[Interview for Toon Zone News: 12th December 2004]
Two popular characters from the Batman mythos take center stage in the latest issue of Batman Adventures. Issue 12 of this popular title will both guest star the Riddler and feature the debut of a fan favourite, Nightwing. Toon Zone caught up with Ty Templeton, co-writer of Batman Adventures to find out more.
Toon Zone: Issue 12 continues the popular Riddler story from last issue of Batman Adventures. The Riddler stories in the animated series have always been well-received, but he remained a relatively minor character in the animated universe. Why do you think this is, and what makes him such an interesting character to you personally?
Ty Templeton: Is he that minor a character, actually? I tend to think of the Riddler as one of the "A" list. He appears in at least five or six episodes of the show, far more than Man Bat or Father Brown.
And I like him personally, because he's about the only character in the series that's at least as smart as Batman. His problem is a narcissis complex like you wouldn't believe. If he managed to work though his weird neurosis, he'd be a happy successful millionaire...which is the path he's been trying to stick to lately. Of course, as a writer, I put problems in his way. I think a character trying to change is FAR more interesting than a character running through the same paces over and over for sixty years. I approach most stories hoping to tell an important event or decision in a character's life, every time I write about them, and it's been fun to change Eddie's life a little bit each time we check in with him.
TZ: In your eyes, how does the animated Riddler differ from the established comic version?
Templeton: Our version is a character aware of his limiting mental problem, but is smart enough to try to find ways around it. Most importantly, in the animated version, Riddler is no longer a criminal: he's still something of a villain, but he's no longer a criminal. At the end of the stories, Nygma doesn't go to jail any more. Of course, that doesn't mean he's walking around a free man by the end of next issue...
TZ: In terms of co-writing a comic, do you find that the two-story structure benefits a title like Batman Adventures? The ties between the two stories are very strong compared to comics sharing a similar format. Do you think this has contributed to Batman Adventures popularity?
Templeton: I hope so. When Dan and I write an issue, we talk on the phone for a couple of days about what we're planning for the next couple of stories, and we each find a direction to take each issue's "theme." When Dan writes the lead story, I try to find a moment or a character and expand on something that enriches his lead feature. Often we write both stories at the same time, so we keep each other current with what we're doing to make sure the stories dovetail well. In the issue we just finished scripting (#14) there's a moment that appears in BOTH stories identically, and we explore the same scene from two different points of view, Rashamon-style. For a story like that, it took us a couple of hours of tossing ideas at each other to find the perfect scene we were happy to tell twice. It's really just a question of two writers who get along well enough to work together. Even when we disagree about a direction in the series or a particular story, we're able to find middle ground or a third, new idea, that is often the stronger idea in the long run.
TZ: Issue 12 has a back-up story that concerns Batman's trophy room -- is this an aspect of Batman that you've been keen to resolve?
Templeton: That particular story about the trophy room is Dan's story, so he's the more keen of the two of us. I was very tickled by the story when he suggested it to me, though, I will say that. Dan is literally the idea bucket, he's got so many good ones bubbling in the brain he could literally give you a good story about EVERY aspect of the Batman world. If we needed a good story revolving around the grandfather clock, he'd have it ready in twenty minutes.
TZ: This issue gueststars fan favourite Nightwing. Why did you and Dan choose to debut him now, as opposed to earlier in the comic's run?
Templeton: Dan, Joan (Hilty) and I all agreed that this new title should strongly feature Batman moreso than the sidekicks and proteges, both because we all agreed we liked that focus on Batman, and because it distinguished the title from its predecessor, which was essentially a team book set in Gotham City.
The first volume of Batman Adventures tended to focus on Batman by himself, with rare appearances from Robin or Batgirl in the first 36 issues. Batman and Robin Adventures had Dick Grayson in every issue, but Batgirl only appeared twice in those 25 issues. The Lost Years focused on Nightwing and Robin, and when the title changed to Gotham Adventures, we switched to a "team" format, with four lead characters. (Nightwing appears as often as does Batman in the first year of Gotham Adventures, for instance, and he takes the lead role in the story three times in that year.)
So with the previous format to our series being a team book, we decided to focus more on Batman. With Outsiders, Teen Titans, Teen Titans GO, Robin, Nightwing, and allthe Gotham City titles on the stands right now, we figured we weren't asking the Nightwing and Robin fans to go without their heroes too long if we didn't focus on them right away.
And yes, we also talked about a longer Nightwing arc, but that is all gossamer now.
TZ: Aside from issue 12, does Nightwing appear in any of the title's remaining issues?
Templeton: Gosh, that is a good question....
Interview copyright: James McLean