While at FanExpo Canada, we had a chance to sit down with Tony Daniel, one of the most pleasant guys in comics. That stands in direct conflict with the intense, jaw-dropping issue of Batman: Detective Comics #1 that hit stands this week… And though we hadn’t read the issue yet when we talked to him, we did chat about the future of the Bat-title, how he approaches mysteries, and the question of Detective Comics #900:
MTV Geek: What is YOUR take on Batman for this title?
Tony Daniel: My take is to concentrate on shorter stories, a lot of detective work. The main focus is Bruce Wayne, Batman, and his world of solving mysteries and crimes in Gotham City. It’s a little bit more of a serious tone than the Dick Grayson stories that I wrote had, mainly because Bruce is a lot more serious of a character. But I’m establishing a very big, bold take on the character that I hope the fans enjoy.
Geek: Mysteries are a tricky thing to write, and a tricky thing to build… How do you approach building a mystery for this title?
TD: My technique is to have plenty of red herrings and layers to look under, or unravel, or peel back to expose the full story. Where all the clues are there in the first scene, and little by little you can see the story unfold – or not – until the very end. What I like to do is have the reader discover clues and evidence as Batman does. Maybe they can piece it together for themselves, or maybe not.
But yeah, it can be very tricky, you just to have to pre-plan. And writers would tell you, writing is rewriting. When you write your whole story out, you can go back and rewrite from page one, and include little foreshadowing, and clues now that you know how your story is going to end.
That’s my technique at least… I’m a big fan of sleuth novels, and mysteries, and crime stories – I read a lot of books. That’s the type of story I’m interested in as a reader, so I hope to bring some of that enthusiasm to the table with Detective.
Geek: Now, it sounds like this isn’t the case based on what you’re saying, but a lot of Batman detective stories, where someone has been murdered, he can’t figure it out… And then he sticks something in the Bat-computer, and it solves the mystery for him.
TD: [Laughs] No, that’s really an easy way out. That’s not really storytelling. To tell a good story you need conflict, suspense… Mystery is NOT knowing what’s around the corner, and wanting to know what’s around the corner. And if you don’t have that, and you just get all the answers, or you have someone spilling all the beans in a jail cell, or in the Bat-computer, I would consider that a cop-out, you know?
So you just have to do the hard work, and try to do it yourself. Have your main protagonist – in this case, Batman – not know what’s going on, but not have to rely on some kind of technology, but his wit, and his detective, crime-solving abilities to uncover the different layers that put the puzzle pieces together for him.
Geek: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you said you’re doing done in one stories at this point? Or is it shorter arcs.
TD: They’re shorter arcs… Like three issues. My first arc is four issues, but the first issue is really a jumping on point for a bigger story that sort of begins in issue two. Most of my stories are going to be three issues or so… I’m going to try and stay away from big, four or five issue arcs. Just because I think that it can be kind of taxing for a reader to commit almost half a year to one storyline. I think with today’s marketplace, you have to tell your best story in as little time as possible – because these are comic books, and economy is time. You have to sell your story and get people in and out with it, and start the next adventure.
Geek: What’s happening in the first Detective arc, then?
TD: We see something very, very strange happen to the Joker in issue one, and that leads Batman to discover that there’s someone around the corner that he was previously unaware of. There’s a new villain in town that goes by the name The Dollmaker, and he really has a whole crew of cohorts and people that work with him. They’re insane – they’re right up there with The Joker. His main story is discovering what they’re all about, and how he’s going to handle a new serial killer in town that he knows nothing about.
Geek: So what’s your take on The Joker? Is he the slightly more disturbed Grant Morrison Joker, the more traditional Joker…
TD: I’d say a little bit of both. He definitely has a little bit of Grant’s in there, for me, because I was working with Grant on R.I.P. and I really like that take on him. But I also like the old school version of the Joker as well. I think I get that across in the first issue.
Geek: Looking forward, how much do you have planned out?
TD: I’m planning for about a year’s worth of books. We have plenty of stories to tell, and so far it’s about figuring out how to break up how long each story arc is going to be. Hopefully, when we hit the twelve-month mark, hopefully we’ll have something big, maybe a larger story for that, maybe a tie-in with another Bat-book to mark the one-year anniversary.
But I’m planning on being on at least a year, and actually most likely two years at this point… Even though I haven’t planned for the second year, I am planning for a special issue that’s coming out some time in 2013.
Geek: Just doing a little quick math in my head, if you add the original numbering of Detective Comics, to how many issues you’d get to by 2013, you’d be at #900…
TD: [Pause] You are correct, sir.
And with that, we left Mr. Daniel alone! Detective Comics #1 hits stands Wednesday, September 7th.