While other writers might be trying to come up with villain-dominated issues for DC, Gregg Hurwitz has been doing it for months in Batman: The Dark Knight.
Ever since Hurwitz took over the title a year ago, readers have been introduced to a stream of Batman's rogues. Working with some of the best-known artists in the comic business (like David Finch and Ethan Van Sciver), Hurwitz has examined the New 52 versions of villains like Scarecrow, Penguin and the Mad Hatter with chilling results.
After finishing his latest storyline this month — and after an Annual that highlighted the title's villain-filled run so far — Hurwitz turns his attention to yet another villain: Clayface.
The New 52 version of Clayface was just introduced in a recent Batman issue. But in The Dark Knight #22, Hurwitz and artist Alex Meleev will involve the villain in a new mystery that requires the combined skills of Batman and Commissioner Gordon.
Newsarama talked with Hurwitz to find out more about his plans for Batman: The Dark Knight and what comes after his Clayface story and Villains Month. He even brought along some brand-new art from June's issue.
Newsarama: Gregg, the last issue of Batman: The Dark Knight had a rather disturbing introduction, as bodies poured out of Gotham's sewage system, and Jim Gordon and Batman began to get philosophical about how the city would continue to go bad even after they're both gone. What was Batman's mindset as he discussed this, and how did Damian's death play into his thoughts about possibly quitting?
Gregg Hurwitz: Gotham often serves as an externalization of Batman's frame of mind. Damian's death is hanging heavily over Bruce, and in the meantime, in his relationship with Natalya, he is new to love and the vulnerabilities that represents. The showcase of horrors the Mad Hatter presents here represent his worst fears for the past, present, and future — death, literally choking the arteries of the city.
Nrama: OK, but it seemed like Alfred was encouraging Bruce to give up being Batman in issue #20, yet he also seemed shocked that Bruce was considering it. How would you describe Alfred's feelings on the subject?
Hurwitz: Look, Bruce is a hard guy to talk to. Have you ever tried?
Nrama: [Laughs.] Not lately.
Nrama: He's stubborn, set in his ways, obstinate. You have to go in at a conversational angle, nibble the edges. And Alfred has for many years represented his conscience and his humanity.
When he sees that Natalya has softened Bruce to the extent that some of his advice might actually sink in, he's surprised by it. But secretly and enormously relieved. Maybe there's hope for Master Bruce to find some version of normalcy.
Nrama: The beating and (apparent) death of Natalya Trusevich was tough to read last month. What can readers expect as the story finishes up in this month's #21?
Hurwitz: Ethan Van Badass and I (and Batman) are going to unleash holy hell in the next issue. The faint of heart need not tune in.
Nrama: After the Hatter story ends, you're telling a Clayface story. We've learned that his powers have changed somewhat. How would you describe the character now?
Hurwitz: Clayface is a spectacular narcissist, desperate for recognition, eager not just to fit in, but to be adored and worshipped. Actors! The thing is, he's willing to do anything to get there. And he strikes a deal with the devil in the process. At least Gotham's version of the devil...the most conniving villain of the underworld.
Nrama: Hmm... that sounds like someone we might know. But what kind of threat does Clayface represent in his new form as you begin your story?
Hurwitz: He's anyone anywhere at anytime. Your father tucking you in at night. A police officer sneaking up from behind and tapping your shoulder. The stalker in the night oozing through the heating vent. You're never safe when Clayface is on the loose.
Nrama: What can you reveal about the premise of your Clayface story? What's the core of the conflict we'll see?
Hurwitz: How can Batman contain the uncontainable? How do you hit a changing target? (Clue: Usually, the changing target hits you).
Nrama: Sounds frustrating. The villain is part of the Villains Month in September. But how important will Clayface be to what's coming over the next few months for Batman?
Hurwitz: Extremely. He is the next huge challenge Batman will face, the giant hammer fist waiting to pound him through the pavement.
Nrama: You've been working with two of the best known artists in comics. How has it been working with Ethan Van Sciver and Alex Maleev? And what's the plan going forward for the art on The Dark Knight?
Hurwitz: Those guys are a dream. The best part of my job, beside writing the greatest comic book character in history, is working with the top artists in the world. With Finch, Van Awesome, and Maleev, I get to do just that.
Nrama: So we know about the Clayface story, which takes us into September's Villains Month. Can you give us any indication what's coming after that for Batman: The Dark Knight?
Hurwitz: Let's just say after Clayface, I might unleash terror on the night skies of Gotham.