Writer Paul Cornell gets to play in the British DC Universe this October with a new, six-issue Knight and Squire mini-series.
Fans of the writer are familiar with Cornell's ability to craft uniquely innovative stories within the British Isles thanks to his critically acclaimed but somewhat short-lived Marvel series Captain Britain and the MI: 13.
Now, Cornell is working with British artist Jimmy Broxton to explore the world of Knight and Squire, fleshing out DC's international universe by adding a slew of new British characters while giving some old ones a new spin.
Cornell, who is also writing Action Comics for DC, is a prolific television writer as well, having credits on BBC series like Doctor Who, Primeval and Robin Hood, as well as a new, just-aired pilot called Pulse.
Now he takes his creative skills to a different type of British empire with Knight and Squire, picking up the popular characters from Grant Morrison's Batman run. Newsarama talked to him about what he hopes to do with the characters and how he's approaching this corner of the DCU.
Newsarama: Paul, when I heard about this story, it seemed like it was tailor made for you, probably because of your work on MI: 13. Do you agree that it's your type of characters and story?
Paul Cornell: Yes. It's a very British book in a very different way to Captain Britain. On the Marvel book, I was trying to correct some of the whimsicality, and the fact that, whenever any of the major characters came to Great Britain, it was always a rather whimsical, jolly, rather strange and surreal place.
Following Grant's lead, this is exactly the opposite. It's that whimsicality and strangeness turned up to 20, but with, I think, a genuinely British ethos behind it. It's me following his lead and adding a bit of British stuff myself. And following lots of trends of British humor. There's an awful lot of Carry On and Around the Horne and The Goodies in this.
Nrama: For someone who isn't familiar with these characters, who are Knight and Squire?
Cornell: They are the central, iconic British hero and his young, girl sidekick. They are legacy heroes. He took over the title of Knight, having been the Squire previously.
The Knight is a member of the international corps of Batman. He's very stoic. He's very blunt and straightforward. And he has a companion who does the subtlety for him, because she's a communications expert who can sift her way through complex issues and present him with some possible solutions. So they work very well together.
They also have a lovely older brother/younger sister relationship. There's also a bit of a caste thing. He lives in the big castle; she lives in the tiny house near his gate with her mom, in a very working class neighborhood.
The Squire is one of the most wonderful characters in comics. She's 13 or 14 years old. She's very brave. She's very practical. She walks straight into situations and sorts them out. I think she's got a very specific tone of voice that Grant's developed, and she's really the center of this.
Nrama: Is their origin story in this mini-series, or do you kind of hit the ground running?
Cornell: We just jump right in. There's some stuff about their origin in Issue #4, but not a lot. We're just really talking about the Knight's castle. Their origins have been alluded to quite strongly in the past, so we really wanted to go forward.
Nrama: Does this tie in with anything going on with Batman?
Cornell: No, we are a world of our own.
Nrama: What can you tell us about this corner of the DCU that Grant developed?
Cornell: Knight and Squire are part of an ever-expanding universe of British DC characters that Grant developed. One of his rules is that every time he appears, he will add something to their universe.
So I've done the same. I'm aiming to create at least 100 new characters by the end of the six issues.
Two of my favorites of something like 50 characters I created in the first issue are a duo called Double Entendre, a pair of French supervillains whose only joy in life is to make double entendres.
Basically, I aim to be the single biggest pain to the people who make the DC Encyclopedia.
Nrama: So you're giving lots of work to Jimmy Broxton, designing all these characters?
Cornell: Yes! Jimmy is a British artist who I've known from convention bars. I've seen his pencils for the first issue, and they're absolutely beautiful. He brings so much invention of his own that actually, with all the characters and worlds we're creating, and him inventing as well, we've got new stuff bursting from these pages.
Nrama: Are the six issues of this mini-series building toward a big ending? Or do the issues work independently?
Cornell: It's actually six one-issue stories that all build to something when put together. So you can pick up one and have a completed experience.
The first issue is about the Pub, where all the British superheroes and supervillains meet on the first Thursday of every month, and how that works, and what the legacy of that pub is, and who these vast numbers of new characters are and how they interact. And we go from there, really.
One of the more interesting characters, I think, is the British Joker. Back in the day, there were sort of "rubbish" cover versions of American superheroes and supervillains in Britain. And he's an elderly British chap who tried to be the Joker in his youth and has sort of kept it going, but doesn't really have the heart to hurt anybody.
The second issue is about the Morris Men, who are a pack of very British folk dancing/fighting/drinking ninjas.
The third issue is about a diabolical plan to bring back some of the worst kings and queens of Britain, through cloning.
You can see what the stories are like. If you like the idea of a milkman fighting a dinosaur dressed in a suit, then this is the title for you. It's packed with that sort of stuff.
Nrama: This doesn't seem at all like what you're doing in Action Comics with Lex Luthor.
Cornell: No, they're not at all alike. They're very, very different, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it. Action Comics is, at its heart, very serious.
Knight and Squire is quite serious, but in that very British way of there's lots and lots of comedy, and then something dark will just suddenly surprise you. It's comedy and horror wrapped right up together. It's a fine line to tread. It's that line between pantomime and macabre. That's where we are.