An interview I did to promote the upcoming ROBIN annual that I wrote is up at The Pulse. Because I can't link directly to the interview (for whatever reason, one can only link to the main Pulse page), I thought I'd just cut and paste it here.
Thanks to Jen Contino for the interview and for about half of the Quintas family for appearing as characters in the annual. Always fun to work my friends in when I can. The annual ships on Halloween, BTW.
BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
October is horror, so it's the perfect time to add a little scares to the world of Robin. Keith Champagne gave us a treat by telling THE PULSE what it was like writing a handful of tales featuring Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Damian.
THE PULSE: In the old days, we used to have Christmas and Halloween stories almost every year, but those seem few and far between lately. Whose idea was it to make this Robin Annual with a horror tinge?
KEITH CHAMPAGNE: The blame goes to Pete Tomasi, who originally assigned this issue to me. He told me to come up with a Robin story for the Halloween issue. After he left staff, Mike Marts picked up the pumpkin and now...here we are.
THE PULSE: The Robin Annual seems to be of an October theme with a handful of scary tales featuring Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Damian. How did you come up with those types of stories? What inspired you to get your spook on?
CHAMPAGNE: The scary thing is that I wrote this right after Christmas, so it was kind of hard to channel the whole Halloween vibe while cleaning up wrapping paper and building toys. But, you know what they say...that's why they pay me the big bucks!
And actually, there's no Dick Grayson story in this annual. That was a mistake in the solicits. Once Jason Pearson came on board, we decided to double the page count of the Damian story to give the world an extra dose of his gorgeous art.
THE PULSE: You really got to work with a variety of characters in this Annual. Which one was the toughest to script?
CHAMPAGNE: I had a hard time finding a voice for Damian. He's a fairly new character and I had only read one issue of Batman in which he appeared. So it took me some trial and error until I felt comfortable with his characterization.
Fun character though, for a testy little brat!
THE PULSE: Which story almost wrote itself?
CHAMPAGNE: Ah, wouldn't it be a beautiful world if that was the way things worked? As far as characters go, I will say that Harvey Bullock, who plays a role in the Robin story, came snarling onto the page and wrote himself.
THE PULSE: What do you personally view as the greatest attributes to Damian, Tim Drake and Dick Grayson?
CHAMPAGNE: With Damian, I sort of feel that deep down, he wants to be a good kid. He's just never had a stable role model to guide him through his young life. But even when he's acting like a little shit, I don't see him as deliberately being a brat. He's just never learned to play nice with others.
As far as Tim goes, he's a pretty well defined character at this point. I'd say his greatest attribute is his brain. He's a really smart, clever kid.
Plus, they both know kung fu.
THE PULSE: What do you view as each's Achilles heals?
CHAMPAGNE: I think they're opposites in that Tim is always hoping for the best from people and Damian is always expecting the worst.
THE PULSE: Who or what influenced you the most when you were coming up with these stories? Which storytellers do you think are masters at doing something like incorporating a holiday into a comic story effortlessly?
CHAMPAGNE: "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd was a big influence on the Damian story. "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones set the mood nicely for the Robin one. In fact, I'd recommend listening to both of those while you read the annual.
I think holidays like Christmas are very hard to incorporate into a comic story in a non-cheesy manner. The Halloween atmosphere lends itself more easily to that same purpose. It's a lot easier to write creepy than it is to write heartwarming.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who was a master at this kind of thing. There's so few of them that are done that it's hard to single out one person who has mastered the form. It's an interesting challenge, though.
I do love both the Peanuts Christmas and Halloween specials so maybe Charles Schultz was on to something there.
THE PULSE: What have you enjoyed the most about getting to tell these types of Halloween stories?
CHAMPAGNE: I enjoyed the chance to stretch beyond writing traditional super hero stories and do something a little darker and more atmospheric.
It was fun to use Tim Drake, I like the character and I feel like I have a good voice for him. Based on the Tim Drake story, I was slated to take over writing the monthly Robin book for a while. However, as they often do, those plans changed after Tomasi left staff.
THE PULSE: When you were younger, what was the coolest Halloween costume you ever wore?
CHAMPAGNE: One year, I was the boogeyman, which entailed dressing all in black and covering my face with oatmeal, mixed with something to make it stick to me. I remember that being a really cool costume.
Oh, wait...that might have been for my second grade school play. It's all a haze so I'll just say...SUPERMAN!
THE PULSE: Which artists do you think are the best at drawing horror? Why?
CHAMPAGNE: It's hard to find someone these days who puts as much atmosphere into a book as Tom Mandrake. I think of the current generation of working comic artists, he's our darkest light. Gene Colan might be the all-time great, based on his Dracula stuff.
I'd be an ass if I didn't say that Jason Pearson and Derec Donovan are doing AMAZING work on these stories. Derec's stuff is, in my opinion, the best of his career to date. I love his pages so much I want to marry them.
And I still have to pinch myself, it's hard to believe that Jason Pearson is drawing one of my stories. Mike Marts sent me some pages from each the other day and we both agree that this Robin annual will be, bar none, the best looking book on the stands in the month of October. These guys are bringing their 'A' games!
THE PULSE: What do you personally enjoy the most about Halloween?
CHAMPAGNE: I like handing out the candy to the kids when they come to the door, checking out the different costumes. I live in an area where we get HEAVY traffic on Halloween, we go through like ten bags of candy. It's great to see them all.
Of course, nothing beats taking my son out trick or treating. Especially now that he's older and can say "TRICK OR TREAT!"
THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?
CHAMPAGNE: Countdown: ARENA is the big one. Four weekly, double-sized issues covering the month of December.
A LOT more to be announced soon.