What follows is a complete transcription of the interview I had with Steve Orlando on Thursday July 20th at the 2017 San Diego Comic Convention.
BM: The lineup has you slated to talk about Supergirl, but I was hoping to talk with you about Batman / The Shadow. Is that ok with you?
SO: Batman / The Shadow is one of my favorite books I’ve ever done, so we can talk about it.
BM: The Shadow is a character that inspired many writers and artists in the real world to create the super hero genre. This comic is essentially honoring that by not just making The Shadow the inspiration for these characters, but the actual architect of them within the comic world. It seems natural and intuitive to me that The Shadow should be that character, but how did you and Snyder come to this decision?
SO: It’s no small secret that Scott has some experience with Batman. And I’m actually, would generously say, one of the biggest Shadow fans… at least working at DC, if not ever. I have a signed 94 Alec Baldwin movie poster at my parent’s house. I love the mystery and the primal power of the Shadow. We [Snyder and I] came together and started talking about what we loved about each character, and how they could play together. And through phone conversations, that is how everything you opened with came about. The Shadow is this primal pulp hero that has influenced so many things. A fedora and a coat just feels like comics. And it wouldn’t be that way without The Shadow. We talked about what made them who they are, and when you talk about it enough, the plot just kind of germinates itself. And that’s how it came together.
BM: When I read it I get a feeling that it’s set in the past. It just has that vibe about it. But it’s set in the present, right?
BM: And is it also in continuity?
SO: The book is not in continuity, based on the simple fact that the characters are owned by different companies. So, it’s problematic going forward. But the reality is, we are telling an iconic myth between these two characters. And even if it isn’t hard continuity, much like many of the mysteries of the shadow, they can be read to be true. And they can be read to be false. Part of The Shadow is, he is one of the world’s greatest mysteries. And coming to terms with the fact that Batman can’t figure him out, and will not be able to…and facing his own mortality in that respect…is a large part of the book. Our hope is, regardless of the answer, you can look at the end of this and say…maybe he isn’t lying. Maybe he did all of this. And that’s kind of the experience of The Shadow. There is a daunting horror to the truth he puts out. You know, maybe he’s just been manipulating you the entire time.
BM: In The Casting, Joker called Duke Thomas a signal, and The Shadow’s enemy in this book is an honest signal. Considering that Snyder is working on both of these stories, is there some kind of connection going on there, or is it unrelated?
SO: Well, Metal examines the hidden world that Batman doesn’t know. And in Batman/Shadow, it’s about this secret world all around him all this time that he doesn’t know. But with the Stag saying he is an honest signal, that is largely a wildlife term. An honest signal, when it comes to wildlife, is an animal that is what it appears to be. So, a poisoned frog is honest signaling. Because it is very bright and it is, in fact, dangerous. So, in the case of the Stag, he is an honest signal because he is the apex predator. He looks intimidating, and it’s not a feint. He is every bit as dangerous as he appears to be. That’s why he says that.
BM: With Batman, I’d imagine that not too many writers need to do too much research on him before taking on a Batman project because they’ve most likely already read plenty of Batman stories along with the fact that the character is much more front and center in the public consciousness. But in writing The Shadow, and in seeing everything you put in, I was wondering if you needed to go back and read the pulp stuff from the 30s or listen to the radio drama?
SO: I’d actually already read most of/listened to most of it already. The Shadow has been my guy for a long time.
BM: Ok. I wasn’t sure how far back in the character’s history your fandom went.
SO: For Shadow, very far. I’ll say this, I’m best known at DC for obscure knowledge of pulp super hero characters. The splash of all The Shadow’s former students is as close to comic pornography as anything could ever get for me. I mean, we have things like the woman in red, Miss Fury. And I think she should be one of the most famous characters in comics, and isn’t. She’s the first superhero created by a female creator. She should be huge and we should celebrate her. And in the case of The Shadow, to be able to bring it together and paint this foundation that Batman is the culmination of, that’s essentially an A to Z of the entire super hero world. It started with Shadow. It started with Batman. The scope and history of the book, it’s just incredibly exciting.
BM: There’s a lot of detective work in the first couple issues of Batman/The Shadow, but I’ve noticed of late that this same level of detective work is largely missing from the other books. Batman and Detective Comics are currently heavy on the action front and omitting, for the most part, the detective work. Was there a specific reason you decided to focus more on the detective work? I mean, I love it. I’d prefer to see more detective work in all the books.
SO: Well, it’s a part of him. And detective work changes as technology changes. It’s not just a magnifying glass anymore, because it’s 2017 and Batman has all the coolest toys. But, I think it’s a part of the character. Especially when you include a character like The Shadow. There is this mystery that he wants so badly to solve and must realize he can’t. You have to show his acumen, to make it matter, since detective work is a big part of him. But also, it’s about unifying the vision of the character. The duality is, he’s someone that uses blunt solutions with his physicality but also cerebral solutions with detective work. And, it’s been on my mind a lot more. It’s also a huge part of JLA, where you have the fighter and intellectual Batman. It kind of reminds me, in a reserved way, about what we are doing with Lobo there. Lobo is obviously brash and violent, but he is also a genius. He created the technology that destroyed Czarnia. And he is smart. But, a lot of that is, people just assume he’s only what he looks like. He’s a blown out version of what you see in Batman. Batman’s a badass, but he’s also incredibly perceptive. And a lot of times, that can be just as dangerous as anything he can do with his fists.
-There were some readers here at Batman-News that were curious about whether or not this story was in continuity. That question was asked for you guys, so I hope the answer helped clear some stuff up for you.
-When I asked about Duke Thomas being a signal, I had not yet heard the news that Duke was going to be a superhero called The Signal. In essence, Duke is a (bat)Signal and the Stag is an honest signal. Two completely separate things. But I don’t think it’s out of the question that I was slightly confused about the similarities. Regardless, Orlando’s answer about what an honest signal meant was something I wasn’t aware of, so it was definitely interesting. But this reveal about Duke’s future name does raise a new question. How is it that the Joker is referencing Duke’s future name when Duke himself hasn’t even chosen it yet?
-I don’t know about you all, but after hearing that brief testimony from Orlando, I’m now super interested in reading some Miss Fury: The woman in red. I briefly looked into her online, and what I found left me intrigued enough to definitely look into her further. It’s also interesting how much her design resembles that of Catwoman (minus the cape, of course).
Our coverage of Batman / The Shadow
Batman / The Shadow #1 review SCORE: 9.5 / 10
Batman / The Shadow #2 review SCORE: 9 / 10
Batman / The Shadow #3 review SCORE: 8.5 / 10
Batman / The Shadow #4 review SCORE: 6.5 / 10