Spoiler alert: He claims he’s not actually Batman. We’re still suspicious.
Photo: pinguino k / Flickr
You’re finishing up your epic seven-year run writing Batman for DC. First question: Are you secretly Batman?
I wish I could say yes, but I don’t have time to be secretly Batman. I’ll tell you, Batman could never write comics and be Batman. But if I was, I would probably be at the very end of my life, I’d be the Dark Knight Returns Batman.
So more of a conservative, angry Batman?
A grizzled warrior, rather than a conservative.
Comics characters don’t tend to stay dead for very long these days – how long do you think it will be before we see Damian Wayne again?
I don’t know, I mean, you never can tell when these characters will pop up again. As far as I know there aren’t plans at the moment - I’d like to think that no one’s changing the story right now, but yeah, I’m sure another Robin or the same Robin might turn up in the story someday. We should take sweepstakes on it, you know? I’m guessing a few years, but it could be anything.
Can you talk a little bit about what led to the creation of that character, and why you felt the need to kill him off at the end of your run?
I always liked that idea and it just seemed, you know, at the start of the storyline, you want to put an outrageous thing to open with. And I love the title, Batman And Son, because it was kind of like [1960s British sitcom] Steptoe And Son, like a family business. It could’ve been “Son Of Batman” but that’s not quite as cool as Batman And Son, which is the sort of thing you’d imagine written on the side of a window cleaner’s van. And it seemed like a really good thing to slap a paternity suit on Batman suddenly and have him confront this specter of his past - I wanted to do something that brought back the sexuality to Batman a little bit as well, because for a long time he had been quite uptight and quite aggressive, more of a tortured character. But I was going back to those days in the '70s when Batman was kissing girls and stripping down to the waist and exposing his hairy chest.
But still leaving his mask on!
Yes! He always left the mask on, even when he was completely naked in the shower! But I wanted to bring back the idea that Batman’s a sexual character with all those things in his past, those shady ladies and all these Spanish girls he’s gone out with. So it seemed an interesting way to say, here’s my Batman: It’s drawing on the past, but it’s going to go a little different from now on. Initially, Damian died in the fourth issue, but as I was writing it, it just seemed that his story was bigger than four issues - the character came to life and the story quite naturally extended. That was down to the potency of the character; once Damian was in the story, he was just so loud and obnoxious and aggressive, but also had the potential to change. It gave me a long term arc where you could see someone actually changing emotionally, with the character completely transforming before your eyes over a long period of time. I also felt that would give my particular arc on Batman a bit of a spine and something that held it all together. So yeah, he just grew, because the character became more fascinating than I expected him to be.
Comic book fans are notorious for hating change, but they really seemed to love Damian after a while.
Yeah, I saw that and it was like, “You’ve given Batman a son? No!” And then it was suddenly, “You’ve killed Batman’s son?? No!!” They hated me for creating the character, and they hated me for killing him!
Your run on the book feels like an attempt to tie every bit of Batman’s comic history into one continuity. Is it frustrating when you do all that, and then a big reboot comes along?
It’s not so much of a strain because the work stands and it will always stand, and fortunately for me, it connects to every year of Batman, so even when people pick up a 1940s collection they might be reminded of something in the story that I’ve just finished, so I don’t mind that. And honestly, although it feels like having the carpet pulled out from under you when the universe changes, at the same time it has to do that, you know? I’ve been on the book for quite a long time and I think it’s very important for new people to come in and tell the story from a different angle, and to revamp it and revitalize it for a different generation of readers. So yeah, it obviously feels weird to have my version of Batman contradicted, but I think it’s essential, and it has to happen.
It seems like, in recent years, superheroes spend more time fighting each other than fighting bad guys. Do you think it’s time for heroes to go back to punching out villains?
I’m totally in agreement with you – it’s time for the superheroes to get out there and help people again. They seem to be doing nothing but protecting their own asses these days, and it really is time to get out there and stop some bank robbers, because I haven’t seen a lot of that recently. I think it’s time for them to get back and help children cross the road again.
Would you ever be tempted to write a less mythological character, like Spider-Man?
I’m just totally not into Spider-Man. I don’t really like grounded superheroes. I like grounded stories - you know, I like writing about ordinary people, but I don’t like doing that in the context of superhero stories, which I think should always be big, ridiculous, imaginative, over the top stories. That’s just my personal thing.
You’ve said you’re taking a break from superhero comics, are you moving more into script-writing?
Yeah, most of this year is me doing a couple of screenwriting jobs and a couple of other things. My agent just asked me to write a book as well - they wanted me to do a book about sex, about one of those 50 Shades Of Grey things. You could imagine what my take on something like that might be…
Well, you were that man who once asked for, essentially, a group magic wank to make sure The Invisibles kept going.
Yeah, and it absolutely worked! People are still talking about it.
Is there any news on your movie project with Barry Sonnenfeld, Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens?
Not much right now, the screenplay was finished, but the last I heard of it was last September, when his agent put it in a drawer. It’ll probably crop up sometime, you know, when I’m dead. It was a really great script - I think by the end, we had something that would’ve been like Jurassic Park meets Apocalypse Now.
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Oh shit. Uh, I never apologize!
You are Batman!
I guess! Apologize, are you kidding? If I did it, I was right!
What’s your favorite curse word?
Quite simply, fuck. Because fuck fits everything, one size fits all, and especially in Scotland, we use it as punctuation, like clearing your throat. I love it when Scottish people do it - there’s a particular way, for Scottish people, when they can’t think of what to say next, and they’ll just say, “Fuckinnnnngg… last night, did you see the news, fuckinnnnngg, did you see that, man?” That’s my favorite one of all, that placeholder, fuckinnnnngg...
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
The worst hangover I’ve ever had was in Santa Fe in 1991, and I still remember it - it was the first hangover I’d ever had because I didn’t drink until I was 30. So I got away with it, I used to drink lots and think, “What are people talking about? Hangovers?” And then one night I overdid it and felt a hangover for the first time, and it was appalling. So I still remember exactly when it was.
What was your first car?
I don’t drive, but the first car my wife bought was a blue Peugeot. I think it’s still down there, it’s a basket case now.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a huge appendix scar, but my favorite scar is the one on my head. I’ve got a scar just between my eyes, so it looks like a third eye that’s closed. I got that when I was five years old – my mother asked me to take the ashes out to the wastebin, and I refused to do it and she gave me a hard time, so I ran out, fell, tripped and split my head open on the stone. It was just after Halloween and my mother had bought me a cardboard Dalek mask, so I always remember this thing because I consider my scar my Dalek eye.
Do you have a party trick?
Not really – I usually play guitar and sing at parties. I tried to learn magic one time, because when you do occult stuff, people always say, "show us a trick, then," and you can’t really summon demons to show them a trick… So, I tried to learn sleight-of-hand stuff but I just could not get it at all. So no, no actual party trick, I just play the guitar. Or show my arse.
What was the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
King Kong’s cock! I bet everyone’s says that. I don’t know, I guess a golf ball when I was a kid.
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
To be 500 yards away. I was brought up as a pacifist by my family, so I was never allowed to fight, even though I quite like fighting. I had to go to martial arts to get my aggression out in the end. I was only ever in one fight, and the thing my granny told me about fighting was to always hit the big guy first, because then everyone else runs away. I found that, that works in a playground, but I imagine if you tried that in an actual gang fight, the rest of the gang would just kill you.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
I know you want me to say something funny, but it was just my wife, last night.
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
I’d get rid of everyone who thinks they’re right.