BOF/JETT: BATMAN: NOEL...this is the "secret Batman project" you told me you were working on a while back eh?
LEE BERMEJO: (laughs) Yeah, it's been a couple years in the oven, but ultimately it's the most fully rendered project I've ever done so the art alone took much longer than usual. Hopefully it shows in the finished product.
JETT: It absolutely does bro! Tell us a bit about this project. It's obviously based on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, right? So what gave you the idea to do a "Batman Version" of it?
LB: The structure of the story is based on A CHRISTMAS CAROL but ultimately, it's a Batman story. I'd been working on these other projects that featured Batman but he was never the main character so I never really felt like I got him out of my system. For years Jim Lee's been telling me I should just do a Batman graphic novel so, after JOKER, I set out to try and write my own. Originally it was a story that all took place in one apartment building, and the character that ultimately became Bob in NOEL was the main protagonist. Basically, he discovers that one of his neighbors is The Joker, who is using the tenement building as one of his hideouts. Other tenants start disappearing and it ultimately brings him into conflict with both The Joker and Batman. Thing is, that story wound up feeling like something less than graphic novel worthy…it was a fill in issue at BEST, and I wound up having trouble justifying the need to do it.
At around the same time, a French publisher was talking to me about doing a variety of projects and one of those was an adaptation of some piece of classic literature. I immediately thought of A CHRISTMAS CAROL because I thought it would be interesting to do a very scary, modern version of the story. The more I thought about the two separate projects, the more I started to see the possibility of combining both ideas into one project that made way more sense. As soon as I started fleshing it out, the pieces just fell into place really easily and it finally felt like a real project, something worthy of being a Batman graphic novel.
JETT: It must have been on hell of a process overall. How long did it take to complete from pitch to final product?
LB: I pitched the project the summer after JOKER
came out, and at that point I'd already written the first draft. I figured there was no way DC would let me write a graphic novel unless they saw some writing from me first, so I looked at it as a fun exercise to do. Even if nothing came of it, at least it would have given me a bit of writing experience. Ultimately, after showing the script to Mark Chiarello, we worked on things together to refine the writing a bit more and that's when things really took off. Mark was such an integral part of getting this thing off the ground. He really got it, and understood the approach I wanted to take with it. After that it took a little over two years to finish the art. I stopped for a bit to do WEDNESDAY COMICS, but other than that it was all NOEL for a looooonnggg time!
JETT: Clearly, it's not "in-continuity" like the Batman monthlies in the DCU proper. However, would you say it's in the same universe as JOKER? Or is it it's own thing altogether?
LB: It's definitely own thing. I like to think of Batman graphic novels as being the perfect projects to get readers -- those who don't necessarily buy comics on a regular basis -- into the fold. I look at almost every project I do as something that stands on it's own, and this one is no exception. If I can get a couple people to read a Batman book who never have before, I've done my job.
JETT: Indeed. I love the monthlies, but there is always a time that they lose me, you know? Even with this "New 52" -- which I totally dig -- I know there will be a point that I'll grow tired of the "soap opera" aspect, the "Big Events," and the crossovers and I'll stop reading for a while. Sorry about that rant bro! Anyway...
This is your first time doing the writer/artist thing, correct? Talk a bit about that. That;s got to be an interesting story.
LB: Yup, first time. It was a fantastic learning experience and I'd love to do it again. Look, there's nothing quite like having complete control over a project, and I took it pretty far with this one, even in terms of it's format. I wanted to do something a bit more 'story-book' like and that's easier to do if you can tailor the story to specifically fit the style of art. Also, I think it goes without saying that it gives the final product a different feel than other stuff you've done in collaborations. While I wouldn't say this is more personal, I would definitely say it's a more pure translation of what I set out to do than most other books I've worked on.
JETT: Absolutely. Since you're up for another one of these, do you have something in mind? Would you like to revisit this particular Bat-Universe again?
LB: I definitely have another story I want to tell and it’s set in the "JOKER-verse." I think it's a pretty solid idea and would be something fairly unexpected. Let's just say it's a different take on a very classic character. I'm by no means done with Batman. I think I'll wind up doing this character on and off for my entire career. I just feel closer to him than any other major character. I also feel like I have a personal vision for him and his supporting cast that makes him feel more like my own thing.
JETT: Fantastic! I'm a huge fan of JOKER and I know A LOT of BOF'ers -- and Batman fans in general -- are as well. Plus Lee, you’re definitely a fan-favorite when it comes to Batman.
So, let's switch gears a bit. Are you getting pumped-up for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES yet?
LB: I am -- but this time I'm very purposely avoiding as much information as possible. I'm looking forward to being surprised by Nolan and company next Summer. I'm also very much looking forward to MAN OF STEEL. I think having Nolan on board as producer is a big step towards creating something new and exciting with that character.
Jett and Lee Bermejo (San Diego Comic Con '07)
JETT: Yep. As much as I know about RISES from covering it by running BOF -- and what I've been told by insiders, etc. -- I also know very little about it. In fact, I've told my friends who are close to the project or are 'movie industry insiders' not to tell me a thing about it. And I'm getting pretty stoked for MAN OF STEEL as well.
One last one: What's up next for you?
LB: I can't talk about the project I'm working on currently quite yet. People will find out fairly soon though. It will be something pretty unexpected! (laughs)
Cheers brother...thanks for taking the time to visit with BOF again!