In writer/artist Lee Bermejo's new graphic novel Batman: Noel, the Caped Crusader's quest to use a lowly bagman to ensnare the Joker runs parallel to the plot of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. io9 spoke with Bermejo about this gorgeously illustrated standalone book and how an old Dickensian yarn can illuminate the Bat-mythos.
A Christmas story seems a far cry from the horrific crime drama of your previous graphic novel, Joker.
It's definitely a different animal than Joker. Joker was a violent, dark, and brutal book, so I wanted to do something a little less heavy. I played around with the idea of a children's book, and that eventually became Noel. And I just kept finding these parallels between things I could do with Batman and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Todd Klein did a phenomenal job on letters. giving the captions a storybook look.
You've described this book as less of a Christmas story and more of restrospective of Batman's history. How so?
I think it's interesting now — more than ever — that Batman's become more of this unstoppable force of will with Terminator-like determination. Part of me wanted to play with these different ideas of what Batman was throughout the years. Noel reflects moments in Dickens, but Batman's not wearing a big top hat.
I wanted to play around with the past juxtapositions of Gotham's characters. It's important to make nods to the history without being nostalgic. When I was kid, I grew up watching the 1960s TV show. Because I was five, I had no idea that it was played for laughs. There's an element of that in this book, taking Batman's past history completely seriously.
So it's almost a historiographical approach to the hero.
Noel doesn't have many cues to being a holiday story. I wanted to examine this concept of Batman as an unforgiving creature. For example, in the movies he's very armored. I love that depiction, but I wanted to make a wink and offer context to why he is this way at this point in history.
In the book, I give Batman a modern, urban warfare look. I wanted to compare [this current outfit] with his past depictions. If you placed the Adam West Batman next to the Christian Bale Batman, the difference is pretty clear.
What sort of look did you want to bring to Gotham City in December?
I just like a dirty, crumbling city. The Gotham I imagine is enticing and horrifying at the same time. Winter in cities brings dirty snow — it's the idea of filth mixed with beauty. I do need to give a big shout out to colorist Barbara Ciardo — her work is incredible.
Batman: Noel is on the stands now. And no, nobody utters "Bah, Ambush Bug!" at any point.