Kevin Smith’s Bat-bona fides need no burnishing. The man behind “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Dogma,” has loved Batman pretty much his whole life. He’s written him for DC Comics, and now he’s got the pre-eminent Batman podcast, “Fat Man on Batman,” in which he interviews all the top talent associated with the Bat.
I was recently able to turn the tables on Kevin and get him to talk about his relationship with the Dark Knight.
At the old blog, I wrote up our interview in installments. In case you missed it, here’s a rejiggered version of Part 1, for this edition of The Gotham Tribune, in which we bring you details of his forthcoming miniseries, Batman: Bellicosity. It’s the final chapter of the trilogy he started with Batman: Cacophony and Batman: The Widening Gyre, illustrated by his longtime buddy Walt Flanagan, who not only runs Kevin’s comic shop in Red Bank, N.J. – Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash – but is also one of the main guys on AMC’s television show “Comic Book Men.”
You don’t interview Kevin as much as harness him because he’s an utter force of nature. So, I’m getting out of the way of Hurricane Kev, who talks about the genesis of Batman: Bellicosity, one of the biggest Bat-controversies ever, The Last Batman Story, and what might be coming in the next season of “Comic Book Men,” which premieres Sunday, Oct. 13:
“Writing Batman, I loved the character so much, I always said ‘I don’t want to write a Batman book, I’ll just use him and stuff.’ Like I wrote ‘Green Arrow’ for a while over at DC and I wrote Batman into that story. And I felt like I could do it because he’s not the lynchpin, he’s the supporting character and I got the best of both worlds writing him without having to write a Batman-centric story.
“But then when ‘The Dark Knight’ came out with all those billboards up in town, I started getting nostalgic for the character. I was a huge fan of the Tim Burton 1989 ‘Batman’ release, which, you know a lot of people now can’t fathom how huge that was in the pre-internet age, how the phenomenon of that bat-signal being everywhere was massive.
‘Here it was, ‘The Dark Knight’ was coming out and I was looking up at all these billboards in town, and I was like, ‘You know what, man? Maybe I’m being a chicken s—, maybe I should give it a shot, just write a Batman storyline.’ And my friend Walter (Flanagan) always talked about wanting to draw Batman — not professionally, it was a dream, like a way far-off dream, like something that he didn’t even think he would accomplish. He would draw him for himself, but he never imagined he would get to draw for DC Comics.
“So I called up (DC executive) Dan DiDio, who I met like once or twice before and I said, ‘Hey man, I worked on Green Arrow there a couple of years ago and I feel like doing a Batman mini-series. Can I do a Batman mini-series there with my friend Walter? He’s done some comics for IDW, he’s been published before so it’s not like, you know, he’s never picked up a pencil. It’s a bit of nepotism, but he carries his weight and he’s going to improve the story, you know, because he’s been telling me the characters he wants to draw and that’s going to kind of blow the story up in a bigger way and taking it in a different direction.’”
Kevin recounted how Flanagan was initially reluctant — “I’m sure they would have said your kid could draw it if you’re going to write it,” he recalled his friend saying – but Walt ultimately bought in. That led to “Cacophony,” then the controversial “Widening Gyre,” where Smith had the temerity to write that Batman actually wet his tights during a famous scene from Frank Miller’s classic “Batman: Year One,” where the Dark Knight blows out a wall and confronts the corrupt leaders of the city.
“When that came out,” he recalled. “there were some comic book websites that really went after Walt’s art, and during ‘Widening Gyre’ I got f—ing attacked because of ‘He said Batman peed himself!’”
“Oh my God, it was nuts, dude. They were like, ‘How dare you, you took one of the coolest moments in Batman history and he blows the wall apart … and he goes ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve eaten well’ — ‘You took one of the coolest moments and destroyed it by making him pee himself!’
“And I’m like, ‘That’s not what it is,’ and all of what I wrote is scientifically rooted in fact, my fireman friend told me this, but whatever. …
“Now, some time has gone between that and nobody really remembers that aspect and so the people, they just kind of read the stories. … I guess it’s kind of traveled even further, so I get a lot of people on Twitter every day, without fail, minimum 20 tweets: ‘When are you going to finish Widening Gyre?’ It seems like it’s built up a nice head of steam in the absence.
“So there is a third Batman mini-series which me and Walt are in the midst of, it’s called ‘Batman: Bellicosity.’ It has four issues so far and two issues left to go. It kind of got put to the back burner because DC blew up their universe and started with the New 52 and I started working on ‘Comic Book Men’ and both things kind of happened at the same time, and all of a sudden ‘Batman: Bellicosity” kept getting pushed back and pushed back, but the good news is that it is giving a bunch of people time to catch-up with ‘Cacophony’ and ‘Widening Gyre,’ which have built up a nice fan base.”
He pointed out that, as the third part of the trilogy – the release date of which is as yet unannounced — the story takes place before the New 52 relaunch of the company’s entire main superhero line of books that set a new continuity.
“What’s cool about it for me and Walt is that it’s kind of old DC continuity. … So once they kind of shuttered that universe and started the New 52, both our feet were in the old universe and so once they were closing up shop and rebooting the new universe, I was talking to Dan (DiDio): I was like, ‘It doesn’t really matter what we do since you guys are kind of done with this universe and we can’t really screw with continuity since you’re rebooting all the continuity.
“So that kind of repurposed the ending a little bit. And me and Walt, we’re like now we can do The Last Batman Story, we can just go ‘ape s—.”
PART 2 TO COME LATER THIS WEEK.