Thursday, October 30, 2008

From The Desk of Steve Englehart

Ever since The Dark Knight film came out, people have been emailing me, pointing out things they noticed that came from my stories and asking for my impressions. Well...

Everyone who's seen the film has been mystified as to why it comes to an end - and then keeps going for another half hour, with a storyline that seems tacked on - where the handsome, blond, noble politician who's been the linchpin of the film that far suddenly makes a hundred-eighty degree turn to the dark side, egged on by the Joker.

As most everyone getting this knows, I wrote DARK DETECTIVE III beginning in January 2006, but Marshall Rogers died tragically and completely unexpectedly as he was drawing the first issue. What happened after that was puzzling.

A DC editor called up Terry Austin - not me - and said "There are some people up here who want that series dead, and Marshall's death gives them their excuse." Whereupon they cancelled the series. That in itself was not so puzzling, because DC has never liked the idea that the Englehart-Rogers-Austin Batman established the Batman film and animation franchise (and in retrospect, by creating the first adult superhero, the whole superhero film genre since 1989). They never deny that it did, because they can't; they just never talk about it at all. And thirty years of readers asking for it only yielded the six issues of DARK DETECTIVE II. When they buried DD3, I assumed they still didn't want to compete with our Batman. But it was odd to see a publishing company choose not to publish a popular series in the face of fan demand and guaranteed sales. (Sadly enough, it would have been the same dynamic of the dead superstar that played out again when Heath Ledger died.)

Then I saw The Dark Knight.

IN DD3, there is, of course, a Batman storyline. There is also a Silver St. Cloud storyline, which is completely separate from the Batman arc, because she and Batman are no longer together. In her arc, Silver is with Evan Gregory, who, as you may recall, lost his left arm and left leg in DD2. She would rather be with Bruce, but he told her she should stay with Evan, which caused her to break up with Bruce, so she is with Evan, in body if not in spirit. Evan, for his part, is pretty depressed over losing his left side, although he's about to win his election. In DD2, I very deliberately wrote him as a good guy, because I didn't want him to be the cliche of the guy who clearly didn't measure up to Bruce Wayne and deserved to be dumped. No, Evan Gregory was, and is at the beginning of DD3, a handsome, blond, noble politician - until Two-Face comes to him in his depression and has a heart-to-heart in which Two-Face convinces him that life is meaningless, that the woman in his life is beyond his reach, and that Evan should make a hundred-eighty degree turn to the dark side. Which he does.

That finally explains why DD3 was buried, and why The Dark Knight ends so strangely. It's satisfying on a creative level to have been deemed essential once again, and it's interesting on a cosmic level that both times I've written the Batman and followed it with Max August, the Batman ended up on screen. But it would have been nice to be asked.

--Steve Englehart, 29/10/2008


Rob said...

This is really s shame for a variety of reasons, not least the which for me is that the Englehart/Rogers/Austin Batman is MY definitive version of the character, Frank Miller notwithstanding. I don't want to get into all of the ugliness that has infested DC these last few years, but it would have been wonderful for this last series to have seen the light. This is also not the first time we have heard of the theft/misappropriation of material by a comic book company, but a shame it had to happen to one of my very favorite creators.

glmmrtwn said...

It's definitely disappointing that neither DC or Marvel are interested in having Steve write for them. He's one of the best comics writers IMHO.