Ignoring the adult-rated element, DC Black Label has allowed creators like Jock to explore different kinds of stories outside of the mainstream continuity. Take, for instance, Jock’s now ongoing three-issue series Batman: One Dark Knight. With the second issue out today (March 29), it’s as clear as
night day that truly good ideas can live in a vacuum. (It’s also afforded more pages per issue and a larger format, and that always helps).
Batman: One Dark Knight drops readers into a story about Batman trying to move a new villain named E.M.P. from Arkham to Black Gate. After something goes wrong, E.M.P. takes out the entire city’s power grid, rendering Batman’s gadgets and every light source dead. Now it’s up to Batman to literally carry E.M.P. to Black Gate, and he must fight through rival gangs and whatever else hides in the shadows.
The concept is reminiscent of movies like The Raid, or as Jock told me last week, The Warriors. To shed some light on the title at-large, Jock and I chatted about how he got the gig to write and draw the series, his various inspirations, and even his thoughts on The Batman movie, among other tidbits.
These are edited excerpts from the larger conversation. Listen to the full interview this Sunday (April 3) on the AIPT Comics podcast.
AIPT: Batman One Dark Knight, #1 is out. Issue #2 is out on March 29th. Number three is out in June. What made now the right time for this series?
Jock: It was a scratch that I’ve always wanted to itch basically. But it came about originally probably about four years ago. I started talking to the then, bat-editor, Mark Doyle in a bar in Chicago. He was just like, “well, what would you most like to do?” And I just said, “I’d love to write and draw my own Batman story.” Jokingly, but it was a great moment for me he just said, “Approved.”
Jock: Maybe this is something worth, worth pursuing. So we met a few more times over the years at shows and everything, we’d sit down and just have a little chat about it. It was essentially about schedules lining up and here we are talking about it now.
AIPT: Did you feel like you could stretch your legs a little more with the extra 48-pages per issue in the three-issue series?
Jock: Yeah, definitely. And the classic three-act structures fit into that really well. The whole thing appealed to me, the oversized format–I personally love having that extra room and I’m drawing the original pages slightly larger. I hadn’t realized with the traditional 11 by 17 pages I was starting to feel a little bit constrained, I guess, and these pages have just given me a chance to blow out a little bit more, which has been great.
AIPT: Plus it’s under DC Black Label. Did you get excited about being able to do something a little edger than the mainline books?
Jock: Well, in issue one, actually, I was like, it’s got the 17 plus on it. And I was like, “I don’t think there’s anything in this book that needs that,” you know.
AIPT: That’s funny.
Jock: Yeah. I need to get some more blood in here. There is some swearing in issue two, for those gang members walking about. I mean, come on. They’ve got to swear. I’ve never been a fan of the little asterisks and the little sort of question marks. The Black Label home is terrific for that. It just gives you a chance to stretch your legs and try different things.
AIPT: Was there any inspiration for One Dark Knight in comics or any other medium that kind of inspired it?
Jock: I wanted to tell a sort of traditional Batman story. I wanted to hit some notes of Batman over the years. That’s why I put him in his blue cape, for example, as a little bit of a callback, but I knew as well that that would work well in the blackout city. There’d be some pop there with his blue cape. I find myself drawn to classic seventies, American movies that we all love and Gotham has that feeling to me. The Warriors, the movie, was in there for the various gangs and factions across the city that are kind of closing in on Batman.
Really, I just wanted to tell my own, I think, fairly straightforward, but hopefully kind of effectively done A to B story where we drop Batman in a lot of trouble. And he has to use his wits that we all know to hopefully make sure it’s okay. You, so yeah. In my studio, I’ve got mood boards up and the bulk of the art I look at is the seventies, eighties, Neil Adams, Bernie Wrightson from that great Swamp Thing issue he did in the seventies. That kind of classic Batman story kind of appealed to me.
AIPT: What do you think makes Batman so cool in this scenario where he’s on his own with limited weaponry?
Jock: Yeah, it’s funny you say that because I just wanted to tell a story that I could give to anyone and they wouldn’t have to know about various continuity sort of things. Those are my favorite kinds of comics that you could just hand to anyone on the street and hopefully, it’ll be enjoyable.
And also who is he when he’s got nothing left, you know? When he is in his darkest moments, he finds that he likes it because he’s Batman and he’s in pitch black. What would be a challenge normal folk he finds that actually, that’s a strength. At the same time, who is this guy? How would he react to this extreme situation? And in fact, we find he actually responds to it in a way that no one else could.
AIPT: It’s so interesting how there are different kinds of versions of Batman where it’s like Batman kills God, or Batman has a plan for everything. And your take is very human and makes it so relatable and drops him into this scenario. It reminds me how people fantasize about living in harder times, like the Viking days to see if they could survive.
Jock: One of my goals was trying to make that city feel alive. I feel like that’s as much a part of the story’s character as the human characters themselves, you know?
AIPT: God, you must have drawn so many fire escapes. You’re like the king of fire escapes. I’m anointing you right now.
Jock: That’s funny. I was chatting with my good friend Andy Diggle. I sent him some One Dark Knight pages early on and he just replied saying, you’re the king of fire escapes. And now you said it too.
AIPT: Have you seen The Batman movie? Did you like it?
Jock: Great. I love how we can have these different presentations and they all work and it looked gorgeous. That is how I would do Gotham. There were lots of elevated train tracks, which is exactly what I’ve got in this that looked gorgeous. Robert Pattinson was terrific. The suit looked gorgeous. My friend, Glen Dylan, designed the suit. I worked with him on Star Wars. The suit is maybe the best we’ve seen. I loved how he was just detecting. There was something really, really refreshing about that.
AIPT: You are the writer and the artist on this project. Do you ever find you’re battling with yourself?
Jock: I tried to make sure that I didn’t edit my storyline for that very reason. Some people have joked, oh you’re setting it in a blackout. You’re a genius. You don’t have to draw anything, but I also decided to have like hundreds of gangs running around.
AIPT: How has it been working with letterer Clem Robbins?
Jock: Great. Clem lettered, The Losers. That was my first DC book. He lettered my very first job, Hellblazer, we did Wytches together with Scott. We did Snapshot, another book I did with Andy Diggle. There was no one else I wanted to get, to be honest. I’ve worked them so much. The truth is there’s something about his letters, growing up and reading like nineties books, like Preacher and Hellblazer. I remember my first job was Hellblazer and it was the only job I’ve had where the artboards came back and the letters were still done by hand and, and stuck onto the artboard and the thrill of getting the artwork back with Clem’s lettering. Clem’s the kind of letterer that makes your book look better.
AIPT: How would you describe the final issue of Batman: One Dark Knight?
Jock: It’s essentially a simple story about what I’m trying to get from point A to point B. The threads that I’m excited about are E.M.P’s family and lineage. His son who we meet more in issue two and how that comes together in issue three in a climax that will hopefully be satisfying. At the beginning of issue three, when Batman is underground, we do actually meet one of the rogue’s gallery. There’s someone’s down there that he has to sort out. The finale happens on the bridge over to Black Gate. I hope it’s exciting, satisfying, and awesome for everyone. That’s my goal.
AIPT: Do you suppose you have the writer’s bug? Are you thinking about doing any other, other projects where you draw and write or maybe just write?
Jock: I’d love to. We’ll see, I’ve chatted to my editor a little bit already. It’s been definitely a new challenge in a lot of ways, but you know, a lot of my favorite creators are writers/artists. Comics is such a pure thing that I think when the writer and the artist are the same person, there’s a purity to that.
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