BATMAN: Bob Schreck (Mania.com)
Date: Wednesday, October 04, 2000
There's a new sheriff in Gotham City, and his name is Bob Schreck. Although Bat-fans were shocked to learn that Schreck would be assuming many of the responsibilities that were handled by longtime Bat-editor Dennis O'Neill following the critically acclaimed 'No Man's Land' storyline, it's rapidly become clear that as the man in charge, Schreck has set his creative sights on keeping the Dark Knight fresh and relevant for a whole new generation.
'I have many different and often conflicting views of this character,' explains Schreck. 'My exposure to Batman was unlike so many others of my generation who were exposed to comics in their early childhood. As a child, I was too 'mature' to read comics, and started making films and watching and studying film at a very early agenine, I think. I knew who Batman was, from friends, family and the general culture at large, but my first actual exposure to Batman was the 1960s TV show, which we all absolutely loved and, within no time, absolutely hated in what seemed like a matter of mere weeks. It wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I was exposed to what was then the current Batman in comic book form (circa 1968/69) by a fellow filmmaker and best friend, whose impressive collectionespecially for a little kid his agealso afforded me some of the older, vintage Batman tales. Then there were the old serials and, of course, more recently the motion pictures.
'Down through the years I have often returned to the character and have read many a Batman tale,' continues Schreck, 'but I certainly couldn't be called a devotee of the character, or any other for that matter. I have always been more attracted to a particular creator's unique vision and their evocative new approach to any character or characters, rather than following any one title or character forever, no matter how weak the stories or art had become. The closest to getting that religious about a character and/or group of characters for me would have been a very long time ago, with Swamp Thing, the Fantastic Four and Cheech Wizard. Needless to say, I got over that pretty quickly.'
For the editor, the appeal of the character and the franchise is the basic fact that so much is left up to the interpretation of the individual writers and artists who bring their skills to bear on the subject. 'Batman is clearly an extremely resilient and enduring icon, as time has proven out,' he says. 'His dual 'identities' allow for exploration of two distinct characters in one man. Both his nocturnal and daylight vocations were set in motion very early in his life, like twin destinies that he can not deny, leaving plenty of room to delve into the many thoughts and emotions that went into the molding of this boy into a man.'
One point he makes is that he refuses to get tied down to continuity, particularly when it comes to the debate between Batman's place in the DC Universe, which has varied from urban legend to very public figure. 'There is a tendency of getting a bit too literal and continuity driven,' he says. 'All of these characters have enormous potential and lend themselves to all sorts of stories and interpretations. But at the end of the day, they're not real, are they? The line is fine where it is.
'We'll keep things fresh by keeping on eye on the world outside my office, the other on the great plethora of talent that's out there and the third down the DC halls, always making sure that all three get equal consideration. Most importantly, the book should always be the victor. My ego, a writer's ultimate tale, the artists' interpretation, all must bend and take second place to the better good of the book's final end result. The sky is the limit with what can be done with the character. There's a saying that every story has already been told. It's all in the telling, isn't it?'
As is the case with the various Superman titles, Schreck believes that the Batman family of titles will represent different things to different people, although all of them will stay true to the character of Batman. 'Each book has its own treatment,' he says, 'some more obvious and distinct than the others. InDetective, Greg Rucka and Shawn Martinbrough are giving us less of the 'supervillain' element and taking more of the 'Batman as detective' approach. Ed Brubaker and Scott McDaniel are taking the Batman titleand characterin the direction of a more traditional Batman tale.
'The other Bat books each have their own unique approaches to the material and are not as easily grouped thematically. Devin's Gotham Knights is far more reflective and deals more with Batman's interior motivations while Kelley Puckett's Batgirl is clearly more action-oriented. Meanwhile, Chuck Dixon's Birds of Prey and Nightwing have more in common with each other than compared to what he's doing on Robin. And on top of these various takes on the characters and different directions, all of the creative teams are keeping the overall storylines, artwork and visual storytelling as fresh and thought-provoking as they can for today's readers.
'Indeed,' adds Schreck, 'this is the challenge before me. There is still so much more to be explored with this character. That's why he has stood the test of time. Ultimately, he is one of ushumanonly we don't put ourselves in the same position he does. However, through his eyes we can experience what it may be like having to face these very tough challenges that Batman confronts all the time. Life's tough decisions will always be there, and through this one man, we can always reflect how all of us should and could act when times are tough. My challenge is staying aware of the current situations that are relevant to our readers and which creators are best suited for bringing these concepts to life on the pages.'
In many ways, he notes, society's view of the hero has so drastically morphed to a point where nearly all the qualities of the hero from days-of-old are virtually non-existent. 'This,' he explains, 'doesn't necessitate the elimination of the more traditional heroic values in Batman, but actually serves to strengthen them. Batman started as a darker, grittier character than his 'superhero' contemporaries and has certainly undergone many changes down through the years. The current Batman still holds many of the traditional values that we ascribe to the hero of yesteryear and I believe that these ideals still have a real resonance with today's readers. The current interpretation is more in keeping with the original.'
Based on the enthusiasm he demonstrates for his current position, the impression is that Schreck views this gig as a dream job. 'I have been blessed with getting a glimpse of life's bigger picture in my earlier days,' he says. 'The position I am currently holding is one that keeps me on my toes with challenges and opportunities beyond my greatest expectations, which is what I live for. I am very pleased to be doing what I am, and am aware of how much responsibility this brings to bear. 'Dream job?' Down through my years I've made a point to always be doing my dream job. So far, so good.'