PETER TOMASI Resists the Urge to Reflect the Real World in DETECTIVE COMICS' Return

Detective Comics Vol. 3
Credit: DC
Credit: DC
Credit: DC

With this month’s release of Detective Comics Vol. 3 — and the June re-solicitation of the series’ upcoming issues — writer Peter Tomasi is hoping his Batman stories will give readers a break from the real world’s bad news.

Featuring a Spectre story with art by Kyle Hotz, the collection volume also contains a one-issue Joker story and a surprisingly fun two-issue Deadshot story — all written in a way that allowed Tomasi to, as he describes it, put on his “Steve Englehart hat.”

The next issue of the series, Detective Comics #1022 with art by Brad Walker, is now solicited for release the first week of June, and the title will be returning to its twice-a-month shipping schedule from that point. According to Tomasi, he’s already working on issues for the fall, with plans that take the book into 2021.

Newsarama talked to Tomasi to find out more about the new book’s release, how Bruce Springsteen played a role in its Joker story, and why Tomasi is resisting the urge — so far — to reflect real-world events in Detective Comics.

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Newsarama: Peter, how are you doing? Have you been working through all of this?

Peter Tomasi: Yeah, it’s been going good. Just keeping busy. Luckily, DC has been great. We’ve had no pencils down, or fingers off keyboards. We’ve been working and earning. So that’s a good thing.

And hopefully, as each month passes — or each week passes — everything around the world here gets a little better. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, that’s for sure.

Nrama: DC just recently re-solicited the next Detective Comics issue, so that seems like good news.

Tomasi: Yeah, we’ve got a few books coming out in June now. It should be interesting to see. Things are so crazy — numbers are still high, regarding new cases, aside from New York, actually. New York’s been on the downside, and the rest of the country now is getting its share of rising numbers on COVID.

We’ll see. I hope it sticks. I hope all these dates stick and the books can get out to the stores and people can be safe and healthy, being able to pick them up.

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Nrama: When this all happened, you were in the middle of the Two-Face storyline, right?

Tomasi: Yeah. Right when the second part came out, it was like … boom. It’s too bad it didn’t end when an arc ended.

But we’ll come back into the story in the third of five issues.

I’m really happy with it. Brad Walker’s been killing it. And we’ve been getting a lot of good response from it. We’re taking Two-Face in a little different road than he’s usually gone down. People seem to be digging it. So we’re having a lot of fun.

I know Brad’s actually wrapping up the last issue, as we speak.

We’ve been really lucky with Detective on all our big arcs. It’s been great to have one artist on pretty much each arc. You know, even on two-parters — like in the collection that just came out, on Spectre and the one on the island.

Getting a storyline done by one artist is actually pretty rare these days. But we’ve had consistency on Detective. I think it’s great for the fans, and for the reader. I know the reader in me loves when full stories are done by one artist. It’s great.

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Nrama: Let’s talk about the collection that was just released. It collects the two-parters you mentioned — the Spectre one, and the Deadshot story on the island, as well as the Joker one-shot, right? This collection puts together some of the more fun parts of your run. Do you think that’s a good description?

Tomasi: I think it is. I think, actually, I approached these issues knowing that we wouldn’t have a big arc in it. They’re nice, quick stories. At the time I wrote them, I was like, “Let me put my Steve Englehart hat on” or “my Bob Haney hat.”

I wanted to do some real good stories that just showed you who Batman is for new readers, in a quick way, and at the same time, dipped our toes into the DCU and gave people a sense of other characters.

It’s a little Brave and Bold-y, but at the same time, Batman-centric.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got the hardcover myself. They’ve done great. This is the third one, and they’ve done just beautiful jobs.

The inside cover is really great. They’ve just done some really nice design work. So I’ve been really happy with the product itself, the books themselves.

Nrama: It was a great introduction for readers to the Spectre — you really had some fun with him interacting with Batman.

Tomasi: Yeah, having been an editor on The Spectre, back in my DC editorial days, I’ve always wanted to write the Spectre. So it was great to get a two-parter going. And having Kyle [Hotz], who I just thought brought an A-game to this story — I mean, I know we talked a bunch of time on the phone, and he just loved working on it. But he just kept blowing me away with each page that came in, and he brought just this dynamic horror show to it.

I wanted to make sure in such a short story with the Spectre, for two issues, I wanted to make sure that I gave all the Spectre fans a real good Spectre story that showed him in all his facets — insensitive facets and powerful facets.

There’s a great spread when we first see him. The first thing I thought of for the entrance for the Spectre was, I just kept thinking about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. I really wanted to show him just being this colossal figure. So I had him slowly stomping through the city, and we just showed little bits of him — and then when you turn to that spread, it’s just that great head shot of him on the roof, on the ledge, and Batman this small figure.

Kyle just killed it. Really great stuff.

Credit: DC

Nrama: The Joker one-shot is also in here — it felt very retro and fun. Was that the idea? To have a one-issue, old-school Joker story?

Tomasi: Yeah, that was funny. That came out of the blue. It was one of those moments where, suddenly, editorial called up and said, “Hey, the Joker’s free. We have the ability to use the Joker if you want to.” And I was like yeah! Absolutely!

This was one of those ‘70s types of stories. You got in. You established their relationship fast. And you didn’t get into a lot of inherent story. It was really just about these two guys playing off each other and just showing how and why they hate each other, and at the same time, come up against each other at the worst moments.

The only thing I remember was necessary was that we had to at least reflect the stuff going on in Justice League, which worked well.

I grew up going to Asbury Park a long, long time ago, and it was a great place. It had seen its better days. But now it’s kind of recovering. But it was fun to think about that amusement park in The Killing Joke where all that stuff takes place at the end.

I remember I wanted the title to look like the Greetings from Asbury Park Bruce Springsteen album, so that was also playing in my head. And if there are any Bruce fans out there — I don’t remember seeing if anybody caught it — but if they read when the Joker’s sort of going through the carnival, there’s a lot of nods to the Boss, especially the song, Wild Billy’s Circus Story.

I like working in history and music into a lot of the stories, so people who enjoy that kind of media can enjoy it.

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Nrama: Yeah, you touch upon history in the Deadshot story, with two World War II soldiers who’ve been trapped on an island all these years. Although, they reminded me of the movie Enemy Mine.

Tomasi: Yes! There were two movies I was thinking of when I came up with that story — Enemy Mine, and then there’s another great older film with Lee Marvin and Toshirô Mifune called Hell in the Pacific.

Nrama: But this collection seems to really highlight that there’s always something new to do with characters — putting Deadshot on an island with World War II soldiers and Batman.

Tomasi: Yeah, whenever I get to a character — and especially Deadshot, who has been through a lot of stuff and been in a lot of books lately at DC, I just wanted to strip him down a bit more and go back to his origin.

I just really wanted a story that was lean and mean, so it was fun to just embrace him in sort of that Steve Englehart way and just show him on a mission, and Batman getting in his way.

And of course, two old World War II vets also having their day in the sun was a lot of fun.

Nrama: OK, so you have a few issues left of the Two-Face story. Are you planning beyond that?

Tomasi: Oh yeah. I’m working on issue #1028 right now. And that’ll hopefully take us to January 2021. And then we’ll see where we go from there, and see where the world turns.

Nrama: Do you think the current crisis will influence your stories going forward? Like, it strikes me differently now, when I’m watching a TV show or something, when people shake hands — everything’s being interpreted through a new lens. Has that sort of thing come into your mind as you’re writing stories now? Has it altered them?

Tomasi: You know what? It hasn’t right now. I’ve written two issues during the course of this. I’ve sort of stayed away from it. I’m resisting the urge to insert those things into the book right now. People are getting hit from left and right with all of this, every day in the news, and all the person journeys and horrors that I’ve been hearing about.

I mean, my sister works on the front lines as a medical person. So the stories I’ve been hearing on that end are just horrific. And she works here in the city. So it’s insane.

I’m sort of looking at it like, you know what? People are living a nightmare.

Nrama: So you’re thinking they don’t need reminders of it in their comic book stories.

Tomasi: Yeah. Obviously, we’ve got crazy stuff happening in our books all the time. But no reason to get into all of this again.

Nrama: I can’t help but think, though, that the next era of comic books — and all creative pursuits, probably — will be influenced by the new threat we face.

Tomasi: Oh yeah. Without a doubt. People will be digging into that mine and bringing up the fears and what all that stuff represents.

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