When Fabian Nicieza backed away from writing DC comics last year because of time constraints, it didn't take long before DC talked him into helping out again. Readers have seen his name showing up on everything from this summer's Superman Annual #1 to a few issues of Teen Titans.
But now he's got a more regular gig again as he takes over writing the ongoing Bat-family series Batwing, working with artist Fabrizio Fiorentino. In December's Batwing #15, Nicieza will finish up the latest story threads by the title's former writer, Judd Winick, whose last issue was released this week. Nicieza will kick off a new story arc in January with issue #16. Tentatively titled "Acceptable Corruption," the arc focuses on corruption in the police force, as main character David Zavimbe refuses to turn a blind eye to a killer walking free.
Nicieza, beloved for his work on diverse titles like Deadpool and Red Robin, said he hopes to make Batwing both character-focused and action-packed as he delves into David's life as a cop in the Congo.
Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about his approach to Batwing and why Nicieza calls this story "emotional" and "personal" for the African character.Batwing #15 Newsarama: Fabian, we've seen you co-writing and helping out for the last few months on various DC titles. But with Batwing, you're getting the chance to guide a regular monthly title again, but with a very different setting than last time we saw you writing a New 52 title (on Legion Lost). What's the attraction of getting to write a series like Batwing?
Fabian Nicieza: I liked the character the way he was set up by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver in his opening arc. It's an interesting character with a nice, messy past that's fun to dig into. I was more than happy to write an issue or two to get to wrap up Judd's "Father Lost" story arc, then tell an interesting one-and-done cop drama (with just a little Batwing thrown in). I didn't think they'd ask me to write a story arc, and I didn't know if I would want to, but editor Harvey Richards really liked the idea of following up on the big mess I'd left for David in #16, so in essence, that became the prologue to my story arc, which for now is tentatively titled "Acceptable Corruption."
Nrama: We've seen you writing other New 52 comics. How different is your approach to Batwing than what we've seen before in your New 52 work? How is your approach to this comic unique?
Nicieza: I don't think I'm talented enough to change the way I write. I just try to write to the needs of the story and character. So you won't get wacky Deadpool humor out of Batwing, because that's not who he is. Conversely, David is a character with so much bottled anger, that if he were to release it, he might detonate in ways that Tim Drake or even Bruce Wayne would.
What I'm enjoying is that I get to tell a story that is born from David's role as a police officer in a corrupt city rather than a starting point as a superhero. That grounds it a lot more in very emotional and personal decisions that affect David and the people he cares about on a deeper level than it might in his role as Batwing.
Nrama: It sounds very character-focused. How would you describe David Zavimbe as a character? What sets him apart as a hero/character, and what part of him are you hoping to highlight?
Nicieza: I like the set up Judd had for him. Unlike Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and TIm Drake, who attack criminals in order to make sure what happened to them doesn't ever happen to other innocents, David Zavimbe attacks crime in his city and the Republic of Congo because of crimes he was coerced into committing as a child soldier. He is seeking to atone for the wrongs he committed by helping others.
The whole redemption angle gives the book and the character a slightly different twist from the other Bat-Family books.
Nrama: You mentioned the Congo. Are you doing any research, or pulling from your experience with anything in particular, as you write this comic?
Nicieza: Working on a little Congo reference. By the time I started, I was already behind the 8-ball schedule-wise, so I'm picking stuff up as I go along. There will be some things regarding police and societal corruption, as well as the mining industry, but any cultural references are just to color the story, whose main focal point contains pretty tried and true thematic points that anyone can relate to, African, American, Asian or purple.
Nrama: Always good to keep those purple folks in mind. Let's talk about the story in "Acceptable Corruption." How would you describe the story?
Nicieza: A murderer walks free because his rich father greases the right palms. The punk kills again and David has had enough. He pressures to protect a witness who can identify the spoiled punk while he uses Batwing to intimidate the industrialist father. But success in the short-term might mean long-term problems for both David and Batwing.
When the industrialist father is not all too happy with David and Batwing's interventions, he decides to bring in some heavy guns to take down both of them (not knowing they are one and the same).Batwing #16 Nrama: We've seen Batwing travel a lot during the first year of his title, but it sounds like he'll he be sticking in one place for your first arc?
Nicieza: This entire arc should be taking place in Tinasha and the Congo, unless I decide there's a reason to take the action to a different location.
Nrama: What supporting characters are you getting to utilize as you write this story?
Nicieza: David's police precinct will be fleshed out a bit more with new characters, as will his partner Kia. She'll be heavily involved and not all too happy with what's going on. Batwing's operations engineer, Matu, will also play a big role… if he survives the ass-whoopin' David brings down on them.
Nrama: Sounds like this has plenty of action too. Who are the villains of the arc?
Nicieza: Phillip Marksbury is an industrialist in the Lex Luthor mold, mining diamond, uranium, etc. He is big bucks and big politics and not a person to cross. So of course, David crosses him.
We'll see the return of Dawn from recent issues, a woman with a past ties to David.
And we'll introduce a new Sky-Pirate who should be a fun character.
All of these characters are intended to pull at David/Batwing both emotionally and physically, testing him mentally and physically.
Nrama: So let's get to the big question. Are you the new regular writer on Batwing?
Nicieza: I don't like the term "regular writer" any more. Rarely does it seem to fit. How about "irregular writer"? No, probably not. How about, I am writing an arc that should take us through issue #20. After that, we'll see.
Nrama: Who's going to work with you on art?
Nicieza: Fabrizio Fiorentino is our "regular" artist, but again...
Nrama: ..."irregular" artist, right?
Nicieza: Yeah, maybe he's our "irregular artist." Either way, he's damn good and doing a bang up job bringing some nice, realistic tones to the pages that make Batwing's action sequences really jump and gives the dramatic, personal moments some nice emotion. I love his stuff.
Nrama: So if you're the "irregular" writer on Batwing, what would you call this writing you're doing on Teen Titans? How did that come about?
Nicieza: I've scripted a couple issues of Teen Titans when they needed a hand and I had the time. It's fun working with Scott [Lobdell], Eddie [Berganza] and Darren [Shan] and honestly, New 52, old 33, Silver, Bronze, Copper or Aluminum Age, Haney/Cardy or Wolfman/Perez, the Teen Titans are the Teen Titans and I'll push people aside in order to get to write them!
Nrama: What else are you doing? Still keeping busy on all those ventures you're juggling outside comics?
Nicieza: Still plugging away at Starlight Runner Entertainment, working simultaneously for a major Hollywood studio, a major retail snack brand, and a European religion, while we're also pitching our first original properties to film, TV and toy companies. So I'd say, things remain, as they always have been, very interesting.
Nrama: Oh that European religion thing sounds intriguing, but we'd better stick to Batwing. Is there anything else you want to tell fans about your work on the title?
Nicieza: If you've been a fan of the book, I think you're really going to enjoy the tension and drama I'm bringing to this story arc, as well as the raw emotion.
If you haven't tried the book, give it a shot, you're going to get a story that doesn't hold back and exposes every raw nerve imaginable for the characters and I hope, the readers.