Today sees the much-anticipated release of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1.
Depending on who you ask, either Brian Azzarello wrote the book with a bit of input from The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again creator Frank Miller (that's Miller's version) or Miller was an intrinsic part of the writing process that guided the entire creative process (that's Azzarello's).
What everyone can agree on is that while Miller's auteur stamp is all over the book -- and he co-writes and draws the first minicomic insert Dark Knight Universe Presents The Atom -- the actual creation of The Master Race has been a collaborative effort. Azzarello, one of DC's best-selling and most acclaimed writers, comes to the project fresh off a long sting on The New 52: Futures End with Jeff Lemire, Keith Giffen, and Dan Jurgens. Along for the journey is artist Andy Kubert, an industry veteran from one of the most beloved and awarded families in comics.
Tying it all together, of course, is inker Klaus Janson, whose finishes helped shape the look and feel of Miller's acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns. He also inked over Miller on The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and when it became clear Miller wasn't going to draw The Master Race, it was Janson whose brushes will help close the gap between Kubert's and Miller's styles and bring the third installment -- once billed as the series finale, but now we know better! -- in line with the others.
Later today, we'll run an interview with Miller himself, but back during New York Comic Con, ComicBook.com joined Azzarello, Kubert and Janson for a brief chat about the project.
So, what got you involved with this project to start with?
Kubert: Dan DiDio asked me if I was interested. It must have been a year, year and a half ago, when I knew this was all happening. I told him that anything -- if that ever happens, I would love to be part of it in any way. Usually when projects come up, I try to think about it, wrap my head around it, download a little bit. This one, I said "Yes, no problem."
Klaus, do you feel pressure to match the level of the previous installments?
Janson: Yeah, definitely. None of us -- even the people who haven't been involved with the first one and the second one -- nobody here wants to do a crappy comic book, you know? Nobody here wants to do bad work. So all of us feel a little pressure to bring our A-game, especially on a project that means so much to so many people.
I've got to say, it surprises me a little how many people have fond memories of DKI and DK2. It's amazing.
Brian, you just came off of Futures End, where the enormity of it was trying to hit a million deadlines. With this, what is your relationship with Frank like?
Azzarello: It's been great -- really great. Going over to his studio, talking the story through. When we were originally doing it, we were doing voices. It was fun.
[Editor's note: You've really got to watch the video, embedded below, to appreciate his answer here.]
I would leave there at night and when i was walking back to my hotel, I would be like "What the hell did I just experience? I'm working with Frank Miller on a story?" It was crazy.
The size and scope of this project is huge, and then when you see the way DC has been rolling it out...have any of you ever worked on anything quite like this
Kubert: No, I never have. This is the first time for me, as far as the way everything is being presented and the way they're promoting it. Like you said, with the minicomics and the hardcover things after -- no, I've never been involved with anything like that.
Janson: When we were working on the first one -- I don't think this is a big surprise, but no one had any sense what this was going to do or how it would affect fans or the medium for that matter. I got a little flavor of that intensity as the second, third, fourth books were coming out, and it was a little heady. It was a little difficult to deal with.
I'm a little older now, thirty years older, and I think I'm able to deal with these things a little bit better. But yeah, there's a lot attached to this and it's nice to be able to appreciate it rather than run from it.
Azzarello: That's probably the best thing about this project -- what you just said it -- all of us, we really appreciate being involved in this. It is the kind of thing, when you're younger, you just "Oh, I've got to do it, get it done." But this is like, "Wow, let's figure this out before we dive into the pool," you know?
Any one of you guys, or obviously Frank, would buy a project cache. When you start putting together a team like this, at what point to you sit there and go, "This thing's going to be f---ing huge?"
Azzarello: When Frank said, "I want to do Dark Knight III," then I'm going, "This is goign to be f---ing huge." [Laughs]
Janson: You know, the moment that I realized that number one, this was going to be huge and numer two this was actually going to happen [laughs] was when Andy sent me the pages and I actually had them in my studio. That was the first time that I really thought, "okay, we're on, this is happening. This is for real now."
Up until that point, because it was a project of such magnitude, there was always a feeling of "I'll believe it when I see it." So when I got those pages, I knew this was happening.
Kubert: I gotta tell you, it really didn't sink in for me until we were in that panel and there was 4,000 people in that panel. I really didn't understand the scope of it. I knew it was a big project and all that, but when you walk out there, the place was packed!
And then Frank came out and everybody gave him a standing ovation, that was great. That was really nice.
Would you guys be open to working on further Dark Knight projects if these things were to materialize?
Azzarello: If they materialize, I'd certainly consider it. I'm not going to say no.
Janson: I am enjoying so much working with Frank and Brian at this point, it would totally depend -- to be serious about it -- it would totally depend on who's on the project. You don't want to besmirch the reputation of this series, so you want to do good work all the way through. If it's a project that was worth doing, I'd definitely do it.
Kubert: I'd do it if these guys were involved, in a second.