With Dynamite’s Black Bat #1 hot off the presses, there’s never been a better time to educate yourself about one of pulp fiction’s most enduring and influential avengers. Lucky for you (and for us) Black Bat (and Flash) writer Brian Buccellato was kind enough to give us some of his time to answer some questions about his work on Dynamite’s latest pulp revival. Put your mask on, dim the lights, and grab your .45s (wait, no…don’t do that), and enjoy!
Den of Geek: How did you get the Black Bat assignment? Did Dynamite approach you or did you pitch for it?
Brian Buccellato: I’ve known (Dynamite Editor) Nick Barrucci for a while and we had been talking about working together on a book for some time. He pitched me a few titles that he was looking to develop and The Black Bat was the one that I personally responded to. So I came up with a take that I wanted to write, he jumped on board… and off we went!
DoG: How familiar were you with the past history of the character? Was there intensive research into the old pulps?
BB: I had only a cursory knowledge of the character, but once I started digging into his past, I really found him to be an interesting creative challenge to tackle. And like any writing gig, there is research involved… I absorbed as much as I could and dove in.
DoG: Can you describe who the Black Bat is in your own words? Obviously, you are going to have to differentiate him from the “other” Bat guy. Was that a concern?
BB: In my series, Tony Quinn is a man looking to pay back the “karmic debts” he incurred while working as a mob lawyer. He is a flawed man in search of redemption, which is very much in line with pulp/noir characters. This deviates from the original pulp in which was a wronged Prosecuting Attorney turned crime fighter. I intentionally moved away from key aspects of the original Black Bat because in some ways I felt he was TOO similar to Daredevil and Batman. Setting aside which came first and all that nonsense, the fact is that Daredevil and Batman are ENORMOUSLY successful characters that have endured for generations, and I didn’t want to just write would be perceived as a “knock-off” version of those guys. So I took him away from the more classic pulp avenging types and changed his motivation.
DoG: How is you process different when approaching a character that carries a great deal of preconceived fan ideas like the Flash and a virtual unknown like the Black Bat? Do characters like the Bat offer more freedom?
BB: Any previously established character you write has his own history that needs to be respected and folded into your stories. For Flash, there is SO much well-known (and beloved) history that it’s more like playing in someone else’s sandbox…with their toys. Flash is going to live on in DC Comics long after I am gone, so when Francis Manapul and I write the book each month we try our best to be true to who Barry Allen is. Writing Black Bat presented a completely different set of creative challenges. There was more freedom to do as I wished, but there was also more complex issues to tackle. There is no way around the similarities to the more well-known characters he inspired. The challenge was to find a take that held onto the essence of the character, while exploring NEW ground that would make for a compelling read.
DoG: What’s it like working with Ronan Cliquet? Can you describe the collaboration?
BB: It’s been almost seamless. He works from full-script and does an amazing job. In the beginning, all I did was send him samples of the style that I was looking for and he used it as inspiration to give me more than I had even hoped for. Each page he turns in is better than the last and inspires me to raise my game on the writing side.
DoG: What went into the decision to change the setting to a contemporary one?
BB: Writing a period piece in the pulp era wasn’t something that resonated with me. I was more interested in attempting to adapt a pulp character to both modern time and modern storytelling for a current audience.
DoG: What is it like working with Dynamite?
BB: The guys at Dynamite are great. They have been incredible in their support and have really stood behind my original vision for the book. Can’t say enough good things about Nicky and the guys!
DoG: Will we, perhaps, see any appearances by other members of the Masks?
BB: Not at all. I have strong in-story reasons why that won’t happen. The journey that Tony goes on is unique and he doesn’t live in a universe with other crime-fighting superheroes. It’s actually a MAJOR story point that I can’t really go into specifics on without spoiling stuff.
DoG: Fair enough! How does the motif of blindness play a role in the book?
BB: The concept of blindness/sight are obvious morality metaphors. In defending criminals for profit, Tony turns a blind eye to his natural sense of justice… and loses his sight as a result. Regaining his sight offers him a chance to make amends and seek justice.
DoG: Can you give us an idea of some of the books supporting players and villains?
BB: Silk Kirby is reformed addict/ Confidential informant whose own journey of redemption brings him into the fold as Black Bat’s sidekick. Carol Baldwin is the woman who made the Black Bat possible, AND gave Tony a chance at redemption. Despite her benevolence, Carol has her own personal reasons for enabling Tony. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the main antagonist without spoiling stuff! I will say that Olive Snate is not the only villain in the book, and the stakes are higher than the usual criminal fair.
DoG: Thanks, Brian!