It is Chip Zdarsky’s multiverse – we’re just living in it. The Canadian writer and artist (real name: Steve Murray, born in Edmonton and raised in Barrie, Ont.) has been something of a flesh-and-blood superhero in comic-book circles for the past decade, first earning industry notice for his edgy Eisner Award-winning series Sex Criminals with Matt Fraction, then being placed in charge of Marvel’s weirdest (Howard the Duck) and biggest (Star-Lord, Daredevil, Spider-Man) properties.
Now, Zdarsky – who before gaining a foothold in the comics world worked as an illustrator/advice columnist/Garfield correspondent at the National Post – is set to run the industry’s most prestigious title: Batman. Starting in July, Zdarsky and artist Jorge Jimenez are taking over DC Comics’ landmark title, just as the world gets a new on-screen Dark Knight in Robert Pattinson (and a few months before Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton’s takes on the vigilante hit the screen in November’s The Flash).
Ahead of this new Bat-era, Zdarsky spoke with The Globe and Mail about the similarities between comics writing and Canadian newspapers, and building bridges between the worlds of Marvel and DC.
You’ve handled Spider-Man, Daredevil, now Batman (not to mention Jughead). Who else is on your comic-book bucket list?
I’ve definitely got a couple, but it’s one of those things where I hate to say them out loud because usually a friend of mine is currently writing the title. It’d be like if a friend of yours was being interviewed about their dream job and they said, “Oh, deputy arts editor of The Globe and Mail.” The knives are everywhere, Barry!
Is it safe to say that your recent work on the anthology series Batman: Urban Legends was an audition of sorts, and you … passed?
I guess it was! The Urban Legends story was my take on modern Batman. But also over the pandemic I’d been writing Batman: The Knight, which is a miniseries about young Bruce Wayne travelling the world and acquiring his bat-skills. That was for the main Batman editor, Ben Abernathy, and we got along really well. I think he enjoyed the scripts and also working with me. As you know, I came from Canadian newspapers, so the daily deadlines of those jobs made me pretty good with the monthly deadlines of comic books. Never underestimate turning scripts in on time in career advancement.
You’re calling this upcoming Batman arc “Failsafe” the Dark Knight’s own “Doomsday,” referring I guess to Superman’s own infamous brush with death in 1993. What other inspirations are going to be felt here? And should I be stocking on up on the issues in the hopes they become Death of Superman rare (or, rather, in the hopes it becomes worth substantially more than DOS ended up being worth)?
Yeah, I mean, back in the day the Batman equivalent of Doomsday was Bane, who infamously broke his back in the comics. And then Tom Hardy broke Christian Bale’s back in the movies. Classic Tom Hardy! Here I wanted to design a villain with our artist Jorge that could challenge Batman in a bigger way. Look, I’m not discounting broken backs, but Christian Bale just healed his by chilling out in a pit and hanging by a rope, really stretching that puppy out. It’ll take more than that for what we’re doing in the comic. And hey, I’m in no position to be giving advice on how to balance your financial portfolio. And don’t look to Batman for advice either. Bruce Wayne got rich by paying that guy to off his billionaire parents in an alley.
This year, audiences will get three on-screen Batmen: Pattinson, Affleck and even Keaton. How will your on-the-page Bruce Wayne will stand apart?
Mine is surrounded by Robins. Surrounded! In the comics Batman has a very large supporting cast. A lot of what I’m doing in the book is having him deal with that fact. Is it a good thing to have an army of proteges? What’s his responsibility to the ones willing to follow him into this vigilante life? Also, thanks to our amazing artist, Jorge Jiménez, our Batman is way more handsome than those other chumps.
Do you think we’re reaching a point of Batman-saturation? Baturation? Or is the world simply in constant want of new Dark Knight tales?
He’s a popular character! The only thing that will derail the Baturation, or has in the past, is bad work. And it can be challenging to make good work when so many stories and versions of the character exist out there already. But man, it really feels like there’s stuff out there for every Batman fan from bat-cradle to bat-grave.
Not long ago, it was unheard of for a writer to be working on both DC and Marvel books. Yet you’re still going to be on Daredevil. How does that work?
Ha! I switched from an exclusive contracts to non-exclusive contracts a couple of years ago because I’m so scared of commitment. It feels like there’s less of an intense rivalry between Marvel and DC these days, so everyone’s been really kind and supportive about my dual company work. At least they’ve been kind to my face! I think I’m the first person to write both books at the same time? It’s a weird world.
A few years ago, there was a deal for Sex Criminals to become a TV series with Universal. Is there any update on that development?
After a few years of development, the rights are back with Matt Fraction and myself. So we can finally go and produce the stage musical, I guess?
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