The DC Black Label imprint will give the legendary comics publisher the opportunity to showcase premier comics creators who are expanding classic characters in standalone stories set beyond the typical context of the DC Universe. The books will reveal haunting new sides to familiar DC characters and become the home for classic DC titles for sophisticated readers. The format and release schedule of each series will be tailored to the story and the creators' vision. The imprint will feature both new stories and reissues.
The new imprint will launch in September with the periodical publication of Batman: Damned by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. The debut DC Black Label graphic novel, the collected edition of Batman: White Knight by writer and artist Sean Murphy, will follow in October.
Other DC Black Label titles will include reissues of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race, appearing in conjunction with the November launch of Miller's highly anticipated collaboration with John Romita Jr., Superman: Year One. Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo will also join the list this fall.
A Conversation with Sean Murphy
In Batman: White Knight, writer and artist Sean Murphy turns Gotham's greatest rivalry on its head: the Joker is sane and Batman is being driven mad. To celebrate the launch of DC Black Label, we talked to Murphy about good and evil and his inspiration for the comics.
You've successfully humanized some of the most damaged and twisted characters in the DC Universe. What inspired you to give such depth to the Joker and Harley Quinn?
Having a sane man, and maybe even a good man, stuck inside of the Joker seemed like a great way to make the character more tragic and compelling. We may not want to admit it, but I think a part of us wants to root for the Joker. For Harley Quinn, rather than have two versions within the same body, we have two completely different women in love with opposite sides of the Joker persona. Playing with Joker and Harley allowed me to get into topics that comics usually avoid: domestic abuse, emotional abuse, mental illness, and trying not to let those things completely define you.
You were able to create a singular look and feel for Gotham City. What was your inspiration?
I'm a big Batman: The Animated Series fan. I used that as a starting point and then added my own style. For me, Gotham should feel very old and lived-in, older than the traditional New York City vibe it usually has. So I based a lot of the architecture on older European cities like London and Glasgow. Even Batman is very low-tech—he wears a leather belt with pouches rather than a space-age metal one.
Batman must now face the consequences of his years spent as a reckless vigilante. How were you able to maintain his position as a sympathetic character?
The world is more complicated now, and so are the readers. We're learning that hero and villain aren't so easy to define anymore. Bruce Wayne is to me more interesting when he's flawed. He makes a lot of mistakes, which I think readers can forgive because they know that Bruce Wayne is only human. That's also the contract writers have with readers: I'm going to shock you by tearing Gotham up in ways you think can't be repaired, but by the end you're going to forgive me because I'm going to reinstate the familiar order of things.
The Joker and Batman are both heroic figures in this story. What does it mean to be a hero in Batman: White Knight?
It means accepting your flaws and trying to move forward so you can evolve into something new.