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If you've been reading Batman comics over the course of the last decade, there's a good chance you recognize Jock's work on the Caped Crusader in stories ranging from The Black Mirror to The Batman Who Laughs. He's worked on some of the best Dark Knight tales in the 21st century, co-created comics like Wytches and Snow Angels, and worked among some of the best major writers in comics. Now, with a new DC Black Label miniseries, he's stepping up as writer and artist for the story of Batman fighting his way through a blacked out Gotham City.
Batman: One Dark Knight is three issues of summertime mayhem for the Caped Crusader, as a mishap with a supervillain whose powers the Gotham Police can't control plunges the entire city into darkness. At a time when tensions are already high both within the GCPD and among the local gangs, it's up to Batman to drag a lone villain through the city to safety, as the darkest corners of Gotham's criminal element close in on them both.
Speaking to SYFY WIRE about the roots of the series, Jock tied the central hook of One Dark Knight back to a clear image he had of an all-new villain, known as EMP, wreaking havoc on the city's electrical system.
"The germ of the idea was Batman chasing EMP across the rooftops of Gotham, and as he's chasing him we see the licks of energy, and it's clear that this guy feeds on it, on energy," Jock said. "That was the initial idea. But...there are a lot of moving parts, and that was very deliberate, because I wanted issue one to feel busy, bustling, the city is full of life and energy, all these elements going on, so that when we get to the point where EMP causes the blackout it's almost like all the air is sucked out of the room and suddenly we're in a very, very different environment."
It's that "different environment" that will be the bulk of Jock's artistic playground for One Dark Knight, as Batman is cut off from his allies and forced to navigate an angry, labyrinthine Gotham alongside EMP, while gangs hunt for them both in a nod to classic 1970s films like The Warriors. The result is a modern Batman story that contains plenty of throwback elements thanks to its stripped-down, sometimes low-tech stakes. Though it's a story literally about Gotham in darkness, and Jock's an artist known for his dark panels, that premise also allowed him some freedom to play with Batman's look.
"Well, I mean the most obvious thing is I've decided to bring back the blue cape," Jock said. "And that was very deliberate. And once I landed on that I was like, 'OK, I've got to lean into this.' And then it hits a slightly nostalgic note for me. I guess I'm more known for heavy blacks and the darker side of it, which I love also. But I'm just trying to find a balance between the two. And hopefully issue one, as I was saying earlier, has that sort of energetic business to the city and everything. And then the blackout hits, and we go very, very dark. But even then, the blue of the cape just pops out of the page really beautifully. And for someone that loves using design elements in my artwork and in storytelling, it proved [to work] beyond the simple just like whimsical idea of giving him the blue cape, which is a lovely thing. It actually proved a really useful tool for clarity and using it during the story. So it all fell into place really well."
In the pages below, you can see a sampling of Jock's art for the first issue of the series, as One Dark Knight builds up to its blackout.
Though One Dark Knight is obviously a Batman story, his journey is only half the saga, as the villain he's shepherding through the darkness also has a major story of his own to tell. Though he didn't give away too much about EMP and his own motives and desires in the story, Jock did tease a tragic villain whose entire power set makes him vulnerable and volatile all at once.
"He feeds on energy, but the truth is there's a very strong, tragic quality to him, because he can't actually control his impulses," Jock said. "And one of the reasons that the blackout happens [is] he's almost like a sort of moth to the flame, going down to the neon, that's not actually what he wanted to really be doing in many ways. There's another element to the story that's very, very strong in relation to what he wants to do when he is out in the open. But he's...yeah, there's a tragic quality to him."
Batmam: One Dark Knight spends much of its first issue raising the stakes on the action, setting the table for the mayhem to come, establishing Jock's versions of Batman and Gotham City as characters in this oversized, cinematic DC Black Label space. Once that stage is set, the book's creator teases that the second issue will bring all the blackout action you could want from this particular premise.
"I think the house and the poster says something like, "A blackout brawl through Gotham City," and that's what we get to see in issue two," Jock said. "It's Batman hard and tough and violent and strained and challenged as he makes his way through this horrendous environment. And as the environment grows more and more dangerous, the gangs take more and more control, there's barricades through districts and fires at the ends of streets so people can't get through. And the thing that people are promised from the ad is what we really see in issue two."
Batman: One Dark Knight #1 drops today.