One of my all-time favorite comic stories is Batman #522 by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. In that issue, Batman is tracking Killer Croc, who is rapidly devolving. As he transforms from killer to animal, he seeks only a safe place to hunt, hide and sleep. When Batman finally closes in on Croc, Swamp Thing appears and takes responsibility for Croc, allowing him to live out his days in peace in the swamps. I’m a sucker for sympathetic monsters, and having one such monster (Swamp Thing) intervene on behalf of another seemed perfect. I never forgot this portrayal of Croc — mostly because it showed another side of the character that hadn’t been explored before.
So, when Jim and I were first asked to pitch what became the Batwoman ongoing, one of the very first things we agreed upon was that we wanted to use Killer Croc. And, more than that, we wanted to transform Killer Croc from a dull-witted thug into something “more” — first into the Hydra, and then into a reluctant leader, and finally a villain worthy of Batwoman. We weren’t on a quest to redeem him, or even to completely redefine him, but to expand upon what has come before and show that there’s some depth to him. (Incidentally, this was all part of the pitch for a limited series team-up between Batwoman and Wonder Woman, which then became the World’s Finest arc of the ongoing once we were tapped to take on the series).
Issue #21 is the culmination of a lot of our very early ideas around Croc. It’s been on stands for a few weeks now, and the response has been incredible. This was, hands-down, one of my favorite issues to write, so I’m really gratified to see that it has garnered such great reviews from critics and fans alike. Jim and I have been especially pleased that Francesco Francavilla’s artwork has been so well-received. For me, his artwork hearkens back to old school EC comics while still being wholly original and unique.
Check out a preview at Comic Vine.
Sadly, our journey with Croc seems to be over…
Jim and I have been asked a lot lately why we’re not participating in the upcoming Villains event running through all of the DC comics in Sept / Oct. At DC’s request, we did pitch two different stories. One pitch was for a Killer Croc tale that would pick up directly after Issue 21. Unfortunately, a last minute decision from somewhere up the editorial chain killed it. Despite all the groundwork we’ve laid, DC decided that Croc can’t be connected to anything supernatural, metaphysical, or mythological in any way. I’ve been pretty heartbroken over the decision; writing in his voice was incredibly challenging — in the best possible way — and I thought that Jim and I were taking him in some unexpected directions while remaining true to the tone and “rules” we’ve established in Batwoman. Elements of that story were also going to feed back into the ongoing in ways we’ll now need to reconsider. (Fortunately, Tim Seeley did get the nod to do a Croc story, and given his prior work, I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic).
The other pitch, featuring a different villain, was also originally accepted. But just before we started working on the script, someone at DC decided that the character wasn’t recognizable and/or villainous enough to warrant his own issue. I don’t want to give anything else away because Jim and I still believe in the story, so we’ve already found a way to integrate it into the ongoing.
So, no Batwoman or Batwoman-related characters during the Villains month. Fortunately, Batwoman #22, is on sale next week! And it features a cameo by some interesting established Bat-villains, and formally introduces some new characters that Jim and I have planted in previous issues, and who will play an important role not only in the rest of this arc, but in the next arc as well. I just got my comp copies and Trevor’s art continues to amaze me.