It's finally here: the second volume of DC Comics' Batman: Earth One, the unique retelling of Batman's origin story written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank.
In the new volume, Johns and Frank continue the story of Batman that they started in Batman: Earth One, Volume 1, with this new volume picking up shortly where that one left off. But now, the Riddler has come to Gotham and is doing what he does best: terrorizing the city with his twisted sense of humor. And as if that weren't enough, Batman also has to deal with Killer Croc and a city rife with crime.
Batman: Earth One, Volume 2 is available in comic book shops, retail stores and online as of today.
We discussed the second volume with both Johns and Frank and here's what they had to say about their latest piece of work.
Once again, you're reimagining the world of Gotham and of Batman/Bruce Wayne. When people are already so familiar with the various backstories of these characters and plots, how do you manage to come up with ideas that haven't been done yet, but still feel plausible in that familiar world?
JOHNS: It's easy because there have been so many great Batman stories. A lot of our take on the characters are really well defined and settled in, so Gary and I approached it in that we wanted to stay true to what Batman's about, but at the same time, explore new characters and dig a little deeper into the human and emotional aspects of Batman.
And the arc that I built for that is that Bruce Wayne is a very different Bruce Wayne than what we're used to. We're trying to capture at least the atmosphere of Batman and his world so that although they're familiar, there is also surprise to it, things you haven't seen before, particularly with the main characters and the side characters, like Croc.
It's tricky because it's all very subjective like what is too far, what is too much? Is making Croc a sympathetic, somewhat heroic character breaking away from the character too much? Not to us, because he's kind of always walked that line and we just pushed in it a slightly different way, and it's more about Gotham and him stepping into that role.
The artwork is very emotional, especially in the characters' facial expressions, particularly around the eyes. Is this something you discussed together in order to bring the story's levity and art together as one?
FRANK: I think we roughly knew where we were going and we had an idea of our takes on the characters pretty well because we talk a lot, so we don't really have a situation where I don't have a wildly different idea to what Geoff is trying to write. From that point of view, we're pretty much on the same page with that. I always enjoy doing the emotional scenes anyway. It's the stuff that I enjoy drawing. I know Geoff enjoys writing very human characters with lots of emotional depth. It all feels pretty organic. It all comes together pretty easily.
JOHNS: Gary and I have worked in monthly comics, but the freedom of this kind of format really allows us to slow down the storytelling and really define the characters and get a little more deep, deeper than in a 28-page monthly book, and you also have the space to do it properly, you have the time to do it. Gary is the best emotional comic book artist in the medium. And you can see that in this book because you never see Batman as such an emotional character, and I find myself, when I first started working with Gary because he's so talented in getting across these really unique and complex emotions in characters and their body language. I don't do any narration when I work with Gary because it doesn't need narration because he knows what the characters are thinking. Quite honestly, I think it's more captivating as an artist just to be able to extrapolate from what you're feeling off of the characters. Without that, it wouldn't work.
Now that you two have worked together for about nine years, what do you think it is about your relationship that makes you work so well together?
FRANK: From a work point of view, I think we both like doing the same things. We both get a kick out of character-rich stuff. But also, over the years, we've become friends so that's also nice: we trust each other with this stuff. There's always a kind of thing when you're working with someone that it - with long distance, in particular - where you never really know how what you're doing is being perceived. I think Geoff and I know each other well enough to trust each other. I think that's a huge part of it.
JOHNS: Yeah, I think with our communication and the fact that we talk all the time and there's not a single thing we don't discuss over and over and not a single character we don't really talk about it until we completely and fully understand what we're both trying to do. We both bring the desire to do an emotional story above anything else. It's got to be an emotional story about characters we care about and we can relate to and we can feel for. So we both have the same mission, the same goal.
And beyond that, Gary is just amazing. I'm super fortunate to work with an artist like him. He's unbelievable: every book we've ever done together, I just put among my proudest work. That's really saying something, I think, because we've been able to continue this working relationship for quite a while and it's still really exciting.
In volume two, you brought back the character Jessica Dent. Now she's the mayor of Gotham. Is this a character you knew would return early on?
JOHNS: Yeah, we always knew she was going to play a big part in volume two. And she's a new character. She didn't exist before. There are a couple of things we added to this world that didn't exist prior to it and Jessica is a big one and will play a role in the Batman: Earth One world moving forward. I think she surprised both of us by how much we like her. I love how strong she is. I love how close to Bruce she is, and yet distant from Bruce. But she's a really interesting character and, as you see from the volume, her journey is just getting started.
Will there be a volume three and if so, what can Batman: Earth One fans expect from it?
JOHNS: We're deep into volume three now. I don't know if I can say more because I think it spoils everything in volume two.
FRANK: We can say that it's a different book. It's a little more complex compared to what we've done so far.
JOHNS: I call it the continued emotional journey of Bruce and his relationship with Gotham and himself and the cowl. That's really what it's about. It's about the evolution of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the aftermath of volume two. It's just the beginning saga of this Batman world.
[Photo Credit: DC Comics]