DARK KNIGHT's New Writer HURWITZ Plots Change of Direction
#8With DC touting the success of its Batman books, one of the titles is taking a whole new direction June.
Gregg Hurwitz, a thriller novelist who's been writing comics on the side for the last few years at Marvel, will join artist David Finch on Batman: The Dark Knight beginning in June.
The writer's high-profile assignment as a Batman writer follows on the heels of his critically acclaimed mini-series Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, which introduced a dark, disturbing side of Oswald Cobblepot to the relaunched DC Universe.
Now he's bringing those same sensibilities to a relaunch of the Gotham villain Scarecrow, exploring the character as a nemesis for Bruce Wayne in a "dark, gothic" story. And according to Hurwitz, he's been talking with Batman writer Scott Snyder, which indicates the title will function closer to the continuity of the Court of Owls story touching many of the Batman titles this spring.
Batman: The Dark Knight was originally launched as a Finch-written book, but delays plagued the series until Finch brought in help on art.
When DC relaunched the comic in September with the rest of its New 52 titles, Finch had a co-writer in Paul Jenkins, who eventually took over the writing on his own in issues #8 and #9.
With Batman: The Dark Knight #10, Hurwitz becomes the official writer on the series, and Finch couldn't be more thrilled. (Check back later for our interview with the artist about the change.)
As the news of Hurwitz's gig on The Dark Knight emerged late last week, we asked the writer to clarify how he's changing the direction of the title while still taking advantage of the Finch art that has defined the comic so far.
Newsarama: Gregg, for readers who are familiar with this comic already, what is it you're hoping to bring to The Dark Knight? Will it have a new direction now that you're coming on board?
Gregg Hurwitz: You're going to see a lot of stuff that's different in tone. We're taking a bit of a new direction. It's going to be really brooding, dark story that's also, I hope, a lot of fun.
We're going to be digging into some characters stuff, but it's not just going to be focused on characters. It's also going to be very, very heavy and epic in the plotting, and in the scope of what's going to unfurl over Gotham.
Nrama: Was one of the attractions of working on The Dark Knight the chance to work with David Finch?
Hurwitz: Definitely. That was one of the big draws, because he's one of my favorite artists. He tops a very, very short list for me, so I'm really thrilled to be working with him.
Nrama: David has a certain type of style, with that blockbuster, splash page look about his art. Are you hoping to write for that?
Hurwitz: Absolutely. It's going to be a dark, gothic book, and I want to give him a lot of room to throw his elbows. His trademark is those great splash pages. And I want to capitalize on his strengths. I want to write to his wheelhouse.
He and I have had a lot of talks figuring out how the aesthetics are going to work, and I want to really be able to write to them, giving him the stuff that he does best, which is a pretty long list, you know? There's not a lot he can't do. But I think there are some things we can really capitalize on, so it's going to be a really great, sort of brooding, sweeping, epic story.
Nrama: Since the comic was part of the New 52 relaunch, we've seen a lot of villains. What are you going to be exploring in your first story?
Hurwitz: Yeah, I've always been obsessed with Jonathan Crane. I find his whole background — especially since he's a professor with this fixation on fear — I've always found that really fascinating. And I think, coming out of the Penguin, I really wanted to dig in and show a different sort of backstory to Oswald, which I hope that I've done. And in keeping with the themes of the New 52, I want to show and present a completely different slant and background and angle and perspective on the compulsion of the Scarecrow. I want to spend a lot of time on that. And then pit these two — Batman and Scarecrow — against each other in a sort of epic clash.
#8I think they both have different relationships to fear and to how they handle fear and what it means. And in that way, the Scarecrow is poised to be a really great shadow to Batman, even as he's a shadow to his villains.
Nrama: You got to really define Penguin for the relaunched universe. Are you getting to really define Scarecrow the same way?
Hurwitz: Yeah. I'm really going in and digging into the things that make him tick. I really want to show his background and what turned him into who he is, and try to present him as a very three-dimensional character.
I mean, I think one of the differences is, of course, this isn't a Scarecrow mini-series. This is The Dark Knight. And so there's going to be equal focus on Batman, on Bruce — equal to more. In the Penguin mini-series, that was probably 70 percent Oswald and 30 percent Batman. But this is a much more of a two-fister. We're going to spend a lot of time digging in and seeing things from Batman's point of view and his perspective.
But that said, it is going to be a very similar approach that I took to the Penguin, in terms of trying to present something that's wholly new, that readers will not have seen before.
Nrama: I would think that's a huge challenge with Scarecrow and Batman. We've seen so many of Batman's "fears" used against him by Scarecrow, in some cartoon or comic somewhere. So was it a challenge to come up with a new take on it? Or do you think you've found something unique in their story?
Hurwitz: I think I found a take that's going to be different than what we've seen before. I think it's always a challenge, because these characters are like a public trust. I mean, Batman will be punching people long after I'm dead. You don't want to mess up all the things about these archetypal villains and this character. You don't want to do anything that's going to step on people's understanding and the spirit of what's come before.
But by the same token, my job is to do something that's new. If I'm not doing something that's new, then there's no point. I mean, you can just reprint the classics and leave me out of it.
And so, you're always trying to walk that tightrope balanced between really honoring the spirit of who these characters are while updating them. And I think that's been a big focus for DC, and it's something that they've been trotting out pretty masterfully in the New 52.
And so that's a big part of what I wanted to do, is to say, there's a different relationship here. There's a different dynamic going on between Scarecrow and Batman. It's going to illuminate sides of Batman that we haven't seen before, and it's certainly going to illuminate and present a new story of Jonathan Crane. And that's my job, to bring that.
Nrama: This title feels like it functions a little separate from the rest of the Batman books. Is there any plan to bring it back into the fold a bit? Or are you guys still wanting to operate on your own to give Dave the elbow room?
Hurwitz: I think it's two-fold. It is a continuity book. It takes place within the DCU. We're mindful of everything that is happening with the other books. It's tied in in that way.
Operating within that, it's a priority for us to present a story that can also stand on its own two feet. So it's not like a tie-in book where you're going to have to buy eight other books to understand the story. We want to present a free-standing epic.
But at the same time, I'm aware of and talking to [Batman writer] Scott [Snyder] about what he's doing. I'm aware and talking to [Batman group editor] Mike Marts, of all the things and what's happening with the other characters and where they're located, so that The Dark Knight stays relevant to everything that's going on elsewhere in the DCU. And it is in continuity in a way that the Penguin wasn't. So there is a different set of challenges and opportunities that we can take advantage of.
Nrama: Is anything that you're going to be doing tied to the Court of Owls?
Hurwitz: That one, I'm going to beg off answering. I don't know if we're able to talk about that publicly. Forgive my cowardice.
Nrama: I probably wouldn't have even asked if you didn't mention that you were talking to Scott Snyder.
Hurwitz: Alright. So, yeah, it's my fault. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Let's back up a little bit. DC readers may not be that familiar with all your work in prose, so what's your background and how did you get interested in writing comics?
Hurwitz: I came in primarily from novels. I've written 11 thrillers. My latest one is called, You're Next. And so I came in from the world of crime fiction. I also do screenplays and television, so I have some experience on that side.
My first comic book work was over at Marvel under Axel Alonso, and I wrote The Punisher, I wrote some Wolverine, and I did some Moon Knight over there at Marvel before making the jump to DC.
Nrama: Coming from Punisher and Moon Knight makes a perfect pre-cursor for writing Batman, doesn't it?
Hurwitz: Yeah, it's a no-brainer.
#8There are so many things about Batman that for me are such a perfect fit. When I'm writing comics, I want to take advantage of the medium. It's very important to me, because if I'm just writing straight crime stuff, I already write thrillers that take place in that world. So I want to take advantage of the superhero stuff that I can't do in a novel.
But one of the things I love about Batman is that his superpower is just determination and discipline, in which he sort of exceeds all human boundaries that we're accustomed to, yet there's nothing that's magical about him. So that everything still has to be tied in that way to a gritty reality.
So coming out of the thrillers that I write, and coming out of some of those characters at Marvel, for me, Batman is a perfect match, because I get the sweep and mystique of a superhero book with this sort of dark, shadowy reality that I can bring to it from these various other backgrounds.
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