Tony Daniel is returning to the world of Gotham City for Batman and Robin Eternal, the new weekly that kicks off in October.
It's a reunion for Daniel and Batman — the creator spent more than five years drawing Batman comic books and more than three years writing them too. Since his departure from Detective Comics in 2012, the writer/artist has been working on a variety of other projects, most recently writing and drawing the current run of Deathstroke.
Now that Daniel's back in Gotham City, Newsarama talked with the artist to find out more about the upcoming weekly, how his art has changed since last time he drew Batman and what readers can expect from his artwork.
Newsarama: Tony, is this a drastic change in your schedule, doing a weekly?
Tony S. Daniel: I'm still only doing, like, a book a month. So it's not crazier than usual, except that I always tend to throw in a lot more detail when it comes to Gotham City, just because it's Gotham City.
But yeah, I'm having a blast, so that's all I'm really seeing is the fun that I'm having.
Daniel: You've been away from Gotham for a while. Do you find yourself falling into the mindset of, "OK, I know this character and know how to draw them?" Or are you having to re-learn it? Or even, have you decided to change it a little?
Daniel: You know, that's a great question, because I feel like I've grown quite a bit since I last ventured into Gotham City. It's been a few years. My style has always kind of evolved over the years. So coming back, even if I tried to draw everyone the way I used to, there would still be a difference in the way they look, just because I've grown. I draw differently naturally now.
But I'm really having a good time drawing the characters again.
For me, as an artist, I'm never satisfied with my work. I'm always looking back and analyzing how I can be better, or what I could have done better. This gives me a new opportunity to tackle some characters in Gotham City and do them in a way where I feel like I can do them justice. I don't mean to say I didn't do them proper justice the first time, but I just feel that I've improved as an artist. And it's kind of fun to return and really show how much better I can be with my current work.
So yes and no. Some of it is familiar and some of it is a conscious effort to find a way to make these characters look great.
Nrama: I don't want to corner you too much on what you've improved, because I'm sure you don't want to point out something you did in the past that you didn't like. I assume that's the last thing any artist wants to discuss. But from a general standpoint, if you compare the work you were doing on Batman and Detective Comics and the work you're doing now, is there anything the reader would be able to notice that's different?
Daniel: I think they'd notice that my storytelling has improved. I think my characters are a lot more polished — little things like faces, facial expressions and body language are things that I've worked on a lot. And I think people, if they were to compare this in my current work to work I did on R.I.P. and post-R.I.P., they'll be able to see right away that they're night and day, the characters and the way I'm drawing the facial expressions. And my perspective — I'm much better than I was five or six years ago.
Little things that you have to kind of work through as an artist, little things that you pick up and learn, and accumulate. So after a few years, you should be able to see the differences in an artist's work.
Nrama: You mentioned that you're doing about a book a month, but with you doing the first issue and serving as an ongoing artist, are you getting to design some of the new characters in this?
Daniel: Yeah, they wanted me to tackle the new characters we're going to be introducing. I don't want to give away their names yet.
But one is Cassandra Cain. She was the highlight, being able to redesign her. That was a real treat for me to do.
Nrama: Did you design the mysterious woman known as "Mother" that's mentioned in the first solicitation?
Daniel: Yeah, I designed her. I haven't drawn her inside my current issues yet, except for the preview. She appears briefly in the preview. But she's a character I got to design too.
Nrama: And you're working with Sandu on inks?
Daniel: Yeah, my longtime partner Sandu Florea. With Batman and Robin and Gotham City and all these characters, there are so many details that I need a really good inker to handle all those details. And Sandu has been inking me through my R.I.P run, through my Detective Comics run, and a lot of the Superman/Wonder Woman and Deathstroke. He's my right hand man. He's got great attention to detail.
Nrama: That's awesome to find someone who aligns with what you're trying to do as an artist.
Daniel: Yeah, I'm really happy when I see the work that he's done. He does so many things that I could only hope to achieve if I was inking myself. And I'm nowhere near as good an inker as he is, even if I would spend all the time I wanted to on a piece. He's that good.
And the colorist too — Tomeu Morey. It's very rewarding to work with a team that's all on the same page. We all get each other. We all know what to do with each other's work. My inker and colorist, they bring a lot to the table.
Nrama: I was just looking at your penciled pages, and I was a little surprised that you do everything with pencil, even all the details and shading on Gotham City, particularly if you have an inker coming over it.
Daniel: Yeah. I try to put out of my mind that anyone else is touching this, when I'm working on a particular page or any kind of artwork. I draw it with just the pencils in mind. And I don't think about what anyone else is going to do until I put it in a FedEx box and send it away.
So I try to draw it as if it's going to be printed this way.
Nrama: That makes me want to buy some of your original artwork.
Daniel: It's available for sale!
Nrama: Ok! Good to know. Now in this weekly, is each artist doing their own layouts and look? I mean, I know you're following the look of individual characters, but when, say Francis Manapul draws an issue, he's not trying to utilize a Tony Daniel look or anything, right?
Daniel: No, we're not doing anything in terms of a style point that's going to carry through all the issues. Every artist is doing it like you'd traditionally do a book. It would be up to editorial, when the pages get to coloring, if they want to do anything different with, say, flashback scenes. But I don't know how much they want to do. That's up to them.
But those are questions that will answered in the next few weeks as the pages start to get colored.
Nrama: I know I've talked to you before about this, but do you miss writing?
Daniel: Well I'm still finishing my writing with Deathstroke. But I'm really looking forward to not having that responsibility so I can concentrate more on my art for a while.
I would imagine for the next year or so, I will not be writing. I will probably take that time to just devote to working on my art, doing the best art that I can, and not having to also worry about writing.
When I'm done [writing on Deathstroke], I won't miss it. But I may miss it a year from now.
Nrama: OK, final question. On your Instagram, you said about Batman and Robin Eternal: "I humbly think this could be my best work to date." What do you want to tell fans about your upcoming work on Batman and Robin Eternal?
Daniel: Well first of all, I'm just really excited to be part of this whole experience. That excitement also carries over into my work. I really feel like this is my best work that I'm doing. The people that have seen it, that I've shown, have said the same thing, so that makes me feel good, like I'm on the right track.
And that makes me happier. If I'm doing my best work, that makes me happy as an artist, that makes me happy as a person.