Batman: Damned and Joker artist Lee Bermejo is returning to the Batman franchise for a new project, but there’s an interesting twist this time. This is a story Batman readers may have already experienced, even if they didn’t realize it at the time.
Bermejo’s latest Bat-tale is dubbed Batman: Dear Detective. Less a traditional comic than an illustrated prose tale, Dear Detective is a 56-page graphic novella that repurposes many of Bermejo’s previous Batman covers to tell a new detective noir story. Those familiar images are accompanied by text in the form of letters written to the Dark Knight himself.
First, check out the slideshow gallery below to get a taste of how Dear Detective reworks these Bermejo’s already striking Batman images. Then read on to learn more about this new project from Bermejo himself.
Batman: Dear Detective – Exclusive Preview Art
Many of the images featured in Dear Detective originated as variant covers for the monthly Detective Comics series. But not anyone dismiss the book as a quick cash-grab or a way of repackaging old content, Bermejo reveals he had the idea for Dear Detective in mind from the very beginning. He was always using those cover images to tell a cohesive story, just one that wasn’t fully apparent until now.
“As soon as the variant cover editor at the time offered me the Detective Comics gig, I knew it was an opportunity to do something different with a cover run,” Bermejo tells IGN. “Detective Comics is special. It’s really THE DC comics book. I wanted to push something with the covers that wouldn’t necessarily be sequential but that readers could interact with and follow as some sort of narrative. The nature of the book just immediately brought to mind classic pulp imagery, the classic detective story on the search for some foe who is taunting him.”
Bermejo continues, “I started to read the old Jack the Ripper and Zodiac letters, and it seemed obvious that the way to go here is to keep the ideas big and broad and make sure that I had covers that did the job of being Batman imagery, speaking to the huge scope and mythology of the character, as well as to the more street level day to day or his life. I scribbled my ideas down after sending my editor the initial cover ideas I was wanting to do.”
Despite having the core idea in mind from the start, Bermejo notes that story evolved quite a bit as his cover images slowly trickled out. Part of the challenge was in finding ways to rearrange his images to best suit the actual contents of the Detective Comics issues or add entirely new moments to his detective tale. Bermejo revealed that while the final two images were always firm, the rest of the story grew and evolved over time.
“The thing about a book like Detective Comics, though, is that it’s a monthly title,” Bermejo says. “So there are also requirements that the book has at times to respect the story being told inside. I knew the covers wouldn’t come out in the order I intended them to be in my story so I had a list of concepts I needed to execute. Different writers come on board and all of a sudden, new ideas came to the table, sometimes being the perfect opportunity to execute those ideas and other times offering something new and unexpected. This became a thrilling challenge because I had to expand on the original idea as the run progressed. I have a table in my studio where I laid the covers out in order and at a certain point I was rearranging sequences and it took on a life of its own. I was also very lucky to have an editorial team that supported this idea.
This isn’t Bermejo’s first time writing a Batman story as well as illustrating it, as he previously pulled double duty on 2011’s Batman: Noel. However, the fact that Dear Detective is a pairing of prose segments and splash images makes it quite a bit different from any of his previous Batman work. That in itself explains why Bermerjo wanted to tackle this unusual project.
“Whenever I do something new I like to try and play with format and the narrative approach if I can, Bermejo says. “I love the idea here of the attention being almost totally on the imagery, with the writing playing a small, supporting role and a means of activating the reader’s imagination to fill in some of the blanks. I didn’t want to overpower that so prose felt like the way to go. It’s also not a traditional comic story, so I didn’t want to approach it with dialogue at all. Batman: Noel was more of a story being told to you, whereas Dear Detective is you telling yourself the story with a gentle push from the prose.”
Finally, given that Bermejo’s art had such a clear inspiration on the look and tone of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, we were curious how Bermejo felt about seeing a live-action Batsuit so closely modeled on his own, iconic design. Unsurprisingly, he’s flattered to see his work reflected on the big screen.
“I loved the film. Truly,” Bermejo says. “Anyone who knows me has heard me beating the drum of wanting to see a Seven-inspired take on the Batman for years, so I was thrilled by the approach they took not only to the story, but obviously to the visuals. I definitely saw a bit of my work in it. But like all of the films, it’s a bit of a gulasch. [David] Mazzucchelli, a bit of the 60’s TV show even, and some clear vibes from The Crow. But if people come out of the theater seeing my influence there then it’s only more reason for them to go out and buy more comics, right? I have the perfect book for them…..it’s called Dear Detective.”
Batman: Dear Detective will release in comic shops and bookstores on September 6, 2022.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.