Gotham Adventures #46: Scarface, the Ventriloquist and Their Creators

My youngest two kids have been going through my Gotham Adventures comics, reading most of them for the first time. Which has led to me reading some of them for the first time this decade. I used to be amused when fans—or pros—would come up to Dennis O'Neil and ask him about stuff he'd written, and how often had little to no memory of the story in question; he'd written so many that he just couldn't remember them all, especially since many of them he hadn't even seen since he first sent the original script off. Meanwhile, those fans—and pros—(and I) had often read and re-read those issues over and over, sometimes as recently as the day before, so they were completely fresh in the mind. I was amused but a bit baffled. 

Well, I'm not a legend like Denny, and I haven't written anywhere near as many issues, but now I have some idea of what it was like for him. Because I had no memory of putting the amazing creative team of Alan Grant, John Wagner and Norm Breyfogle—the creators of Scarface and the Ventriloquist, one (two?) of their many great creations—into an issue of The Gotham Adventures. And yet, I opened it up, and suddenly there they are. 

And then it came back to me. Because I dimly recalled that for some reason I didn't tell my magnificent penciller, Tim Levins, that he was going to be drawing Alan, John and Norm. Nor did I provide photo reference. Instead, I described them. Why? I don't remember. Maybe I was afraid someone at DC wouldn't let us do it?

So I just wrote this:
Batman lands on the other side of Scartriloquist, bowling over two of the five or six men he’s got with him on this here job, three of whom (including the two bowled over) are holding bags o’ money and whichever two you choose to show here also happen to be holding the manager of the bank. The manager’s an African-American woman of fifty-two years who looks very business-like. The three gangsters, who will collectively be referred to as Our Three Mooks, although they will occasionally be joined by others (taking the Red Shirt role from Star Trek) are: 
ALAN, a five foot nine, slightly-built gentleman with light brown hair which just touches his shoulders; Alan’s got a dangly ear-ring and wears John Lennon spectacles. Moreover, he looks like the love child of John Lennon and John Hurt; he does not, however, look just like John (or Julian) Lennon. 
Mobster #2 is JOHN, a heavily-built, but not fat, guy who’s about six four. He’s got a squarish head and shaggy dark brown hair that’s not long but could use a trim; he looks like the love child of Chris Noth and Paul Sorvino. 
Last comes NORMAN, about five ten, usually wear muscle t-shirts and shorts; he’s not big but is very well-muscled and looks like he could hold his own in the Australian outback; he’s got long dark brown hair in a ponytail.
And in return got this:

When I got the pencils I was, of course, delighted.  

I didn't really try to capture their actual speaking styles, per se—rather, I went for rough approximations in a very broad manner. There's no sign of Alan's Scottish burr, for instance. And Norm didn't really sound like a California surfer dude. I just decided to exaggerate the incongruity for comedic effect, so I made two of them unusually eloquent for a couple of mooks, while the third would be unusually laid-back. Besides, it was sorta my own private tribute, so versimilitude wasn't necessarily of parmount importance.

It's funny that this is one of the few issues I ever wrote that had Scarface and Ventriloquist and yet, due to story demands, didn't show Scarface getting maimed or mutalated—something that was always delightful to do, because you could. Scarface was (obviously) made out of wood, and not flesh and bone, so creators were able to treat him in really reprehensible ways. And were generally delighted to do so. Almost any time I set part of a story in Arkham, I'd have Scarface there, and quite often, he'd get his head ripped off and tossed around, or impaled by a batarang or something gruesome yet humorous like that. Not here, though: because he was the focus of the story, and because it leaned a bit more heavily than usual on the pathos, we had to keep him intact. Ah, well. The sacrifices we make for our art.

Opening up the book the other day brought several different emotions. As always, extreme pleasure when I see Tim's art. Amusement when I saw Alan, John and Norm. Nostaliga for the days of working with those talented gentlemen. And maybe most of all, sadness that I hadn't remembered to send this to Norm when he was alive.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure I ever knew this story or who I was drawing. Very cool! I just Googled what these guys actually looked like, however, and I wish I had done a better job. Did Google Images even exist back then? Your description of Alan was perfect, by the way :)