Paul Jenkins interview

Writer Paul Jenkins is known for his work on DC/Vertigo's Hellblazer, and Marvel's Spectacular Spider-Man, Origin, Inhumans, and Sentry among others. This month, he begins the 6-issue Batman: Jekyll & Hyde at DC with artists Jae Lee and Sean Phillips. Worlds of Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Jenkins to find out more about this mini-series.

Westfield: What can you tell us about Batman: Jekyll & Hyde?

Paul Jenkins: It's something that hasn't really been tapped into, believe it or not. In some ways it has, obviously there's been a lot of exploration of Batman's character. But there's a particular aspect that really hasn't been done so much. So when I proposed it to DC, I said, "Have you ever done this?" and they said, "No, not really. That would be really good. Let's give it a shot." It's about the relationship between Batman and Two Face/Harvey Dent. Robert Louis Stevenson said in Jekyll & Hyde that all men are two men. Why that is the case and what happens when these two men are in conflict is what it examines.

The premise being that there's Two Face, sitting in his jail cell, and they've got him on electroshock therapy. All it's doing is separating the good side, Harvey Dent, from the bad side, Two Face. The separation of the two personalities is becoming more profound. So here you've got this guy with two people that he wears on his sleeve. One is a complete lunatic and the other one is mild-mannered Harvey Dent. He wants something. He needs something to happen in his life. He can't go on like this. What he does is, he puts into motion a series of events that will allow him to change his situation. In the course of doing that, he drags Batman and basically everybody in New York City in with him as well.

Obviously, I'm not going to release what the story is, but the set up is that people all around the city are, for no explainable reason, going kind of mental. They investigate a priest who has murdered his entire congregation for no reason; a father who has killed his wife and two children and then cannibalized the remains. And when they pick up the father, he's watching the Three Stooges and just laughing his head off and doesn't think he's done anything wrong. This is happening all across the city and the police are completely overtaxed and Batman makes a connection between what's happening and Two Face. That's the set up. He goes after Two Face from there.

Westfield: What intrigued you about exploring the relationship between Batman & Two Face or just Two Face in general?

Jenkins: Because of all of Batman's Rogues Gallery, Two Face is him. Two Face is him with a couple more screws loose. The two of them could have easily gone the opposite way. Two Face could be the good guy and Batman could not be. They are so similar. I've always liked it when the villains were not just villains. They didn't just do bad stuff because they were mustachio-wielding villains. They have to have a reason for saying and doing the things that they do. Two Face is quite right when he points out to Batman, "you and I are the same people. As much as you don't like it Batman, you and I do the same things, we want the same things, we react the same way." And they're both people with two personalities. They're both Jekyll & Hydes. Here's Two Face with one and two. Here's Batman with Bruce Wayne and Batman himself. His Mr. Jekyll is Bruce Wayne and his Mr. Hyde is Batman and Two Face knows it.

Westfield: You're working with Jae Lee again on this book. You've done a number of projects together. What is there about your collaboration that makes you want to come back for more?

Jenkins: We have mutual success, that doesn't hurt. There's something that we can do, it seems, that I'm able to do with a few people I've worked with in comics. It probably happens to every writer and every artist. You find that there are some people that you do very well with. It's strange. Jae is a great photorealistic guy. I tear my hair out and bounce him up and down off the walls and say, "I wrote a crowd scene and you drew one person in there with no background! What's going on?" We have this ongoing joke. Whatever happens with us, the combination of the two of us is what works. I don't know if you could define it for either of us. I love his stuff. I think he's brilliant. I think he and I always wanted to work together. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you can do it right. I've had other artists that I really wanted to work with, and I've worked with them and then found out that it wasn't a very good match. But that's kind of like asking me how do you get inspiration? I think I can answer it, but sometimes I'm not sure.

Westfield: You're also working with Sean Phillips on the book. Why was the decision made to work with the two different artists?

Jenkins: There's two parts to it. Jae was having schedule difficulties relatively early on. Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, as they say in America. I love Sean. I've known Sean since I started writing comics. He was my first artist on Hellblazer. He and I are definitely two people who can mesh completely. I love his stuff. I think he's the perfect artist for me. A lot of people look at Jae and I as being this great creative team. As I look back, I would definitely put Sean at the very top of people that I collaborate with. Just the way I feel about how Sean draws my stuff. I talked about it with the DC guys and we said, this is a book with essentially two chapters. Jae and Sean have their own styles, but in some ways they have a very similar approach to how they do it. So It's not a jarring thing. There's like the Jekyll half of the story and the Hyde half of the story. Sean was someone that I wanted to do it with, and I told them that I'd really like to do the second half of the book with Sean. I think that would be perfect because he and Jae are not too dissimilar but Sean has a distinct style. So you go from Jae's photorealism to Sean's, so you have two distinct feels and I think that's perfect.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Jenkins: If I started listing all the projects I'm working on, you might run out of ink! I've got a very important book for me, one that I've been working on for some time and it's really an interesting story. It's a book called Revelations and I'm doing it with Humberto Ramos, who I did Spider-Man with. It's going to be a new art style, not necessarily for him, but for the fans. He gave glimpses of it. If you look in Spectacular, you'll find the occasional page that has this very beautiful washed pencil look. It's very time consuming and very difficult to do. It's so gorgeous looking. It looks so brilliant. Humberto's going to do all six issues of the book in that form, which means it'll take a while but I know that when it comes out, people will go, "Oh my God. I can't believe this book. This is so good looking." I know the couple of people who have seen it so far can't believe what they've got in their hands. That's coming from Dark Horse.

I'm winding up on Spider-Man. I've just written my final issue. I've done it for five years and I think this is the best issue I've ever done. It's being drawn by Mark Buckingham who I started Peter Parker with, so he and I are getting a chance to do one last issue together. It seems to be very special. There's something about Peter Parker that people will learn that they never knew before. If you can ever do that, I always think that's kind of cool.

I have at least two big projects from Marvel. I can't say what they are right now. I'm working on two video games. I worked on The Hulk 2. I wrote the story from beginning to end. I worked on design with the guys. Basically did everything hand in hand with them. I enjoy doing that job. I get a real kick out of it. I think that video games are a burgeoning art form and I get a chance to do them the way I want them to be done. The publishers seem to be very understanding and listening to me.

The most important thing is I'm getting into film. I've directed for the first time. It was a music video for a band called Scum of the Earth. My partner in L.A., Rob Prior, and I have a couple of films we're trying to get made. Rob and I are looking to make The Shadow Walker movie. It's a story that we've been working on. That's our focus. We put the mythology for The Shadow Walker into this music video. We has a reciprocal deal with the band. The video comes on MTV soon. So look for that. The song's called "Get Your Dead On" and it's got one of the creatures from The Shadow Walker in it.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Jenkins: We're going to learn something about Two Face in Batman: Jekyll & Hyde that has never been known before. A monumental secret that he's always carried with him. This is the secret that when I proposed it to DC, they said, "oh my God, no one's ever thought of that before." I was really surprised because I thought it made so much sense. What we will reveal in the last couple of issues is exactly who Two Face is and how he really became Two Face. I'll tell you this: it wasn't just having acid splashed on his face.