Joe Keatinge Talks ‘Knight’ And ‘Hulk’ At San Diego [SDCC 2013]
Even though the crowds of Comic-Con International might be a huge hassle, there’s one thing that we can all agree on as being well worth the trouble: Burritos. And being able to talk to our favorite creators about their upcoming projects, I guess, but seriously, the burritos out there are amazing. Fortunately for me, I was able to combine both of those things when I grabbed lunch with Joe Keatinge, and we spent the walk back to the convention center chatting about his upcoming Knight story in the Batman Incorporated special, and the launch of Marvel Knights Hulk later this year.
ComicsAllaince: So I’m here with Joe Keatinge, we just ate burritos. How’s it going, Joe?
Joe Keatinge: The burrito I ate had two taquitos inside of it, so I’m doing quite well.
CA: What’s your favorite San Diego Comic-Con experience that you’ve ever had?
JK: Ever had? Having to explain WrestleMania to Teddy Kristiansen was pretty good. That was over food. We were at a seafood restaurant. It was super classy, and he’s a super classy guy, but I’m like… I don’t even know how it came up anymore. Someone asked me what I was doing in New York recently, and I was like “I went to WrestleMania, it was awesome!” Teddy Kristiansen’s like “What is WrestleMania?” So I had to go into that. That’s fresh in my head.
CA: How does explaining WrestleMania to Teddy Kristiansen over fish compare with discussing WrestleMania with me over a burrito with taquitos in it?
JK: That was, no bulls**t, a great experience. It was nice to get off the con floor and just talk about wrestling. We talk about comics all the time, which is cool, I’m into it, but my burrito with two taquitos and your burrito with a bunch of french fries in it!
CA: It’s called a California burrito. It’s delicious. So let’s talk about Knight and Squire. Those are two of my favorite DC characters of all time. When did you first get into those characters? They were very obscure for fifty years.
JK: As a reader, kind of late, I guess. It was that JLA Classified thing that Ed McGuinness did, but then I realized that these are the dudes that have been in all these weird old Batman comics that I love, where they put Batman in a zebra costume or whatever. I’m into it. I realized they were the Club of Heroes characters, and it was a whole new thing. I loved Ed McGuinness’s new design on it, the whole biplane thing, it’s awesome. Then when they kept showing up in the Morrison run, it rekindled that.
DC hit me up and were like “hey man, we’re doing this Batman Incorporated thing, would you like to do Knight?” Because, spoilers I guess, Knight is dead now. The second Knight.
CA: Cyril gets killed by Leviathan.
JK: Yeah. They asked if I’d like to do that, and I said I’d love to. So my story is seven pages, and each page is a different day between the day Knight’s killed and Batman Incorporated dissolves. So it’s her dealing with the fallout of where you go from there. Who are you? Your mentor’s gone, your friends are gone.
CA: Beryl becoming the Knight is really glossed over, because there’s a lot going on in that comic with just Batman and Talia. Do you go through her decision?
JK: Yes, absolutely. That’s the main emotional and plot thrust of the short story, why she’s going to carry on this mantle that’s brought her a lot of grief recently. I get into what goes on behind that decision.
CA: Is it a dour story, then? You and I were talking earlier, and it seems like you’ve got a lot of fun stuff for a story about a girl whose big brother figure just died.
JK: I think you’re absolutely right to refer to him as a brother figure more than anything else, but the Knight and Squire stuff, whether it was the Morrison run or the Paul Cornell miniseries, it’s all really weird in a good way. So it’s like, how do you deal with grief in that situation, in that setting? It’s a story about grief, but there’s a lot of weird stuff going on. My favorite Batman is weird, fun Batman. Zebra costumes, rainbow costumes, Bat-Mite. That’s my jam. So how do you look at a really serious emotion in that kind of context?
CA: Will there be a new Squire? We’ve never seen the Knight without a Squire, until Beryl.
JK: No comment.
CA: Did you get to do everything you wanted to? Did you have to pack it all into that short story?
JK: I did, but my background, when I broke into comics, was doing short stories in the back of Savage Dragon and other stuff, or Negative Burn. I love doing shorts. I love the challenge of it, because it’s a total economy of space. I gave myself a weird rule, where the first page was seven panels, the second page was six panels and so on until you get to one last splash. I gave myself even more constrictive rules beyond the seven pages. We’ll see if it works out. I’ll hear from you, I’m sure.
CA: I assume you don’t kill Beryl off…
JK: Oh, no, she’s dead. Also Batman. They did not read my script close enough.
CA: So you wrote the death of Knight and of Batman in this anthology book.
JK: And some of the Superpeople. I’m not sure who anymore. A lot of people are dead.
CA: Seriously though, is there potential for you to come back and do more?
JK: I would love to. The experience was awesome, Mike Marts was the editor I worked with. I really saw eye-to-eye with him, so that was really cool. But yeah, if they want to have me back for more Knight, I would love to.
CA: Let’s talk about Hulk. How did that come about?
JK: Same kind of thing. I got an email one day from Bill Roseman, who in addition to being a great editor is also a big wrestling fan. We bonded on that in the past.
CA: Who’s his guy?
JK: Who is Roseman’s guy? That’s a good question. I want to say Daniel Bryan, but I could be wrong. I’ll have to double-check. But I’d been to New York for WrestleMania, I stopped by and gave him two copies of Glory, he read it and loved it, and was like “hey man, we’re doing this Marvel Knights thing, done-in-one stories, I think you should do the Hulk. What do you think?” I was like “That’d be awesome.” I had a Hulk story, I pitched him on it and he liked it, and then he brought in Pitor Kowalski, which I’m really excited about.
CA: So as someone who really likes doing short stories and comes from that background doing shorts, do done-in-one comics something you consider yourself geared to?
JK: I like going into stuff with some sort of finite goal. Even when I do ongoing series, like on Morbius, when I came in I knew how it’d end. I knew I’d do nine or ten issues and that would be it. With Intergalactic, that series is a little weird because of the way it’s built. It’s possible to have endings and go in other directions, because every single corporation has their space program, so there’s so much to get into. I know how our first big arc ends. I do like the idea of doing something and not knowing where it’s going or what the ending’s going to be.
CA: So what kind of Hulk stories are you going to tell? They’re in-continuity, but not in a specific time, right?
JK: Yeah, it’s not like “this is after Indestructible Hulk #3,” or whatever. The loose idea is kind of right before Marvel Now, but you don’t need to read other books to understand it. It’s kind of me dealing with my obsession with ’60s and ’70s European thriller movies and injecting the Hulk into that. There’s a lot of cat-and-mouse stuff. The opposition, I’ve been really kind of mum about, but it ties into something I’ve done before, and I think it’ll be really cool. Basically, there’s a new generation born from AIM and whatever, their children are rising up and dealing with the previous generation. The Hulk gets caught in the middle of that, and when it starts, Banner has no memory, he can’t turn into the Hulk, it’s a big deal. It’s a different approach.
CA: Do we see the Hulk in a Diabolik outfit with a super-tight face mask?
JK: There’s a lot of Hulk asking where his damn croissant is. It’s different from anything I’ve done before. Stuff gets smashed. There’s a lot of smashing.
CA: Was there ever a possibility that you were going to write a Hulk book where things didn’t get smashed?
JK: There’s a lot of smashing, both by the Hulk and to the Hulk. You can’t have Hulk not smash, right?