Tony Daniel on Writing and Drawing Batman

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Tony Daniel was the main artist on the latter half of the Grant Morrison-written run of Batman, and for most of the last year, he’s been writing and drawing the series. Following a series of special issues around the “Return of Bruce Wayne” event (including a two-part sequel to “Batman R.I.P.” by Morrison and Daniel), he returns to his writer/artist role with next month’s Batman #704. We spoke to him at New York Comic Con about what he’s got in store for the series.

TECHLAND: What’s the scoop on your forthcoming Batman run?

TONY DANIEL: I’m putting Batman into some new territory–namely Chinatown, a district that we haven’t really seen a whole lot of. I’ll be introducing some new characters to the Batman universe, and some old ones will be returning. I’m keeping it a little bit mysterious right now because I don’t want to spoil anything, but we’ll get to see a real focus on Dick Grayson as Batman–not so many peripheral characters running around this time. It’s really going to be about Dick Grayson.

(More on Techland: Exclusive Interview: Grant Morrison on Batman Times Three)

Can you talk a bit about the look of the story?

The reason I chose the Chinatown flavor is that I want it to be very visually appealing to me as an artist. I want to draw the dragons on the building tops, and all the beautiful art–bringing that into the Batman universe is visually going to be very appealing to me, and I know that’s going to come out in my work. I’m going to be able to put a couple of things I love together and make them look great. And since I’m inking myself, I’m going for a darker look–more stark shadows. I’m playing with shading, trying to set the mood and the tone better than I’ve done before. What slows me down as an artist is when I’m not into whatever scene I have to draw–when characters are just talking, and they get on a bus or something… it’s visually boring. As long as it’s visually stimulating and appealing, everyone just enjoys it better. It’s a visual medium.

What do you think makes Batman comics, specifically, look good?

For him, just running around with his scalloped cape and cowl and his shadows! Gotham City is like a second character–the film noir style, a little bit of Blade Runner–when you have those elements together, it’s easy to be drawn in as a reader.

What are your thoughts on drawing Dick as Batman, as opposed to Bruce?

Bruce Wayne is heavier-set–he’s bigger, with broader shoulders. He’s huge. Dick Grayson is leaner; he’s more of an acrobat type. I mean, if you see a gymnast at the Olympics, those guys are built–strong chest, strong shoulders–and that’s kind of how I approach Dick Grayson. He’s not a skinny guy; he’s bigger than Daredevil, is how I think of it. I need him to be a little bit stronger than that. But Bruce Wayne is just a gorilla.

How much are you coordinating with the other Batman writers and artists?

The coordinating goes on through the editor. If I have an idea and I tell Mike Marts what I’m planning, he’ll let me know if there’s something I’m planning that isn’t going to work because of something else that’s already in the works. But that hasn’t happened so far–the only time it might happen is if, say, I want to hypothetically use the Joker, and we don’t want to have three books with the Joker in them that month. Grant Morrison, at the beginning of the year, put together an overview of all the different Bat-titles. The editors sat down and discussed what each book is going to tackle, what’s the theme of each book. We didn’t want to have the same book with a different title on it–each one feels different.

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I’m curious about the two-part story you just did with Morrison, the “R.I.P.” epilogue. Can you talk about the process of drawing that?

I wanted to do something a little bit more fun–I was going to ink myself, and I wanted to try some different stylistic approaches. I figured those two issues I could have a lot of fun with, because I’m not married to the style. If I see something’s not working, I’m not committed for six months trying to fix things. I did something a little bit more cartoony–I had a lot of fun with that. Now that I’m inking myself, I’m able to bring everything out more the way I’m visualizing it in my head. I’m bringing more of an old-school look to it–a lot of brushwork, like in Sunday strips in the ’50s. I can get away with it on Batman; I couldn’t get away with this look on Superman, say. In my new arc, I’m bringing in what I liked from my two issues with Grant. I’m fine-tuning as it goes–it’s a little bit more realistic, but it still has a lot of that flair that I brought to those two issues.

How are you managing to write, pencil and ink 20 or 22 pages a month?

Once I get the story outlined, I’m able to plot out my issue, and I spend maybe 4 hours penciling each page, as opposed to 8 or 10. I draw it very loosely, because I know what I’m going to do with it–when you give it to another person to ink, you have to put every little detail in the way you want it, and that’s very time-consuming. So I’m spending about the same amount of time working on each page, maybe a little bit more, but not a whole lot more. I’m doing about a page a day. It might take an extra hour or two, but I think it’s worth it in the long run. Then, when I’m done drawing the whole book, I go back in and do dialogue, and it comes together rather quickly. So far, so good.

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