When DC released their solicitations for their October products, fans of the company’s kid-friendly “Johnny DC” line were dismayed to find the words “final issue”—the dreaded mark of cancellation! — in the solicits for Super Friends, Billy Batson and The Magic of Shazam and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
At Comic-Con International: San Diego, however, DC assured fans that the line wasn’t being canceled, just re-tooled, and the first book back from the seemingly dead was <a href=http://newsarama.com/comics/dc-november-2010-solicitations-100816.html>announced last week</a>: The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
The new volume would feature a new creative team, including artist Rick Burchett (no stranger to drawing comics based on Batman cartoons) and writer Sholly Fisch.
Fisch wrote the just-canceled , and several issues of , including the story “Night of the Batmen,” wherein all the other superheroes dress up in homemade Batman costumes in order to fill-in for the Dark Knight, and “A Batman’s Work Is Never Done,” which features nothing but short, two-page team-ups with a slew of different heroes.
To find out what’s so new about the All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic, we thought we’d ask some who ought to know — Sholly Fisch.
Newsarama: Sholly, DC and Marvel superhero comics for kids seem to be in a rather odd position these days, in that for the last 20 years or so people in the mainstream media and even within the industry have been proclaiming “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!”…do you think that has inadvertently marginalized kids comics in certain audiences?
Sholly Fisch:Wow, we’re jumping right to the heavy stuff! Actually, though, this is one of my favorite soapboxes, so thanks for giving me the chance to climb up on it.
Everyone’s got his or her own pet theories about such things, of course. But, for many years, I’ve believed that a big part of the reason why the comics business took such a major nosedive about 10 to 15 years ago is that everyone was so busy trying to prove that “comics aren’t for kids” that we forgot that what we should have been proving was that “comics aren’t only for kids.” There was a gap of about 10 years or so when, apart from Archie, no one was really publishing comics for kids. And, as a result, we lost an entire generation of comics’ fans.
That’s why I’m thrilled to see so many comics for so many different audiences being published today. If we can reach a diverse audience across the industry — lots of people with lots of different tastes — we’ll all be in better shape in the long run.
Nrama: When writing a Johnny DC title like or Batman: The Brave and the Bold, do you find yourself writing for a particular audience? Are you writing for kids, or grown-ups, or both? Those already familiar with the characters, or new to them? In the case of Batman, fans of the show?
Fisch: I think of audience whenever I write, and not just for Johnny DC stuff. Over the years, my comics credits have run the gamut from to , with lots of stuff in between. Obviously, each of those titles has a different purpose, a different style and a different kind of audience. I wouldn’t write like or vice versa. (Although, now that I think of it, that could be fun…)
For B&B, I’m approaching the comic book pretty much like the TV show. It’s very much an all-ages title that’s designed to appeal to both kids and adult fans who like their superheroics with a touch of fun. As in the show, we’ll do some issues that are straighter, and some that are more over the top. And, as in the issues of B&B that I wrote before the relaunch — or , for that matter — I’m slipping in some subtle in-jokes and references that kids probably won’t even notice (so they won’t feel left out). But longtime adult fans should get a few chuckles out of them.
Nrama: Does writing a comic book based on a TV show present challenges that aren’t present in writing other comics? Are you beholden to the events or characters or interpretations of the cartoon series?
Fisch: Anytime a comic book is based on something else — whether it’s , or whatever — the reader comes with certain expectations that have to be met. The characters need to act and sound like “themselves,” and the stories need to be appropriate for the characters. By analogy, you don’t often see the Phantom Stranger fighting solo against Mongul. Not that he couldn’t; it’s just not what he does. I even use different kinds of jokes where I write Bugs Bunny then I did when I wrote an issue of Ren and Stimpy some years back.
By the same token, fans of the B&B TV show probably come to the comic book expecting to find “their” Batman. And that’s exactly what they’ll find, if I’ve done my job properly.
Nrama: As a character, Batman seems to have a greater flexibility than even other superhero characters, in terms of how many different approaches to him are possible. I was curious if you had a particular version of the character that you regarded as a favorite or most inspirational to your work? Are there particular artists, writers or interpretations that have informed the way you write Batman?
Fisch: Pretty much all of them, I guess. There are elements of every incarnation that I love: The iconic nature of the Kane/Finger version, the detective slant of the O’Neal/Adams version, the sheer coolness of the Miller and versions, the lighthearted goofiness of the Bat-Mite era, and so on. Plus, of course, I deeply believe that one of the greatest lines in motion picture history is, <a href = HYPERLINK "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4v1hAnfy1I" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4v1hAnfy1I>“Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”</a> So I draw on all of that when I write Batman, but I mix it up differently depending on what’s most appropriate for a given project.
Nrama: How is the Batman from the comics different from the Batman of The Brave and The Bold?
Fisch: Well, for one thing, he hits people.
No, no, no. Seriously, they have all the basic stuff in common — committed to justice and protecting the innocent, world’s greatest detective, world’s greatest escape artist, world’s greatest you-name-it… But, as I said, B&B is aimed at a somewhat older audience, so the B&B Batman is a little more nuanced in various ways.
Oh yeah, and he hits people.
Nrama: You’ve written a few issues of the current volume of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but you’ve been writing on a regular basis. How bummed out are you about the latter title’s cancellation…or is this another case of the news of its death being exaggerated?
Fisch: Much as I’d love to say that ’ demise was exaggerated, I’m afraid I haven’t heard anything to make me think that’s the case. And yes, I was deeply bummed, as was everyone who worked on the series. Realistically though, we had a good, healthy, two-and-a-half year run, which is much longer than I ever expected. I got to work with some very talented — and downright nice — people, and write stories about super-pets, magical imps and Bizarros. And we got to do it all in a way that was genuinely good for kids. So, all in all, I can’t complain.
Besides, I’m writing Batman every month. How cool is that?
Nrama: DC announced the initial two guest-stars, and the first of them is going to be Superman. The cartoon series mostly shied away from using top-tier stars like Superman in anything other than cameos or allusions in the dialogue. How much should we read into Superman’s appearance here? Will the book be focusing on more Superman-like guest stars than, I don’t know, Kid Eternity or Adam Strange? DC’s announcement mentions an “A-list cast,” so I know at least a few fans are worried they won’t be seeing any of the more offbeat guest stars.
Fisch: At least for now, the mandate is indeed to focus on the A-listers, which makes me glad that I squeezed in some of my more off-beat favorites before the relaunch, like Angel and the Ape, Brother Power the Geek and the Inferior Five (Ironically, J. Michael Straczynski put the Inferior Five in his DCU B&B book at just about the same time. What are the odds?)
While I truly love those guys, though, it’s awfully hard to complain about Superman. And I’m a huge Captain Marvel fan — I even have a couple of C.C. Beck sketches and an original page from the 1940s at home — so I’m thrilled to have the chance to write Cap in #2.
One of the things I am trying to do is come up with angles on these team-ups that we haven’t seen too often before. Batman does team up with Superman, but it’s to solve a mystery in the Bottle City of Kandor. Batman and Captain Marvel try to free Gotham from the grip of the Psycho-Pirate. The Mad Hatter and the Mirror Master team up to drag Batman and the Flash through the looking glass. And then, there’s our Valentine’s Day spectacular, with Batman and Wonder Woman — married!It’s funny that you mentioned Kid Eternity, though. I have an idea for a killer Batman/Kid Eternity team-up in the back of my head. Maybe a little further down the line…
Nrama: The new version of Batman: The Brave and the Bold will have a new title, adding “All-New.” I was curious just how all new “All-New” is…is it just a matter of two more words in the title, or can readers expect to find a pretty different comic book under the covers?
Fisch: Naturally, the new series will have all of the same thrills, chills and all-out hoo-hah action that you’ve come to expect. But there are a few changes, some of which are probably more noticeable than others. For one thing, as I mentioned, there will be much more of an emphasis on big-name guest stars. One of the less immediately obvious changes will be in the panel layout. We’re going to be using double-page splashes and bigger panels, to make more room for the action on the page. Stuff like that.
The trade-off of the new page layout is that it makes it harder to do the short opening bits that used to appear at the beginning of every issue. But those were often my favorite parts of both the comic book and the TV show, which is why I wrote an entire issue that consisted of nothing but opening bits [#17]. So I’ve been finding ways to squeeze in little tastes of it into the new series and preserve the spirit.
Nrama: When writing a team-up book like this, do you start with a story and then think of which guest-star will fit it, or do you start off with a guest-star you want to use and then go from there?
Fisch: Some of each. Sometimes the story idea comes first, like when I came up with the idea of having a bunch of other heroes fill in by dressing up as Batman in #13. After I had the basic idea, I thought about which heroes might be fun.
At other times, I start with a guest star I love, and then figure out what to do with him or her. The upcoming Captain Marvel story was like that.
Nrama: So how about that Rick Burchett, huh?
Fisch: Boy howdy. Actually, Rick is working on #1 now, so I haven’t seen the interior art yet. But I love his cover for the issue, and he was great on the various books, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does with it.
Nrama: Maybe you can clear something up that’s been bugging me for a while now — is Batman “the Brave” or is he “the Bold” in the team-up?
Fisch: Actually, editor Scott Peterson is “the Brave.” Assistant editor Chynna Clugston-Flores is “the Bold.”
Nrama: One question I’m sure readers will want to know the answer to — in terms of guest-stars, do you take requests?
Fisch: Take them? Yes. Do them? Well, maybe sometimes.