Tony Daniel isn't interested in writing comics for another artist.
Daniel, who's launching the new comic Deathstroke in October, is more comfortable writing scripts for himself. Although it's unusual to think writing would take longer than doing both jobs, the last time Daniel wrote a script for another artist — back when the New 52 was young, when he launched The Savage Hawkman in 2011 — the process of writing a script took "much longer," Daniel said, and he implied there's more "freedom" in controlling the entire project.
With the new Deathstroke ongoing, Daniel is giving the character a second chance at his own title in the New 52, since his first try, which started in 2011, was canceled in 2013. It's also giving Daniel another chance at writing and drawing, something he hasn't done on a regular, monthly basis since leaving Detective Comics in 2012. He's more recently been working as artist-only on the DC series Superman/Wonder Woman, working with writer Charles Soule (who just signed a Marvel exclusive).
For the new Deathstroke title, Daniel is introducing a new supporting cast, including Bronze Tiger. Newsarama talked to Daniel to find out more.
Newsarama: Tony, you're back to writing, after taking a break to concentrate on just drawing for Superman/Wonder Woman. What gave you the itch to write again?
Tony Daniel: I enjoy writing, as much as I enjoy drawing. It's really a matter of how I'm feeling. When I feel I have the creative energy that would suit a certain project, that makes all the difference. I feel I definitely had recharged the batteries to get back to writing a book again. I sort of limped to the finish line on Detective Comics due to burn out. I was writing and drawing Detective, and writing The Savage Hawkman, which proved extremely challenging at the time. So there's been a little bit of wanting to get back on the horse again.
Nrama: Was writing something you wanted to do no matter what, or did it have to be the right project?
Daniel: It definitely needed to be the right project. Though, I think I'm versatile enough to work on many different titles, it really needed to sing to me as to whether or not I think I can really shine on it.
Nrama: The idea of Deathstroke "singing" is a funny one, but it sounds like the chance to write and draw him really appealed to you. Why?
Daniel: I felt that I could really push the limits on this character, in ways you usually can't with other, more easily defined characters. I knew I'd have a certain amount of flexibility with my approach, allowing me to push the envelope both with character and content.
After discussing my ideas with DC, and making sure everyone was onboard with my intentions, it was an easy decision. I knew I was going to be allowed the freedom to create and to really have fun.
It was never a question as to whether or not I'd draw it too.
I would not, at this point, at least, be interested in writing for another artist on a monthly title.
Nrama: We're about a month away from your first issue. Can you set up the premise for us? What's happening in the first issue as Deathstroke's solo story begins?
Daniel: In the first issue, I'm setting up the new status quo for Deathstroke. He takes on a mission inside Russia to dispatch several on-the-rise bad guys. But that's where things take a sudden turn and put Deathstroke's world on its head. Deathstroke finds out that he is the main target in Russia. A powerful person who goes by the name "Odysseus" is determined to collect information from him regarding an African mission that threatens to shift the balance of global economic and military power.
But Deathstroke has no recollection of the details Odysseus seeks, and why should he? Because the entire mission was wiped from his memory as part of a financial deal he made with the powers who hired him.
This jumpstarts the rest of the arc, where soon Deathstroke finds himself without resources, weapons, shelter or, most importantly, money.
Alone and without options, Deathstroke builds himself from the ground up, going on the hunt for the people who have answers so that he can take back what's his.
Oh yeah, and there's a few million dollars on the table if he can stop Odyssesus's plans.
Nrama: Ah, yes, and Deathstroke never shies away from money. You start in Russia, but it sounds like this travels around a bit? Where does this take place within the DCU?
Daniel: Seriously, everywhere. I've invented a couple new mega-cities in Russia. But we find him in Africa for a portion and Asia. Slade had many residences all over the world. All of which are taken away.
Nrama: We've been told that your first story arc is about six issues, and that it centers on Slade outside his role in New Suicide Squad or any other team affiliation. That said, are you establishing a supporting cast for him at all? Can you tell us about the types of people we'll meet?
Daniel: Right. This is away from Suicide Squad. Though I'm not opposed to some of them entering the series for a cameo down the line.
I'm creating a lot of his world and friends and foes. There'll be a few familiar faces however.
One of them being Bronze Tiger. There'll be others, but I'll put that out there as a teaser.
Nrama: You know, in the past, Deathstroke seemed almost infallible in a lot of his stories. Is he less experienced now, or is he the cunning strategist we've known in the past?
Daniel: He's still the cunning strategist. Still the incredible fighter and mercenary, as he ever was. I tell people who ask me, that I'm not changing his past so much as I'm changing his future.
Nrama: Let's talk about your visual approach to Deathstroke. You and I have talked before about how you like to make little tweaks to characters to make them your own, and how you change your art as well, to match the mood of the series. Can you point out what types of things you're doing in your approach to Deathstroke?
Daniel: I'm definitely able to put my stamp on the character. The most important goal for me is to make this a book people want to read, and a character people will care about. There needs to be something that will make people want to invest themselves in his stories. It can't just be all-out action, and there will be plenty of it, but there needs to be more. Tapping into who Slade Wilson is and making him more than just a mercenary for hire is really important for me.
Nrama: I would think it's a challenge with someone who's traditionally been defined as a villain. As popular as Deathstroke is right now, and as badass as he is in the costume, most villains are pretty flat.
Daniel: Giving him a personality that you'll enjoy reading is high on my list of priorities with this title. He can certainly be a likable guy. Making him as badass outside of the costume as he is inside the costume is what I'm aiming to do.
Nrama: And you've got to make him likable too, right? He's the protagonist. Now that Deathstroke is your lead character, what are the challenges to writing a compelling story about a villain like him?
Daniel: I find the challenges of writing a character who is viewed as a villain by many to be one of the more rewarding aspects of this book. I think it adds something amazing to the character that other characters don't have. I can't wait to get deeper into the series to really get into that fine line he balances himself on. He has a different moral compass than other protagonists. I think that makes him unique and fun to write.
Nrama: How does writing Deathstroke differ from your work on Action, Batman, Detective and Hawkman?
Daniel: It's actually more comparable to when I wrote Batman a few years ago or Detective. I had a lot of freedom working on Batman, and it was never stressful. Just a lot of fun and good memories there. Eddie Berganza, who is editing Deathstroke, has been fantastic to work with. So working on Deathstroke reminds me of the fun I had working on Batman with editor, Mike Marts.
Action Comics, I only fleshed out Andy Diggle's outline. I wished that had turned out differently and he and I would have had a proper run. He and I will work on something again in the future we promised recently.
Hawkman was fun. It was really a lot of work since I was writing for an artist. It took me much longer to write the scripts. It ended up being a bit too much work for me and I wished I had been able to handle it longer. But I have to be honest with myself if I'm doing too much work. I don't ever want to sacrifice my quality because after it's printed, despite the blood sweat tears, drama, catching a cold, whatever, the quality of the work is all that remains.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Tony, is there anything else you want to tell fans about your work on Deathstroke?
Daniel: I can say this much — it is by far my best work. If people enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoy writing and drawing it, we'll be in great shape. I have an excellent team as well. Sandu Florea is doing an amazing job on inks and lending a great layer of depth to each panel and Tomeu Morey is coloring his ass off. People will be amazed at his work on this book. I also just want to thanks everyone who's going to pick this book up. I hope you enjoy our passion and hard work bringing this together.
Fans can follow Tony Daniel on Twitter at @tonydanielx2.