November 24th, 2008
Mindless One: You’re obviously not a fan of Jason – so who’s your favourite Robin (including the cool girls – Carrie Catgirl Kelly and Stephanie Brown)?
Dana: Richard John “Dick” Grayson, no question about that.
‘…Doing their vigilante jobs…’
MO: Don’t you think Jason’s character had some interesting rough edges that Tim and Dick, for example, are a little lacking in?
Dana: Well those rough edges did kill him in the end, he couldn’t follow orders. I think his rough edges were mostly just recklessness. In general I think even post-Crisis he was something like a bad imitation of Dick Grayson. Jason just didn’t fit the requirements for being Robin because he was too brash, too headstrong and too impulsive.
As for rough edges in Dick and Tim, they are there but they would never let them influence doing their vigilante jobs. Remember how Tim invented his “Uncle Eddie” as guardian, so that Bruce won’t adopt him? Basically that way lying to the Bat, faking records and breaking whatever else Bat-rule you can think of for just personal reasons.
And with Dick, he and Bruce had their share of verbal fights over the years, and despite this they did work together, even after Dick left the nest to become Nightwing. Okay, Bruce somewhat pushed him out of the nest, by firing him from being Robin. But still, when it mattered, the former Boy Wonder was there, and followed the rules.
‘…Dick, well Dick being Dick…’
MO: Can you describe what the perfect Robin should be like?
Dana: I think the “perfect” Robin would be an amalgam of Dick and Tim.
Dick, well Dick being Dick. The leader his fellow Titans would follow to hell and back, the young daredevil, laughing at danger, criminals twice his size in his face, cracking jokes all the time – just a kid, but never taking the vigilante thing lightly. Or as Chuck Dixon wrote him, before some writers on Nightwing thought it to be “character development” to make Dick miserable all the time, appearing like he was never taught anything about the vigilante-thing by Batman at all.
Good to see that these bad times are over now. Fabian Nicieza started it with Nightwing #138 and #139, and Peter Tomasi continues it since #140, hopefully for the foreseeable future. [Mindless Note: Oops.]
As for Robin skill level: When it comes to the detective work, Tim rules. As for martial and acrobatic skills, that still would be the department where Dick rules, especially with the acrobatics.
Then you have Tim, the 13-year-old who figured out the whole Batman secret identity thing, and that Batman needs to have a Robin by this side in his war against crime in Gotham. This time Batman avoided repeating the mistakes he made with Jason: when Tim became Robin he was fully trained. Of course, he suffered his share of tragedy – his mother killed, his father murdered by Captain Boomerang, the death of this two best buds (Connor Kent and Bart Allen), the seeming death and stupid resurrection of Steph… with maybe more bad stuff to come. And still Tim plays by the vigilante rules Batman set up, and if there are any loopholes to find within the rules, Tim will find them and use them.
Don’t get me wrong here: With Tim we have the best Robin and with Dick we have the best Nightwing, especially with writers like Nicieza and Tomasi at the helm. No need for a stupid change, like DC seems to have become so very fond of these days.
MO: Why are you on the Joker’s side? Don’t you want the good guys to win?
Dana: You know what they say about girls liking the bad guys? ;-)
Actually I never saw myself being on the Joker’s side, but more on getting better Batman stories with a more capable Robin, after we got rid of Todd. Sounds heartless, but I wanted a better Robin so Jason had to go. Permanently. Forever.
And do you get for your troubles being a cape killer? DC chickens out and brings him back a few years later in the lamest way you can think of. *sigh *
‘…Thinking all this is just a game gets you killed…’
MO: Were you ever worried that Batman would be a bit upset?
Dana: I knew Batman would be heartbroken, and blame himself for the rest of his life for not being in time to save Jason, and for even giving him the Robin mantle and the responsibilities attached to it. He would want to see the Joker go to jail for killing Jason and, knowing comic books, he would never get that. Another tragedy to shape the Dark Knight that criminals fear.
But then I thought how much more Jason would help the cause as a symbol, and serve as a warning to future sidekicks:
Not following the rules gets you killed.
Not listening to direct orders gets you killed.
Recklessness gets you killed.
Thinking all this is just a game gets you killed.
MO: Obviously Death in the Family is a huge landmark in Batman’s life. I know there’s a lot of them, but what do you think of the Bat-books that came subsequently, right up to the present day?
Dana: As in all ongoing publications there were good arcs and arcs I rather forget about ever reading them. If you think back to Batman: Year 3 followed by A Lonely Place of Dying where we see Tim Drake being introduced, that were really focused stories, in each those 4 parts the story moved forwards, the story had a destination and a lasting effect – by introducing the new Robin. If you compare that to later Bat-book ‘events’ which took ages to finish like Knightfall / Knightquest / Knightsend / Prodigal or Cataclysm / Aftershock / No Man’s Land / New Gotham or Bruce Wayne: Bodyguard / Murderer / Fugitive, and nearly lost themselves in subplots. With War Drums / Games we got a somewhat shorter Bat-event, but unfortunately the moral lesson (recklessness gets you killed) of this event got watered down by bringing Steph back.
But then again the current DC editorial seems to enjoy wiping out landmarks, or why else would they bring back Todd and Barry Allen? The problem is, by wiping out landmarks your predecessors set, you should at least have some landmarks at the same level or even better. So far I don’t see that. Neither in the Bat-books, nor in the entire DCU.
But let’s wait – maybe Batman RIP or Final Crisis will be landmarks, other than being delayed yet again, or ripping older stories to an extend that isn’t funny anymore.
‘… Gore, rape, senseless violence and murder and all that…’
MO: What do you think about superhero comics generally, and how they’ve changed in the past twenty years?
Dana: In general I think superhero comics are a wonderful form of entertainment, which sadly has been pushed into a niche market. For a little escapism you just have to open the book, no flashy equipment needed, just your brain and your eyes.
In the past twenty years the competition in the entertainment market has been getting tougher and tougher. Comics have to compete against all sorts of games, movies, TV and all that. All those other forms of entertainment involve the help of new technologies, where comic books still only have 22 pages of two dimensional pictures and speech balloons. Now that’s a tough one and I can understand the temptation to copy what sells so well in movies, X-Box, Playstation 3 or Wii games and bring in gore, rape, senseless violence and murder and all that.
And if everything fails there is always killing off a long time hero and replace him or her with a person of different gender, preferably someone part of a minority of any kind [Mindless Note: examples of this trend include Steel (black), Azrael/Jean Paul Valley (a bit French), and Wally West (ginger)], right DC?
Wrong. Dead wrong (pun intended), in my book.
Sorry, but this repeating kill-and-replace plot is getting tiresome, and shows a lack of respect towards readers which borders on the verge of insult, in assuming readers only care for powers and flashy costumes no matter who is in the costume. Readers are surely not that shallow. Reading comics on a long term basis is not solely about seeing flashy spandex costumes and powers. It’s about the characters, the people inside the spandex, about their lives and their trials and tribulations.
For example: DC’s Trinity. Why the heck would I be interested in seeing someone else as Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman? Besides, we already had that not that long ago, so I don’t see the need for a replacement, just because DC writers can’t come up with interesting stories for established characters. I’d rather have a little more continuity and well-crafted stories than the ‘short-lived-shock-value-soap-opera-style-crap-to-hell-with-the-consequences’-style DC seems to favour these days.
I do believe it is still possible to tell entertaining stories that don’t trample over each and every storyline from before, like the new school bully. Of course I’m also very well aware that after 70 years of publication there are no really new never-done-before stories left to tell, and that superhero comics can only be told within some certain parameters, and if you change too much, then you end up having different characters. But nobody said it would be an easy job to do, right?
So getting writers who are still eager to work with these decades-old battle-worn characters might be not so easy, but that’s what editors actually should do. BTW lots of former DC writers were geniuses in that department, unfortunately the current DC editorial did their very best to drive them away. Way to go DC.
MO: Are you strictly a superheroes girl, or do you read much manga, indie stuff etc.? Let us now about your tastes and how they’ve matured since you slaughtered Jason and his mother.
Dana: I’m a strictly DC superheroes girl. I make sure I give each new DCU series at least a try.
In the beginning of the Vertigo imprint I was an avid reader and collector of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and other former-DCU heroes like Swamp Thing and Animal Man, but around 1996 I gave up reading Vertigo. I just started again with Fables and Jack of Fables and I’m giving at least Madame Xanadu and House of Mystery a try. I also read Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics, because I’m a veteran Star Wars fangirl. And of course Project Superpowers by Dynamite.
As for manga, not really my kind of comic, except for the Batman manga DC published a few months ago. I also read some of the European comics like Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin or Goscinny’s and Underzo’s The Adventures of Asterix the Gaul, or Blueberry by Giraud – and not to forget Morris’ Lucky Luke.
‘…You have to pity the character of Jason Peter Todd…’
MO: Your killing of Jason is one of the landmark events of the Dark Age of comics. Do you think it, or something like it, was inevitable?
Dana: Jason’s death was inevitable to me. Not so much in the sense of DKR, but his behaviour hinted that one day he would die in the line of duty.
Actually, you have to pity the character of Jason Peter Todd. Everything he ever got from DC was second hand. There was always someone before him who was Robin, Bruce’ son and so on. And if you thought this lame resurrection would turn things around for him, dead wrong. Red Hood and Red Robin, both costumes were worn by predecessors which were much more popular then he.
DC should really put him out of this misery by putting him back in the coffin for good. But I doubt they have the balls to do it. Doing so would be admitting they made a mistake in bringing him back. Can you see DC doing that? I can’t.
Thinking about the DCU back then, DKR was put on a pedestal by everyone, expcept me, I guess. The more darkness the better, since DKR together with Watchmen was considered to have brought maturity to comics, or so they all said back then. So killing off a sidekick – that would definitely fit the times.
Back then I never felt comics were childish nor that they needed a darkness booster. Where that doom and gloom DKR brought us to, you can see today. Batman got too dark and gritty – if the rumours are correct the end of RIP will bring us a less dark Batman. Well, this entire Batman/Brother Eye thing – that’s were this whole ‘mature comics’ and ‘more power to doom and gloom’ brought us to in the long run, since some writers and editors simply didn’t know when to push the breaks.
Was it really necessary to bring Batman to a point where he came across like a total jerk trusting no one and developing a paranoia which would have get any other Gothamite straight to Arkham? No. The right dose of darkness, that’s the key to Batman, after all without light, where should the shadows come from? Thinking a little beyond the next paycheque would not hurt with the DC editors. And in-house communications also seem to be a huge problem at DC these days. Maybe literally cleaning the house and doing what DC is there for should be considered: Publishing entertaining comic books on time. Simple enough, huh? It should become the top priority once again at DC.
MO: Do you think the complex, net- and con-based interactions between the fans and publishers now is a better way of getting feedback on issues like this?
Dana: Somewhat I doubt that publishers really pay attention to net- and con-based interactions or feedback. I think they question the reliability of us fans on the net. If you look at DC boards for example, how fans act around each other, you can see why. If someone dares to voice his or her displeasure with a certain storyline or plot all hell breaks loose sometimes. If you’re lucky you get unwanted and unasked advice thrown at you like ‘You don’t like, you don’t read, why don’t you read Johnny DC.’ Some certain posters will go further and tell you something like, ‘You’re just too dumb to understand this particular storyline, get off the board while we worship everything DC does without question.’
That much for getting constructive feedback from fans who seem to love to get at each others throats. Would you base your business decisions on people who can’ t accept any other opinions beyond their own? To the higher-ups I guess we fans appear to be a strange lot of unpredictable people who act like we own the characters, just because we follow their adventures for long periods of time. I doubt they understand the attachment some of us have to the characters, nor do they care. To them it’s only statistics, sales balances and all that stuff.
BTW fans are very well aware that they don’t own the characters, or that they can demand anything from any publisher just because they buy some books for years and years. That’s just common sense. Any form of brand-loyalty or long time readership doesn’t mean anything to any publisher, make no mistake about that.
But we fangirls and fanboys aren’t powerless at all. We can vote with our wallets on the new comics, and if the current stories suck, there are always the back issues we collected over the years to reread. Voting with your wallet – that’s the only language publishers understand.
MO: If you could pick up the phone and kill any one superhero right now, which one would it be?
Dana: Tempting, so very tempting. Here is my list:
Damian what-ever-his-last-name-truly-is (that Talia brat).
There are more I could add but I trust DC to kill their superheroes by putting the absolute wrong writer on a book, who appears to have zero understanding of the character, and an editorial who seems to do nothing beyond collecting their pay cheque. That’ll slowly kill any character in time.
Non-professional cape killers are at least quick and clean in their killing, and we do it for free.
MO: If you could pick up the phone now and admonish any comic book professional for the job they’re currently doing, who would it be and what would you say to them?
Dana: I’d pick the writers of the four DC books I enjoy the most these days and make a point to get ASAP after publication:
To Peter Tomasi (Nightwing and GL Corps writer): Thank you for giving us back the Dick Grayson – we Wing-Nuts ( Nightwing fans) know and love. After seeing him written as nearly everybody’s whipping boy for years it’s good to finally see the confident and competent crime fighter he is in action again.
So Nightwing against Two-Face it is with #150? Can’t wait to see how this will end. And after #150 would you please come up with Nightwing’s very own rogues gallery? They say the hero is measured by the villains he goes up against. So there, since Nightwing is only second to Batman, please create adequate new villains for him to go up against. He has this cool base of operations in that museum tower, now on with his very own rogues please. Hopefully you’ll stay on the book for the foreseeable future. Thank you again.
[Mindless Note: Dana has communicated to me that, as you might imagine, she is a little pissed off at the recent cancellation of the Robin and Nightwing books. This week's spike in worldwide dynamite sales is just a coincidence.]
To Fabian Nicieza (Robin, Trinity): Thank you and Kurt Busiek for Trinity. The first weekly DC comic that I’ve loved since the first issue, and can’t wait for the next issue of. Besides the Trinity it even has the JLA in action and a book where Nightiwng and Robin appear, written by a writer who truly understands them. Can’t be wrong. Thank you.
And about writing Robin: Wow. I really love the journey you see Tim through. It’s really exciting to see where you take him, and I can’t wait to find out who Red Robin really is, and if Steph’s plan to ‘make Robin stronger’ will work. Just when I thought she learned from her past mistakes in War Games she seems to repeat them. I do hope you stay on Robin for the foreseeable future. Thank you so much.
To Paul Dini (Detective Comics): I really enjoy reading your take on Batman. I really can’t wait to find out how Heart of Hush will end. Thank you for writing my currently absolutely favourite ongoing Batman book. Hopefully you stay with the book for the foreseeable future. Thank you for you work at ‘tec.
‘…I doubt the outcome will deliver in the end…’
MO: Who (or what) do you think The Black Glove is?
Dana: Uhu, the tough one at last. Your guess on that is as good as mine, so far there are zillions of theories and speculations about The Black Glove around, I doubt the outcome will deliver in the end. RIP was clearly over-hyped so this is bound to leave many just saying: “What the……?”
Despite going on record saying that I really don’t care who turns out to be The Black Glove, because this whole “changing the fundamentals of Batman” thing is just ridiculous, as if DC would damage their mayor cash-cow long term, here you go:
Judging solely from the comics The Black Glove is an organisation of rich and very bored people betting on the outcome of bets of life and death. Their current bet seems to be: How much can Batman take before he has a complete mental break down? The Black Glove also seems to employ the Club of Villains these days. As for the head of The Black Glove organization – I’m still leaning towards the Joker, despite the remark in Batman #680 that implies the Joker is just an underling of The Black Glove. I somewhat doubt that the Joker would work for someone when it comes to his fav game of them all: Messing with Batsy’s head.
But maybe we are in for a surprise who The Black Glove is, since RIP is a Grant Morrison show.
We’ll see when we finally get #681 when ever it will be published, another fortnight delay making it the 16 Nov now [MN: since this interview was conducted, Batman #681 has slipped yet another week. If I worked for DC, I'd be avoiding Ethiopian warehouses right now, y'know?] . Tsk. Tsk. Very disappointing my dear DC.
Thank you for having me Bobsy, and for listening to my completely subjective rants about being a Cape Killer and a long time DC fangirl.
MO: Thank you Dana, for teaching me that being an insane hero-murderer doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. I think I speak for all the assembled legions of the Silent 73 when I say that we are proud to have a nemesis like you.