BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT has been giving us more psychological and supernatural Batman stories. Gregg Hurwitz's final chapter in his Scarecrow arc arrives in store this week. Beginning with issue #16, Ethan Van Sciver joins Gregg as the new series artist. The two are preparing to tell us all about who the Mad Hatter is in the New 52.
We had the chance to talk to both Gregg and Ethan to find out what we can expect from this next arc in BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT.
Comic Vine: Why Mad Hatter?
Gregg Hurwitz: I have a bit of a history in choosing villains that are a little bit of underdogs or slightly lesser used. It's really funny because my first job at DC was with the Penguin [PENGUIN: PAIN AND PREJUDICE].
Where a lot of people saw Penguin as a character that was silly, I saw a huge opportunity. You can take a character who people view on the lighter side, and there has been some spectacular Penguin stories but not an endless amount of them. He's not like the Joker with that level of story. If you can take a character that's considered something of a lightweight and make him menacing, there's a huge opportunity there.
For me, the Hatter is a character who I was always interested in. He was always running around. He was obsessed with reclaiming his Alice or finding his Alice. He has this incredible fixation. He's interesting. He's a household name, in comic book households. I never felt he was granted an overall narrative that really explains and defines him and shows who he is. One that shows why he's a force to be reckoned with. I think that's one of the things that Ethan and I are really trying to do.
If people are going to have a New 52 brand new version, brand new reinvention of the Hatter, we hope it will be the definitive one. They understand where he came from, they understand his past. And they understand why he's such a huge threat. This guy, all 4'6" of him is going to put a plan into motion that's going to rattle Gotham to its cornerstones in our arc.== TEASER ==
CV: How long will this arc be?
GH: Six issues. It's one giant melding narrative. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
CV: This series has had a more separate feel from the other titles that makes the stories easier to focus on, will that still be the case?
GH: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT is wonderful because it has its own carved out world. Now it is in continuity. We're not going to have Joker fly in with his face intact. We are within continuity but we have the room to carve out and explore our own kind of stories. What's great is we're hooked into the DCU in a bigger way but we also have an enormous amount of freedom to tell our own kind of stories that need their own space. Stories that need to unfold on their own in their own time frame. We can be very single minded. Ethan and I are right now are only focused on the Mad Hatter, this story and how it's going to build up and blow Gotham apart. That's our only focus.
CV: According to the March solicits for the Batman titles, there's a dark time coming, will this arc take place before that period? Is it going to acknowledge whatever those events are?
GH: It takes place around it. There's nothing in our arc that will step on that. I'm on the phone with Scott Snyder in intervals. We touch base on about what character is doing what. So there's nothing in our arc that is going to contradict it. The focus of our arc is not the event that's taking place in another book. The focus is our own big event which is the Mad Hatter story.
CV: We know Mad Hatter and Catwoman will be involved, any other characters you can tease?
GH: I don't want to give too much away. We're going to have our usual cast and crew supporting Batman and Bruce. Catwoman does appear for a very specific reason. Natalya is going to be involved in this story. She's the Ukrainian concert pianist who is Bruce's love interest from the last arc and is going to continue through.
We're also going to see the off kilter Ethan Van Sciver versions of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. We're going to meet some new folks and see some familiar faces.
CV: I was going to ask about Natalya? She's still going to be in the picture? Can Bruce keep a girlfriend?
GH: Well, he's going to do his best. He's either going to manage it or not manage it.
CV: Ethan, you've drawn Batman before but with the more psychological tone of this series, are you approaching the character differently?
Ethan Van Sciver: No. I draw the way I draw. I think I approach the stories with the kind of tone it requires. This Mad Hatter story is unusual in that there's a part of it that's surprisingly cheerful. It's sort of out of the normal for a Batman story. So I'll happily draw it that way. There are a lot of little challenges along the way.
CV: You mentioned before you want to draw scenes in the Batcave. Does DC give you a layout of where everything should be or do you just draw whatever might fit the moment?
EVS: Many have established the map of the Batcave. In general, it's up to the artist, I think, to draw the Batcave the way they want to draw the Batcave. I have chosen to kind of stick with David Finch's version of the Batcave just for the sake of consistency. He did a really really nice job. He did an interesting, morbid, cool high tech Batcave. I'm just going to follow his lead. He's a smart guy.
CV: What's your take on Catwoman when drawing her? What makes her tick?
EVS: Catwoman is the definition of femme fatale. I think she is the woman that many women wish to be like. She's confident, she takes what she wants, she's not afraid of anything and she's sexy as hell.
CV: Have you ever drawn Mad Hatter before?
EVS: Yes. But it hasn't been published yet.
CV: Mad Hatter's a character that has been around a while. Did your approach to him change after reading the scripts or is this how you always envisioned him?
EVS: Yeah, he is different because I think Gregg's story made me see him in a different way. Honestly, and this isn't just buttering Gregg's bread, I think had a writer who had less mercy and less interest in Jervis Tetch written a Mad Hatter story, I might have drawn him a bit more cruelly. But I think I was still fairly liberal with the cruelty. But at the same time, I've found a character that I like and the way that I draw him.
CV: What's the biggest reason people shouldn't think of this series as just another Batman title?
GH: There's a lot of things we do differently. One of them is we have a toe over the line into horror. There's sort of a dark humor that runs through it. There's a darker exploration of the underbelly of a lot of these villains. It's really my focus, which is a little bit different. It was the focus of Finch also and it's the focus of Ethan. I think one of the other things is we're given a good amount of freedom by the Bat-team over on THE DARK KNIGHT. This means we can write our own huge huge stories. It's almost a six-issue movie with each arc that we tackle.
This isn't just a little Mad Hatter story that runs one or two issues. It's going to be a big melding production. It's going to turn into something that has huge and lasting impact on Batman, Bruce Wayne and Gotham. We're given the freedom to create and build that out in our own little corner of the Batman universe. There's a real focus on the villains and the psychology, which of course the other writers do as well, but I think the weighting of how much we focus on that is a little bit different. The combination of those things are things that really define and make the book discrete.
CV: Ethan, you have anything to add to that?
EVS: I'm just in awe of Gregg right now. I just echo everything he says.
CV: Also, you're going to be kicking ass drawing this and the other books won't have you.
EVS: I'm just having so much fun honestly. Gregg is the man and anything he wants to write, I want to draw. And that's that. This is the ideal position to be in in comics, to write and draw Batman. I'm having a great time.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #15 is in stores now. Issue 16 with the first part of the Mad Hatter story is on sale January 30, 2013.