After helping define a whole new world for the Man of Steel in Superman Earth One, Shane Davis is now using his pencil on Batman.
But this time, there's an added twist: Davis is getting to co-write the story.
Working with DC-editor-turned-writer Brandon Montclare, Davis is co-writing and drawing a two-chapter story for Legends of the Dark Knight. The first chapter of the digital-first story is being released Thursday.
Legends of the Dark Knight is the out-of-continuity comic that has been featuring a slew of different big-name artists and writers since it launched in summer 2012 with a story by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof and Justice League Dark writer Jeff Lemire.
As Montclare and Davis launch their tale — featuring Davis' take on Clayface — Newsarama talked to the co-writers about what readers can expect from the new story.
Newsarama: Shane and Brandon, how did the two of you end up working together on this story?
Shane Davis: Around the time I was finishing Superman Earth One Vol. 1, DC proposed a side project to go with Vol 2. I always loved Batman and had two ideas for stories based on two villains — I pitched the Clayface idea as it was the stronger story. I always wanted to try the new creative challenge of writing and drawing. This story was very ambitious, so I wanted somebody to co-write it with…and I wanted that somebody to be Brandon. We had collaborated a lot on Mystery in Space.
Brandon Montclare: Shane and I kind of broke into the “big leagues” at the same time. I was a new editor at DC (having worked at TokyoPop before that), and Shane had done some fill-ins and a variety of other pro work. But his pencils were amazing and you could tell he was about to make a jump to the next level. So we worked together on a couple of Batman stories—#646 and Annual #25, and later the Captain Comet feature in Mystery in Space. We had a good editor/freelancer relationship. So when I left DC to pursue some writing, Shane had this idea to do his own Batman 22-pager with Clayface, and asked me if I wanted to help him flesh it out.
Nrama: What’s the broad idea behind the story?
Davis: For me, it was writing a Clayface story that was not treating him like a scapegoat. I always loved the character. The other objective was for the reader to get to page 22 and realize the story looped back to page 1.
Montclare: Batman is on the hunt for Clayface—chasing him through Gotham on a crazy, rainy, miserable night. He wants answers, and thinks Clayface has them…but maybe the answers have been inside the Dark Knight all along.
Nrama: What characters does it mainly focus upon (Clayface, right)? And how would you describe your take on those characters?
Montclare: Batman and Clayface are the two sides of the conflict. There are also appearances by Joker, Gordon, Poison Ivy, and a few surprise guests at the end. Shane & I very much tried to make a story that kind of surveys all of the Bat-mythos. Of course, that’s not entirely possible! But we had fun finding ways to present a lot of different elements.
Davis: With a character like Clayface, it was hard not to surround him with a colorful cast. This really was a story more about Clayface, but Batman (for me) defines his villains. All his villains seem to be obsessed with Batman on different levels. That organically opened the door for the other cast and their individual reactions to Batman.
Nrama: Shane, what was your approach overall — what’s the visual style you were hoping to achieve?
Davis: I love Batman so that was a treat for me visually. I thought because this story was about Clayface, that Batman should be running a gauntlet through Gotham and the rogues in the rain. Of course, I wanted to depict the classic version of the characters with elements that support their characters. Joker for example will spend his very physical encounter with Batman in a straitjacket, restrained.
Nrama: What makes this story about these iconic characters different or unique?
Davis: I hate to say this, but you’ll just have to read it, because I can’t give that away as a storyteller. The story concept was to make the reader feel the potential of Clayface.
Nrama: Brandon, as a writer, how does this story both challenge you and play to your strengths, particularly compared to the writing we’ve seen from you before?
Montclare: The biggest challenge is that this story was co-written with Shane. Especially early on, there was a push-and-pull as we nailed down a story direction. And it was especially hard because I was working off someone else’s initial idea. But I think one of my strengths is an ability to write for the artist. As a writer, I try give an artist stuff they want to draw. So it wasn’t too big a stretch to translate that skill into fleshing out Shane’s ideas for Batman and Clayface. And the finished project, I feel, is very much “me.” Certainly as much as any other collaboration where I scripted solo.
Nrama: Shane, did anything make it into the story because, simply, you wanted to draw it?
Davis: More like a character made it in that Brandon wanted (laughs). I had a set story beginning to end, and that is what I drew. It could have been longer with the addition of scenes with Scarecrow on the path to Clayface, but it was not necessary. Of course, I love drawing Batman and Clayface and that’s the genesis of the story…
Montclare: Everything in this story is what Shane wanted to draw — I think that’s what makes it so great!
Nrama: Is there anything that “digital” offered that influenced the way you guys created the story?
Davis: I think digital is a nice tool for anybody to access a comic no matter what part of the world you are in. I like the ability to access fans easily. I don’t think digital has the negative effect most people have towards it. Most fans of the digital Superman Earth One have hardcopies for me to sign. I think digital invites people into comics.
Nrama: Brandon, I know you used to be a retailer. Are there any weird feelings about creating a story that’s marketed for digital?
Montclare: No weird feelings. It’s really exciting for this story to be a “digital-first” comic — in large part because digital still feels like a novelty to me. I’m curious to see how readers come to it, and how they respond. I was a retailer for a long time and still buy comics as single issues on Wednesday, when given the choice. So while it’s been a while since a comics shop was my livelihood, I don’t feel digital has a negative net effect on monthlies or other print. I really think it’s the best way to bring in new readers, and even a good way to retain fans who might be moving past hardcopies for all their media purchases.
Nrama: Did this experience make you guys want to work on Batman again? Or even work together again?
Davis: I’m sure you will see us work together again. Batman is a long lost love for me. I drew a lot of Batman style-guide art that you still see today. Just the other day, I picked up a Batman T-shirt from Walmart with a design I drew years ago. I feel that I have never really had a nice body of Batman work though. It’s actually something that for me seems like a tragedy. With all the years at DC, the closest I ever got to an awesome Batman run was Superman/Batman and that was a Kryptonite story. I eventually gave up on the dream—I hope to do more with him, but I’m not holding my breath. It still means a lot that I was able to do this story. I hope fans will appreciate the craftsmanship and respect for Batman and the Rogues.
Montclare: I think most creators want to work on Batman again, and again, and again. What I know Shane and I would like to do, actually, is another Clayface story. Beyond that, Shane and I are friends, work together well, and share similar tastes—so I hope there are more chances to collaborate.
Nrama: What other projects do each of you have coming up?
Davis: Right now I have Shadow Walk from Legendary coming up in November — it’s another OGN with Thomas Tull, Max Brooks and Mark Waid. There have been requests for some cool small projects from DC, but nothing slated — and a yet to be announced project (or two).
Montclare: I’m writing Rocket Girl, a new ongoing series at Image with artist Amy Reeder. The first issue is out October 9th.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell us about your Legends of the Dark Knight story?
Montclare: It’s a really sneaky story. Originally, it was going to be a one-shot. But I like how it’s now divided into two parts. There are a lot of twists coming in the second chapter!
Davis: I wrote it to be a second-read book. So double back to page 1 after 22 and give it another read. That is the great challenge of any detective story!