Tomorrow, Swamp Thing comes to Gotham City to implore Batman to help him solve a very personal mystery in a story that could only be called "The Brave and the Mold."
The storyline brings Swamp Thing -- who was recently featured in a miniseries by Len Wein and Kelley Jones, and who shortly thereafter appeared in Superman as part of the build-up to the recent "Superman Reborn" mini-event -- to Gotham in his first major appearance since the death of revered horror artist Bernie Wrightson, arguably best known as the co-creator of Swamp Thing with Wein.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads, who came together to make the stand-alone issue that ruminates on the meaning of life and death -- both to a mortal like Batman, who stands among gods, and to a force of nature like Alec Holland.
Batman #23 is on the stands tomorrow, May 17. You can call your local comics retailer for a copy, or pre-order a digital copy at various online retailers.
So first of all, who's the genius who came up with that title?
Tom King: You know, it's somewhat controversial. I came up with "The Brave and the Mold" as a joke and I put it out on Twitter, and it got such a huge response, it was like "Well, I guess I'll make this the title." Then I'm like, "Wait, is mold a kind of plant?" And I looked it up on Wikipedia and, no, mold is not a kind of a plant, so I was like "f--k!"
So I called up Scott [Snyder], who used to write Swamp Thing, and I'm like, "Hey, Scott, can Swamp Thing control mold?" And he's like "actually, I use that as a metaphor about Swamp Thing and death..." and he goes off on this whole incredible tangent about the depth and meaning, and I'm like "Aw, crap! All I need to know is for this stupid title pun!" So then I just ignored all that and I stuck with the pun.
Mitch Gerads: Once I heard that title, I knew I could just phone the rest in.
What made this your first big team-up decision?
King: Yeah, we decided on this even before the Catwoman issues. The way Batman works is that [David] Finch and Mikel [Janin] trade off for five issues and then in between we do more artsy issues where I work with my favorite artists, who can just do an issue here or there. So DC came to us and said "How would you like to do a Swamp Thing team-up?," because DC has some plans for Swamp Thing, Mitch and I were finishing up the first season of The Sheriff of Babylon and we hadn't started [Mister Miracle], so I was like "Oh, work with my favorite artist? I happen to know one of those guys!"
Swamp Thing is a character where you can get away with a lot of crazy shit visually. Was that a nice thing to get to do after Sheriff and the Catwoman issues, where it's all pretty much just people, rather than the full insanity of the DCU?
Gerads: It was so much fun. Like you said, we had done the 12 issues of Sheriff and the two issues of Batman, all very grounded, and now I'm getting this monster who's literally born out of mold on the third page. What's great is that I'm doing pencils, inks, and colors for this issue, so I can control everything about Swamp Thing. You can tell sometimes artists have to treat Swamp Thing a certain way becuase they know they're not going to be the one coloring it or inking it or whatever, but controlling everything, you get to go crazy with Swamp Thing. So I went big vegetation: he's big and imposing and constantly moving.
With Bernie Wrightson having just passed, was working on a Swamp Thing book even more kind of powerful?
Gerads: For me, there definitely was. I started actually drawing the issue only just a few days before he passed, and so once that news came out, it's weird, I remember I was at my drawing table and I saw everything break on Twitter, while sitting htere drawing Swamp Thing. It was kind of a weird moment and I went with it. This issue is definitely my tribute to Bernie as much as I could do.
King: I wrote it before he passed away, and I had only really met Bernie once, at a convention, but the whole issue is about death. It's about how Batman and Swamp Thing deal with death differently. What I think is crazy about the Swamp Thing character is how much of the human soul that monster has explored. What Len and Bernie did with that character was to create a portal through which writers could write about all the themes in comics that they didn't think they could approach when they first came to the medium. There's something about him that makes you want to write about deeper, more literary themes.
Gerads: One of the great thigns about Swamp Thing is that he's this wonderful, philosophical character but he's not a wizard on a throne somewhere; he's this giant swamp monster giving these philosophical speeches. There's something magical and comic-y about it.
Is it kind of nice to have a quiet, philosophical respite coming off of "The Button," which is this story that's very much larger-than-life and everybody in comics is watching?
King: To me, it feels like part of the flow. I have the advantage of knowing where the story's going and knowing how all these pieces fit into that. I do look at it as kind of an epilogue to "The Button." It sort of ends there, and then the title of #24 is "Every Epilogue is a Prelude," and we attach the last full year to what next year is going to be with "The War of Jokes and Riddles."
I see it as a flow because it's all about getting Batman into the emotional place he's going to be when "The War of Jokes and Riddles" tears apart his world. And the impact of Swamp Thing, coupled with the impact of "The Button," pushes Batman to where he needs to be for that story to start.
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