Dan Brereton made his name in the comics industry with his memorable work on Batman: Thrillkiller, and now he's back -- with a score to settle.
Brereton, the artistic mind behind the acclaimed Nocturnals series, is returning to Batman with a new four-part story for the digital-first series Legends of the Dark Knight. Written and drawn by Brereton, the new story, titled "Six Fingers," pits Batman against familiar villain Carmine Falcone in a mystery thriller.
Newsarama talked with Brereton to find out more about his approach to the series, and to debut some of the artist's work for the second chapter of "Six Fingers," which comes out next week.
Newsarama: Dan, what got you involved in writing Batman for the digital Legends of the Dark Knight series?
Dan Brereton: I was approached a couple of years ago to pitch a Legends of the Dark Knight story for the digital series. At the time, I hadn't worked for DC for around eight years and was really beginning to wonder if I ever would again! So it's quite remarkable and then a real treat to be asked to be part of it.
Nrama: You've got quite a history in comic books — much of it with Batman himself. How would you describe your history with the character of Batman?
Brereton: My first Batman project was Legends of the World's Finest, written by Walter Simonson back in 1993. It was a three-issue prestige format painted book, so was a total of 144 pages. It was very much a fantasy story, with sorcery and demons. I found that I really love painting Batman.
I also really wanted to do a much grittier sort of realistic Batman story. This led to my penciling Legends of the Dark Knight #114 written by James Robinson, and was inked by Tim Bradstreet. In the story, a bleeding, gut-shot Batman stumbles around a really depressed part of Gotham City being pursued by an assassin.
My next Batman project was the 1997 Elseworlds Thrillkiller, a story I pitched to editor Archie Goodwin, set in the early 1960s, starring Batgirl and Robin as the dynamic duo and Bruce Wayne as a hard-boiled detective working under Jim Gordon. Howard Chaykin came onboard as the writer and the whole thing clicked. It was very well-received and we followed up with Thrillkiller '62. A few years later, I wrote and illustrated JLA: Seven Caskets, and that was my last Batman project until now.
Nrama: That history really points out how varied Batman stories can be, from the fantasy and the gritty to the Elseworlds and Justice League team books. How would you describe your ideal Batman and the Batman stories that have influenced you?
Brereton: The ideal Batman is drawn by either Kevin Nowlan or Gene Colan, and probably written by someone like James Ellroy or Dashiell Hammett.
I mention these crime fiction writers because I see Batman as a kind of twisted pulp detective. In comics, my favorite Batman stories include Batman: Broken City, The Dark Knight Returns, Night Cries, and The Killing Joke. Not too many surprises there.
Batman is my favorite superhero. Most people would say he's the best superhero because he doesn't have any actual superpowers — he's just a human being at his peak performance. Well, you could say that about the Shadow or Doc Savage, two pulp heroes who Batman and countless other fictional creations owe much to. For me, Batman is my favorite superhero because… he's Batman! It's the costume, it's the story, the attitude, the mystery which persists, even though we know everything there is to know about Bruce Wayne. Somehow there's always more to learn.
Nrama: How would you describe the story you're doing for Legends of the Dark Knight? What type of story is it? There are a lot of different genres that fit with Batman these days. Where does this story fit?
Brereton: I had always wanted to drop the Dark Knight Detective into a hard-boiled mystery with a dark twist. So I would describe this as a very unsettling pulp detective story with a mix of genres, and a large amount of dread.
Nrama: What's the meaning of the title "Six Fingers?"
Brereton: It's a reference to Polydactyly phenomena, but more an omen, a symbol of the cursed landscape in which he finds himself after following the trail out of the familiar streets of Gotham and into some eerie territory.
Nrama: You're well-known for your art. How would you describe your artistic approach to the character and the story in your Legends of the Dark Knight issues?
Brereton: I do my best to immerse myself in any story I illustrate or write. I basically tried to imagine putting him in a situation where the average person would feel helpless, disoriented and terrified. Dropping Batman into that situation and watching him do his thing, but at the same time, despite all his mad skills and intense drive, not at all being in control.
Nrama: What other characters will we be introducing? Any new or familiar characters you can describe?
Brereton: There are several familiar faces. Part one has a few really fun cameos. One in particular I really enjoyed doing. The new characters are a mix of Gotham underworld types and some other scarier types the Batman runs afoul of once he departs the city. I can't really get more specific - I think the thing that's most intoxicating about sitting in a dark theater curling up with a good comic book or paperback mystery is really just not knowing where you're going and enjoying that ride. "Six Fingers" is a lot like a dark ride in a really messed up carnival.