Today, as part of their expanding line-up of digital-first comic books, DC Comics launches a new Batman digital comic called Legends of the Dark Knight, a series of stand-alone stories about the Caped Crusader. And to kick off Legends, DC brought together a pair of powerhouse talents. The debut issue was written by Damon Lindelof (co-creator of Lost, co-writer of Prometheus) and drawn by Jeff Lemire, the ascending comic book writer-artist whose impressive credits include the creator-owned Sweet Tooth and the critically adored Animal Man. In an exclusive interview, EW got on the phone with the dynamic duo (Lindelof was calling from the West Coast, Lemire from Canada) to talk about the roots of their collaboration and why Batman looks better when his clothes don’t quite seem to fit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the first time you two have worked together. How did you two wind up collaborating on this project?
JEFF LEMIRE: Damon had tweeted some nice things about Sweet Tooth and Animal Man. I saw that and contacted him. We started talking about possibly trying to work together on something.
DAMON LINDELOF: Twitter is perfect for men who are in love with each other, because we’re not good at expressing said love in very verbose ways. The limitations are perfect.
JL: I think Batman would do well on Twitter. He also has a hard time expressing his emotions.
DL: Batman and the Punisher talking to each other on Twitter would be a conversation of few words.
JL: Ben Abernathy, the editor at DC, had contacted me about doing this Batman short. I thought, “Hey, maybe Damon would write that.” And he said yes!
DL: The one addendum that I would have to Jeff’s origin story is that when he emailed me and said “Would you be interested in doing this?” I believe my response was: “Are you effing kidding me? Absolutely yes!!!” With multiple exclamation points. I would never dream of saying no to an opportunity like this, just because Jeff’s the guy he is. In a couple of years, there’s no way he will sully himself to work with somebody like me. While he’s young and innocent and doesn’t really how immensely talented he is, I have every intention of taking full advantage of him.
JL: [Laughs] I don’t know about that. But yeah, I’m already drawing a monthly book, so for me to find time to do something extra, it would have to be something really special. I have a big admiration for Damon. It just was too fun of an opportunity to pass up.
How did you decide to make the story about a younger Batman?
DL: I think it was Jeff’s idea to tell a story in that Year One zone. Bruce is an inexperienced Batman. He’s still working out the kinks in terms of how he’s going to fight crime. It felt like a fertile ground for storytelling.
JL: Actually, I think it was probably Damon who suggested the early-years thing. That really informed how I was going to approach it visually. I’ve always preferred the lean Batman, not the big-huge-bodybuilder-muscles Batman. I thought he could look a little ragged. His costume could look like a prototype and not really fit properly. It’s not body armor yet. Maybe, for the cape, he cut up some curtains. Batman is an interesting character from a visual standpoint because he’s so iconic. He can survive so many different types of interpretation and still be recognizable. Some of my favorite Batman have been the stuff that’s a little left of center, like Paul Pope’s Batman: Year One Hundred. I don’t really draw that mainsteam slick-muscle style of superheroes.
In the story, the relationship between Bruce and Alfred is more antagonistic than usual. Damon, did you enjoy playing around with the Alfred character?
DL: Who is Alfred, really? He’s an enormously smart guy who unfortunately has to take care of someone who wants to dress up like a giant Bat and fight crime. How is he going to do that? That was the jumping off point for the story: How far will Alfred go to help Bruce?
Jeff, was it challenging drawing a digital comic book? How is it different from a print comic?
JL: There were things I couldn’t do. Couldn’t do big double-page spreads or splash pages. In a lot of ways it was good. We only had 10 pages, so I had to learn to be much more economical, with more panels per page to pack in enough story to make it worthwhile. I couldn’t go nuts and do a big splash page of Batman jumping off the roof, Even though it would look cool and I’d love to draw it. Instead, I had to do that and six other panels on a page.
Both of you are busy with a lot of different projects right now, but would you like to collaborate again in the future?
JL: I really would like to work with Damon again at some point when I’m not writing 20 comic books per month. Next time, I have to come over to his world and play in that playground.
DL: I have a slightly different response in a slightly similar way. I love seeing Jeff’s take on Animal Man. To me, the idea that Jeff is doing that with pre-established characters is cool, but it’s not as cool to me as: What would a Jeff Lemire show look like that was totally original, and totally baked from his own head? Sweet Tooth was my introduction to him. That is wholly original. That was a gateway drug to Essex County and Underwater Welder. I would love to see his own voice translated to film or TV. But not in an effort to get him to sell out and leave comic books. I feel like that would be a huge loss, because there are so few artists that are also great storytellers and vice versa.
Those are some kind compliments coming your way, Jeff.
JL: It’s really surreal. Lost is such a huge influence on me, and I’m such a fan of Damon’s stuff. It’s really flattering.
Jeff, Sweet Tooth is wrapping up in December. Are you going to start working on a new series to take its place in your busy schedule?
JL: I do have another book that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. But there is another project that I’ll be drawing and writing.
DL: I know what his new book is. It’s awesome.
Do you guys have any other nice things to say about each other?
DL: The truth is, we can barely tolerate each other. No, and this is not a joke, this is the first time that Jeff and I have ever spoken. And it’s safe to say that we still haven’t talked to each other. We are answering your questions and talking about each other, but I refuse to address Jeff directly. That way, I can continue to tell people that we have never spoken to each other.
Damon, what do you think of the sound of Jeff’s voice?
DL: He’s every bit as Canadian as I hoped he would be. My true motive was just to get Jeff to say “aboot” as much as possible in this conversation, and he did not disappoint.
Jeff, how do you respond to the accusation that you’re Canadian?
JL: There’s a rumor going around that I’m Canadian, but I can’t find anyone that can prove it.
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