BLACK BAT is one of the few books Brian Buccellato is currently working on and his knowledge of the character and history is pretty impressive. Longtime writer and inker Ande Parks talked to Buccellato about his work on this book and how he develops his stories. For an extended look into the upcoming issue #10, check out our exclusive preview.
ANDE PARKS: First, I really enjoyed the book. I have to confess that I was behind on reading it, but I wasn't lost. You do a great job of continuing the established arc for longtime fans, but introducing enough information so that new readers get swept along, too. Can you talk about that juggling act?
BRIAN BUCCELLATO: Thanks! Glad you liked it. The heavily serialized nature of Black Bat does make it a challenge for new readers, but I try to make every single issue have a plot that stands on it’s own and resolves itself. I think comics are similar to TV series in that way, and I just try to keep one eye on the overarching story as I write each “episode”.
AP: I've been lucky enough to work with Ronan Cliquet at Dynamite in the past. I think he's really good, and this issue reinforced the opinion. He seems really well-suited to your book. He's realistic, but lively, and capable of drawing great, dynamic action. I love his cinematic approach, and it works well with your style. So… I have rambled on and on here, without a question. Your thoughts on the collaboration?
BB: He’s been a dream to work with. At the start of our collaboration his art style was quite a bit different – much closer to Ivan Reis than what readers see in Black Bat. But I pointed him in the direction of Mazzucchelli and Maleev… then asked that he be allowed to ink his work. The results were exactly what I wanted, and we haven’t looked back. His ability to “spot blacks”, sense of pacing and his ability to tell story without words is the perfect for the gritty, noir story I’ve been trying to tell. The dude is good!
AP: The Black Bat is a long-established character. Some say he's the template for many other characters we know so well. In creating your vision of Black Bat, did you go strictly to the original sources? To what extent did you modify the original character?
BB: The Black Bat wasn’t just a 1930’s rival to Batman, his origin “inspired” two characters that are WAY more well known. The original Tony Quinn was a prosecutor who gets acid thrown in his face, goes blind, and (with the help of eye transplant surgery) becomes a masked vigilante. Sound familiar? So the challenge for me was to take an obscure 75 year old character and make him feel fresh and different, despite the fact that his origin was co-opted by Two Face and Daredevil. Because of this, I decided to stray a little further from the source material than I normally would and bring in the element of redemption. My Tony is quite a bit different because he was a corrupt lawyer who is trying to right past wrongs. Although this is a major change to the character, I felt it was still keeping in the spirit of pulp/noir.
AP: I love how you're handling the strong language in this book. Wish I'd thought of it when I was writing Green Hornet! Have you been using the black box strategy throughout this series?
BB: Ha! It wasn’t really my strategy. Without really setting out to do it, I dropped some F-bombs in the first issue script, and they gave me the option of changing the wording or putting a black box over it. I went with the box.
AP: I was seeing current or semi-current events reflected in this issue. Do you try to incorporate real-world stuff into these stories, or does it just kind of happen organically as you go?
BB: It happens mostly organically. As writers we are told to write what know, so it’s only natural that we pull from what we see in real life, right? That said, there was some degree of planning. One example from an earlier issue is when Butch O’Leary fears for his life and shoots an innocent man that he incorrectly judges to be a threat. This plays into the overall theme of vigilantism and “taking the law into your own hands”, but is also a reference to the Trayvon Martin tragedy. But I removed the racial component out of respect and because it didn’t speak directly to the story I was telling.
AP: I'm always curious how other writers develop their stories. I tend to think of theme first… a big idea I want to say something about. How do your stories begin? As an action sequence? A bit of character development you want to address? Theme? Or does it change from story to story?
BB: I guess it’s a combination of all of the ways you mentioned. Usually I start with a character and a situation that I want to explore. For the Black Bat, I wanted to tell my version of a grounded (semi-realistic) vigilante story through a character in search of redemption. In that case, “grounded vigilante story” was my starting point. Sometimes there is a theme (or big idea) I want to explore, so I create a situation and characters that are ripe for that exploration. Often I will read or see something that inspires me creatively and I will decide to do “my version” of that thing. My problem is that I can’t shut that side of my brain off, so I am always writing in my head. I’m just happy I have the opportunity to make a living off what I’ve been doing for free for over 40 years.
AP: What else are you working on that we should know about?
BB: I’m working on Detective Comics with Francis Manapul. It’s about little superhero called Batman. I’m also developing some creator-owned projects that I hope to debut by the end of the year. I’m staying busy. Writing. Cause that’s what I do. Thanks for taking the time, Ande!
Make sure to check out BLACK BAT #10 which will be available at your LCS on May 7th, 2014 and check out our exclusive extended preview of BLACK BAT and other Dynamite books coming out May 7th, here.