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Biographies of the Stars

Interview with Doug Moench (1995)

COMIC-ART.COM: How long have you worked on Batman over the years, off and on.

DOUG: I think the first time was '82 and from '82 until, I don't know, '87 or '88, something like that, and then I guess, '92 or '91 I came back.

COMIC-ART.COM: Was that working on the graphic novels?

DOUG: No. The graphic novels were, excuse me but a big truck just pulled up. Okay, I'm going to let it go. I know what it is. It's gravel. The graphic novels, the first one was Red Rain, and that was before, it was started before I started back on the regular monthly book. But I think I was on the monthly book before Red Rain came out. I could be wrong that. Was Red Rain like '89?

COMIC-ART.COM: It was '89-'90. I think the publication date was '90.

DOUG: Okay, so I guess by '90, naw--Could I have been back on the book for five years? That doesn't seem right. 481 was my first one back.

COMIC-ART.COM: I can look that up.

DOUG: The last one I did the first time was that Giant-sized number four hundred, and then I came back on number 481. At 481 now I'm doing like five thirty-three or five thirty-two. How many does that work out to be?


DOUG: Twenty and thirty-one, about fifty-one issues. How many, what's fifty-one divided by twelve?

COMIC-ART.COM: Fifty-one divided by twelve, that's about four years' worth. A little over four years.

DOUG: Okay, so I've been back for four years.

COMIC-ART.COM: That makes sense. Doug, you've gotten to work with some really good artists during in your career, notably Paul Gulacy and Bill Sienkiewicz--

DOUG: Weren't you friends with Paul Gulacy?

COMIC-ART.COM: No. I don't know Gulacy. I know Bill a little bit. But I'm a big admirer of his work, going back to the old Master of Kung Fu days.

DOUG: Right.

COMIC-ART.COM: The reason I bring it up is I was just wondering, how is working with Kelley Jones different than working with those guys?

DOUG: Well, actually I, in the new issue of Batman that's out, the one was done by Jim Williams as a fill-in issue, and Jim did a great job, but it's funny, the letters page contains my, you know, "Love letter to Kelley", in which I do compare Kelley to my favorite collaborators of the past and I included in there Mike Ploog, Mike Zeck, Gene Day, Bill Sienkiewicz, and maybe one or two others and then I said, `Plus, I'd put Kelley right alongside my continuing collaborator, Paul Gulacy.' And those two guys are probably my favorites of all time. And I think I said something like, `The magic created with each one is very different, and yet...' or, no, `the results created by each collaboration are very different, but I feel there's a true magic in each one. It's a different kind of magic.' Paul, of course, is more of a cinematic storyteller, and Kelley is more of a single-image, a single striking image that jumps off the page, you know what I mean.
So, it is very different, and yet I really do feel that I mesh with both guys to create what I always call a synergy. That's where the finished thing is greater than the sum of its individual parts. It's a synthesis of words and pictures in both cases and, you know, when you break it apart and look at the pictures alone and then the words alone, and then you look at the finished product, which is the two of them synthesized and put together, that seems greater than the individual components, to me anyway.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, you know, it's funny you should use the word synergy. When I was interviewing Kelley a few days back we talked about the synergy of two creators and I had thought that one of the things lacking in a lot of the comics now, where it's a one-man show, something like Spawn is that synergy, one guy writing and drawing everything.

DOUG: Yeah, which is not bad. In fact, there was a time when I felt that was best and I was thinking back to the days of Carl Barks and Will Eisner, even Jim Steranko. Now, the only guy that I can think of that maybe comes close, other than if you go into things like, Robert Crumb, you know, the underground stuff, in mainstream comics, is Frank Miller.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's the only example I could think of, too.

DOUG: And it's like, well, in recent years the best stuff has been done by teams, in recent years, I'm including the last 20 years, I guess. I don't know why that is. I guess that it's just very rare for one person to be extremely talented in both writing and drawing. I mean it's just a very rare combination and therefore, you probably do get more good comics lately when you have a really good writer teamed up with a really good artist then. By good writer, the most important thing in comics is understanding when not to write, and let the pictures carry part of the storytelling. That's the most important thing. I've always felt like, if you read a page of my typed dialogue, or the typed dialogue from any comic and you could make complete sense of it, then there's something wrong with it. You should, if you just read that without looking at the pictures, you should be totally baffled. It's like the pictures have to be there for it to make sense, or else it's not really good writing

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, Doug, aside from Miller, who are some people working in comics today whose work you like?

DOUG: Charles Burns, um ,oh, let's see. I liked Jerome Charon's The Magician's Wife, however, I did not like, I'm sorry to say, his recent paradox thing. But Billy Budd was okay, Margo was okay, Margo in Badtown, I guess. But, Magician's Wife I thought was really well-written. Charles Burns is the one that really jumps out as, you know, stuff that I've really liked, and I always liked who's the guy that does Binky Brown? I always liked his writing. But he hasn't done that much lately, so I don't know if you could consider him that good. From Hell is really good, Alan Moore. And, you know, I don't know how recent you mean, but if you're going back to those Swamp Things, those were great by Alan Moore. Have not read Watchmen, so I can't say anything about that.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's a terrific project. You ought to look that up sometime.

DOUG: Oh, I've got it. It's in my reading pile. It's just you know, there's nine million other things in the reading pile. Just haven't gotten around to it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, Doug, what do you have in the works in '96 for Batman?

DOUG: I'm sure Kelley told you about the three-part Deadman.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, he said you're going to take them down to South America.

DOUG: Yeah, it's involved with looted Inca treasure and a lost city and a dormant volcano, in which the Inca are still living as if four hundred years had not passed.

COMIC-ART.COM: That sounds like real Edgar Rice Burroughs territory.

DOUG: Yeah, yeah. Sort of, except that I tried to give it a more modern feel by having the stuff looted by Ollie North-type mercenaries left over from the Contra days, you know. They heard of this legend of a lost city, and after, you know they were done in Nicaragua and Honduras and so on, they decided to go to Peru and check this out, and low and behold they discovered this place, and they've been looting the Inca gold and silver and trying to sell it in Gotham, and that's how Batman gets wind of it.
Now, Deadman gets involved because of missing time cases, people who wake up in a place they've never been before, `How do I get here? Oh my God, a day is missing out of my life.' And the solution of course is they've been possessed by a ghost and their bodies have been used like a car, you know. And then they leave the vehicle, and the person wakes up and has no idea why he has this missing time.

COMIC-ART.COM: That's sort of the way Deadman operates, isn't it?

DOUG: That's absolutely the way Deadman operates. And that's why Deadman knows that it's got to be ghosts. And that's why he's trying to solve this. Who's doing this? Which ghosts? And of course the ghosts are from this lost Inca city. And then we get the Inca mummies in there. They're brought back to life when they're possessed by their own ghosts. And the mummies walk and, it should be cool.

COMIC-ART.COM: It does sound like you're throwing in a lot of interesting stuff in those three issues.

DOUG: Well, it's not the usually Batman story, I'll tell you that. And I think it should stand out for that reason. It should be a refreshing change of pace. I love Gotham and Kelley loves Gotham. Part one takes place in Gotham, but I think it's nice, every once in a while to see Batman somewhere else, and a jungle! You know, you can't get more different from Gotham than that.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, Kelley said you were both into Willis O'Brien and jungle movies and stuff like that.

DOUG: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: One thing I've noticed during your recent run with Kelley is that you've been doing a lot of two-part stories.

DOUG: Yes. We did the one-part Mister Freeze, and then I've done two other one-parters without Kelley. But the three-parter is like our magnum opus, our longest thing since Bloodstorm and Red Rain and Dark Joker.

COMIC-ART.COM: Do you think you'll do any more longer storylines or continue on with the two or three-issue ones?

DOUG: I would prefer going with one, two, and three parters, but I don't know all that's going to happen in '96, because we haven't had our Bat-meet yet, at which a lot of this is determined. I will be requesting, suggesting, a number of other two and three parters when have that meeting, but there may be other things involved that nobody knows of yet that we'll have to get involved in, such as this one-part thing for "Contagion", where...If there's another crossover between all of the Batman books, that will determine, to a certain extent, what we have to do, during part of next year. But other than that, I'll just be requesting more two-parters and three-parters and one-parters, as we have in the past year.

We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript

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