Man-Size (man_size) wrote,

Batman Adventures INTERVIEW

Below is a trio interview about the making of BATMAN ADVENTURES #9 as conducted and cobbled together by dinoblack. I don't know where it's supposed to appear officially. Enjoy!

IN THE BEGINNING…Portrait of Comic Fans as Comic Artists

Vito Delsante (writer/”The Couch”) – I had been working at Jim Hanley’s Universe, a comic store in NYC (still work there actually) and Dean was one of the regulars that I didn’t really know was a comic artist at first. He was, at that point, the guy who annoyed Wendy.

Dean Haspiel (artist/Batman Adventures #9) – A while back, I got a call from editor Joan Hilty asking if I'd be interested in drawing a few BATMAN ADVENTURES covers. Flattered, I screamed "Of course!" Hilty said she'd call me in a couple of months when the covers were due. In those couple of months, I blabbed about my proposed gig to pals and cohorts. Two of those pals were budding comix writers Vito Delsante and Gabe Soria, both of whom had great yet diverse ideas for BATMAN stories.

Vito – Eventually, we got to talking and we became buds.

Gabe Soria (writer/”Deathtrap Au-Go-Go”) - Dean and I had known each other for a while, and he knew that I had unspecific ambitions about writing comics. Longtime listener, first time caller, that sort of thing.

Dean – I told Gabe and Vito to write them into proper pitches. Gabe hit me with a solid breakdown filled with funny twists and turns and Vito wrote a full fledged script [he tends to do that].

Vito – I hate writing pitches. To this day, I’d rather just write the whole thing and be done with it. But I’m getting better at it.

Gabe - [It was] pure nepotism. If you suspect that the reason you can't get a job in comics is because you don't live in New York and don't know anybody in the industry, you may be right.

Dean – I worked with the both of them to help shape their ideas accordingly and submitted the unsolicited scripts to Hilty in hopes of swaying her. Hilty got the heavy hint that I was pining to draw the interior of the book, as well, and took the entire project into consideration.

Vito – Jeez, I must have been trying to break in for…God, nearly 6 or 7 years at that point, mostly on the self publishing end. I never even wanted to try to write anything for the big two.

Gabe - In a rare bout of productivity, I had written a script for a humorous 12-page Batman story called "Deathtrap au Go-Go!" for Dean to illustrate; He had heard me talking about the concept -- Batman reminisces to Robin about the never-ending succession of deadly traps his enemies have laid for him while they're stuck in one, his seasoned cool about the situation contrasting with his sidekick's rookie panic -- and dug it.

Vito – I had tried my hand at the Animated Universe before. I tried doing a Batman meets Golden Age Dr. Mid-Nite story and a Robin team-up with Elongated Man trying to save Bruce Wayne from Hugo Strange for a different editor. Both got shot down.

Gabe - The whole point was for him to illustrate it as a portfolio piece so he could get more work doing superhero funnybooks, as I recall. Indie comics are nice and all, but Marvel and DC actually PAY you money for working for them. A novel concept.

Vito – After being shot down, I just let it die. I didn’t bother trying to write more Adventure-verse stories, or anything for DC, really. Every year, I’d make a list and write out every major character from both companies (Marvel and DC) and the stories I’d write, but I didn’t do anything with the lists. I just went back to work on my creator owned character, Mr. Mercury.

Gabe - Well, once written, the story just kind of lay at the wayside. It's hard to get motivated about stuff like that when, in Dean's case, you have other stuff to illustrate, and in mine, you have freelance writing gigs to occupy you {NOTE: Gabe writes for Blender Magazine]. That's a bit of a cop-out, kids -- sitting around hoping that someone will notice what a genius you are is a mug's game. To paraphrase my buddy P.W. Long (an amazing musician who all y'all should look up), you can wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first. Dig?

Vito – I think I was talking to a girl I was seeing about Bruce Wayne’s mind and how hard it must be to keep a secret all the time. The stress he must go through just to keep his secret…it’s got to be taxing. “The Couch” more or less evolved from that.

Gabe - So the story just kinda SAT there until Dean took a meeting with Joan Hilty, the editor of Batman Adventures, and she asked him if he had any stories he wanted to do for the book. He mentioned "Deathtrap," I sent the script to Joan, she liked it, and there you have it. We were in business.

Vito – I remember Dean telling me that Joan went for Gabe’s story. It kind of forced me to actually put words to action and write the script.

Dean – Suffice it to say, we three piggybacked each others talents, Hilty bought the scripts and, with minor editing, BATMAN ADVENTURES #9 was ours.

WORK IT…Making Comics

Gabe - The toughest part of doing the gig was the endless rewrites. Jesus! First off, I had to stretch the story to 17 pages, which I thought was a bit much. I mean, really -- it's a fun gag, not a super serous meditation on what it is to be Batman. But expand I had to, and I did so happily. Then grumpily. Then happily again.

Vito – If you ever want to test your skills and see how good you really are…write a five page story. I dare you.

Dean – The most challenging part of drawing BATMAN ADVENTURES was staying on model while still flexing my signature style.

Vito – Honestly, it was pretty painless. It was a pure collaboration with Dean. Dean drew my story first, as, if I’m not mistaken, he was still trying to get used to drawing in the animated style.

Dean - It was an important learning experience to strip down the figures, props, and sets, while maintaining a solid yet savvy amalgamation. Alex Toth and Bruce Timm are masters at boiling down the essence of any image, and so I leaned on their wares to inspire my own.

Vito – Dean and I were pretty much in each other’s face doing this. In a good way! We were constantly going back and forth because we were really trying to nail this story.

Gabe - I would sit for HOURS and agonize over a line of dialogue, which in the end seems silly, because it's an okay script. Not amazing, just okay. It's not like I'm Alan Moore and trying to win and Eisner or whatever the hell that award is. I wish I was Alan Moore, though, or had a tenth of his talent. Ah, sweet hackery!

Vito – I remember having a conversation with Dean about the art. He was fretting that he wasn’t getting it and it wouldn’t look right. I told him that he, in essence, is a pure Kirby clone. So is Timm. I pointed out the similarities in both their work and Kirby’s and in their own. I think that’s when he started to crank it out.

Gabe - I can't imagine how folks write this stuff monthly and don't lose their minds. What a fucking pain in the ass.

DRAWING BLANKS…The Roads Not Travelled

Gabe - In the initial script, Batman tells Robin about a time when he played a particularly harrowing match of speed chess against Two-Face in the park, as a joke. That got cut immediately, sadly, and I was sorry to see it go. Apparently it was a little too much levity for the hoi polloi. Nuts to that. In the final equation, it was good editing by Joan. Too meta.

Dean - You're always "killing darlings" when developing stories for franchise comics. A few minor scenes got scrapped or modified for others but, at the end of the day, that's what helps shape a better collaboration that serves the intended story and market.

Vito – The idea of word association really appealed to me, but originally, it was going to be just “work” and “play.” Dean was the one who told me to expand it to more word association…uh, words. This was even before I submitted the script to Joan.

FRINGE BENEFITS…Working With Friends

Dean – My favorite part of making comix is the layout stage. Interpreting the script, visualizing the overall thesis of the story, and designing it so that I create a seamless experience of words and pictures. That, plus getting excitable responses from my collaborators.

Gabe - My favorite part of the process was working with Dean, a good friend, and seeing my script come to life. I think I nearly peed my pants when Dino sent me the first thumbnail layout sketches for the book, they were so cool. I had written the script to be enjoyable to draw. That's why most of the story consists of splash pages. And Dean... well, my boy just knocked the ball out of the park. I was happy that HE was happy and enjoying himself.

Dean – Making comix is a solitary job and every kernel of communication [sans spoiling the proverbial soup] is much appreciated.

Gabe - The bastard still won't give me any original art, though.

Vito – I have to agree with Gabe that the best part was working with Dean. Knowing him for so long…it was a great collaboration, an unexpected one too. The second best part was…dammit, Batman! My first story and its Batman! Are you kidding me?

THE PROOF AND THE PUDDING – Batman Adventures #9

Gabe - Extremely pleased with the finished product, although I wish I had actually written at least one sound effect into the script. It's eerie, how SILENT the book is, even though folks are talking throughout. And seeing the book together, with my story and Vito's all hugged up, made me so damn proud I can barely express it.

Dean – I was quite pleased by the final product. Besides the great scripts and easy editorial, I loved the coloring and lettering. I felt the issue presented both light and dark sides of BATMAN's legend and made for a swell one-shot for any fan or newbie to pick up.

Vito – I think there was a point where, in the middle of drawing the book, Dean said something about the way we told our stories in the issue. He said something about Gabe having all splash pages and iconic shots and my story had a tight 9 panel grid for 4 out of the 5 pages. It made for a very unique looking book.

Gabe – It's at that point which I understood how somebody could do this from month to month. Serial fiction is where it's at, baby. Such a gas.

Vito - We had different stories to tell, and we told them in our own way. I think that if one person got anything out of this experience it was Dean. Dean can really tell a story, as evidenced in his creator owned-Billy Dogma stuff. But in BA #9, he had to first work with a writer that wasn’t himself…two of them in fact. He had to draw a new style that wasn’t his own. He had to tell two different stories graphically. I think he hit it out of the park.


Gabe - Initially, I was kinda upset by the vicious fan reaction to the book. Vito sent Dean and I a link to a message board about Batman Adventures, and the folks on it were brutal about my story and Dean's art. They liked Vito's story, which was a little more serious minded, but I was taken to task for my flippant tone and the voice of my dialogue, which folks criticized for being too much like the 60s TV series, among other things.

Vito – Yeah, I never got that. I mean, even the cartoon had moments of camp. People just picked on the language used, and Dean’s art being “off model.” It wasn’t fair.

Dean – I try not to let negative comments badger me unless they're constructive. The negative feedback for BATMAN ADVENTURES #9 seemed to be made manifest from a type of uber-fanbase that abhors alternative voices, even for one measly issue.

Gabe - I got over it, though. Critics, you know? Personally, I love Batman, but I'm not the biggest fan of a lot of the modern interpretations of the character. Too damn dark, you know? Frank Miller gets him right (in my opinion), as does Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, who I think wrote the finest Batman EVER in JLA, but for the most part, Batman's so grim it's BORING. Dull.

Dean – I suppose our spin was semi-jarring for sticklers of continuity but, in their latter years, they'll [hopefully] come to appreciate the love and energy that went into the maligned stories and art of BATMAN ADVENTURES #9. Otherwise, as Sly Stone once put it -- "Different strokes for different folks."

Gabe - I appreciate the fact that folks love him, but people need to lighten up. Batman's an endlessly mutable icon, Bat-fans. He can be everything to everybody! And yes, I'm a unrepentant fan of the television show and am highly suspicious of folks who aren't. How could you not love something so surreal, lighthearted and goofy? How can you not get giddy delight out of the fact that Batman invents a dance called the Batusi? How can you not frug joyously to the honkin' sax bliss that is the song "Holy Flypaper" (included on the soundtrack to the show)?

Vito – I was very lucky. I came off as a genius. I had a lot of fans tell me how much they liked the story and it was very reassuring. Nothing was better than hearing my buddy Dan [Slott] tell me he liked it…it was very nice of him and it made me feel good about taking his book for a month. And then Ty said I could come back to the book whenever I wanted. For a rookie who never wrote anything that was published before, it was a great experience.

Gabe - In the end, to the fans of Batman Adventures, I apologize: I'm sorry I came along and peed on your lawn -- I was drunk and really couldn't hold it in anymore.

Vito – I always say that Gabe shouldn’t apologize. Our issue was a one time thing that didn’t need to have any continuity to it. Jason (Hall) did one that referred to a story he did already…Gabe, Dean and I weren’t that lucky.

Gabe - That said, I sure am looking forward to the new movie. That Christian Bale is a dreamboat.

[Rejected cover concept]

[Layouts for "The Couch"]


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