It's a little unusual to see a major comic being written and drawn by the same person, but it's becoming a lot more familiar to Batman fans.
Later this year, three comics from the Batman universe will feature writers who are also the comic's artists: J.H. Williams, David Finch and Tony Daniel. While they have fill-in artists from time to time, the three artists are making the switch to writing full time while still contributing to the artwork on their comics.
It's a trend that most people attribute to the success of Tony Daniel's run on Batman. After mixed reviews for his Battle for the Cowl mini-series, Daniel impressed both critics and fans with his later run on Batman, where he also provided art as he exposed the secret identity of the Black Mask.
Daniel first got the attention of Bat-fans for his artwork on Batman when he and writer Grant Morrison worked on the 2008 story arc "Batman R.I.P." He later was given writing responsibilities on the title.
After the events of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne and the artist's work on a few stories written by others, Daniel returns to write and draw the title again in November with Batman #704. We talked to Daniel about the upcoming continuation of his run.
Newsarama: Tony, readers have gotten used to seeing you on Batman, but since there's been a break in your stories, what's the tone of the book once we get to November? Does it change at all?
Tony Daniel: The tone of the book will similar in tone to what I’ve done in regards to being from Batman’s perspective and in his voice. I find that it gives me a bit of a ‘noir’ feeling and I want to keep that going. I think it allows me to get further into the character as well.
I’ll introduce a few new characters to Gotham. A possible new love interest. I’m also introducing a couple new gadgets for Batman to use.
Nrama: Have you changed your writing or artistic style? Or has it developed?
Daniel: On the writing side, I learned a lot from my previous arc, “Life After Death.” There are things you pick up just doing it, learning from mistakes. I’m doing two three-issue arcs instead of one long six-issue arc, for instance. There’ll be a common thread between them but they’ll be separate stories. It’s easier for me to keep the focus on the driving force of the story this time around. Part of that is learning from experience and also the shorter arcs.
On the art side of things, I’m always sort of a work in progress. So people who’ve followed my career should be used to seeing me change it up every now an again. This go round, I’m inking myself. I was able to really have fun with the two issues I’ve just finished with Grant, and it was a good two issues to try some things out to see what I want to keep, or further develop.
The biggest style change is in the inks. I’m using a lot of brush and just using the pen for finer details. But I’m playing with so many new toys right now in that department, which is something I was never comfortable doing until now. I never thought I’d use a brush to ink my work. But I really like the look I am achieving with my newest material. I’m really inspired by the classic pen and ink masters like Alex Raymond, Toth, Frank Godwin, Al Williamson and others. So I’m adding what I love looking at into what I love doing and I think I’m enjoying my work now more than ever before.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the story you're telling beginning in November?
Daniel: I can’t really say a whole lot except that we have some new villains coming to town and taking root in Gotham’s Chinatown. Lots of action, lots of intrigue, some puzzles to solve and a special guest star I’m happy to use, “I-Ching.”
Will the supporting cast and setting stay the same? (If not, how does it change; if so, anything happening to make it fresh after Bruce's return?)
We’ll see a little more of Catgirl and Catwoman. But just a bit. I want this to be Batman’s book and not have him share the stage so much.
Nrama: Any new characters?
Daniel: Yes, but I’m still making sure I like their names. A mysterious Chinese businessman and his daughter come to Gotham. A couple new bad guys, still, working on those guys names. But their twins, and they share the same mind. It can be tough because you want it to be right. But I still have a month or so before I really cement the names down.
Nrama: What do you think of the opportunities being given to artists such as yourself to also write, such as David Finch and J.H. Williams?
Daniel: I think it’s a great opportunity for them to show what they can do as writers. We’re storytellers as well as artists. Comic art is more than pretty pictures, it involves setting a stage, positioning your actors, setting the tone, the mood, the lighting, what have you. We’re directors who are drawing everything out. So it’s really not that big of a stretch to think most of us can probably do a little writing too. The big hurdle is the dialogue, getting the characters voices right. Having them sound natural, while pushing the story forward, and within the economy of the page.
Nrama: Have you spoken to them at all? What is the advice you'd give to artists who take on writing as well?
Daniel: I haven’t spoken to J.H, but I’m a big fan of his work. I’m sure whatever he does will be brilliant. I have spoken to David and I think he’s going to be insanely good. He’s extremely excited about this, and I can tell he’s working day on night to get it all down the way he wants. I’m sure he won’t disappoint. My advice to others — I wouldn’t really offer any unless they asked me. But in general I would say that if you’re passionate about it, and you think you have a gift, then go for it.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about your upcoming work on Batman?
Daniel: Just that I’m doing some new things with my art and having a really good sense of where I want all this to go. I want to tell the kind of Batman tales that I would want to read as a fan. And beyond being a writer and artist, I’m still a fan.