MO: I’d like to ask you about the Holy Terror book you did with Alan Brennert, who’s another one of my favorites.
NB: It was a lot of fun. I was able to obliquely tap into my own previous Christian fanaticism. I’ve got some comics that I drew when I was 15, 16 years old where I drew Batman as a Christian. He actually prays before a fight where he has to fight like a hundred guys. And of course, he beats ’em all [laughs]. Well, actually he gets saved by the cops before he beats ’em all. But they don’t beat him [laughs]. Yeah, like Jesus would condone beating the crap out of guys. But, yeah, Holy Terror. Holy Terror was the first elseworlds book. [Gotham by Gaslight, drawn by Mike Mignola] wasn’t called elseworlds, but really was the same [concept]. [Terror] was really the second, but the first one with the logo. I liked the whole “elseworlds” concept. It’s too bad DC killed that. There are so many more things that could be done. In fact, there are a number of my own proposals that I thought would have been wonderful as “elseworlds” concepts that DC didn’t pick up. I guess they were getting deluged with elseworlds concept titles. Creators love that — it’s a new feel. You can do the same character, but it’s like you’re creating it yourself. For instance, one of mine was going to be tentatively called “Batman of the Apes”, where instead of Lord Greystroke, Bruce Wayne’s father would crash a plane in the jungles of Africa and he’d be raised by apes. I didn’t have it all worked out, but basically, there’d be another experience of a bat that would have him start dressing up as a bat to avenge the death of his parents or something. That would have been wonderful.
There was one I was considering calling “Atomflash” which was a combination of the Atom and the Flash. The Atom and the Flash have a long history of teaming up together — there were some stories by Alex Toth. I had great visuals worked out. God, it’s been too long since I’ve thought about it. The main character’s name was a combination of Barry Allen and Ray Palmer. The whole point of the story was that I’d be able to draw these wonderful visuals. [The symbol] on his chest was a combination of the Flash symbol and the Atom symbol. Like the electron going around the nucleus of an atom. He breathed miniaturized air. He communicated with macroscopic people through radio electronics, because he’s just “at point” (invisible in size).
MO: Some of these elements seem to evoke Ant-Man. This is neat.
NB: What was neat about it for me as an artist was that he would have all the neat visuals of The Atom, because instead of being stuck in one area, he would be able to see a lot more terrain; with his super-speed he could move much more quickly. [My proposal illustrations] were drawn not as segments of the story, but just to show what kind of visuals were potential. Even the Atom stories have never really been drawn like that. When the Atom shrinks, he’s either six inches tall and throws his weight around — literally, he beats people up — or else he goes into the subatomic realm. He’s never right in between, “at point,” where it’s the most interesting scale to draw. Since DC turned it down, I’ve decided to write a novel based on the concepts, if not the exact same character. I’ve got it halfway written now.
None of the original visuals are going to be involved. Like I said, DC was being deluged with elseworlds concepts. Plus, they didn’t really like my idea in that it was a combination of two characters in one. The traditional element of elseworlds is that you might use two characters, but they’d remain separate characters. This would be the first time two were combined in one. Yet, I thought it was ideal, because the Atom and the Flash are arguably both the most science fiction-oriented of the DC superheroes. Superman’s obviously science fiction too, but he’s got so many powers, he’s almost into a god realm. But these guys have one incredible power [each] that have been used in science fiction stories for a long period of time. Like H.G. Wells wrote in his short story “the New Accelerator” back in 1905. I think they should have kept going with the elseworlds titles. I guess they weren’t selling — it must be that, I’m not sure what else it could be. It’s disappointing that the fans didn’t find it as interesting as the creators.
MO: There was that year where all the annuals were elseworlds stories. Maybe they burned out then?
NB: I don’t know about that. If it was long enough ago, maybe they could bring it back now.
MO: I remember seeing a drawing you did of the Creeper that was part of a series proposal? How did that come about?
NB: It was in the late ’90s. It wasn’t that long ago. I guess it was like ten years ago almost. I heard through my agent — Mike Freidrich was still my agent — that DC was open for a Creeper proposal. So Pat McGreal and I put together a Creeper proposal. They didn’t go with it, of course. Otherwise you would have seen it. There were a lot of other drawings too — there were two production drawings of the Creeper. You probably just saw the costume design?
MO: I remember what I saw had him on a lamppost coming down on some guys. I noticed he had a different costume — a much more shirt-oriented costume. He had a V-neck.
NB: I don’t remember one of him on a lamp post. I’ve drawn so many pages! I’ve drawn at least 5,000 comic book pages. It’s incredible when you look back on it. There’s going to be another 5,000 before I’m done, I’m sure. I wonder what the record is. People refer to Jack Kirby as possibly holding that record, but I don’t know the actual number of pages that he drew. I’m sure I’ll never beat the record, whatever it is. I spend a little too much time on each page. Although I did start early, and I did them consistently, and I do plan on doing it the rest of my life. I might be able to get a lot of them out there. (more…)