Tim Seeley has a new challenge this fall. Not only is he diverging from the world of indie comics to write for DC, but he also has to reconcile three different appearances by Killer Croc in the New 52.
Batman and Robin #23.4: Killer Croc, one of DC's "Villains Month" issues, features a script by Tim Seeley with art by Francis Portela. The story details how Killer Croc fits into the battle for criminal control of Gotham City after the disappearance of Batman.
Killer Croc is a unique DC villain right now because he's already been used several times in New 52 — and in a wide variety of ways — in just the almost-two years since the universe rebooted.
First, he was a monstrous threat for Batwoman, turning into Hydra and destroying the building in which she lived.
But then he was also shown in a Red Hood and the Outlaws flashback, helping Roy Harper through his alcoholism. And then there was a battle with Katana, where he broke her beloved sword.
The appearances were all a bit different, so now Seeley hopes to find a way to mesh all those Killer Crocs into one character in the Villains Month issue.
Does this mean more work at DC for Seeley? It's possible, since Seeley's popular Image Comic Hack/Slash just ended (although he's got a lot of other work lined up on other series).
Newsarama talked to Seeley to gauge his interest in writing for DC, and to find out what his take is on Killer Croc.
Newsarama: Tim, we're so used to seeing you on Image comics. How did you get the job on a Batman tie-in comic for DC?
Tim Seeley: Joey [Cavalieri, DC senior editor] kind of liked the Ant-Man stuff that I've written, and the Hack/Slash stuff. And I think he thought maybe, someday, DC would have something kind of up my alley.
So he called me and asked me if I'd be interested in doing something with Killer Croc. And at first, I was like, "Oh, God, I have no idea." But I took the job anyway, because that's what you do when someone calls you and asks if you want to do a Batman-related thing.
They gave me a loose framework of what the bad guy one-shots had to be, and I did a lot of research and watched a lot of cartoons.
And I figured out a way to do a Croc story that's a little bit Tim Seeley and a "lot-a-bit" Batman.
Nrama: I know Killer Croc has appeared in the New 52 a few times. He first showed up in Batwoman, right?
Seeley: Yep, exactly. He was in Batwoman, and he broke Katana's sword in half with his jaws, and then he had one weird little cameo in Red Hood where he was Roy's sponsor for an alcohol rehab.
Nrama: Oh yeah, he had him, like, down in the sewers, right?
Seeley: Yeah, exactly. So those were the three things I had to reconcile.
Nrama: Yeah, and those are really different appearances to reconcile.
Nrama: That had to be a challenge. So who is Killer Croc as you write him?
Seeley: To me, he's a guy who has a weird skin condition that makes him look like a giant alligator dude. And he pretty much believes that he's been forced to be what he is by his circumstances.
At his heart, he's a little kid from a broken home. He's really human at heart. That's what I was really interested in. I didn't want to do something that featured the iterations of Croc where he has a giant crocodile head and doesn't really look human and stuff. I needed him to feel like a real guy in a tragic circumstance, who reacted by lashing out and being a big, scary badass.
Nrama: Where does this take place? It's after all his previous New 52 appearances, right?
Seeley: Yeah, yeah. Most of the one-issue Forever Evil stories take place at the same time. It starts at that time, and it follows Croc on one particular day that helps define where he is and who he is.
Nrama: DC has indicated that the heroes are "dead," or at least gone, which gives Croc and other villains in Gotham the opportunity to take over, right?
Seeley: Yeah. The story takes place in the midst of a turf war in Gotham City, where there's no Batman and that changes everything. Now even the smallest players have a chance, and everyone's sort of fighting for the dollars that are coming in.
This takes place in the midst of that battle in Gotham, and we show Croc's side of that.
Nrama: Will we see him interact with some of the other villains in Gotham?
Seeley: No, it's very Croc-specific. It involves him and some dirty cops. But mostly, it's just about Croc and some of his background that we haven't seen before.
Nrama: Knowing what you've written before, and that the editor knew your work, how does this story in Killer Croc compare to the kind of stories you've done in the past?
Seeley: That's a good question. I think, at its heart, because it's about a monster — it's about the bad guy, it's about the guy that everybody else is afraid of — it's sort of a touch of a slasher story. So there's a bit of that Hack/Slash thing in there.
But I really wanted to make it... he's a sort of sympathetic slasher, you know?
So it doesn't use a lot of what I'm used to writing, which is sort of a lighter approach. Even if I do something scary or horror, I usually tend to infuse a little bit of humor in it. And this has no humor. It's more like Revival. It's more serious. It's more of a character-based thing.
So it's a Revival take on Hack/Slash. And there's... I think there's only one lady in it, so there's no sexy. And there's none of the other things I usually do.
Yeah, it's definitely a pretty scary sort of horror story, except the killer is the protagonist.
Nrama: Was it a challenge to make the villain's story something that can resonate with people?
Seeley: Yeah, I think the best bad guy stories in comics are the ones who are, of course, a great foil for the hero, and they're scary and all those things, but they're also somewhat relatable.
I think that's true of all fictional characters, but it's especially true in the Batman universe, especially with something like this. You have to have a little bit of heart, a little bit of soul to the characters.
They think they're right. Except maybe Joker, who's just crazy.
Croc is more of a victim. He's sympathetic because his circumstances shaped him. Of course, he could have reacted to his circumstances a different way. He could have been Killer Croc Accountant. He could have been doing people's taxes with his crazy skin. But he chose his path for a reason. And that's what we have to figure out.
Nrama: And you're working with Francis Portela on this?
Seeley: Yeah. He was the artist on some of the New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes stuff. I haven't seen his stuff for this issue. I'm actually still finishing up the script for Croc. But I think I worked with Francis on, maybe, his first gig about 10 years ago.
Seeley: I was working at Devil's Due, and we hired him to draw one of the G.I. Joe Frontline stories we had, written by [Sean] McKeever, actually. And that was a time when Devil's Due had "not-real" editors. It had me and Mike Norton and Chris Crank editing the book. So I think that might have been his first gig. I'm sure he doesn't remember me for that.
So it's kind of funny to see it come full circle.
He's really good, and I'm pretty excited for this, because it's a little different from what we've seen from him before. People tend to give him team books, you know? He draws characters really well. But this time he gets to draw a big, warty, bumpy dude. And it should be fun.
Nrama: Now Hack/Slash is finished, right? The final trade comes out later this month.
Seeley: Yeah. I mean, the ongoing series — that particular storyline — is definitely wrapped up. I think it has a pretty fitting ending that we've worked toward for seven years. I was excited to get there and have it work out, and everything lined up.
But the characters are still around in one way or another, so there's a Hack/Slash vs. Army of Darkness story coming out. We have a surprise Hack/Slash story in another book coming out from Image. So they're still around.
Nrama: What else do you have coming out?
Seeley: I have The Occultist coming out with Mike Norton, over at Dark Horse. It's sort of Spider-Man by way of Dr. Strange. It's a college kid named Rob Bailey who finds a book called "The Sword" that allows him to do all kinds of mystical stuff. It's an all-ages book. It's a five-issue story that starts in October, and it's a sequel to another book I did.
And then I also collaborate with Mike on the ongoing series Revival from Image Comics. So Mike has to put up with two of my scripts a month. Issue #11 comes out next week, and it wraps up Season 1. And Season 2 starts in issue #12, which has some guest art by Art Baltazar. So we're trucking along with that sucker.
Nrama: And now you've got this coming out from DC. I've seen calls for you to write Catwoman, and I'm sure your fans would love to see you do just about any DC character. Might this Killer Croc issue lead to more work at DC?
Seeley: Yeah, we'll see. I'm always open to new ideas. Of course, I'm kind of up to my nuts in stuff to do right now. But the DCU is a fun place to play around. No one really expected this from me, because I've been such an indie guy for so long, but I've definitely been a superhero fan, and I can still dig those stories out when I've got to.