While followers of Batman's world are awaiting the Joker's return in the incoming "Death of the Family" event, one question mark hanging over the Dark Knight's family of titles at DC Comics has been the ongoing "Batman: The Dark Knight." The book crafted for artist David Finch is losing that artist after the current Scarecrow arc as he moves on to a new "Justice League of America" series, but today readers learn where writer Gregg Hurwitz will go next and who he'll go there with.
In advance of their plans for New York Comic Con, DC exclusively shared the news with CBR that artist Ethan Van Sciver will be the new ongoing penciler of the monthly "Batman: The Dark Knight" comic starting with January's issue #16.
Recently off the "Third Army" crossover event kickstarting "Green Lantern Annual," Van Sciver is coming to Batman's world with a renewed enthusiasm for making monthly comics, and below, he discusses why Gotham is the perfect stomping ground for him, the joys and challenges of tackling a lesser-known foe and his long term goals for making his mark on Batman for years to come.
CBR News: Ethan, the last time we spoke you talked about rediscovering your passion for drawing comics all day long. How did that realization and renewed excitement lead to this specific "Dark Knight" assignment at DC?
Ethan Van Sciver: You know, at some point I just realized while drawing the "Green Lantern Annual" that this is just what I do. I draw comic books monthly. And I used to do that back in the day when I worked on "Impulse." I was much, much quicker then, and I spent a lot more time at the drawing board. And I really, really enjoyed it. I used to wake up and get excited about what the day held for me. I knew the night prior what I was going to be drawing the next day, and I thought about it all night long. And then I'd rush to my board, put in 12 hours and usually finish a page
Then somewhere along the way...I don't know. It went away. For like a year and a half, I just did not feel like drawing comics. But "Green Lantern Annual" really got me back into the swing of things. It fired up that thing in my heart that makes me love what I do. And so when "Green Lantern Annual" was finished, I was on such a roll that I told Dan Didio that I'd just like to roll right on to another project. I gave him a list of three or four characters or books that I'd be interested in working on, and Batman was #1 on that list. And it was perfectly timed because David Finch was moving off of "Dark Knight" and onto the new "Justice League of America" anyway. And "The Dark Knight's" writer Gregg Hurwitz is already a fan of mine, and I'm a fan of his. So everything just kind of worked out perfectly, and now I find myself drawing "Batman: The Dark Knight."
This book was launched very much as a title that matched the style and tone of David's interests as an artist and writer, but Gregg seems to have continued very much in that darker, crime-driven vein for the book. Is that something you feel your work is a good match for?
Yeah. David will tell you that Gregg is an incredibly challenging writer to draw for. Gregg writes novels, and he writes for television, and so he packs a lot of story into 20 pages. And he also apologizes to me and says, "Ethan, I'm sorry, but I just wrote a ten-panel page." I just have to laugh and remind him that I don't mind drawing ten-panel pages as long as it's fun, as long as it's cool and exciting and as long as something interesting is being said or done in those ten panels. And it is. He's very, very challenging. He asks for things that other writers won't or just haven't asked me to do yet. I think this is the perfect thing for me. I've been drawing comics for nearly 20 years now, and Gregg presents a really sophisticated Batman story – a big challenge that's something I really want and need at this point in my career. I'm enjoying it immensely. I can't even tell you how much fun I'm having.
I've heard artists over the years that Batman is one of the most fun characters to draw, based largely of that triangular, unique element of his design. Why was Batman #1 on your list? Was it some of those visual flourishes of the character and his world that drew you to the job?
That's pretty much it. I've done super outer space drama and the like, but I've never had a chance to draw urban drama and crime and decay. I've always wanted to, and I've always felt I'd be pretty good at it. Batman is more of a shape than a man, which I love. When you're drawing Green Lantern, you pretty much have to draw Green Lantern the same way every time. When you're drawing Batman, just the shape of the cape and the wind and the rain – and yeah, I'd never thought of it that way, but he is kind of composed of these jagged, triangular shapes. That really has so much opportunity to be spooky and to be weird. All of Batman's villains are deformed and mentally ill. That's so much fun. It's really the book that I've wanted for a long time and was kind of afraid to ask for. Because everybody wants to draw Batman. Everybody does.
Tell me about the story you'll be working on here. The first arc involved the Scarcrow and was a kind of psychological horror story wrapped in a detective tale. Will the next story follow in that vein?
This is what Gregg is doing. He continues to focus on one particular Batman villain at a time and spend six issues taking that character apart – deconstructing them and explaining their motivations. With Scarecrow, a lot has already been said about who is he, but not a lot has been said about the villain we've chosen: the Mad Hatter. It really is going to be a revelation to a lot of Batman fans who have seen this villain around for a long time but haven't given as much thought as to what makes him tick. We're inventing a lot of things as we go along with it.
Are there any other pieces of Batman's world from Commissioner Gordon to Robin or any of the sidekicks that you're looking to play with along the way?
I love them all. I love all the characters, and I hate to be cliché, but I'm just waiting in the wings for my chance to draw the Joker. Everyone else has gotten to draw him, and so I'm waiting for my turn, which hopefully will come. I plan on drawing Batman for a while now. I told Dan that I've got my hooks in the character and you'll have to pry me off this book with a crow bar. This is where I want to be. I guess I'd like to draw Robin, and I'd really like my shot at Catwoman. And I really want a chance to draw the Batcave a lot – to draw it from different angles and really show off what's inside it. All of it is so exciting. I look forward and would be happy with five years on this character.
Stay tuned for more DC Comics news out of New York Comic Con all weekend on CBR.