This month's Batman #34 saw Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan dip his toes into the frigid, toxic Gotham City water for the first time before becoming a full-time resident in the upcoming Arkham Manor with Shawn Crystal in October.
The issue introduced The Meek, a creepy new character who will carry over to Duggan's own series, and eased him into writing in the Bat-family by teaming him with Scott Snyder, the title's acclaimed regular writer.
Duggan joined ComicBook.com to talk about Batman #34, the experience and what writing the Dark Knight means to him.
How did you end up being the guy to work on this issue with Scott? Was it just a matter of the Bat-office digging what you've got planned for Arkham Manor?
It's fun to work with your friends. I've gotten to know both Scott and Mark Doyle over the years by attending some of the same comic cons. I was privy to certain details of the larger stories that these guys are weaving and pitched a couple of ideas that would become Arkham Manor. The opportunity to collaborate on Batman 34 occurred roughly at the same time, to the better of both (I hope).
Anytime you handle one of these beloved properties, there's pressure -- but did you feel any extra twinge that this isn't just Batman, but it's THIS Batman at THIS moment, where everyone is talking about Scott and Greg like they're making history?
Writing Batman into a script and having it be about Batman, and not as a reference to another character that is acting like Batman, or looking like Batman - writing Batman for the Batman comic - it made me smile.
I wasn't nervous because I had the benefit of working with Scott. My goal was to make his life easier, and Mark Doyle's too. If nobody has to ask me where the script was, I knew I would be cool because Scott, Greg and Mark have THE PLAN. I wanted to make #34 a fun one-and-done comic, but I didn't have any fear that it would be the wrong note in their symphony. I know the road map for Endgame, and it's really gonna be a blast. Writing with Scott didn't just make me a better Batman writer, it made me a better writer. The Arkham Manor scripts have really benefited from the collaboration on Batman #34. Even this interview kind of seems like I might be getting pranked.
The last time I spoke with you, you were known pretty much just from comedy writing and you were coming into Deadpool, a book with a lot of humor. Now, it's only about two years later and you're building up a heck of a rep in comics. How does Batman figure into that arc?
It's almost embarrassing to be quite honest. I know I seem like I'm gobbling up all the work, but I can promise readers that I'm putting in a lot of time on the work. I've had multiple completed scripts for Arkham Manor before anyone knew we were coming.
As for the comedy writing, I come more of the "sad clown" school so Gotham is hopefully a good fit. Years ago I took a two week gig writing on Attack Of The Show, and that turned into 5 years of daily live TV experience with the smallest writing staff in show business history. That's where I learned that speed and prolificness was the fire that would make me a better writer. It was roughly 275 hours of live TV a year. I learned a lot from that experience. That said, it was exhausting and I hated how disposable the content was. Now my collaborations will exist long after I'm gone, and I'm having the most fun writing comics. I don't want to do anything else.
You mentioned to USA Today that you liked being able to put something back in the toy box...Batman's toy box is pretty crowded but everyone seems to eventually get playing time. Have you thought about how cool/crazy it will be when somebody else inevitably uses your character(s) in a Batman story?
Comics are forever. Continuity can come or go, but comic books exist only in the moment that you're reading them, and then they're in your mind. Sometimes a comic is exactly how you remember it, sometimes you're making new discoveries about a comic you've read a bunch of times. I hope readers find my comics long after I'm done making them.
This is another golden age for the medium. In almost every genre there seems to be at least one masterpiece currently rolling off printers. To be able to write Batman is an honor, and to get to make comics in his 75th anniversary is even more special. I think we're leaving behind some new toys, and I do hope someone picks them up someday. It's part of the fun.
There is a LOT going on in Gotham at any given time. How hard is it to jump on that moving train, especially for a fill-in where you really need to fit seamlessly into what comes before and after (as opposed to, say, Arkham Manor where presumably you have a little more of your own context)?
Credit Mark Doyle and Matt Humphries and the staff in the Bat office. I had Scott and Matteo and Lee, I knew it would be a great book. I tried not to get in the way of it. The fact that so much was happening at the moment in Eternal actually was very good for this story. We used that double page spread to catch readers up on why Batman has been distracted, and how that distraction was an opportunity for the Meek. I think we turned the rush of Gotham to our advantage to tell this smaller story from the shadows.
There's a very New York-ness to the way you've talked about Gotham: the idea that everyone comes here to make it big and those who don't, are kind of invisible. What makes this story something that can only happen in Gotham?
Well, we get the wish-fulfillment of Batman actually putting a stop to the Meek. I moved to Los Angeles with big dreams over ten years now. I recall my first shared apartment was surrounded by at best "Burned-out Lebowskis" and at worst -- folks that took a shot, missed and were maybe still looking up at the stars...from the gutter. Later, I hit my own wall -- and I was lucky enough to climb over it and start to find traction as a writer. Not everyone is so lucky.
That's the world the Meek inhabited. Los Angeles' own "Grim Sleeper" killer is just one example of a real world "Meek". Everyone needs a little luck, but not everyone gets it. It's a sad fact of life, and a fertile patch to plant stories.
Is it just me, or is Bullock a ton of fun to write? I feel like if I had one issue of Batman to write, I'd want to make sure he was in it.
I loved writing Harvey! You'd have to go back to the 1960s to find a Batman comic I haven't read, but I've also been influenced by Batman: The Animated Series in a lot of ways. Bullock is one of those examples of just how rich the Batman field is. He's a star, he's as fun to write as Batman.
I can't wait to see what Donal Logue and the Gotham team do with him. That casting is inspired. Bullock will make it out to Arkham Manor, too...
You also said that The Meek is kind of the opposite of Leslie Tompkins, who I think is a character who's often depicted in different ways by different writers. What's your take on her, and what makes The Meek her opposite number?
She's not on skid row by choice. She can grab the degree off her wall, and hang it anywhere she wants. She's chosen to live and work amongst the most vulnerable. The Meek has also chosen to be there for the same reasons. He kills the nobodies and throws the bodies where nobody will find them. Leslie doesn't want attention and just wants to help. The Meek doesn't want attention and just wants to kill.
Is there anybody from the mythology you didn't get to play with and would like to down the road?
Yes, but I'm grateful to have borrowed the toys I have from the toy box. I'm not looking too far down the road. I'm wrenching on the scripts for the back end of the first Arkham Manor collection at the moment, and it's a dream cast.0comments
You've said that this issue kind of exists as a lead-in to Manor. Is it a direct lead-in with some of these story threads feeding into the new series, or is it a subtler, tonal thing?
We wanted to make Batman #34 stand alone, and it ended up being one of the most satisfying singles issues I was ever lucky enough to collaborate on. The Meek will appear in Arkham Manor, but he'll be re-introduced, so readers could take a pass on #34 but I have trouble making that recommendation to anyone. It's worth it for Matteo and Lee's wonderful art alone.