Comics?” That’s how the whole thing came about.


What would be different for you doing Batman from Detective Comics?
Well, these days there really isn’t too much f a difference. In the past there were periodic attempts to focus more on Batman as an actual detective in Detective Comics, but it never seems to come out that way. I mean, there was as much detective work on Batman as there was in Detective Comics and as much action guy in Detective Comics as there was in Batman.
These days I think the only difference would be a slightly less appealing nature for Detective Comics because most of the big things would probably have to be done in Batman. In Detective Comics you could do perfectly fine stories, great stuff. It’s just that if anything really big were to occur, it would probably be reserved for Batman rather than Detective Comics.
And, of course, Batman sells better.


Right now, you’re leading up to a really big story in Batman issue 500.
We’re in it. I’m done with #500.

Can you tell us what’s going on?
Batman issue 500 is in two parts; it’s a double-sized issue. It’s Jim Aparo’s last story. He’ll be doing fill-ins and so on, but his last as a regular will be the first half of issue 500. Our new artist, Mike Manley, will do the second half.
The first half is technically the last part of Knightfall and the second half is the introduction to KnightQuest. The new costume appears for the first time on Mike Manley’s very first page, which is halfway through 500. Wel, it’ll appear on the cover too.


Would you compare what’s coming in issue 500 with The Death of Superman arc?
Obviously, they’re bot ‘big deal’ stunts. However, ours was actually, as far as I know, planned before the Death of Superman. We’ve been working on this for about a year and a half. And ours was delayed by a number of months; several times it kept getting delayed. It’s a good thing it was because it was evident that the Death of Superman was going to be a big dea. We would get lost in it if we tried to do ours at the same time.
Ours is not as big a deal in the sense that as a ‘high concept,’ how can you beat The Death of Superman? A guy who can’t die, right? We’re not doing anything that big on the surface. However, we’re doing something that, in certain ways, I feel is an even bigger deal by changing Batman in an extraordinary way.
I don’t want to put down the Death of Superman by saying ours is more than a good story that results in a stunt because I didn’t read all of it. I did read the death issue, but I didn’t read the ones leading up to it. So for all I know, maybe theirs was just as great.
But it seems like, basically…intrinsically, ours was a stronger idea. Except how can you be stronger than The Death of Superman?


What do you think about all of the rumors that have been flying about?
Well, I can tell you this: nobody dies. Bruce Wayne does not die. That rumor is false, absolutely false. Something big does happen to Bruce Wayne, but he does not die.


Have you heard anything? What reaction have you been getting from fans on stuff that they think is going to happen and what’s been going on so far?  
Well, I got one death threat. An anonymous telephone call, ‘If Batman dies so do you.’ I was just at a couple of comic book shops this past Saturday doing a signing. As far as I could tell it was unanimous, at least among anybody who said anything. Some people just plunked the books down and I signed them and they didn’t say anything. But all the ones who spoke with me were really happy with what was going on. It surprised me because I don’t think the really good stuff has even started yet.
With Batman issue 497, it really kicks into high gear, followed by 498, 499, and 500, and the issues that Chuck did of Detective Comics fit right in there-I’m not sure of the numbers, but the are strong.

Have you ever had anything like a death threat before?
No, no.


No other extreme fan reaction to your work?
Well, back when I worked at Marvel, I did this thing called Gabriel: Daredevil Hunter, which was in the middle of the Exorcist craze.  I did get some weird stuff from witches and Satanists, but for some reason I didn’t take it that seriously at all. I didn’t really take this death threat seriously, but it was more to the point if you know what I mean. ‘The Batman dies, so do you.’ Boom. Then hang up the phone. I guess because the witches and the Satanists seemed so unreal in a sense we didn’t take any of the stuff that they sent me seriously. They didn’t call me. They sent stuff in the mail, amulets and that weird stuff. I just thought, ‘wow, these people are really out there.’


Okay, can you tell me how you see Batman, Robin, Azrael, and Catwoman in terms of differences and similarities?
Catwoman is very similar to Batman in a sense that she’s this creature of the night. But of course she’s a thief, which immediately makes for a dissimilarity. Theyre very similar, but on different sides.
However, Catwoman, like Batman, would never kill. So while she’s bad,’ she’s not evil or a murderess or anything like that. She’s not super-bad. She follows the tradition of the French cat burglar and all that stuff. Sort of an anti-hero.
She’s getting her own book now and will be doing many, many good things, as well as being a thief. We can’t condone her, but we can’t say that she’s out and out evil either.
Robin is a lot different from Batman. He’s young, and he’s not grim. His costume is brighter and flashier and so on. Yet he is being molded y Batman, so there are certain similarities. But he is a fresher, more buoyant kind of guy.
Arael is like Batman taken to the 9th degree. He’s another dark, very grim creature, but goes beyond where Batman stops.


You were writing Batman comics years ago…
Yeah, that was ’82, ’83 all the way through 1987. I wrote Batman and Detective Comics. Both of them.


How is it different now?
Basically, now we’re doing what I wanted to do then. I kept asking for a darker, grittier creature of the night type of stuff and I was frustrated in my attempts at trying to do that kind of thing.
Now, everybody sees things much more the way I wanted to see him back then. The character, in my absence, has become what I wanted to make it, so it’s very comfortable for me.
Not that I’m disowning the stuff that I did. I tried to do some of that darker, ethereal stuff back then. Some of it came off and some of it didn’t.
You see, Len Wein was the editor and he is very big on character and soap opera type stuff, so there was more of that on my first run on Batman. We’re doing mor of that now too, but it has a different feel to it.


One of the things that we had during your original run as Jason Tod as Robin. Did you think Jason Todd had to die?
No, of course not. Neither does Dennis, but once he committed to that phone thing, the vote, he was bound to abide by the result. He was shocked and even a little upset that the vote came to kill the kid.
I think that maybe these people are a little naive not to expect that, because the ones most likely to put out the effort to make the call are the active ones, rather than the passive ones who don’t want to see him die. They’re not as likely to pick up the phone and make a vote.

Even though I don’t think he had to die, I was not in favor of the character in the first place. I came on right after the issue that Jason Todd was introduced. I inherited him. People think that I created him, but I didn’t. That was Gerry Conway and Len. When I knew I was coming n the book before they did it, Gerry still had a couple of issues to write.

I asked, ‘Gee, do we have to do this? I’d rather not. Bring in a new Robin? Why? We don’t need a new Robin.’

Their attitude was a commercial one and I can’t say that it was wrong. At that point, Robin was in the New Teen Titans, which was actually selling better than Batman. That’s changed, but at that point, it was like New Teen Titans was more important than Batman. They wanted Robin with Titans rather than with Batman, but what’s Batman without Robin?
How do we solve this? We’ll come up with a new Robin. Then we’ll change the old Robin into someone else. Nightwing.
So I lost the argument. Actualy, What they wanted to do at the beginning was keep Dick Grayson as Robin and bring a new kid into Batman and call him something else.

Actually, I won that argument. If you’re going to have a new kid sidekick in Batman, it’s got to be called Robin. So why not change the other guy. And they agreed with me. ‘Yeah, that does make more sense.’


How is Tim Drake different from your interpretation of Jason?
I think he’s more carefree. Jason was a dark character and I felt like that was the way Jason had to be. Afterall, his parents had just been murdered and all of that. It’s a dark thing, so I made him kind of a troubled kid.
Whereas Tim has been much more able to overcome the death of his parents. Everybody has the death of their parents here. Ruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Jean Paul Valley. Same thing for all of them.
Actually, not the death of Tim’s parents, just his mother. His father is still alive; they’re not talking though. He’s not as affected by that as the other characters. The devil-may-care approach is better for him.


Do you have any thoughts on the change they made with Jason, post-Crisis Jason? Once he was pretty much a normal kid, then he became a hood stealing the hubcaps off of the Batmobile.
I was not in favor of it. I don’t know if that was Denny’s idea or what, but I personally didn’t like it. I think it was max Allan Collin’s.
I would understand why they would do that because of what I just said, his origin was so similar to Dick Grayson’s. Again, I did not do that; that was Gerry Conway. So I an see why they would change that, but I don’t especially like the way they did it. I guess it’snot too bad, it just didn’t work for me personally. What can I say?
It seems lately that Superman has been developing and evolving. He proposed to Louis, revealed his identity, and eventually died. Do you think Batman can be that fluid in his evolution?
Oh yeah, I think in certain ways even moreso than that. We’re doing big things with Batman.


Really? It seems like Batman is just this Dark Knight who watches over Gotham City.
Well, ultimately, he always will be. But there are other aspects upon which big changes can be made, and we’re making them. I don’t think that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with him being the dark Knight, in fact that’s a big strength. Being a dark angel. That’s a perfect concept.


But is there any life for Bruce Wayne outside of being Batman?
Yeah, we’re going to focus on that in the future. We’ve had a number of meetings in which that was discussed and we have a number of ways to approach that.


Do you think Batman should interact more with the DC Universe or less?
Personally, and selfishly, I prefer less because he does not, by his nature, have super powers. He’s an ordinary guy who has trained himself to be extraordinary without the help of a yellow sun or a power ring or a chemical bath. He is totally different from the other ones.
I know that World’s Finest was a tradition in which Superman and Batman teamed up. ‘Golly gee, wasn’t it cool to see your two favorite guys, Superman and Batman together? Dramatically, the story never worked for me because I could never figure out why Superman needed Batman for anything. Except if you said, ‘Superman’s dumb, therefore he needs Batman’s detective mind.’ But that diminished Superman so it didn’t really work.
Similarly, I don’t think Batman works as well with any of the super-guys. However, commercially, and for the sake of continuity (which we all think is cool and nifty), he’ll be interacting with the other characters. He just won’t do it as much or as extensively as The Flash or Green Lantern getting together. That makes perfect sense. Superman and Wonder Woman…these things fit.
Batman is the odd man out. Yeah, he exists in the same reality as the other ones, but we just don’t dwell on it in the Batman books. In other words, when Batman needs one of these super-characters, it’s 99 out of 100 times going to be in the other book, not in Batman.


Do you think that when something major happens in the DC Universe that it should be reflected in Batman? And should what happens in Batman be reflected elsewhere?
Yeah, and it will, it will. By the way, I’m speaking just out of the super-ones, there’s nothing wrong with Batman teaming up with a number of DC characters, as long as they are also non-super powered. Such as Green Arrow, Black Cannery, Huntress, the Question. There are a number of them that Batman fits with very well and we’ll be seeing that kind of stuff. You just won’t see Green Lantern and those guys.


Will we be seeing more of a presence of the DC Universe in Batman? It seems that Batman reflects in them, but not necessarily the other way around.
The increased presence will probably be after Knightquest, because we have so much going on in that.
We do have a few things. We have Oracle. Nightwing makes an appearance. The Huntress. That’s about it for a while. But I think in Shadow of the Bat you’ll see a lot of that.


Are you writing any other Batman related projects?
Am I eer. I’m finishing Dark Joker: The Wild, which is another one of those hard cover graphic novels. It’s like Red Rain. It’s with Kelley Jones and John Beatty. After that, Kelley and I are doing the sequel to Red Rain, which is called Blood Storm.
After that I will be doing Batman Vs Predator II with Paul Gulacy. Following that, Paul and I are going to be doing an Elseworlds mini-series.
The Showcase stuff has Batman type characters – Catwoman, Robin, Two-Face, Nightwing, Huntress, and Batman occasionally shows up. I think that’s all of the Batman type stuff I’m doing right now.


You seem to be doing a lot of the Elseworld’s projects.
Yes, in fact the red rain hardcover graphic novel is going to be a trilogy. There is actually going to be a third one after Blood Storm. But that’s a little bit in the future. We finish up Dark Joker first, which is not related to Red Rain, except that it will be in the same format.

What is it about the Elseworld’s format that appeals to you with Batman?
There’s so much freedom. So many opportunities to do big things with the characters; like turn him into a vampire or the sword and sorcery type of stuff. In Dark Joker, the Joker is a sorcerer and Batman is an elemental bat creature that is as much bat as he is human.
You just can’t do that kind of stuff in the regular books. Elseworld’s just gives you the freedom and it opens all kinds of creativity. The character is so good. He’s too good to be limited by his own reality, if you know what I mean.
While there are Elseworld’s versions of all kinds of DC stuff, there’s a Superman Elseworld’s, a Green lantern Elseworld’s…I think it really finds the perfect niche with Batman, at least with my personal point of view. It’s really suited for that.


I think this is about it. Is there anything else you would like to say about Batman issue 500?
I think it’s the best script that I’ve done for the regular Batman books. If the art turns out right, boy it should be good! I think Dennis and his assistant Jordan Gorfinkel agree, and Scott Peterson agrees. They all said, ‘Boy, that was a good one,’ and it should be. Batman issue 500 is a big deal, just for the anniversary number alone. But on top of that it is a culmination of a big, big deal in the storyline. So if anything deserved my best effort, it was this one.

Comic Talk: Denny O’Neil

Comic Talk Magazine
August 1993
Issue #7

What can you tell me about what’s going to happen in Batman #500?
The only thing that I’m free to talk about is that Batman gets a new costume. It’s the first real change in 54 years. They added the yellow oval back in the ‘60’s. That was the only modification the costume had over time. Stuff like the length of the ears and the length of the cape, I tend to leave up to the artists on the theory that Batman has many costumes for various occasions. The new costume will be a result of a major upheaval in the storyline.
Right now, were about a third of the way through ‘Batman: Knightfall.’ Batman #500 concludes ‘Knightfall’ and begins ‘Knightquest.’ Out of these will come Catwoman and Robin ongoing series. They will spin directly out of the stunts we’re doing.

Is there a practical reason Batman is getting a new costume?
Yeah, it’s part of the storyline. This is a stunt that’s being driven by the story. The Superman thing was done largely the same way. That makes me very happy since I figured about three years ago that what I basically am is a storyteller. The new costume is motivated by the storyline rather than motivated by, ‘Gee, let’s put a new costume on Batman and see what happens.’
It probably won’t be the last. This one probably won’t be frozen in time as long as the other. ‘Knightquest’ will then branch off into some other books. The story will take two separate lines involving two separate sets of characters. Some of which will run in Batman and Detective Comics, some of which will run in issues #5 and #6 of Justice League Task Force. It will also appear in Shadow of the Bat in, I think issues #19, #20, and #21 and will wrap up in Legends of the Dark Knight. That will be one part of the storyline.
They’ll be parallel plots. While they’ll occasionally touch on each other, we’re trying to put this thing together carefully so that we can play fair with people who may not have complete access to all comics or may not be able to afford to buy a dozen comics.
The storylines will be called ‘Knightquest: The Crusade,’ and ‘Knightquest: The Search.’ If you follow ‘The Search,’ you won’t necessarily have to follow ‘The Crusade,’ and vice versa. However, to get the whole picture, the whole epic story we’re spinning, you should read both. But they will be self-contained enough so that you’ll get your money’s worth if you don’t.

How long will these stories run?
Approximately ten months.

That’s a long time.
Yeah, they will segue right into next year’s annuals.

What can you tell us about the Catwoman and Robin series?
Catwoman #1 comes out at the same time as Batman #498, and Robin #1 comes out September ’93 with Batman #501. In the case of Catwoman, the story spins out of Knightfall. In the case of Robin, Knightquest. But again, you don’t have to read everything in these storylines to understand. What motivated catwoman to go out on her first solo adventure is something that happens in Knightfall, but it’s explained in the first issue. If you’ve ever heard of Batman, or Robin or Knightfall or anything, you’ll still be able to read Catwoman #1 as a complete story.

Is Catwoman going to be a hero or a villain?
We’re not going to soften her a whole lot. The cover copy I wrote is, ‘When she’s bad, she’s very, very bad.’ I think that will be the tagline for the story. She has never been a black, unregenerate villain like The Joker and The Penguin. She’s been a thief and a professional criminal with her own rigid ethic, so you better not cross her.
But on the other hand, she won’t go out of her way to hurt somebody. She wouldn’t hurt anybody at all unless she was strongly motivated…unless someone significantly interfered with her life. It’s going to be a very glamorous book with Jim Balent doing the art and Jo Duffy scripting. It’ll have something of James Bond and of The Saint. And, of course, a lot of Batman. We’ll be taking her all over the world, which may give Jo Duffy a lot of good travel deductions.

Will Catwoman be pursued by any official agency?
I’m sure that’ll happen from time to time. We’ve toyed with the idea of giving her an adversary apart from Batman who would be an ongoing character in the series. It’s a little too early to dea with that because the first three issues will constitute one story. That will pretty much be Catwoman doing something she feels she has to do. It will take her from Gotham City to Santa Prisca and probably to Europe after that.

What about Robin?
With Batman #501, tensions in the Batcave come to the point where Robin feels he has to leave and go out on his own. The first stories will deal with that break. We’ll follow him off on his own adventures. Chuck Dixon has been quietly building his own rogues gallery for three years now, so we’ll have no trouble doing it.
Somewhere down the line, we will probably reintegrate the two books. But for a while, Robin will be solo, not dealing in any way with Batman or Alfred…maybe dealing with Harold a little bit.

When you say reintegrate, do you mean Batman will appear with Robin in Robin?
Robin will start appearing in Batman, Detective Comics, Shadow of the Bat. It won’t happen for a while. We’ll want to give the kid his own identity. He’s cutting the chord and establishing himself as a solid character on his own.
Catwoman also. We think that they’re strong enough characters that they don’t need Batman to be interesting. I think that my creative team did an astonishing job on Robin, rebuilding the character from the ground up. He’s more popular now then he’s ever been.

Do you have an artist for Robin?
Yeah, Tom Grummett.

At the time of this interview, we’re about a third through Knightfall and it seems to be getting more and more popular…
Yeah, we’ve gone back to press with all of the books that are in the series so far. We’re bringing out the Sword of Azrael paperback a month earlier than we had originally anticipated. It’s had a much larger print run then I have ever seen for this kind of thing. That really is an integral part of the new series.

Do you think that Batman #500 will get as much attention as the death and return of Superman?
I can never predict those things. Already, I am surprised. We-sixteen months ago when we first thought of this-anticipated a lot of reader reaction, but I didn’t anticipate as much as we’re getting. We’re fairly early into it. I also didn’t know about The Death of Superman when I put this underway. Mike Carlin and I were not group editors back then. We were just editors in charge of our own line of books. As long as he wasn’t using Batman and I wasn’t using Superman, there was no need for us to compare notes. By the time that I’d found out that he was doing Death of Superman, I was well into my storyline. We had already done a lot of groundwork, and a lot of setting up of what was to come later. Neither Mike nor I had known that we were both planning big, major stunts this year. I might not have done mine this year if I had known he was doing this.

There are two major characters having major storyline changes, things changing continuity that goes back half a century. It might have been too much, but it’s not. The reaction so far for the Batman storyline has exceeded everything I could have anticipated. That’s very gratifying.

Have you heard anything specific from the fans?
I’ve heard most from my students at the School for Visual Arts, lots of rumors. I’m obviously not going to confirm or deny any of them. I can say this much: No rumor I’ve heard (and there have been a dozen different versions out there) has gotten it exactly right.

What do you think about the fact that so many people have even a hint of an idea of what’s happening in Batman #500 before it comes out?
It’s fine with me because it shows that they’re reading and that they’re interested. We all want to tell our stories to a lot of people. We all want people to pay attention, and when that happens it’s very nice.
Well, that’s exactly what’s happening. It really that doesn’t bother me that people are speculating that the rumors are true. Like I said, none of the rumors I’ve heard have been right on the money. So what it means is that my creative teams are really doing their jobs well.

How do these rumors get out?
That baffles me; I don’t know. The fan grapevine is astonishing. I think I know how they get disseminated, and that’s through computer bulletin boards.

What do you think about all of the marketing gimmicks in comics nowadays?
I think that cover enhancements and other stunts are fine if they call attention to a good story. That’s the way we use them. Every time we’ve done something like that, we have felt that we were backing it up with something that real readers buy comics for. Every reason you buy a super-hero comic; we feel we are delivering quite apart from whatever gimmicks are on the cover or in the polybag or any of that. I have no quarrel with those kinds of things provided they are used to call attention to something that you think is worth the attention. For their own sake…I’d have to question that.

How about the Robin mini-series? As good as any one issue was, wouldn’t you hope that the latest issue of Detective Comics is just as good? But only on anniversary issues are the enhancements used.
Well, Sure, we try to hit a high standard of storytelling every time out. That’s what we do, but some stories are, by their own nature, events. That’s when it seems to be appropriate to use a gimmick.
On Batman #500, we’re using an enhanced cover. There’s a major storyline and it’s only the fourth comic book to hit that number, which, in itself, is an event worth paying attention to. And then, it’s the last of the Jim Aparo Batman and the first of Mike Manley’s, so there’s a major change in creative personnel.
With the Robin thing, each of them was a strong story. Each of them helped solidify and reshape a character that had been in existence since 1940. We thought if what you like is pulp action and adventure with real characterization, that’s what we’re delivering. Hence I had no objection when other people in the organization suggested enhanced covers. Each of them, I would argue, was an event.

You mentioned an artistic change in Batman #500?
Yeah, half of Batman #500 will be done by Jim Aparo. At a natural break in the story, Mike Manley will take over the pencils.

Is Jim Aparo gone for good?
Not for good, he’s going to be doing Green Arrow for Scott Peterson and he’ll do occasional Batman projects. In fact, I’m going to be giving him a script either today or tomorrow after I get around to looking at it and doing whatever minor editing is necessary. It’s a Batman story; it’ll probably appear sometime in the next year. He is one of the quintessential Batman artists. I would not like to think that I would not be working with him again. I will look for projects that we can do together.

Is the personnel in Detective Comics lined up now?
Yeah, I’m not really able to talk about it because I don’t edit it. I’d much rather you talk to Scott Peterson about what’s going on in Detective Comics.

Does that mean that the crossovers between Batman and Detective Comics are going to stop? Will they still have the close continuity that they have always had?
It’s going to be, for a while, a very very tightly integrated continuity. Then after that, we’ll revert to maybe a slightly tighter version of what we’ve been doing lately.
We have been accused of not doing continuity between our books in print and I’ve never gotten around to replying to that. I would argue that it’s absolutely not true. For about three years, we’ve been doing the kind of continuity where, at the end of the year-if you want to sit down and bother to make a timeline, everything will fit. Except for the things that we specifically label as being outside of continuity, which includes some of the graphic novels and some of the stories occurring in Legends of the Dark Knight.
It’s just that I haven’t done the thing like Mike has done with Superman-where a story ends in Action Comics and ten seconds later in comic book time, it picks up in one of his other titles.
But all of the major events-the death of Robin’s mother, introduction of Harold, introduction of Jean Paul; they haven’t been simultaneous. It’s a different kind of continuity, but I would argue that it’s no less integrated. It’s just structured differently.
I do that for practical reasons and some for aesthetic ones. I hire people who are strong storytellers; it’s one of my criteria. I want to give them as much autonomy as possible. Also, to really do that, you’ve got to get everybody together in a group a lot, and one of my writers lives sixty miles outside of London. We do get together about three or four times a year, but we can’t do it every month. However, I do think that we’ve achieved as tight a continuity as anyone could want. I’ve got it on my computer as we speak. A timeline. I can tell you by looking at this computer screen when any one thing happens and how it is reflected in the other books.

Since we’re talking about continuity, how about the concern that fans have about Batman appearing in Justice League and guest-starring in something like Starman or Black Condor where it has no relevance to Batman or Detective Comics?
In Justice League, no comment. The others…Usually those guys show me this stuff and if they have Batman doing something he wouldn’t normally do, I change it or ask that it be changed. We could probably fit that into continuity. Those are never appearances that in comic book time, take weeks; it’s usually like one day or one afternoon or a one-night appearance. We can show that it happened, like on a Monday Batman got done fighting the Joker, on Tuesday he’s with Black Condor, and on Wednesday a Penguin story started. Something like that.
They’re not in our continuity, but they don’t contradict it. What’s important is that the characterizations are consistent.
In the old days at DC, editor A and editor B both did Batman. They did radically different versions where only the costume was the same and some of the props. That’s one of the things that we’ve managed to eliminate. Anything that involves continuity with Batman has to be okayed by me. Any borrowing of Batman or any of my cast of characters I have to okay. I tend not to be too stingy about it because Batman is usually an enhancement to any story he appears in.

Though he enhances the stories he’s in, don’t you think those appearances are a liability to him because they undermine his mysterious persona?
Well, in recent years, I did manage to keep him from being a daylight character. Except in a couple instances in Superman where I thought the story justified the daylight appearance. But we’ve tried to maintain the mysterious image.
In the old days, Batman would walk down a city street on a bright sunny day waving to people. I almost always insist that if he appears with other people or the characters are in a crowd scene, he’s in a shadow. Unless the story absolutely demands that he step into the light to save somebody’s life or something like that, he does remain a shadowy figure.
The other part of the answer would be that I think Batman is an important part of the DC Universe, despite the fact that he is much more independent than most of our heroes. For him to remain an integral part of the DC Universe, he does have to interact with other characters from time to time.

So why not let him be a member of the Justice League?
I had him written out of the Justice League because he is essentially a loner. He’s not a character who would be interested in working with a lot of other people.
He’s also not too interested in going outside of Gotham City. He’s the city’s guardian angel. In our current storyline, the Wayne fortune is based on Gotham real estate. He’s really in and out of that place.
I will cop out on early Justice League stories. In recent times, very, very often Batman has not been used in a Justice League story and I’ve suggested some alternative character. Sometimes the alternative character can be Robin, whom I don’t perceive as anywhere near as standoffish or as much of a loner as Batman.

Let me ask you something about the characters. Would you say that Batman has to be Bruce Wayne since Robin obviously doesn’t have to be Dick Grayson or even Jason Todd?
I don’t know. Good question. Batman is as much as anything, an archetype. Part of what the ‘Elseworlds’ stories are about is it in a different context. I don’t know, that’s an interesting question.

How would you compare the methods of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and Azrael?
Catwoman and Azrael are certainly lacking the element of compassion. It’ not brought center stage very much in Batman, but it’s always there in an unstated way.
Robin’s modus operandi is very close to Batman’s because he is, in a way, Batman’s creature. I would say he is a lot more technologically oriented and a lot more sociable. Batman is not necessarily someone you would want to hang around with if he existed. I think anybody I know would be happy to spend an evening with Tim Drake. He’s a much lighter character. He’s much friendlier.
Catwoman is capable of utter ruthlessness if you get in her way. If her own personal code of ethics demands retribution, she will deal with you harshly.
Jean Paul, Azrael is still, to some degree an unknown entity. Because part of his character we will explore I would guess over the next several years is that he’s been brainwashed and he does not know who he is. In a way, he’s like The Question. He knows what his name is, who his father was, but he has no idea what’s at the core of his personality. What we’ve seen so far as is that he can be a very hard edged guy indeed. He does not have as many scruples as batman, or Bruce.

You’ve mentioned that Batman’s compassion isn’t seen very frequently, but I actually think that we see it quite often. Where does his mercy come from? He doesn’t have much reason to have any since he saw his parents killed right before his eyes.
It’s a yin/yang thing, Darwin. It’s the other side of the coin to his mission to stamp out crime. It all stems from that traumatic childhood experience which involved a couple of horrific and unwarranted deaths. At the same time that he has this burning passion for justice, he also believes that human life is sacred and that human beings suffer because of injustice. The compassion and the sense that human life is sacred those are really integral to the character. They’re as important to the characterization as all the other stuff-the brilliant detective work, the acrobatics. And underlying all of that, the mission is self-imposed.
Of course, I’ve explained this probably a hundred times in the past eight years. Batman is not crazy. He’s not driven. He’s certainly not psychotic and no more neurotic than the rest of us, because he understands what he’s doing. He’s in control of it. He’s made a choice and the choice is, ‘okay, this is probably the best I can do with my life. It’s certainly something that I am uniquely qualified to do. Nobody else on the planet has this combination of traits and skills and so on.’
Theoretically, he could make the choice to stop doing it, whereas if he were psychotic, he wouldn’t have that option. I think that there’s a hell of a difference between psychosis and obsession. He may be obsessed, but he’s certainly not crazy.

Do you think that Batman’s commitment to working within the system and being merciless effects his effectiveness?
Yeah, if these fictional worlds were real, probably The Shadow would have been a more effective crime fighter then Batman. He’s not exactly in the system, it’s just that he does not violate it. He doesn’t work in it, but he doesn’t destroy it either.
I’d say that if The Shadow existed, he’d have to be a wanted fugitive. It’s like the Guardian Angels here in New York. They are obviously a force for good and they probably prevent a lot of subway crimes. Yet they’re mistrusted by the establishment because they’re not in the establishment and don’t exactly play by the rules.
Well, Batman is a guardian angel times a hundred. Most cops on the beat don’t trust him and certainly not most police officials. Then there would be a few who would say, ‘Yeah, he’s helping us, he’s a good guy.’ And poor Gordon, caught in the middle, right on the fence.
Another concept that I haven’t been too successful in communicating to our audience: Does Gordon now who Batman is? If so, why doesn’t he do something about it, and if not, why not? Again, I think it’s a choice. I’m very big on existential choices.
He’s a very smart cop and he’s had more contact with Batman than anybody, so he could figure it out. He chooses not to. I think that that was a misunderstood part of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Yeah, he could have looked up on that bridge and he could have seen who was riding that motorcycle. He chose not to. He chose to blur his vision because it’s better for him not to know.
Even if he suspects, it’s better for him not to know. If he knew, it would have to change his behavior. That would ruin something that is very important to him both personally and professionally. Basically, he’s got a good thing going and he doesn’t want to mess with it.

How do most of the people in Gotham City feel about Batman? Do they have an underlying fear of suspicion of him, or are they grateful that he’s around to go head-to-head with guys like The Joker?
Both. If I were a citizen in Gotham City, I don’ think I would want to hang around with Batman. I don’t think I would have anything to talk to him about. I think politically we are pretty far apart. On the other hand, if I was walking home alone from the subway at 3AM, I’d be very happy to have him around. It’s the same way that a lot of people feel about law enforcement in general. They don’t like cops per se, but they’re very glad to see the cop walking down their block after dark.
The character is evolving. All comic book characters that last evolve to some degree. He’s evolving more into a nighttime character. That does not necessarily equate to grim-and-gritty and more violent, but darker. Very gradually, we’re taking him out of situations where he’s on television, for example.
It’s a creative decision. He would go a long way to avoid being in front of a television camera. So there are probably some citizens in Gotham who don’t know that he exists or are not sure. Probably, most of them don’t even know what they think about.
We’re not completely consistent with this because, as I said, it’s a process. One of the great secrets of editing this stuff is to allow the process to happen and not make changes for their own sake. If you see a tendency and it seems right, then let it step back and occur.

What kind of story do you prefer –  the kind that Jim Starlin did where Batman is the only supernatural force and the crime is like what we read in the paper, or the one’s like Alan Grant’s where you have a grandiose villain with a nickname and a gimmick to match his personality?
One of the things that attracted me to the character as a writer years and years ago was that he’s protean enough that you can tell a lot of different kinds of stories. With most super-heroes, the range of story you can tell is really pretty limited.
With Batman, you can do everything from…well, one shouldn’t use the word ‘realistic,’ but…say, ‘magic realism’ in the sense that South American novelists use it. You can do those kinds of stories or you can do the flamboyant super-villain kinds of stories.
The character, as we define him, will accommodate both, so I don’t necessarily have a preference. I can qualify that by saying grotesque villains, I think, are an essential part of the appeal. And as long as I’m driving this particular bus, there will always be stories about characters like The Joker, and the Penguin and so on.
The other is an occasional change of pace, sure. As an even more occasional change of pace, stories might deal with supernatural things that go bump in the night. We overdid those a couple of years back. I think they should be once or twice a year. A change of pace is not the norm.
Essentially, what the character is about is humanity. It’s about human perfectibility. Another thing that seems to me integral to Batman as he has evolved is the idea that he is a detective. He uses his brains as much as he uses his muscle.
It’s just that since a guy sitting there is not dramatic, sometimes that happens off stage. Though occasionally, we put it on stage to remind people that it’s more than a guy crashing through a skylight.

We’ve seen many interpretations of Batman’s origin. Not in the inspiration to become Batman, but the process afterward. Taking up with different trainers and so forth. Is there, in your set-up, a big story that various writers can take pieces of or can they make it up as they go along?
We have a very loose timeline. Our official Batman biography says that: From ages twelve to twenty-three, he bounced around the world picking up information. Not quite exactly sure what he was going to do with it. Knowing he was going to be some kind of crime fighter. Sometimes as Bruce Wayne, sometimes with disguises and assumed names.
He went all over the place. If he heard about an extraordinary martial artist in China, he’d find a way to get into China and hang out with that guy. If he heard there was a ballistics expert who was the best in the country in Michigan, he’d go find a way to go hang out with that guy. We’ve done a couple of stories where he apprentices himself out to detectives.
I would assume there are more of these stories to be told. I’ve deliberately kept it loose to accommodate any good ideas any writers have about filling in the gaps in that eleven-year period.

Are you going to be writing any Batman stories that we can look forward to?
I’m going to do a big piece of ‘Knightquest: The Search.’ I’ll do two stories in Justice League Task Force #s 5 and 6. Then almost immediately, I’ll jump into the three issues of Legends of the Dark Knight arc that will kind of wrap up that storyline. I’ve already written Legends number 50, which will be out pretty soon. That’s ‘Joker: Year One.
Somewhere down the line, Nick Giordano and I are talking about doing a series about Commissioner Gordon and I’m toying with the idea of another Azrael mini-series. That’s about it. That’s plenty for this year, given the fact that I do some outside writing and I teach two nights a week and I work here about forty-five to fifty hours a week.

What other non-Batman writing are you doing?
Oh, I’ve done a science fiction short story for an anthology that John Varley is editing. I’m about to do a hard-boiled detective story for an anthology that Max Collins is editing.
I co-wrote a piece with my wife on meditation for the new Superman/Batman magazine that Charlie Kochman is editing. It’s Robin instructing the Huntress on meditation. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for maybe twenty years. It’s something my wife teaches to her sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. And it’s something Charlie, who has a real deep interest in martial arts, thought he’d like a little piece about. That’s probably the strangest project that I’ve done in a long time, but one of the most satisfying.
I think kids should know about that stuff. I think it’s something that can keep us all sane and Marifran has a method she finds works particularly well with children.
And then there’s a possibility I may do another Batman teleplay. That depends on a lot of x-factors, among them, whether or not they need any more. The one I’ve written has not aired; that’ll be out some time next month.
Often enough, some little project or another comes along. I still like to write after all these years. When they come along, if they don’t interfere with something, I tend to say ‘yes.’

Are we going to see any more of the Question?
Yeah. Yeah, I forgot about that. As soon as I can pry open a month in my schedule, I’m going to do a 56-page Question one-shot. Archie [Goodwin] already has the cover.
I’ve got some ideas, but there are about four ways we can go because, essentially with Question issue 36, we ended that big story. But there are still a number of possibilities that are built into the character. Sometime later this year, I’ll pick out one of them and work out a story and consult with Archie and then start writing it. I imagine that it won’t be out this year, probably early next year.
It’s always a great pleasure to come back to that character. I do things that are more popular and have more readers, but I almost never do anything that is closer to what I’m really interested in.

Personally, I always thought The Question was the only logical follow-up to the Watchmen.
That’s high praise, thank you.

Honestly, after reading the Watchmen and The Question, nothing else stands up. The book meant something to me and my brother.
The people who like it really like it. It’s just that there aren’t tens of thousands of them.
It’s been the most gratifying series I’ve ever worked on. Part of the gratification was that I got to write about stuff that concerned and interested me. The other part is that the response has been really nice, even people reading all of those books that I recommended. It astonishes me that anybody would bother to do that.
So it’s a character that I like to come back to from time to time. I can’t for a number of reasons do it as a monthly anymore, but I think we can write one or two stories a year.


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.”