Marc Silvestri is one of the co-founders of Image Comics, a classic Wolverine/X-Men artist, the head honcho at Top Cow, and the creator of characters like Darkness and Cyblade. And, for the next few months, he is the writer/artist on “Batman and the Joker: Deadly Duo” for DC. Recruited by his old Image cohort Jim Lee, Silvestri set out to tell a tale that would allow him to flex his artistic muscles and have some fun. We spoke with Silvestri about the book, his approach to the characters, and why Gotham City is so important to Batman comics.
Written and Illustrated by Marc Silvestri
The Joker will go to any lengths to get Harley Quinn back after she is abducted by a strange culprit. But who? Mysterious, Joker-like monsters are stalking the streets of Gotham, collecting severed heads. But why? Jim Gordon is missing, and after receiving a package containing a bloody piece of Gotham’s commissioner, Batman knows he must be willing to do anything to save him. But how? When The Joker proposes an uneasy alliance with Batman, the answers to those questions begin to become clear–and they will shake Gotham City and the Bat-Family to their core. This meticulously crafted tale of the Dark Knight’s deadliest team-up will introduce you to a grim and gritty Gotham that only Marc Silvestri could bring you.
I want to talk about the way that things unfold. This series was first rumored about 10 years ago. And whether you believe certain parties or not, it’s been a long time, but it’s certainly been at least a few years in the making. And my question for you is when there’s a project like this, that is a change of pace from what you’re normally doing, working with these almost impossibly iconic characters is there a sense that you want to get this right, so you’re taking as much time as possible? Or was it just a matter of things not lining up properly for the series before this?
Marc Silvestri: It was a combination of the two, actually. Jim Lee and DC proper have been very patient. And from the get go, we were like, you know, this is going to take a while. You know, because Jim has been bugging me. I’ve been friends with Jim for more than 30 years. And ever since he gotten position over it at DC has been bugging me come over to Batman, you know, over the years, he’d bug me and it was “come on, Jim, I got a business to run, I’ve got a life to lead.”
I did have this story because I grew up on the old school TV Batman, you know, to age myself. So yeah, it’s Batman. And who doesn’t love Batman? He is one of my favorite characters, and I had this story that I wanted to tell, but I figured it had been told a million times, right? Because it just seemed like a no brainer to me. So I finally relented, you know, I’ll pitch this idea to Bob Harras. And this was like seven years ago. I think, “Batman is 80 years old, they’ve done it a million times, [they’ll hear this pitch, realize its been done,] and I’m out, right?[
So I told Bob my one sentence pitch: I want to do the story where the Batman and the Joker have to team up together to fight a new common enemy. “Boom. It’s a great.” “ You haven’t done this a bazillion times already? You’re not over this?” “No. But this is a cool idea.”
So it boggled my mind that it hadn’t been explored in a really deep level, because it just seemed natural to me. Because we all know Batman and Joker, pop culture icons, the greatest antagonists, in my mind, that have ever existed. Everyone’s always said they are the two sides of the same coin. It’s a great way to describe that relationship. But what I wanted to do was go deeper in that, as during the course of an action adventure horror story, let’s go deeper. And what does that relationship mean? What if they were both on the same side of that coin? Right, instead of being on opposite sides of the coin? How about they were forced to be on the same side of that coin? What would that do? How would that change the perception of who they are with each other? Or how would it reinforce certain things?Continued below
But to me, that was the crux of the story. I wanted to tell you what would happen, because the second you think of that ludicrous team up, it almost writes itself. Once that was greenlit as an idea, the wheels started to really turn because I had the germ of it. I knew where I wanted to start and I was wanting it to end, and it just had to fill in the gaps in between.
When I originally pitched, some parts of it were in continuity. Bob said “don’t worry about that, let’s make this evergreen. Let’s make it so 20 years from now, somebody could pick up this collected edition and it wouldn’t matter where Batman was or where Joker was, it didn’t matter.” So I was like that was so freeing for the story, and I can do whatever I want. Which was great. As a as a storyteller creator, this is like, let me go.
I think there’s a real power in taking, you know, to quote a Gorilla Monsoon phrase from my childhood, the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. You’ve gpt these two heavy hitters in Batman and Joker, but with that comes a certain amount of pressure. Did you feel the sort of enormity of the two characters that were under your pen and pencil?
MS: Oh, absolutely, and especially since I wanted to try so many new things for myself, in my career, because I’ve been doing this since 1981. How can I reinvent myself a little bit? So I went to this whole new graphic change. So that visually, look, it’s still me, you can tell it’s me, and I have some of that 90s bombast in there for fun. But I wanted to up my game as much as possible. And also, more importantly, tell a story, right? Like you said, these are iconic characters that are, you know, 80 years old. Their stories have been told to death, but there is a reason why people want to see Batman and Joker.. And you’ll get complaints. “Oh, my God, another Batman/Joker.” No, you’re not. Joker and Batman are the best combination in pop culture. So if I did my job correctly, I can tell that oft told relationship story in a new, fresh way, that will hopefully be not just thought provoking, because at the end of this, I want people to kind of put down the book and go “ell, I wasn’t really expecting that.” By its nature, just the concept that they have to work together is ludicrous and fun. You know, that being said, things get dark.
Well, it’s a Batman Joker story. If it was all sunshine and roses, I’d be a little bit worried.[
I want to talk about the art for a moment. I want to talk about the design of Batman. You know, so many Batman artists have a definitive feature like Kelley Jones had the really big, exaggerated ears on the costume. Frank Miller’s Batman is built like a brick shithouse. When you started drawing him, what is the essential element for you? What did you feel like “I have to get this right to make this my Batman.”
MS: This one thing I noticed right away when I started to do some research, because I wanted to be true to Batman, obviously, and especially before I realized I was going to be out of continuity. I want to be respectful, like “well what does he look like today?” And I realized that very thing: your Batman looks like whoever is working on him as long as he’s Batman and recognizable, you’re fine. So that was freeing. But also, I made a conscious decision. I think the armored Batman works in the cinema, right? I think it makes all the sense in the world. In fact, the opposite I think would be kind of silly.
But in comics, I feel it’s the opposite. I think with the armored Batman, you lose the force of nature aspect of the physicality of Batman. And that was important for two reasons. One of which was that I want him to be physically imposing without any armor. This isn’t Iron Man, this is a human being. And for a human being to be that scary is a powerful thing. Right? But I also want it because this was a team up and Batman, the Joker, we’re going to be in close proximity often. I want you to see using visual shorthand, that they were both very scary in different ways. Batman is wildly imposing, right? I sculpted his cowl for specific reasons, when the light would hit it in certain ways. He would look evil, right? Not just intimidating, but he would actually look like he could be the bad guy. Even if you were not a criminal. So that was important, almost devilish. The Joker on the other hand, I purposely made extra slight. He’s this rail thin, tall guy that is not physically imposing. So why would you be scared of both of them? And the reason why is the Joker, as non intimidating physically Aside from his face, which looks creepy, is that he is brilliant and utterly insane. He simply does not care. And that’s what gives him him power. That’s why he’s able to stand toe to toe with Batman. That’s why in a fight, he can fight physically with Batman. Right? Not because he’s physically stronger than him, not even close. But he’s got the element that Batman doesn’t have is that he simply doesn’t care. That was important for me. So that’s why I have the visual shorthand of a very physical looking Batman. And hey, I want to draw some big ass muscles on the guy!. The crazy torn material cape was a lot of fun as well. Plus, I gave him some cool new toys.Continued below
Gotham City as a location is the most iconic location in comics. Was there an element of Gotham City that you were particularly excited to get your hands on? Like, you know, I would imagine drawing the Batcave is pretty fun.
MS: One thing that I made sure of, because I also grew up on the original Star Trek series. A lot of people forget that the four main characters in Star Trek were Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the Enterprise. People forget that the enterprise was a character. I think sometimes people forget that Gotham City is not just a physical space that’s imposing, it is a living breathing thing, and that’s what I want to convey in my visual interpretation of Gotham. Aside from the fact that I hate using rulers, I wanted to give it this really organic feel to it. That was a combination of like diesel punk meets the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, right? And kind of collides in that way.
I want you to get the feeling as you’re reading the story because I put a lot of subliminal cues in there. And I’m going to spoil one of them for you. I purposely wanted to make the biggest Batcave you’ve ever seen. But I wanted to give this expansive feel to it when you first see it, because as the story progresses, as it gets darker around Batman, the Batcave itself physically gets smaller. As you see it, it becomes this vast open area to the smaller and smaller, darker and darker cocoon around him as the world becomes darker and more dangerous.
And I think as an aside, I think Batman says maybe five or six lines to the Joker the whole series, but the Joker will not shut up. So there’s fun to be had in that just that relationship and how they have to deal with each other to fight together literally. But I wanted the reader to feel that this impending doom was overhanging that wow, maybe, maybe they’re not going to get through this unscathed? And I wanted to give that feeling with not just their actions, with the decisions Batman makes , but also the physical presence of the world itself, to give this feeling of foreboding. And hopefully, you know, if I did my job correctly, people will feel that on a visceral level.
But it was also just fun to do these crazy ass buildings.
“Batman & The Joker: Deadly Duo” #1 is available wherever you get comics.