If you’re even a casual comic book fan, you almost certainly know about DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE, the third and final installment of Frank Miller’s seminal Dark Knight series that launched with THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS nearly thirty years ago, before continuing with THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN in 2001. Co-written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, Dark Knight III: The Master Race returns us to the world of Miller’s aged Dark Knight and plucky female sidekick, Carrie Kelley.
With the first issue not scheduled to drop until late November, details on the storyline are more tightly guarded than the Batcave. But it’s nearly Batman Day, and this is arguably the single most anticipated Batman story in the past several years. So to learn more about it, we sat down with Azzarello for a conversation about the book, it’s unique format what it’s like working with Miller.
You’ve worked with some interesting people—for example, you just co-wrote an issue of Batman with Scott Snyder. Is it fun collaborating with other writers like Snyder and in this case, Frank Miller?
Collaborating with Scott? No, that wasn’t fun.
I’m kidding! In this end of the pool, it’s a team sport. So when collaborations go well, they’re really good.
Is Dark Knight III one of those collaborations? Is it going really well?
It’s going really well, yeah. It’s been a really great experience to work on this.
You were one of the writers on Before Watchmen, so you’ve worked on these sort of well regarded franchises before. Do you find it at all intimidating?
No, it’s not intimidating. It’s like I’m working with a friend of mine on something that he wants to get done, so I’m helping him do it. It was the same with Scott. Scott called me up and said that he wanted to do a Batman story that touched on some real world issues. I’ve done that in the past, so he wanted me to ride shotgun. I said sure.
Can we talk about the subtitle: The Master Race? What’s that referring to?
Everyone wants to know what the title means!
It’s a provocative title.
You’re going to find out what the title means. Is it provocative? Yes. It’s the Dark Knight. The Dark Knight is intentionally provocative. The first one was and so was the second one. The third one’s not going to be any different.
I think a lot of people were surprised at how much they enjoyed Before Watchmen. It seems to me that you’ve had to deal with quite a few people dismissing your projects before they’ve even had a chance to read them.
I’ve had to deal with it quite a bit. I had to deal with it on Wonder Woman too. Wonder Woman fans… They are a different animal. They were critical because of the changes that we made to her. We gave her a father.
But if you don’t like it, don’t read it. It’s so easy. Go back and read the stuff you like. Everything’s being collected now. If you liked the pristine George Perez take on the gods, go read it. If this is not for you, it’s not for you. It’s okay. But again, we knew by making these changes to Wonder Woman we were going to get the kind of response we did from people, but I’m happy with it. It’s great that people were so vocal.
What’s the impression people are going to get when they pick up Dark Knight III? Is it clear immediately that this is the third book and you’re just going for it?
I think so. Jim Lee’s read the story and he said that he felt like it really blended the first Dark Knight and the second one. It has bits of both. The second one is just so enormous in scope, and we have some of that scope. The first one was focused more on Gotham, crime and Bruce Wayne as a man, and we’ve got some of that going too.
Frank’s not drawing this time around. How does that affect the script?
It’s different in that we’re actually scripting it. The thing is, when I’m writing my part of the script, it’s with Frank in mind. Even though it’s for Andy [Kubert]. I’m trying to adapt to Frank’s particular rhythm of telling a story, and Andy’s doing the same thing.
Who touches the script last? Does Frank get the script after you and then it goes to Andy, or are you usually the person who sends the script to Andy?
Frank and I come up with the story, and we talk through a lot of the dialog. I’ll clean it up, give it back to Frank, then he gives it back to me. I give it to Andy, he sends in thumbnails. Frank and I discuss the thumbnails, then it goes back to Andy, then it goes to Klaus… [laughs]
There’s a few extra steps, but you get the point!
How far into this are you? Are you right in the midst of it?
Oh yeah, I’m up to my neck in it.
Can you talk a bit about the mini-comics that will be a part of this series? Where did that approach come from? Was that there from the start?
No, it was actually something that Frank came up with. It was something he wanted to do. We’re touching on a lot of the characters that he introduced in the first two books. We were talking about the Atom’s story in particular, and he said, “Wouldn’t it be great to do a mini-comic with the Atom?”
From there it just grew into doing mini-comics with all of the other characters. That came out of all the artists—Capital-A artists—who wanted to be involved in this. We were looking for a way to get them involved without it being too visually jarring. That was something that Frank in particular was pretty adamant about—he doesn’t like those comics that jump around to different artists. He wanted one guy to do the art for the entire book. But we wanted to figure out a way to get these other guys involved. This is what we came up with.
How does it fit into the process? Do you script these beforehand? Are you scripting them in between chapters of the story?
I’ve had to go back and pull scenes out of the regular outline and finesse them so that they can be more standalone. But to get some of these other creators involved, I’m happy to do it.
DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson is available in print and as a digital download on November 25, 2015.
Going to New York Comic-Con? Don’t miss our special Dark Knight 30th Anniversary panel featuring Azzarello, Kubert, Janson and Jim Lee!