knightsend tagged posts

Knightquest – The Crusade

detective667coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 667 – October 1993
Wild, Wild East
It’s official, Jean Paul is now the Batman and taking to the mean streets of Gotham. However, getting bored with common criminals, he starts to tweak his suit and uncovers one of Harold’s creations, the subway rocket! This new vehicle uses long abandoned Gotham City sudway roads that date back to a literal underground railroad connected throughout the city.  Meanwhile the Trigger Twins come to town and join a local mob ring.

 

 

 

 

 

detective668coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 668 – November 1993
Runaway
Still new to the subway rocket, JPV almost gets into a head-on collision with an actual train while trying to stop the Trigger Twins from robbing a money train! Due to his father’s condition, Tim is able to receive his license early and heads down to the batcave to pick up a car that was promised to him by Bruce. Showing up in his Robin uniform he has an altercation with Jean Paul who informs him that this Batman does not need a partner. Almost strangled to death, Robin escapes Jean Paul and is locked out of the cave.

 

 

 

 

 

shadowbat19coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 19 – October 1993
The Tally Man: Part One
After handling some routing street crime, Batman sees a building with isolation chambers and decides to try one out, wondering if it may help him discover more about himself. Across town the Tally Man is collecting life debts. One of his trails leads him to the warehouse district Batman is at and decides he may as well take out the new dark Knight as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

shadowbat20coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 20 – November 1993
The Tally Man: Part Two
With both Batman and the Tally Man dealing with the effects of the isolation chamber, they  attle their minds and each other. Thanks to a falling water tower and the system kicking in, Batman is able to take down the Tally Man, beating him inches away from death before leaving him for the police to take over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman501coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 501 – November 1993
Codename: Mekros
Batman gets a vision from St Dumas, telling him he must continue his crusade as Gotham’s dark angel. After breaking up a mob meeting, the bosses get together and hire a former government agent to down Batman. After a meeting Commissioner Gordon notices that something is very different about Batman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman502coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 502 – December 1993
Phoenix In Chaos
Batman survives his first formidable encounter and defeats both Mekros, as well as anothet hisman who was hired to take out Mekros. Batman goes on to form an unlikely alliance with Mayor Krol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detective669coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 669 – December 1993
Town Tamer
The Trigger Twins are back again, this time they have hijacked the Public Transit Authority System’s train that collects all money from public transportation. Batman chases down the stolen train and brings them in to justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detective670coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade (Mislabeled as part of ‘The Search’
Issue No 670 – January 1994
Cold Cases
The body of Mr. Freeze washes up on shore from his last encounter with the Joker. He is brought into the Gotham City morgue by Bullock and Montoya when it is thawed out, temporarily bringing Freeze back to life. Batman and Montoya take down Freeze, but she is left shaken after witnessing the brutality of Batman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

catwoman6coverCatwoman
Knightquest – The Crusade (Mislabeled as part of ‘The Search’
Issue No 6 – January 1994
Animal Rites
Catwoman and a group of animal rights activists set out to stop a group of corporate developers who have developed a neurotoxin to be rid of protected species. The notes for this toxin are stolen and must be acquired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman503coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 503 – January 1994
Night Becomes Woman
Believing that Catwoman is the thief of the Xylon-C neurotoxin, he tracks down and encounters her, only to find that she can very easily tell via pheromone that he is not the Batman she has faced all these years. While in the Batcave, Jean Paul researches her through the files Bruce kept in the batcomputer, trying to figure out why she has gone free all these years. He also wrestles with ‘thoughts’ of her.

 

 

 

 

 

batman504coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 504 – February 1994
Dark Dance
Jean Paul has another vision of St. Dumas while he chases Catwoman. The Gotham PD find Catwoman with the canister of the Xylon-C neurotoxin, believing her to be involved in terrorism as the docks catch fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

catwoman7coverCatwoman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 7 – February 1994
Body Chemistry
Catwoman escapes the police and displays that what she has is in fact a decor. With Batman’s help, they rescue the scientist who initially concocted the toxin and save the attendees of an international conference from being poisoned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detective671coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 671 – February 1994
The Cutting Room Floor
The Joker forces Hollywood big wigs to fund his movie, ‘The Death of Batman,’ and begins to stage crimes to get footage of Batman in action. While checking on a mugging victim, Batman witnesses her falling to her demise from a window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detective672coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 672 – March 1994
Smash Cut
Batman moves into  save Robin who turns out to be the mugging victim he saved the previous night dressed up as Robin as part of one of his staged acts for his film. Captured by the Joker, the Gotham PD decide to step in after receiving a poster for Joker’s film in progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

detective673coverDetective Comics
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 673 – April 1994
Losing The Light
Chained into a situation he can’t quite get his way out of, Batman wrestles with himself and the demons of the system. Watching batman’s actions, the Joker is infuriated when he comes to the realization that this is not the Batman he has faced all of these years. Once Batman breaks free it takes the Gotham PD to stop him from permanently taking the Joker out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman505coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 505 – March 1994
Blood Kin
Jean Paul begins to embrace the detective side of Batman as he investigates a murder scene and begins to have a vision of St. Dumas and his father battling over the direction of his life. The murderer Abattoir kills five members of his family and is now going after his cousin and a bus full of children. This encounter sees Jean Paul redesigning his cape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

shadowbat26coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 26 – April 1994
Creatures of Clay – Diary of a Lover
While checking in on the survivors of Abattoir’s school bus attack, Batman is attacked by Lady Clayface who begrudgingly wants to kill him. Meanwhile, Clayface III kidnaps Abattoirs cousin, Graham Etchison, who is being counseled by Leslie Thompkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sotb27coverBatman: Shadow of the Bat
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 27 – May 1994
Creatures of Clay – Child’s Play
After being defeated by Batman, Lady Clayface reveals that she is only going to these measures because Abbatoir has kidnapped her and her lover’s child. Batman instead meets at the rendezvous point to save the baby and brings Clayface III to justice. Abbatoir however escapes and straps Graham Etchison to the death machine while Batman wonders if this baby will turn out as its parents did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman506Batman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 506 – April 1994
Malevolent Maniax
Batman joins Ballistic who comes into town under contract to kill Abbatoir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

batman507coverBatman
Knightquest – The Crusade
Issue No 507  – May 1994
Ballistic
Also in town on contract to take down Abbatoir, Batman and Ballistic take down the Maniaxe in a Gotham city nightclub. After taking out the lawyer who set the contract in motion, Ballistic collects his fee and leaves town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

CVM 1993 Knightfall Feature

CVM
October 1993
Issue 86

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previews Interview with Dennis O’Neil

Previews Magazine
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.

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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