Q&A with Tony S. Daniel
Q: What's it like working on a huge initiative like The New 52?
Tony S. Daniel: It was certainly a huge undertaking for me. Detective Comics has never had a relaunch before and it was DC's longest running book. Luckily, Batman is one of the world's most iconic and recognized superheroes ever created. So there wasn't going to be much tinkering on my end. My job was to reacquaint long time readers and new readers alike, using the familiar in a way that it seems fresh.
Q: How are you balancing making these stories and characters feel fresh and new while still respecting what came before?
TSD: Batman is a character who relies on technology. So luckily, he's a character who has always changed with the times. There's nothing about Batman that is ever outdated because his technology is always more advanced. I chose to introduce new villains for Batman, such as The Dollmaker, and mixing in some old favorites like The Joker and The Penguin.
Q: What would you say defines the character you are working on?
TSD: Batman is defined by his never ending quest for bringing justice to Gotham City. It's an undertaking that is impossible to achieve, but his will to press on and make Gotham City safer no matter the personal sacrifices he must make keeps Batman, and Bruce Wayne, relatable and admirable.
Q: What stories or creators inspire you most when working on your character?
TSD: For me, my love of the character started with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Until then, I had only really experienced Batman through the 60s television show. So seeing Batman gritty, forceful and dark while at the same time contrasting with his personal side made him so much more human, or real, to me. Since then I've been inspired or influenced by all the great artists and writers who have come along these past few decades.
Q: So what do you consider to be your character's definitive stories?
TSD: As mentioned, The Dark Knight Returns, as well classics like The Long Halloween, Hush, and most recently, Grant Morrison's The Black Glove and R.I.P.
Q: What have you thought about the response so far for The New 52 and your title as whole?
TSD: I am overwhelmed with the positive reaction. It was a big undertaking, and I thought a big risk, too. But you have to push the envelope with comics. You have to take chances to keep relevant. Growing and evolving is absolutely necessary in the arts.
Q: Do you keep up with any of the other New 52 books? Which ones and why?
TSD: I keep up with all the Batman titles. I have to since it's part of my job to understand what the other writers are doing. I also have been keeping up with all the other big books like Action Comics, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman. There are too many to list actually, and with my busy schedule, not enough time.
Q: Has social media and increased direct interaction with DC Comics' fans changed your writing/drawing approach at all in regards to The New 52?
TSD: I use Facebook primarily to connect with readers. I honestly try not to be influenced by outside sources and look mainly to editorial for that. There are so many fans and so many opinions on what they like or don't like. To a degree, I have cut myself off from reading reviews and forums. I think as a creator, you have to work inward--out, not outward--in
Q: What creators have influenced the new direction you've taken with your book?
TSD: Easily people like Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Jeff Loeb, Scott Snyder, Neal Adams, just to name a few. There are so many influences. But beyond comic book authors or artists, my take is influenced by noir and authors like Jim Thompson, one of the early pioneers of the noir style.
Q: So many classic characters have had their looks changed. What has been your favorite character redesign, even if it isn't in your own book?
TSD: I really like the Wonder Woman redesign. I think it's modern but still has heavy DNA to her roots. I think the redesigns that pay homage to their origins are always the best.
Q: The New 52 was a huge success for DC, but how to you think it affected the comic book industry as a whole?
TSD: I think it gave it a sorely needed shot in the arm. It certainly sparked a lot of interest and I think that credit needs to be given to Dan Didio, Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, and Bob Harras, to name just a few, for the success of The New 52. I am very happy with how this was handled from day one and I'm proud to be a part of it.
Q: With over 75 years of stories, is it difficult discovering new ideas and places for these characters to go that haven't already been done?
TSD: Well, as a writer, you can't worry so much about what has been done already. Everything has been done already, in every form of storytelling, not just comics. It's how you make it new, your own, and told in a way that it's brand new again, is what's important. With iconic characters such as we're dealing with here, you can't really change them, but you can certainly add a new layer to them. Or accentuate something about them that hasn't been really brought out before. It's a fine line you have to walk because although we're modernizing decades old characters, they still need to be recognizable to both long time readers and new readers alike.
Q: What's it like being a writer and artist on a title? Do you find it easier than working in collaboration with someone else? TSD:
I'm definitely more in my element when I'm writing for myself. The drafts of the stories I turn in to editorial for approval are what I consider first drafts. Really, it takes about three drafts to get a story right. That's just the natural process for many writers. But this being a time restrictive business, I have to create those second and third drafts in my head while I'm doing the art. When I write for another artist, I don't really get the same opportunity to labor over the ideas. When I turn the script in, it's out of my hands for the most part. So it's a bit harder to bring in a better idea in that case, or to "call an audible" that will improve the story. My preference will always be to write for myself. But I also would like to just be the artist again at some point. I also really enjoy being the visual collaborator for a great story. So at some point I will return to that because it will allow me to focus just on the artwork.