azrael tagged posts

Knightfall – The Broken Bat

batman492coverBatman
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
Puppets
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman493coverBatman
Knightfall Part 3
Issue 493 – May 1993
Redslash
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman494coverBatman
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman495coverBatman
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman496coverBatman
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman497coverBatman
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!
What?

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.
Who?

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…

Oh.
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.
What?

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.

Previews Interview with Joe Quesada

Previews Magazine
June 1993
Volume III, No 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previews Interview with Dennis O’Neil

Previews Magazine
October 1994
Volume IV, No 10

DC’s Killer Angel

Dennis O’Neil is doing monthly comics again after doing them for over 25 years. As usual, he’s handing the editorial chores over to long-time friend and co-worker Archie Goodwin, and teaming with artist Barry Kitson on Azrael – a new ongoing monthly that will shed plenty of light on yet another dark and fascinating corner of the Batman mythos.

Interview by Michael R. Smith

“If man’s an angel,” ruminates a character in The Killer Angel, Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning account of the battle of Gettysburg, “Then sure, he’s a murderin’ angel.” What Shaara applied metaphorically to the whole human race is literally true for Azrael, the avenging angel of the Order of St. Dumas, first introduced two years ago in DC’s Sword of Azrael miniseries. Then, he was a brutal and remorseless assassin conditioned from birth to serve as the Order’s defender and all-around hitman. At the time, DC couldn’t reveal just how important Azrael would be to the future of everyone’s favorite Dark Knight detective, but the book was a sensation, anyway, due in large part to the strength and execution of the story and the exceptional artwork of Joe Quesada and Kevin Nowlan.

As with that project, reader’s will once again find Dennis O’Neil’s name on the splash page of Azrael, an all-new, ongoing monthly that DC will add to its Batman family of titles this December. O’Neil – THE MAN when it comes to any and all things Batman, is bringing plenty of things to the project: an understanding of the mythological underpinnings of superhero comics; an abiding love for rough-and-tumble action scenes; and the enduring command of narrative craft that can only emerge from three decades in the comic book business. He’s been described as ‘Heavy’ by his co-workers-which is ironic for a slight, introspective man with a deep commitment to pacifism and vegetarianism. But like most comic book writers, he strikes an agreeable balance between intellect and instinct; between the desire to bring depth to a work, and the action-intensive requirements of the form. Azrael clearly demands both.

Last June, we spoke about Denny about “Knightfall,” the landmark storyline that re-introduced readers to Jean Paul Valley: the bland, slightly befuddled young man who would later become the heir to Batman’s mantle as protector of Gotham City. Since then, Bruce and Jean Paul have endured the worst-and Denny has been there every step of the way. In a recent telephone conversation, he shared with us his plans for Azrael – what he’s calling the “grandest paranoid dream” ever attempted in comics. Coming from the man who created Ras Al Ghul, we tend to believe it.

Looking back, was Knightfall a success, in whatever way you define that word?
Definitely. In fact, I think it was more of a success than it’s being given credit for. It was, without a question, a commercial success. But we also tried to do some fairly difficult things with the story, and I am not aware of any failures. I mean, nobody has written me a letter shooting the whole thing full of holes. There is one criticism that really irks me though, which I’ve seen twice in print. Basically, it says that Azrael was a ‘trial balloon,’ to see whether or not the audience would accept a tougher, meaner Batman. Of course, if you simply read the stories and have some working knowledge of how things are put together – that is of how far ahead we have to plan…well, I think it’s pretty clear that Azrael could never have been created for that purpose. The whole thing had been plotted out well in advance. In the end, it was precisely what we wanted it to be: a 70+ grand, graphic novel that explored the theme of what a hero is in the ‘90’s.
So, no regrets but neither do I want to do something like it again any time in the near future. Professionally, it was the toughest two years of my life. I’m delighted that we tried it. I also feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted because the other editors and I have been living in fear that we’d somehow missed something – some crucial flaw that would deconstruct the whole damn thing. So far, that hasn’t happened.

How would you characterize the fundamental differences between Batman and Azrael, or between Bruce and Jean Paul if that makes a difference? Bruce is very aware of what he is and how that contributes to what he does. He is not moved by internal or external forces that he doesn’t already understand. Jean Paul on the other hand, has virtually no idea who he really is. He is, in the worst possible way, ignorant. Think about it: he had a rotten childhood he can barely remember; conversely, Bruce remembers his childhood, which was, up until that one critical moment, a very happy and privileged one – all too well. So they are at extremely opposite ends of the psychological spectrum.
Some critics and writers have accused Batman of being insane. But I’ve never seen it that way, precisely because of that element of self-awareness. He’s a guy who’s made a choice to let the results of a severe childhood trauma govern his life. But in our reading of the mythos, he could, and probably will, stop at some time. The difference of course, is that someone who is compulsive has no control over his actions. Batman is not deranged. Jean Paul may very well be, on some level. We also saw him manifest some classic symptoms of mental imbalance: hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there. If anything, he’s delusional.

You’ve said that your working model for this new series is Arthurian lore, particularly the quests. Is that what Azrael is looking for: himself?
Precisely.  That is his grail. In our first Azrael story arc, Jean Paul will discover the truth about himself. Then, with his identity firmly established in his own mind, we’ll see about getting him some control over his powers. He’ll finally be able to use those powers; right now, they’re using him. I expect that the initial arc will run six or seven issues.

But if nearly all of the living members of the Order of St. Dumas were killed by Biis in Sword of Azrael, how is Jean Paull going to learn anything about it or his relationship to it?
Well, for one thing, don’t be sure that Biis wiped out the Order. As we’ll learn in the new series, the Order of St. Dumas is a VERY secret organization. There’s much more to it than what was revealed in Sword of Azrael, and learning those secrets is part of Jean Paul’s mission. In Sword of Azrael, the Order was more of a plot device than anything else. But in the new series, I’m exploring it more thoroughly. It turns out that the Order is more powerful than anyone imagined because it has been able to manipulate history. Take science for example: In Azrael we’ll learn that alchemy actually works, but that the Order suppressed that information some time during the 16th century so that only they could use it.

Did you base the Order on any historical antecedent?
Very loosely. The Knights Templar – a 14th century group of celibate warriors who became very rich during the Crusades is about as close as you’ll get. The Knights Templar provided Dashiell Hammett with the Maltese Falcon: it was supposed to have been a bird that the Templars created to send to the Pope. In our reading of the story we’ll also use the Knights as a point of departure. The Order of St. Dumas is, for us, a splinter group of the Knights Templar, which is led by a raving lunatic called Dumas. At one point he declares himself a Saint. The Pope gently reminds Dumas, by way of emissaries, that he can’t be a Saint, if for no other reason than that Saints are customarily dead. So Dumas kills the messengers. At that point he really goes off the deep end and splits violently with any existing religious order or church. He sets up his own church, and it’s one fundamental tenant is absolute secrecy. That’s why Azrael exists: it’s a hereditary position dedicated to killing anybody who may betray the existence of the Order. Still, in the course of six centuries information has escaped. Certain people know or suspect something about it.

Sounds more like the Illuminati than a group of monks.
Good analogy. The Illuminati is in the back of my mind, in fact in one of the early issues of Azrael, a character refers to the fact that the Illuminati was yet another blind alley created by the Order to divert attention away from themselves. In a sense, the Order is the ultimate secret society.

How do Bruce, Alfred, and Tim factor into all of this?
Bruce functions as the herald. In the first story, he realizes that his treatment of Jean Paul after the whole Knightfall affair was a monumental blunder. At the end of Legends of the Dark Knight issue 63, Bruce just sends this hapless, mixed up kid on his own merry way. I wrote it that way for maximum drama. But logically, it was pretty rotten of Bruce to treat him so cavalierly. So in Azrael, Bruce tries to make good with Jean Paul by equipping him for the quest. What he says is, “Look, Jean Paul, I’m Bruce Wayne, one of the richest men in the world, and the world’s greatest detective. I’ve learned some things about the Order of St. Dumas. Here’s where I think they’re headquartered, and here’s a couple of million bucks to get you started.”
In other words, Azrael is a Batman continuity book in the same way that Robin and Catwoman are. Our first story begins in Gotham, where we find that Jean Paul is a lost, wondering soul without hope or direction. Occasionally, he’ll black out, and when he comes out of it he discovers that he’s beaten up three muggers. He can do spectacular things, but he can barely remember that he was Batman.

In the Sword of Azrael miniseries, you seemed to be playing with the relationship between fate and providence; between rationalism (everything has a natural, scientific explanation) and the life of faith (it is the will of God). In what ways will the new Azrael series explore these same kinds of theological questions?
The semantics of this are tricky, because I am not a lampooning, satirizing, or in any way criticizing religion. After all, my wife teaches religion in Catholic school; one of my assistants is a devout Jew, and the other two are devout Catholics. So yes, there is a religious dimension to Azrael, if by religion you mean things like rituals, traditions, and those kinds of things. I see no reason not incorporate some of that into the comic book. But I’m not in the business of insulting people, and if I were to mount a screed against some faith or aspect of what religion has become, I probably wouldn’t do it in a comic book. Instead, what I do is use some elements of traditional religion as story components. Hopefully, I’ll succeed in sending signals to my readers that this book is not about Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, Mohammedanism, or any specific faith. What will emerge in the stories are things that are common to most religions. Grail mythology, which is closely tied to religion is my starting point, but I would also like to work something in about angels into the mix because Azrael is, in two near eastern religions, an avenging angel.

So there is a historical analog for Azrael’s name?
Sure. Look it up in any dictionary of mythology. He’s an avenging angel in Mohammedanism and Judaism. After all, he was created to be the ‘anti-Batman.’ With that in mind, I set out to find a natural adversary for the bat in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, there aren’t many. Bats are actually very benevolent creatures. All I could come up with two: Owls (but there had already been an Owl-Man, and Owls had the wrong vibe anyways) and man (but ‘Man-Man’ just doesn’t sing as a superhero). Finally, I came across Azrael-maybe in Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia of mythology. It was, in the end, precisely what we were looking for.

There seems to be a tendency in popular fiction-comics or non- to fall into the same old traps when treating theological/supernatural material: corrupt priests, impure nuns, greedy televangelists, etc…
Lately, that does seem to be true. Back in the early seventies, it was true that by putting a clerical character into a story you were taking a great chance. I guess that comics back then were still very much under the influence of fifties era editorial policies. Any authority figure of any stripe was automatically a cross between Mahatma Gandhi, the Buddha, and Jesus Christ. Now; and this may be my age speaking, the pendulum does seem to have swung too far into the other direction. I’ve been as guilty of it as anybody. Protestant ministers have approached me at conventions and said, “Well, if you find a Protestant Minister in your comics these days you know who the bad guys are going to be.” Some stuff that I’ve read recently seems to be taking gratuitous shots at the Catholic clergy. The negatives of organized religion; the evil that it has done, as well as the good, is a topic that I will willingly discuss at any time, and at length, with anyone who is interested. My wife and I have had hundreds of discussions about it over the years, but that’s an entirely different thing than taking cheap shots in comic books. That’s not my style.

Still, John Ostrander seems to avoid it in the Spectre, and you in Sword of Azrael. What’s the secret?
Maybe it’s because John and I co-teach the same comics writing class.  John and I vibrate in synch and agree on all sorts of things, which is why we’re teaching the course at SVA (the School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street in Manhattan: Will Eisner, Walt Simonson, Carmine Infantino, and Claus Janson, among others, all teach courses there).

Speaking of your colleagues: how would you describe your working relationship with Archie Goodwin who is editing the new series? Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you both ‘come up’ together?
Archie’s been in this racket a year or two longer than I have. I’m very grateful for his presence at this company, because without him, I’d be the oldest editor at DC Comics. Our working relationship is about as good as it gets. I trust him unequivocally-but that doesn’t mean that he gets away with murder. On at least one recent project, he demanded more re-writing then I am used to doing, and thank God for it. He’s an incredible backstop for the creative people, and that’s what great editors do: curb our excesses, catch our mistakes, and provide a sounding board.
I’d been in the business about five years before I met Archie. We were both at Marvel during the mid-sixties. Years later I was a superhero editor at Marvel while Archie was in charge of their Epic line. Still, we weren’t quite colleagues. But since we’ve both come back to DC we’ve had this reciprocal arrangement. Sometimes I’ll edit Archie’s work, and vice-versa. I have unqualified respect for Archie and his skills. He’s one of the best, and I’m glad that he’s here to moderate some of my more radical ideas in Azrael.

What powers, beyond those we’ve already seen in Knightfall, will Azrael manifest in the new series?
Think of the ultimate Hong Kong martial arts hero-you know, the guys in the Jackie Chan action movies or in movies like Once Upon A Time In China, who do stuff that even Batman can’t do. That’s what we’re shooting for with Azrael’s powers: the extreme, upper-most level of what is possible for a human being. He’s not super-human, but in a way, he’s close.

So all of this talk about theology and medieval history aside, Azrael is still a kick ass action book.
That’s why people read superhero comics! After all these years I can still respond to that stuff. As I said in the afterword to the Knightfall Graphic Novel, I don’t feel at all demeaned by writing action-oriented superhero comic books. It’s good, solid entertainment, and not the easiest thing in the world to do well. There’s a phrase of James Agee’s that I keep coming back to: the very difficult job of being ‘merely entertaining.” I do need to emphasize, because we sometimes sound very intellectual when we have these discussions, that that’s all that I’m interested in doing. Insofar as I use mythology and theology, I use it to better tell the most entertaining stories that I can.

Of all that you’ve written, which is your favorite Batman story?
That’s a tough one. As a job of story construction, I think that, ‘A Vow from the Grave,’ drawn by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, from Detective Comics, was one of my best. It’s the only time that I’ve ever been satisfied with a detective story written by me for a Batman comic book. It plays absolutely fair with the reader. All he clues are there, and if you pay attention you can solve the mystery. I think on that one I solved the technical problems of a 15-page detective tale, and delivered a pretty good story at the same time. As a longer work, I think ‘Venom,’ from Legends of the Dark Knight worked very well. ‘Birth of the Demon,’ the Graphic novel I did with Norm Breyfogle, is also one of my favorites, but it never sold particularly well.

Does it ever bother you that a creative success may not necessarily translate into a financial one?
Sometimes. You can never predict it ahead of time. The perceived quality of a work in the end may have no bearing on its commercial success. Bu that’s just the nature of most popular art forms. Good novels go unread; good movies unseen. It’s frustrating, because I know that the kinds of things that have made me the most money are a long, long way from my best work. So in that sense, you sort of feel like a fraud. Of course, the whole collector-speculator explosion really skewed the whole economics of the entire comic book business. Fortunately, at least the speculator factor in that equation appears to be dead. I heard that the last three QVC shows actually lost money.

Did you appear in any of those?
No, that was very much against company policy for DC editors. They offered me a great deal of money to do it, but Paul Levitz feels that it’s not a great idea for a DC editor, and I don’t disagree. If nothing else, you could be put into the awkward position of appearing to endorse a competitors product, or coming across a churl.
Right now, the business is in a re-trenching mode. But when the dust finally settles, were going to be left with readers who enjoy comics as entertainment, and not as commodities. Ultimately, that is going to be very good for the long-term health of the comic book business.

Cubeecraft

Here are some printables for Azrael Cubeecraft (yes that’s spelled right). Please note these take steady hands and a bit of patience to make, but are quite fun! All you need is a color printer, scissors, and a hobby knife or small blade (be careful, this is where the steady hand and patience comes into play). It is recommended that you use thicker paper such as high gloss photo paper. Be sure to also give a good hour or two for ink to dry after printing as well. There are many quick how to tutorials on YouTube if confused on where to start with your cubecraft.

Azrael Cubeecraft – Download
(Created by Joshua Wolf)

Knightfall Azrael Cubeecraft – Download
(Created by MysterDD)

Knightsend Azrael Cubeecraft – Download

Batman: Sword of Azrael (Motion Comic Video)

Games

hcazjpWizKidz
(2006)
Heroclix
Collateral Damage
Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley)

Statues

eaglemoss77

DC Comics Super Hero Collection
Magazine 77 – Azrael
Eaglemoss

The ultimate collection for comics fans, the DC Superhero Collection Figurine Magazine brings together DC Comics’ greatest heroes and villains! Official figurines of the characters, both good and evil, are cast in lead, individually hand-painted and numbered to form an authentic collector’s edition. Each comes with a 20-page magazine providing detailed history and background on the featured characters, including exclusive images and interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

eaglemoss31DC Comics Chess Collection
Piece 31 – Azrael (White Pawn)
Eaglemoss

The DC Chess Collection begins with the Batman chess set, which pits Gotham’s greatest heroes against the Joker’s villains of Arkham Asylum. Each character is superbly rendered, cast from a specially formulated metalized resin and painted by expert model-makers. Each issue comes complete with an in-depth 16-page magazine providing detail on the character as well as essential chess tips for players of all levels.

News

Instead of copy/pasting the original News section into here I just thought I would archive it here.
Read below all ‘new’ News!

March 16th, 2016
JPV is on the cover of this weeks issue of Batman and Robin Eternal! That’s right, Azrael is in issue #24…however he is only on pages 13 & 14. Still though, having the cover of the issue must mean that he is sure to have more face time in the next issues!

February 15th, 2016
In stores now (if you can find them) is the ‘Knightfall Batman’ 3.75″ figure of Jean Paul Valley as Batman from the Batman Arkham Origins series of figures from the Multiverse line put out by Mattel. If you can’t find the figure in stores (I’ve been searching since early December when they started shipping) you can pick one up off of Amazon. The figure he highly detailed and dare I say ALMOST as good as the Hasbro DC Super heroes figure released in 1999. You can check out a pic of the figure in its package that I posted on Instagram here.

February 13th, 2015
If you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t why not!) then you saw the images I posted today of Theo Galavan on Gotham as Azrael! His suit looks very similar to the one that JPV is currently wearing…coincidence? This also looks like a very clever marketing move on DC’s part to help build even more interest in Azrael with the official trade paperback of the original Azrael solo series due out next month and Azrael’s introduction into the current ‘New 52’ continuity. Only time will tell as the series continues on the 28th of this month!

January 20th, 2016
You seriously need to pick up issue #16 of Batman and Robin Eternal – awesome team-up of JPV, Red Robin and Red Hood! The plot thickens and you won’t believe the turn of events.

January 13th, 2016
The new year brings JPV back in this weeks issue of Batman and Robin Eternal. This issue has a bit more background on the Order of St. Dumas, as well as the person who currently sits as figurehead. A really warped last page as well. Issue #15 is out now!

December 9th, 2015
This weeks issue of Batman and Robin Eternal gives us a bit more insight on Jean Paul Valley as Azrael. He’s also sporting a very ’90’s era haircut as he uses some interesting new powers to not only mess with Bane, but Red Robin as well. Check out all the insanity in issue #10 out now!

December 2nd, 2015
It’s official! It’s finally happened! This week’s issue of Batman and Robin Eternal marks the official debut of Jean Paul Valley, the REAL Azrael in the ‘New 52!’ This is pretty much the best news that could possibly be announced this winter as far as I’m concerned, so go out and pick up issue #9 now to see that insane pic of JPV on Pg 20!

November 17th, 2015
Last night’s episode of Gotham – did you see those member of the Order of St Dumas marching into Gotham? Something tells me we may be seeing an Azrael. If we are though it definitly will not be Jean Paul Valley as he is about 10 years younger then Bruce. However, that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t see his father Ludovac as Azrael!

October 20th, 2015
Did you catch last night’s episode of Gotham? The real ring leader of the whole ‘Rise of the Villains’ that the show is taking this season just revealed that Theo Galavan actually coms from a family called ‘St Dumas’ and an Order of families that controlled Gotham city. Could this be the beginning of seeing the Order of St Dumas and possibly even an Azrael on the show?

Knightsaga

Prelude to Knightfall
Sword of Azrael
Vengeance of Bane

Knightfall
The Broken Bat
Who Rules the Night

Knightquest
The Crusade
The Search

Knightsend
The Story
Aftermath

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