SDCC 2022 Interview – One Bad Day: Riddler creators Tom King and Mitch Gerads
The fortune teller has acquired a great prominence in the Batman myths, then San Diego Comic-Con it was the perfect place to talk Batman One Bad Day: Riddler creators Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
With the portrait of Paul Dano as the enigma The Batman, Bruce Wayne’s smartest nemesis is finally getting his moment in the spotlight. However, more than his film appearance, the Riddler has also become a major threat to Batman in the comics over the past few years. His appearance at the recent blockbuster event The war of riddles and jokes it had huge implications for the entire Batfamily, with its effects still being felt today. Playing on this increased prominence, DC announced Batman One Bad Day: Riddler along with a handful of others a bad day books themed around other prominent Batman villains. The new book comes from acclaimed creators Tom King and Mitch Gerads, who previously became comic book superstars with their work on Mr. Miracle.
With the new book out this month, Screen Rant caught up with King and Gerads to talk about their new project and what makes Edward Nygma such a memorable Batman villain.
How’s your ComiCon going?
Mitch Gerads: I had all these thoughts in my head about what this year would be like, you know, post-Covid and everything. But it really has been like riding a bike, everything is fine, I knew where I was going and I knew where things were. I hardly missed a step.
Tom King: I remember very clearly in the middle of COVID feeling like my dream in life was just to get to a Comic-Con because, and have some of my friends drinking and talking about comics. But it seemed so far away. A stupid dream. People dream of riches and distant lands. But I was like, I want to be in a hotel. And there is something beautiful about achieving that small but wonderful dream again,
Has the pandemic affected your workflow?
Mitch Gerads: It made me busier. Which is a good problem to have, I guess. I mean, apparently nothing changed too much, because I work from home and I’m in my office when I draw, and very kindly no one ever told me to stop drawing. Not much difference. I just had more time to do things, or at least more excuse not to leave the house.
Tom King: Complete change. 100% because we were very lucky that Jim Lee called me right at the beginning of the pandemic and I said, “What are we going to do with the whole world closed?” Jim said, “Just keep writing.” So it became forward, forward, forward. And so, I kept writing and I got ahead enough that I was able to change how I do series and things where instead of writing, when you’re in doubles, Batman, which I was for four or five years, it was you. write number 28, then write number 36, then write number 17, then write a special. It is a scattered way of writing. I still think that Brad Meltzer told me when he wrote, that he would write all the series at once. So I changed it completely starting with Rorschach. We’re working on a new stream of topics in a row and that’s how I’ve been doing everything. So you know, like Human Target which I wrote all together and the new series Gotham Year One is co-written. So yes, that has changed. Or like, this series we’re working on now is what, 64 pages?
Mitch Gerads: Also, you have kids at home as well.
Tom King: I have kids at home. Yes. My wife and I have a schedule that I take in the mornings. So I had them until basically two in the afternoon and then she would get on and I would work in the afternoons. My wife is a full-time lawyer, so you know I would lock my room between two and seven.
Creating a story centered around The Riddler comes with the expectation that there will be a fair amount of riddles. In this book, however, Riddler seems to shy away from riddles. Can you talk about taking Riddler away from his namesake?
Tom King: There are tons of real riddles in this book. There are lots of really fun riddles. Which one is my favorite? I think it says “Which word is most often misspelled?” It is “incorrectly” often misspelled. Because it’s written wrong. I didn’t make this up. This is an old conundrum. It’s like, on greeting cards from the 1930s.
But what drew me to this is looking at all the Riddler stories over the last 70 years. There was an equality between them. I’m not saying they’re bad at all. I mean, I wrote some of these topics, so I’m guilty of that too. But as in basically any medium, from cartoons to movies to comics, the enigma has a conundrum that he doesn’t think Batman will ever solve. And then Batman solves it and because Batman is smart and he knows how the riddle of the sphinx and then the Riddler goes, “Oh no,” and he falls into the giant typewriter.
Mitch and I literally researched and watched every cartoon, and this story feels like it’s been told and I’m getting a little tired of it. So I remember there was a Paul Dini Riddler run in The Detective that I really liked where he was Batman for a while. I always liked that. The idea that the Riddler was holding back, almost pulling on his own reins, and the riddles were just a crutch of sorts. He was giving Batman the key to catch him and he was saying “I could beat you. But here’s a riddle. So you can see if you can catch me because it’s fun. It’s fun to play.” This story is what happens when he says, “Riddles aren’t fun for me anymore. I don’t want to play this game anymore. I’m actually smarter than you and if it weren’t for the riddles, I could beat you.” So what happens when you leave this? Batman has to face someone who is smarter than him, so what does that mean? What happens when he walks up to Batman and says, “Hi, Bruce. How are you? This is where Dick lives, this is where Barbara lives, this is where Cassandra lives. I’ve got bombs in all their houses. Anyway, do you want to get it. a cup of coffee?” To me, this is a new Riddler. The title of our thing is called Dreadful Reins. They are the realms of power.
Given One Bad Day’s moniker, this inherently invites comparison to The Killing Joke. Does having this legacy add any pressure?
Tom King: I wrote Rorschach, so it’s something I’ve dealt with before. I got into comics almost as an Alan Moore clone, like, trying to be Alan Moore very much in my own way. You know the joke with Omega Men was like “Who Omegas the Omega Men?” And I was playing with these nine-panel grids and all that stuff.
Look, the people who are reading comics today, we want them to read the best comics ever written. We don’t want them to say, “The best comics were written in 1983. And you’re like 40 years late in the 1980s.” So in this case we have to think that we have the possibility to write these great comics. And if we’re going to get in the ring with the people in 1991, we have to be confident enough to think that we can take them on and that we can win because that’s our responsibility to the public. We’re not here to tell you that we’re just going to rewrite the greatest comics ever written, we’re just going to live in their shadow forever. No, we’re going to give you the greatest comics ever written so you have the chance to buy them off the shelf for the first time, just like your dad did.
Mitch Gerads: I think we’ve always approached our projects from that favorable angle, which is that it’s obviously scary because you’re up against things that you think are the best of the best. But it’s also what I think elevates you if you want to rise to the occasion. And you know, it’s not for me to say whether we do it or not, it’s for the readers, but at least I want to know that I put my best foot forward to try.
The Riddler has had so many designs over the years. What was the design process like to design the Riddler?
Mitch Gerads: He’s my favorite Batman villain and always has been, but I always thought that other than the animated stuff, I’ve always hated his design with the big lamb chops that started in the early 2000s or whatever It was pretty new 52. I think there was a version where you had a question mark mohawk at some point? So I’ve always liked that version of the animated series, you know, the guy in the suit, well put on. But then inside The New Adventures of Batmanyou know, I think the fourth season, and then that continued and until recently Justice League action, was portrayed this way. You know, the bald one with the black makeup underneath. So I said, “Oh, that’s it, that’s an intense look.” So I combined the look of the dress with this look, and we have this kind of creepy friend. And I really enjoyed drawing it.
If you had full creative control, which other classic DC villain would you want to elevate to the level of Batman’s new nemesis?
Mitch Gerads: I mean, like I said, Riddler is my favorite, so I’m literally making my dream book. right But under these rules, yes. I think Man-Bat would be awesome. Just make this guy terrifying. Like a real cryptid.
Tom King: This has been done 1000 times, but Lex Luthor vs. Bruce Wayne. I think, like, it’s always been brains versus brawn in the Superman books for 80 years. So brains versus brains. Corporate executive versus corporate executive. Corporate Secret Life vs. Corporate Secret Life, right? Like they were almost like bad reflections of each other.
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