It's not every day you get to work on the Man of Steel and the Man Without Fear at the same time, which is the exact, enviable position writer/artist David Lapham finds himself in at the moment. Lapham, best known for his Eisner Award-winning independent book "Stray Bullets," is traipsing between Matt Murdock's adventures in "Daredevil: Dark Nights" and Superman's in "Adventures of Superman."
Last week Lapham saw DC Comics release "Adventures of Superman" #19 while Marvel put out "Daredevil: Dark Nights" #4, each the start of two-issue stories Lapham is not only writing, but drawing as well. Bringing his distinct style and voice to both iconic characters, "DD" features more of a "day-in-the life" tale, while the story in "Adventures" is, as Lapham puts it, "centered around a human drama."
Lapham spoke with Comic Book Resources about what draws him to both characters, how he juggles writer/artist duties, what he has planned after both stories wrap, and what, if any, noticeable contrasts are shown between his "Stay Bullets" work and his present gigs.
CBR News: David, let's talk about your upcoming stint on "Daredevil: Dark Nights," the "What a Day, What a Night" storyline. What can we expect from the Man Without Fear? And what type of trials will you be putting him through that weren't there in your "Means & Ends" run?
David Lapham: For one, it's a slightly different DD. In that the mission of this book was to open DD up to other creators' interpretations, but based off the current [Mark] Waid run and continuity. In the "Means and Ends" series my mindset was starting from the Miller and Janson run. Also "Means and Ends," in truth, focused more on The Punisher and the human drama than on DD. Daredevil was more of the straight man in that one. As far as trials there will be many. It's a kind of "day in the life" approach where DD is on a mission, but in the course of his trail through the city a multitude of other events are going on and he has to either ignore them or jeopardize his main pursuit to help out.
What is it about Daredevil that makes him so visceral -- so magnetic to creators? And as a creator, what is it that you're looking to capture with the character? Any certain trait or aspect?
I think we like these darker and more human level characters. That a guy who works out really, really, really hard and has smarts can compete with all these superheroes. Daredevil has that but he's also very human. He has a strong moral code but at the same time he's prone to failure and has to deal with it a lot. His struggle is very dynamic which gives him an element a guy like Batman, who is more of a force of nature, doesn't have.
Is there any reference material or any past work done on "Daredevil" that you're researching or drawing inspiration from? I will say that it seems like the perfect match-up, having you tackle Matt Murdock.
I read the Waid run and it's great. I loved how he had his own, new take on Daredevil that incorporated the past without being stuck in it. Paolo Rivera's art blew me away. Again another very definitive take on the character acknowledging the past without being beholden to it. The other inspiration was that I got to use a character I invented for the opening sequence of an "Immortal Weapons" story I did a few years ago. A little foot-tall guy named Buggit with a bomb strapped to his chest who Iron Fist was chasing through the subway. Since clearly no one else saw the brilliance of this character and made him the focus of a summer crossover event, it was up to me to come back and show the world how wrong they were! Anyway, Buggit's back and he's more fun than a barrel a Munchkins. I loved writing and drawing Matt and DD. Hopefully there will be opportunities to do more stories at some point.
I always find it fascinating when the same person handles writing and art. Do you prefer one over the other, or do you feel more in tune -- more connected -- to the story, to the character, when you're doing both?
Different experiences. When you can work with a great artist who brings a lot to the table. A guy like David Aja. I would never turn that down. It's fun to work with an artist. Thinking up all the stuff that you wouldn't want to have to draw, and making them draw it! (That part really stinks when you realize that person is you!) But in an overall sense doing both is the thing. That's cartooning. Most of my personal work that I'm best known for "Stray Bullets," "Young Liars," was done that way. There's a very direct connection where all the bits, all the acting, all the shots are just like you conceived them in your mind. And often I work back and forth where a script is written, then I draw, and in that process I change the writing. Anyway it's a good skill to have if I'm ever trapped alone on an island and have to create my own entertainment. Can you imagine what all those only writers would do? No comics just ideas for comics. They'd have to find a way off the island.
Switching gears -- and characters -- you also have "Adventures of Superman" #19 coming out, where again you're tackling both writing and art. What is it that you find creatively rewarding about Superman? Again, what's the draw there?
The draw is I love comics. I do a lot of indie work but I love Superheroes, too. And someone calls and says "Do you want to do a Superman story?" I say YES!
One of the problematic aspects about Superman that I find is that he's damn-near invincible. So without giving any sort of plot away, how does one challenge such a character, such an unstoppable force?
That's another draw. He is invincible, how do you handle that? To me Batman is the same way. Batman is invincible too, no? They're both mythic in that way. When I wrote Batman my take was "Batman is the best. THE BEST. He can beat anyone. He can do anything. But he can't do everything." Same take with Superman. He can defeat anyone. He can't die. Kids love him. But what can't he do? He can't be in two places at once. Okay. He's really fast, maybe he can but can he be in ten? A thousand? I just play with that idea that Superman can't be everywhere and save everyone. Or can he...?
What type of noticeable contrasts are you finding between the crime stories you've written in the past, and the superhero titles you're currently attached to? I imagine there are fewer with "Daredevil" than with "Superman."
It's not so much crime or not crime. Even "Stray Bullets," which I'm most known for, is not pure crime. They're domestic stories with a strong crime element and use of crime story devices. The big thing is that in superhero work you really have to put your swashbuckler hat on first. In the independent work you can work any which way, you can do a fight story, or just a head trip tale, or a story centered around an argument. A "Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf" take of a superhero is not going to make anybody happy -- unless there's lots of blowing things up while the talking's going on. It's a simple matter of just keeping in mind what genre you're working in. This "Superman" story is centered around a human drama, but overall it's an action tale. The same underlying story without superheroes could be an equally fascinating but completely different story if it were done as a more independent tale.
Being the writer and the artist demands much more time than just handling one of those roles. Do you jump right into thumbnails, or do you have a loose script you work from? Or is it a totally different, much longer process?
I've done it all ways. When I work for myself, like "Stray Bullets," I would write a very loose script -- often just the dialogue -- pull it all together along with the art. Now that said I think it always turns out better if you have a firm plan going in. So even if the script is loose I still have a solid plot I know will work. I'm not going to be 18 pages in and realize I'm going nowhere. Now with working for a company, even though I'm doing both I still need to do a full script because the editor has to know where this is going and we have to be able to communicate about the story. At most, since I am doing both I can write much more brief panel descriptions and can do away with the notes meant to communicate the acting and character intents to the artist.
After your run on "Daredevil" and "Superman" wraps, what's next?
Right now I'm working on two creator-owned titles I'm doing at Dark Horse. The first one is called "Juice Squeezers" about a group of kids who fight giant bugs underneath their town. That one is coming out right now in Dark Horse Presents. Three 8-page episodes, to be followed by a 4-issue mini-series starting in January. The second hasn't been announced yet, but it's a 5-issue mini I'm doing also with Dark Horse about a really old kid, a really old Captain, a really messed up girl, and a very unique alien invasion.
"Daredevil: Dark Nights" #4 and the digital-first "Adventures of Superman" #19 are both on sale now.