Interview With Ed Brubaker
(June 2006)

With the fifth issue of The Devil in Cell-Block D out this week, writer Ed Brubaker chats with me about what's come before and what is ahead for Daredevil.

Many thanks to Ed Brubaker for taking time out of his busy schedule to do the interview!

There is discussion about the current arc and Civil War, so please be warned about possible spoilers!

Kuljit Mithra: When Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev announced they were leaving Daredevil, yours and Michael Lark's names instantly came up as the next creative team in rumours online... it seemed like a logical choice then and after 4 issues into Devil in Cell-Block D, you've made a seamless transition from their run. I've read that Bendis worked with you before he left and he only decided to have Matt in prison in his final issue after you wanted to work with this predicament. How much of that is true, and what was the appeal for you as a writer to take Matt through this kind of story?

Ed Brubaker: What happened was, Brian told me he was leaving DD, and for a few weeks, I thought, do I want to write that book? Especially following such an amazing run? And so I kicked some ideas around, thinking, what could you do, to follow that, what would the next logical step be? And I decided, you could either undo the Identity problem and revert to the old status quo, or you could take what Brian did and run with it as far as you can -- and to me, that meant putting Matt behind bars. I called up Bendis and asked him what he thought, and he said something like -- I've been wanting to end my run with him in jail, but I figured that'd be too mean to whoever followed, but if that's where you want to take him, then why not start with him there? So, really, the only thing that changed for me was how quickly he got to prison. He was going to be put there at the end of my first arc, initially, but this was even better. I got to jump right into the deep end, and I loved that we actually had a hand-off with a cliff-hanger ending, in some ways. That's never done in comics these days.

Mithra: How did Bendis plan to leave DD if he couldn't end it with Matt in prison?

Brubaker: I don't know. We never got that far. I suspect, with four wives in Utah.

Mithra: Was there ever a point in time when you weren't going to be the next writer? Did you have to write a proposal? And has it now differed in execution?

Brubaker: I think it was one of those everyone knew but me kind of things. Brian was saying it was a done deal long before I ever got the call from Joe Q that it was mine. I did write an outline of the first year or so, but that was after I had the gig. Most of what I did was talk to Joe Q. about what I'd like to do, and what his thoughts were. He's very careful with DD.

Mithra: What do you believe worked and didn't work in the Bendis/Maleev run? For the most part, I saw a division... many hated it, many loved it. There didn't seem to be an in-between.

Brubaker: My only complaint is a really minor one. I think Alex's fight scenes were a little stiff in some places. I think his art in general, and the mood and tone he set for the book are amazing, though, and he's one of my favorite artists. Other than that, I think they did a hell of a job. Maybe the best extended run on any character in Marvel history. I liked that they took risks-- whole issues without Matt in costume, the Decalogue arc, hell man, those guys had balls the size of the SHIELD helicarrier. It's because of how good they were that Michael and I keep trying our hardest on our run, I think.

Mithra: What's your opinion on spoilers now being released as part of the solicitations? Your first issue was basically spoiled by the preview cover art for DD82.

Brubaker: It's a mixed bag, honestly. If you play things too closely to the vest, keep too much secret until publishing, then orders stay stagnant. If you reveal too much, though, online fans get spoiled. I wish there was a way to just show retailers the upcoming stuff, but it doesn't work, it always leaks out. For DD82, though, revealing Matt in prison, Marvel got Brian's permission before they released that, because it was more about the end of his run, than mine. The issue with Foggy's grave on the cover, though, I'm okay with that going out, because our sales went up a lot on our second issue, and according to Marvel, they keep going up since then, so obviously, it's a very mixed bag. People want to be spoiled, so they know what to buy, but then they don't, too.

Mithra: Judging from your knowledge of DD continuity, is it safe to say you've been a fan of DD for a long time, or has your DD reading been the 'major' arcs, like the Miller stories, Born Again etc.? Any favourite creators? Any DD arcs that you aren't a fan of?

Brubaker: I'm a longtime DD fan, but I confess, my knowledge is more sporadic than I wish it was. I've read runs, of the book over the years in the 70s and 80s, but I quit regularly reading it not long after Born Again, probably, until the MK editions started. Since then, I've read what I can find of the stuff in between, and reread the earlier stuff that's available, but unlike Cap, DD issues aren't so easy to find, or affordable. When I got the Cap gig, within three months, I was able to buy almost every issue in one form or another for a few hundred dollars, maybe, thanks to ebay. With DD, there are not so many runs of 50 issues for sale online.

My favorite DD creators would be Gene Colan, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, David Mazzuchelli, Bendis and Maleev, and Quesada, whose DD:Father I'm really enjoying... And I know how it ends, too.

Arcs I'm not a fan of? That's a loaded question, isn't it? I guess, of the stuff I heard was great that I searched out, I was a bit surprised by the few Chichester and Nocenti issues I could track down. They just didn't do much for me. Great art, interesting stories, but something just didn't click for me. Maybe I read the wrong issues.

Mithra: Since you've written Batman, and many fans compare DD to Batman often, do you think it's fair to make this comparison? Are they really that similar to you? What do you believe is their greatest difference?

Brubaker: Well, the greatest difference would be that DD actually has powers, sort of. His radar sense, his hearing, smell, etc, make him a much different character to handle than Batman. I was just dealing with this, having a character lie to Matt, and realizing he should know, and trying to think of why he doesn't. Other than that, though, I see them as vastly different. Matt is working class, and Bruce is from old money and privelege. Matt isn't as angry as Bruce most of the time. Otherwise, they're both guys is tights who like statues and the rain, a lot.

Oh, and the public doesn't know Bruce Wayne is Batman.

Mithra: As part of this first arc, you've had Foggy (seemingly) killed, brought back some old DD supporting cast, and brought in others... I'm going to throw out some character's names... can you describe how you view them and if applicable, why you chose to use them, and if at all possible, hint at what you have in store for them?

Let's start with Foggy Nelson.

Brubaker: My favorite character in the book, in some ways. It hurt to shank him, but he gets another hurrah in a few issues, so at least I got to write him some more. His death was very important to our story, though, for what it did to Matt.

Mithra: Ben Urich.

Brubaker: You can't write DD without using Urich, it's like a law, I think. He's a great guy, because he's so real and human. He doesn't always do the right thing, because he's scared, and yet, at the end of the day, he's one of Matt's best friends. It was a lot of fun writing that issue from Ben's POV and playing with the old "My name is Ben Urich, I'm a reporter" thing, too.

Mithra: Dakota North.

Brubaker: I obviously couldn't use Jessica Jones, so I dragged out Dakota North from obscurity, because I was a fan of her old mini-series that Tony Salmons drew. Only to find out that CB Cebulski already had a new mini pitch for her in at Marvel.

Mithra: Becky Blake.

Brubaker: One of my favorites from the Miller era cast, and I couldn't figure out why she wasn't in the book, so I brought her back. I like her attitude, so I gave her a law degree, to help with Matt's case.

Mithra: Morgan.

Brubaker: As an old-school Cap fan, I always liked Morgan. He was basically the black kingpin of Harlem. When looking for gangleaders for the Ryker's arc, I knew I'd need racial division, sadly, because that's how prison life is, segregated, so I grabbed him from the ether as well. His duel canes are a reference to him being crippled in an issue of Black Panther, I think, as well as a nod to Orson Welles' THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, which has a dogged reporter hobbling about on two canes -- an image that stuck with me for 20 years, since I first saw that movie. A masterpiece of noir, for those who haven't seen it.

Mithra: Hammerhead.

Brubaker: Just always liked him, and he's white. He's a dumb character, but I like his flat head.

Mithra: Black Tarantula.

Brubaker: A character I discovered only because I couldn't use the Tarantula, because he's dead. However, LaMuerto really grew on me, so look for him to return to the pages of DD in the future, in a big way.

Mithra: Bullseye.

Brubaker: What needs to be said?

Mithra: Kingpin.

Brubaker: Again. He's a lynchpin to the first year of our run, so I couldn't do it without him.

Mithra: Punisher.

Brubaker: I'd have included him just to get his opening scene in, because it's so funny. His role in the first arc was very important, though, to show Matt a counterpoint to where he was heading.

Mithra: Alton Lennox.

Brubaker: Mystery man. You'll meet him in the next arc, though who he is, and what he's doing are mysteries.

Mithra: The other Daredevil.

Brubaker: One of my all-time favorite Marvel characters. Nuff said.

Mithra: Any DD characters that you will never use?

Brubaker: Not off the top of my head.

Mithra: I believe you've mentioned that the other Daredevil's identity will be revealed at the end of this arc... so will it be "resolved" in the title, or in Civil War? And how closely will the title tie-in with the events in Civil War, since we've seen "Daredevil" in issue 1?

Brubaker: DD doesn't really tie-in to Civil War at all. The other DD is in it, but his identity is revealed to readers in issue 87. Who he is, and what he's doing in CW, though, are like Easter Eggs for the DD readers following that book. They've got a really cool idea planned that I don't want to spoil.

Mithra: You've collaborated with Michael Lark on a variety of projects... why do you think it works? Is it a constant back and forth of ideas? Do you write your stories geared towards how he will draw it? Reason I ask is that some writers I've interviewed have said they've never even spoken with the people they've worked with.

Brubaker: Michael and I are like brothers. We love each other, but we bicker about the stories and art all the time. I think that's why it works, maybe, because we demand a lot from each other. Sometimes having Michael on a book is like having an extra editor, because he'll point out some story flaw I didn't even notice and I'll have to rewrite the ending or something. As far as working for him, I never even think about it now, it's just a natural process after 8 years or so.

Mithra: And the final question, obviously you can't reveal the ending of this arc, but can you hint at what's ahead? How far into the future have you plotted and now with your current workload, how long do you plan on sticking with this title?

Brubaker: I'd like to stay one issue longer than Brian. Ha.

As for what's ahead, hopefully stuff readers will like it as much as the tension of the prison drama. There'll be some globetrotting, some swashbuckling (a little, at least), a lot of noir tension and action, and the return of two villains that haven't been seen for a while (one who's always been totally ridiculous). And, we'll finally find out who's been manipulating Matt's life since he got tossed in Rykers, and the answer will shock you.

Oh yeah, and Mike Murdock... I'm not joking.

Final note -- any fans of my work on DD, please check out my new creator-owned crime book coming from Icon in October. You can read about it here:

(c) Kuljit Mithra 2006
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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