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Gregg Hurwitz is in the middle of writing an engaging exploration of the Scarecrow’s New 52 origin in Batman: The Dark Knight (as well as fresh off of an Issue 0, in which the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents [Joe Chill] is detailed). Right before heading out to New York Comic Con last week, Hurwitz answered five questions that delved into his comics work in addition to his new prose novel The Survivor. I’m grateful to Hurwitz for squeezing me into his slammed schedule. After enjoying the interview, please be sure to check out CBR News’ interview with Hurwitz from August, and pick up Batman: The Dark Knight 13 when it goes on sale Oct. 24. Also, if you want to get a taste for The Survivor, please be sure to read a chapter here for free.
Tim O’Shea: I love the line you wrote connecting Thomas Wayne and Atticus Finch in Issue 0. What was it about the two characters that allowed you to make that connection?
Gregg Hurwitz: I think it’s an interesting contrast between the type of knock-you-over hero that Batman is and the quieter heroes we may encounter in our everyday lives. Atticus Finch has always symbolized the latter to me — a man of morals, quiet but stalwart and willing to do the right thing no matter the cost. That to me is the difference between Thomas and Bruce as well.
Word of mouth is clearly building regarding your run on Batman: The Dark Knight. Another benefit to that is people are going back and checking out the Penguin: Pain and Prejudice miniseries (which was just released in trade paperback). Are you pleased to find that appreciation of that project is increasingly building — and did you expect that to happen when you took on Batman: The Dark Knight, or has that just been an unexpected surprise for you?
I’m thrilled. The critical reception to the Penguin mini was fantastic and seemed to come out of nowhere. When I first settled on the story for Penguin, I realized (shortly after) that there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for a Penguin mini-series. But the readers really came around for me and and Szymon, and we were thrilled about it. The Bat-readers have been terrific about my and Finch’s run on The Dark Knight. I’ve really enjoyed working with Finch and I think this is some of his best work ever. It’s been a helluva ride and I have my readers to thank for it.
You also have a new novel out, The Survivor, which you discussed with CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley back in August. As you discussed in that interview, the book opens with the lead character Nate shifting from seeking to end his life to actually putting his life at risk. It’s quite a shift in character intention and motivation for the opening of the novel. Was that a scene that you were able to pound out in one draft — or did it take multiple revisions to pull off such a challenging transition of intent as well as emotions?
You know what’s odd? That first chapter changed least of all. The book begins with Nate Overbay standing on the ledge of his bank building, about to jump to his death. At the last moment, he hears gunshots from inside – a heist crew robbing the bank and killing innocents. And in that moment, he makes a choice. Rather than going off the ledge, he climbs back through the window, picks up a gun, and squares off with the killers. That scene came to me first — and wholly intact — and the rest of the book grew from there.
Understandably you want your readers to sympathize with the hero of your book, but you do not want them to pity the character either. How challenging was it to develop a character like Nate who clearly has issues he is struggling with, while at the same time not overburdening the character with challenges or flaws?
A huge challenge. I wrote a character who is about to end his life on the first sentence of the book! And then he doesn’t — and I had to make sure the readers still cared about him. So it took a lot of fine tuning to find those ways into his situation – into his past, his life, his relationships — to make sure readers still cared about him. I hope I succeeded.
I would assume that Nate was your most enjoyable character to write in The Survivor (correct me if I am wrong) — who comes in a close second among the novel’s characters?
I loved writing Pavlo — the Ukrainian former criminal who grew up in “the Zone” — the punishing prison system in Russia. There’s a rawness to him that impressed itself upon me immediately and his voice was always focused and distinct.