As Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato head toward their second story arc on Detective Comics, they're planning to bring Anarky to Gotham City.
The character, who is being re-imagined for the New 52, will come out of the circumstances in Gotham City after the end of "Icarus," the storyline that just finished this week with Detective #34. The "Anarky" story will launch in December, after Buccellato and Manapul release their September Futures End tie-in issue, and after a two-issue guest stint by another creative team in October and November.
In this week's concluding "Icarus" issue, readers were given a conclusion to some of the storyline's main questions, but there are a few still unanswered.
Newsarama talked to co-writers/co-artists Manapul and Buccellato about those questions — for example, will there be ramifications to the entire East End Waterfront blowing up and did we see the last of Annie Aguila?
Newsarama: Francis and Brian, how much was your decision to deal with Annie's loss of her mother connected to Bruce having just lost Damian?
Brian Buccellato: Oh, it was all very connected. We wanted to explore Bruce through Annie and what she went through.
Francis Manapul: Yeah, the whole point of Annie as a character was not just to be an emotional reflection of Bruce, but she also represents a second opportunity for him, with Bruce having just lost his son. Here is a kid, more or less, who just lost her parent, and who's actually in a pretty similar position that he was when he lost his parents. She is also a pretty rich kid. The big difference is that she's following her own path and doesn't want his help.
The way we portrayed Bruce is having gone through that loss of Damian. He's had all these other kids that he's adopted into his life, but whenever he brings somebody in, he puts them into a certain kind of lifestyle that's conducive to safety. You know?
So the way we portrayed Bruce is that you kind of see him wanting to help her, but being very hesitant to be emotionally involved.
Nrama: When Annie was first introduced, people wondered if she was another candidate for Robin. I assume that was on purpose?
Manapul: Yeah, I mean, Brian colored her yellow and green for a reason in her first scene.
Buccellato: Yeah, her motorcycle is yellow and green, to give people that indication.
But she was definitely set up to be a counterpoint, to change expectations. I remember when the first issue came out, everyone was all like, is she going to be the new Robin? That was by design.
We were trying to create that expectation so we could tell our story.
Nrama: Will she be back?
Manapul: Yeah, she'll be back. She's a character that we want to further develop. I guess we'll see where that takes her.
Nrama: She has a good chance of being a villain — but then again, she could still be the new Robin. I mean, it hasn't been confirmed...
Buccellato: Mmmm… I don't know. She murdered somebody. I can't imagine that opens the door to her being Robin.
Nrama: I don't know. Damian wasn't an angel.
Buccellato: That's true! I guess murdering doesn't take you off the table.
Manapul: Nah! You can murder people and still be a superhero, right?
Nrama: It's been done before! But it's interesting to think about what Annie will be like when she returns. The other thing that stuck out about this arc was that you concentrated on Harvey Bullock as a central character — and we even saw that he's a cat lover. Why the choice to use him? Was it simply because James Gordon is so tied up in Batman Eternal?
Buccellato: I will say, Francis wanted to use him from the beginning. Francis basically staked his claim on Harvey.
Manapul: Yeah. And you can see that, if you take Harvey away, there's no other recognizable character in the Batman universe besides Bruce and Alfred. There are a lot of Bat-books, and we're the new kids on the block, and a lot of the toys have been taken from the playground. So we had to use what's left.
But Harvey was a character we wanted. The book is called Detective Comics and his role grew as we were writing. It's a case of a character naturally growing on both Brian and I when we were writing the story. His role just kept getting bigger and bigger.
It went from the desire to have a character that was recognizable to finding ourselves with an absolute gem of a character — a character that we found extremely fun to write.
It really gives the book a different dynamic too. Typically you have Jim Gordon and Batman working together. But now you have a detective who's more or less spitting in Batman's face and telling him, no, we don't need you.
Buccellato: Another aspect of this is that we got to test drive Harvey in The Flash #25. We really enjoyed writing that character from that moment on, and I think that's when Francis decided that was somebody he wanted to latch onto. Don't you think?
Manapul: Absolutely. He's so much fun to write. When we're writing his dialogue at 4 a.m., we're crabby, and we're ready to go to sleep — it's perfect! It's a perfect time to write Harvey dialogue.
Nrama: I want to talk about the art we've seen in this series so far. How would you describe what you're doing visually on Detective? It's a change from The Flash, but what tactics have you changed up specifically for Detective?
Manapul: I think there were people who were used to my work on The Flash. And while the layouts might have been crazy…
Buccellato: More flashy.
Manapul: [Laughs] Yeah. But the line work was very sleek. It was very clean. It was very streamlined.
But with Detective, my line work is much rougher. I made a simple switch from a brush — I'm a brush inker — and now I'm a nib inker on Batman. It's just sturdier. It's grittier. It's messier.
And I find that, if I juxtapose that with crazy layouts, it might be too much, aesthetically.
So my layouts [on Detective] lean toward a more clean, straightforward paneling, in order to be able to experiment with what's going on inside the panel.
Now, with the upcoming storyline that we have next, with Anarky, we're going to see a little bit more of what I did with The Flash, just because it fits with the idea of the character Anarky. So we'll see where it goes.
Nrama: Was there a reason for the double-page spreads in this week's issue #34? There were a lot.
Buccellato: They were all doubles!
Manapul: Yeah, they were all double pages. If page 1 ate up the inside cover and page 22 ate up the back inside cover, I would have done that too! [Laughs.]
I just like the idea of bringing the story to a climax in that way. I wanted to open up the page and really show the magnitude of what was happening to Gotham City, what was happening to the East End Waterfront.
Visually, doing that just felt natural. It feels like it could look like I was being absolutely, you know, like, an artist being completely self-indulgent, but I'll never do a double-pager unless a story warrants it. And I thought the final issue of the story definitely needed it.
Nrama: You brought up Anarky, and I'd like to hear more about the character, but as long as we're talking about art and the style of Detective — will that story feel similar to what we've seen so far in Detective? This street-level-type Batman story that really feels like a detective story? That's still the focus?
Buccellato: The stakes are a little different in the second arc, in terms of affecting more people.
But it's a murder mystery, a detective story. We want to stick with the idea that somebody dies, and Batman and Bullock are on the case.
Manapul: We're sticking to our guns with doing a detective story. I have this printout of rules for detective stories — and it's kind of dated, because it's from, like, 1952 or something like that. But it gives the spine of what a detective story needs, and I'm trying to stick to it.
Our goal right now is that every arc will open with a dead body, and then the story will spin out of that.
The way things are going, the first arc focused on the drug and the drug dealers and the people affected by it.
The second arc, we're going to be focusing on the kids of Gotham, the orphans of Gotham. Not everybody is a billionaire when their parents die. What happens when you're just a poor kid on the wrong side of the tracks?
I think, with Brian and I both being big fans of The Wire, we really like the format of how each season, they focus on a different aspect of the city. And that's what we'll be doing with Detective.
Nrama: Will this be the same Anarky that showed up in Green Lantern Corps during Zero Year?
Manapul: No. Our portrayal of Anarky is more about the idea than the actual character.
We're going to have a very personal story with the character who will be playing Anarky. But ultimately, by the end of the arc, you'll see that the idea is ultimately more dangerous than any one person.
Nrama: OK, so why did this "idea" of Anarky appeal to you guys? And why did it fit with your second arc on Detective?
Buccellato: It's story driven. Out storyline deals with the question, if you had the ability to wipe your slate clean and be who you wanted to be, what would you choose to be?
I think, in a lot of ways, that's anarchistic. So that makes sense.
Manapul: It's also in direct opposition to who Batman is. Batman is about order. And a character like Anarky is the complete antithesis of that.
And Anarky was available! You know?
But it's important to remember that the Anarky story comes right out of the story we just finished.
In issue #34, you know, spoiler alert, we blew up the East End Waterfront. It's gone.
We, in a sense, destroyed a geographic part of Gotham that's not there anymore.
Buccellato: And there are ramifications to that.
Manapul: Exactly. And what happens to all the people that are displaced? You now have this society that was cast aside. The East End Waterfront was already not the nicest place to live. The whole first arc was about the revitalization of that area, and now it's gone. So where are they now? And what opportunities will they have?
And a character like Anarky who comes in and says, you know, this isn't right. What if I told you that tomorrow, you get to start over and you can be whoever you want to be? What would you do?
Think about telling a world or society that. It has the potential to bring out the best in people. But chances are, it also has the potential to bring out the worst in people.
Nrama: And is the two-issue break to catch up on the art and everything?
Manapul: Absolutely. Me and Brian are a very tight and fast team, but when we came onto Detective, we didn't come into the best situation schedule-wise. As soon as we started the first issue, we knew right away that we needed a break in order to have a cushion.
Buccellato: I want to correct that. I don't really consider it a "break," because it's not like we're sitting on our hands or drinking Mai Tais on the beach. So it's not a break, in that sense.
Moving forward, in our story, we just needed a little more lead time to get it done.
Manapul: The environment we had with the first arc was a very stressful environment. We were working under the gun on every issue. And with the next arc, Brian and I will have the opportunity to really fine tune the story and make it even tighter than the first.
We've actually been working on the Anarky arc for the last three weeks now, and I think it's going to be our best story yet.