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Biographies of the Stars

Interview with Doug Moench (1993)

COMIC-ART.COM:When did you first start writing Batman?

DOUG: This is actually my second run on Batman. The first time was, I believe was in late '82 or '83, and I think I did it, I did Batman and Detective up until I think '87. My last issue on the initial run was Batman #400. We have chirps, is that okay?

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it's just beeping to let you know that you're being taped.

DOUG: Okay. So my last one on the first run was Batman #400. That was that anniversary double-size or triple-size jam session with all the different artists that had about ten, fifteen different artists on it. And then I came back, I think, on Batman #48-something. I can't remember which one. I guess I've been on it for about three years now for the second run.

COMIC-ART.COM: Let me ask you, why did you leave it initially?

DOUG: They changed editors, they changed artists, they changed writers. It was their decision, not mine.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, okay, yeah. I was just wondering if perhaps you'd gotten burned out on Batman.

DOUG: No, no, no.

COMIC-ART.COM: Earlier in the week I had interviewed Jim Aparo and he was saying that you were probably his favorite writer on the character.

DOUG: Oh, that's nice of him to say. I'm writing something that will have him involved, it's a thing called Brotherhood of the Bat, a sixty-four page one shot, which will also be done jam-style, with Norm Breyfogle, Vince Gerano, Jim Ballant, Graham Nolan, oh man, who am I leaving out? Tom Grommet (sp?) and a few others, and Jim will be handling like the framing parts.

COMIC-ART.COM: Will Kelley do anything for it?

DOUG: Ah, no. Kelley is so busy on the monthly that we couldn't spring him free even for one chapter, unfortunately.


DOUG: Yeah, but this is going to be a really nifty one-shot, I think. When we changed Batman's costume, we hired I don't know how many, about ten artists I think, to come up with designs for the new costume and then we picked the one that we thought would be the best, but not so extreme, you know, a change, but that all the designs turned out so well, even the ones we couldn't really use because they were just too drastic a change, that I decided that, Hey--why don't we do a story using all these designs? And that's what Brotherhood of the Bat is, so that, it's going to be kind of cool.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, now what was the thinking behind redesigning Batman's costume, the same one he's had since the sixties?

DOUG: I think because you know Bane broke his back and he went away and then we had Azrael Batman and so on and so forth, then we wanted this big deal where Bruce Wayne returns, and we wanted a visual way to signify, not just his return, but the fact that when he returns he has to be different, he has to have been changed by the experience he went through. That was the thinking behind it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Was it influenced at all by the black costume in the movies?

DOUG: No, although the way the changed costume has evolved it certainly is closer. The one that we all voted on and picked was not all black originally. It's been tweaked since then so that the one we picked actually is not the one you're seeing. It's like an amalgamation of several of them, and it has turned that it is, it's not really like the movie one, but it's certainly being black like that, it's closer to it, yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: What comic did the new costume first appear in?

DOUG: Batman #515.

COMIC-ART.COM: And you said we voted on it? Who are the people who voted on it besides you?

DOUG: Everyone who attended that particular Bat-conference. It was the, let's see, four, five editors: Archie Goodwin, Denny O'Neil, Scott Peterson and Jordan Gorfinkel. Four editors. Maybe Darren Vincenzo was there, I can't recall. And then the three writers, Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon and myself.

COMIC-ART.COM: None of the artists were asked?

DOUG: It wouldn't be fair for them to vote on their own stuff, see? They were asked to leave the room while the rest of us voted.

COMIC-ART.COM: I see, okay.

DOUG: Because not all the artists could attend. I think three or four of them were there, and it wouldn't be fair to let those guys vote and not the other guys who had designed costumed.

COMIC-ART.COM: Now I know that Denny is basically sort of the main Bat-editor. What's Archie doing. Does he work on special projects?

DOUG: Well, Archie edits Legends of the Dark Knight, month in and month out, which is one of the main Bat-books. It's removed from the continuity, so even though it's a monthly Bat-title, there is no real problem with having a different editor handle that one. And then he does do, various one-shots and special projects involved with the Bat-universe or whatever you want to call it, like the Bat-Mite special that Alan and Kevin O'Neill just did, you know, things like that once in a while.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. I can't believe they're bringing back Bat-Mite.

DOUG: Yeah, well it's kind of cute. It's kind of cute. I think it's the kind of thing Alan Grant does really well and, you know, I mean it's not in continuity, it's sort of like a, I guess it is technically an Elseworlds story or it's being played as if it were. You know, it's not really happening, it's just a cute one-shot.

COMIC-ART.COM: You know, Doug, I just thought of where you might have seen my name before. I co-wrote that Robin 3000 miniseries.

DOUG: Oh, okay, that's probably one of the places, yeah.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, and originally it was supposed to be Tom Swift. I had done it for Byron Preiss. I did about three of those. We were going to package them for Simon and Shuster and then they pulled the plug on it back around '87.

DOUG: Huh. That's too bad. But it worked out.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it did. It was a beautiful book.

DOUG: Yep. Yep.

COMIC-ART.COM: But, yeah. Speaking of beautiful books, your stuff with Kelley lately, those last three issues, man, were just nice stuff.

DOUG: Thank you. I just got the new one, the first one of, first of all, let us not omit the name John Beatty.

COMIC-ART.COM: John Beatty. Beatty, yeah, is doing a great job. His inks are so rich.

DOUG: It's a three-man team here, you know, and not that we want to leave out the colorist and the letterer, but the core group is really, you know, me and John and Kelley working together. Kelley is really doing some strong stuff, and John's inks--Wow! You know, really, really, really enhancing it well, and, yeah, I got the latest one, which is I think our one, two, three, four, our fifth one. You've only seen three?

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. I don't have #515.

DOUG: Oh, okay, well then this would be the fourth one for you. And it's the first one that's on the improved paper and the computer coloring, and you know, I mean it's like an Image quality in terms of production. It feels heavier in your hand, the paper's thicker, slicker. The coloring is not only better, it's a completely different process. It does all kinds of key line dropouts where it's just color without black lines holding it. It really looks nice. I'm, especially since it's like the first one, you know it's only going to get better from here. I was afraid the first one would be a disaster before everybody learned what they were doing with all these new process, but it actually turned out really well.

COMIC-ART.COM: Who's coloring it since Adrienne Roy left?

DOUG: Greg Wright.

COMIC-ART.COM: What is the direction you're going to take Batman into in the future?

DOUG: Well, upcoming we have a one-part Bullock story and that's one issue that's done by Eduardo Baretto. You could call it a fill-in, but it's not really a fill-in because Kelley was not late. This was forced by the change in the process. Now the stuff has to be in sooner because of all this more complicated coloring and so on. But Kelley comes right back after that one issue and we have a two-part Killer Croc story, the second part of which is the first crossover between the DC universe and Vertigo, which has Swamp Thing in it, and we're pretty excited about that. You know Kelley'll do a great Swamp Thing, of course.

COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, of course, dripping with moss.

DOUG: Oh, yeah, and then after that we have a two-part scarecrow, which is loosely tied in to my Batman Annual for this year, which is Scarecrow Year One story. It's like the origin of Scarecrow. All of the annuals this year, at least in the Batman books, I think in every book in the company, are Year One books. You know, Year One Poison Ivy, Year One Riddler, Year One Man-Bat, and so on and so forth. Well, I did Scarecrow. It gives his origin, fleshes him out real well. And then Kelley and I are doing this two-parter, which of course is many years later. It's in the current continuity rather than Year One, but it does play off of some of the things that were established in the Year One annual, without the necessity to read, it's not like you have to read the annual to make sense of this.
That's the one thing that Kelley and John and I are really, I think, happy with right now, especially me, after being tied with all the other books for so long, with the Knightfall, Knightquest, Knightsend. Now it's like a nice change of pace to have these stories that are complete in themselves, one-parters and two-parters in the same book. And you can get a nice, satisfying thing without having to go from this book to the other and back and forth and so on and the changes in writers and artists and so on. It's all by the same team, all in the same title. Much more compact and I think that is refreshing for the readers as well as us. We will have another cross-continuity thing, In, I guess about a year. But it won't be as long as the Knights thing. I think that was something like seventy-plus issues, when you added it all up. And it's not going to be anywhere near that. Anyway, after the two-part Scarecrow I think we have a one-part, we're going to revamp this guy Mr. Freeze and then we have a top-secret one-part issue that they won't even tell me all about yet, you know, and then what do we have? Well, Man-Bat will be coming up, and who else? Two-Face, and Poison Ivy, and then, of course, all the Bat-Books are gearing up for the anniversary issue of Detective, number seven hundred, which is in about a year or so, I guess

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, it sounds like you're using a lot of the classic villains. Do you have any that are particular favorites?

DOUG: Yeah. Everybody's favorite is probably the Joker, and then I really like Man-Bat. I really like Two-Face. I like what I'm doing on Killer Croc here. That doesn't mean I like him all the time, but this particular two-parter which ties in to Swamp Thing, I think that's a good one. I'm doing something a little different with him, but with Killer Croc.

COMIC-ART.COM: Killer Croc seems like he's just made for an alligators in the sewer story.

DOUG: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, and in the swamp. He's made for a team-up with Swamp Thing, no doubt about it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, in Kelley's hands, I'm sure it's going to be really atmospheric.

DOUG: Oh, it is. I mean I'm writing the pages now. It's amazing. We're hoping that this, you know, the second part of that, is going to be, by far, the best to that date, issue, by the three of us.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, it seems from talking to Kelley, and from talking to you now, that you've got a really exciting synergy going.

DOUG: Yeah, I think so. I think so. It's a special thing. I've had it before with Paul Gulacy and Mike Ploog, and Bill Sienkiwicz, but I haven't had it in quite a while, and it's finally hit with Kelley and John, and it's like old times, you know, with that feeling that it's something special again. Not that I'm putting down what I've done in the last five years or so, but this stuff really, you know, I don't know if you saw the hardcover graphic albums we did, graphic novels: Red Rain and Bloodstorm, and Dark Joker...but that's where we really realized that there was a synergy going on, and it has spilled over. We were afraid that we wouldn't be able to do it on a monthly basis, but I think we're maintaining it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Doug, looking back on all the Batman work that other people have done, is there anything that anyone else did that has ever particularly influenced your own approach?

DOUG: Well, all of it, to one extent or another, except maybe the goofy fifties bizarre science fiction stuff. But the very early dark and nasty stuff, sure, that influenced me. The Bill Finger and Dick Sprang and Jerry Robinson stuff, that influenced me. The sixties stuff by O'Neil and Adams, the return to the dark stuff of the beginning, that influenced me. That's probably the last stuff that influenced me, but you know, I mean, you can't help but being influenced by all of the stuff that you read in one way or another.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. Did you read the issues of Detective that Archie edited in the seventies?

DOUG: Oh yeah. I thought that was great stuff.

COMIC-ART.COM: I thought so too. I thought that was a particular highlight of...

DOUG: I just talked to Archie. Not this phone call, just about an hour ago, but the last phone call we had I told him, I said, `Hey, Arch, those Detectives you did in the seventies, those were really sleepers. People don't realize how'...And you know, of course Archie and his `Aw, gee, gorsh' kind of thing, always trying to be modest. `Well, that's the story of my life. Nothing but sleepers.' Those were really fine, fine stories. Really solid. Maybe not flashy and spectacular in a surface, but man, they were good reading.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, like that one job he did with Toth. That's a classic.

DOUG: Absolutely. I've always been a big Toth guy, yep. I hear he's a crusty old guy, but that's okay.

COMIC-ART.COM: Well, I think he's earned it.

DOUG:I love his work, man.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. Me, too. Me, too. You did a fair amount of Batman with Gulacy, too, didn't you?

DOUG: We did a two-part story in Batman, back around, I don't know, '85, '86, something like that. Then we just finished the four-part Batman versus Predator. The second Batman versus Predator series. The last one of that just came out a month or two ago.

COMIC-ART.COM: Okay, so the whole run of that is out now?

DOUG: Yeah. Yeah. I'm hearing that a lot: When's the fourth issue coming out? And, hey, guess what? I got news for you--it's out and sold out. A lot of people are saying: `Well when's that fourth one coming out?' It came and went.

COMIC-ART.COM: Do you think there's any plans to collect that one into a book?

DOUG: I certainly hope so because that thing sold out real fast.

COMIC-ART.COM: Doug, what do you think is the reason why Batman has been such a successful character for so long?

DOUG: Well, first of all I think, well I think there's two reasons. His origin is very primal and pure. You know, it's the nightmare of a kid losing his parents, and the way he lost them, to violence, makes it all the more horrifying. And the second thing is, I think you can more easily identify with a Batman than you can with some gamma-ray super-powered guy because it's at least within the realms of possibility that you could study and learn and train your body and be a Batman.
I mean, you know, maybe he's the world's greatest, he's better than the best athlete in the Olympics, but he's not that much past the bounds of the possible. He's more realistic even though yes, sure, it's comic book fantasy, but you can identify with him. He's more grounded in realism. He doesn't lift buildings or hover in mid-air or anything like that. And those are, I think, the two things, then you get into all kinds of other psychological archetypes and mythical resonances. He speaks to us in a deep way that we don't consciously realize. He's a hero, and yet he looks like a devil with those horns, you know, those bat-ears look like horns and he's a dark angel and there's a very complex, convoluted kind of thing going on there and you know I prefer not to get into that, to over-think it too much. I'd rather just, you know let that stuff simmer in the subconscious. If it comes out in my writing, fine. If it strikes a chord in the readers' deep subconscious, fine, but if you pick that apart too much and over-analyze the archetypes stuff you probably are going to lose it.

COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well, something Denny said the last time I talked with him made me think that Finger and Bob Kane had accidentally tapped into an archetype without meaning to.

DOUG: Yeah, and I think that's the only way you can do it. If you try to do it, yeah, maybe you can do it, but it's going to see studied, it's going to seem labored, it's going to seem too obvious. The only way it's really going to work and strike a chord and resonate with you is if it is by accident. An archetype by its nature has to be, I think, subconscious. It has to be very deeply imbedded in the character.

We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript

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