Conversation with Greg Rucka (pt. 5 of 5)

Crime Bible #1EN: One of the things we didn’t cover in our 52 talk was the subject of the Crime Bible, which was a major story point in the Charlie/Renee storyline. Who concocted the idea for the book?

GR: Crime Bible, like a lot of the high-concept ideas in 52, was all Grant. Yet another one of his brain storms that he just tossed off one day.

And of course, the way he dropped it into conversation, it was as if 1) he’d already told us all about it and we were consequently up to speed with him on it (we weren’t), and 2) it was fully-formed in his head in a way that things come sui generis from his mind. Or at least seemed to.

EN: At what point in the 52 discussions did he spring this on the rest of you?

GR: I think, honestly, it was something that had been brewing in his head re: Batman and what he was planning on doing with Gotham, how he saw the city. Not quite sure. I know it came in early enough that I was able to use it in Week 16.

But it was a very broad idea to me, and one I didn’t fully grasp. The way Grant proposed it, Crime was the extension of Capitalism. But as a spiritual ideal. And I remember blinking at him and saying, wha, huh, how? And he EXPLAINED it to me, but I think I got, maybe, half of it, if that much. Frankly, I don’t think Geoff or Mark got it at all, mostly because they didn’t see it touching on what they were doing to a terrible extent.

But when we got to the idea of Intergang-Religion of Crime/Dark Faith-Kahndaq-Gotham, it was clearly something that I could use. So it ended up being mostly me who carried that torch. Almost all the Crime Bible refs and sequences are mine, with, I think, two exceptions — the Mannheim introduction in Gotham (not sure which week, but I think it’s the Halloween issue), and then again on the reveal of the Four Horsemen, when Chang Tzu quotes the Revelations of the Apokolips. And it’s used during Thanksgiving, too, I think, but I could be mistaken. Those were all Grant.

EN: The actual book itself is surrounded by mystery — Is it an ancient book? Is it contemporary, still being written? Where does it come from? How was the word spread? — What would you say that a new reader, with the first issue of Crime Bible coming out today, needs to know about the book?

GR: I think coming to the mini series, one needn’t know much. The origins are shrouded in mystery, of course, to such an extent it’s actually a point of dialogue in the first issue — that the book combines obvious fiction with speculative fact, that it contains sections that couldn’t have been written before the mid-20th century, etc.

The conceit, ultimately, is that it’s a very, very OLD book, but that it is also a living text — that the Dark Faith has been around since the origins of the DCU, but never seen, never known until recently.

Essentially, all one really needs to know is that the Religion of Crime has adherents and followers hidden in all walks of life, throughout the DCU, and that their lives are devoted to the glory of the “sins of Cain,” to a life of “crime.” The extension of the belief system is that morality forms shackles upon society, and that only by embracing true crime can one ever become truly free, truly the master of one’s own destiny.

Where it comes from, well, that’s a mystery within the DCU, but there’s some clear implication that the original Black Book was sourced from Apokolips.

EN: Bruno Mannheim seemed to have been an important person within the Crime Religion in 52, at least before he got knifed. Can you tell us anything about his role in spreading the word?

GR: Mannheim is, for all intents and purposes, the modern prophet of the religion — he’s responsible for bringing the Dark Faith into “ascendance” during the year of 52. Exactly how this came about is hinted at in 52 — Bruno had a religious experience that was quite clearly transformative, and one that lead to his personally redirecting Intergang to serve the Dark Faith’s goals. In effect, Bruno pulled back the curtain on the religion, revealing it to the DCU Earth.

EN: Does the Religion of Crime have parallels to other faiths? The first thought most people seem to have is that it’s supposed to be the opposite of Judeo-Christian beliefs, but it seems more than that….

GR: Well, yeah. It has parallels to multiple faiths, but most obviously Judeo-Christian beliefs, especially in its veneration of Cain. But those are, by nature, false parallels. The nature of the Dark Faith is that it is, by definition, blasphemous. So its very structure is designed to mock and disparage true faith. After all, its central thesis is to say that all other religions are false, are con-games run on unsuspecting sheep who have surrendered their free will in the name of these patently “false” higher goals.

One tends to skate onto thin ice when one deals with religion in comics, y’know? So we’ve tried very hard to make the Religion of Crime something that has a tangible structure and belief system, something that is menacing as a villain group, but of course, we’re not looking to offend anyone. Or at least, we’re hoping we won’t offend anyone other than those people who were going to be offended anyway.

EN: Where does Renee come in on all of this? What’s her interest now that she’s saved Kate?

GR: Heh. Well…it’s a multi-part answer. There’s the fact that it was the last thing she and Charlie pursued together. And there’s a sense that a lot went unanswered, and she wants to know more, and that’s mostly her own curiosity, but it’s also an homage to Charlie.

Then there’s Kate. Renee loves Kate. That’s a given. They’ve got a long, complicated history that’s only been hinted at thus far, and will, eventually, be revealed. But during 52, it became very clear to Renee that, for whatever reason, the Dark Faith was fixated on Kate/Batwoman. And so a lot of what she started doing in investigating the Black Book and the Dark Faith was an attempt, initially, to find out why Kate matters to these people. And the extension, logically, is that, hey, they tried to kill her once; what’s to keep them from trying again and again until they get it right?

But here’s where we get to those things that may be, perhaps, less obvious in the mini. One of the things that appealed to me about the Religion of Crime, when Grant presented it, was the Lovecraft feel of it. I ate that up, because I love that stuff. And one of the things I love about those stories is that, the moment you open the door into the world, you cannot shut it again. You just can’t. This is why so many of Lovecraft’s protagonists end up either a) insane, b) dead, or c) insane and dead. So the more Renee looks, the more she’s compelled to look, and the more what she sees effects her, and draws her in further.

I love stories like that. From Faust to The Ninth Gate, I’ve always been very attracted to those kinds of narratives, the ones of almost inevitable conflict and corruption that seem to start from fairly innocuous beginnings. I suppose the quick answer, then, is that the more she looks, the more she’s inclined to look. One does not gaze into the Abyss, etc., etc.

And that’s the other thing that I wanted to explore — that this isn’t some little cult of nuts, this is a vast, powerful, terrifying thing that the Question has uncovered, and she’s been trying desperately to understand it, what makes it tick, the why, the how. But the more she looks, the more she realizes that the Religion of Crime knows she’s there.

EN: Where is Renee, in both her investigation, and as a character, when we start the series?

GR: Issue 1 begins in London. She’s been chasing Crime Bible leads for almost a year at that point, in particular, trying to track down the various editions of the Black Book in existence. There are multiple editions of the bible, and each major edition differs from others in various ways, some of them significantly.

For instance, there’s a “Book of K├╝rten,” which clearly refers to the Dusseldorf murders in the 1930s. Which means that any edition holding that “book” would almost, by definition, have to be written after the fact. (Or else its a prophetic work). But the editions differ in other ways — some contain codes, some contain rituals, perhaps spells, some have hallucinogens mixed into the inks, some have maps. And her quest is, at the start, certainly, one for knowledge, so knowing as much as she can is vital to her.

EN: I should give Renee a call…the Methods of Lit. Research course I took in grad school would come in handy. Though I don’t know that any lit. critics have ever had to check ink for hallucinogens before…!

GR: But the reason she’s come to London is because of a man named Stanton T. Carlysle, who has published a book. And the book is getting a lot of attention. The book is called “A Blasphemous Mythology: The Religion of Crime” where he purports to debunk the religion as a whole.

And of course, she’s read it. And she has some questions for the good Professor Carlysle. Not the least of them being, what’s his connection to the Religion of Crime? After all, they’ve been running dark for millennia, potentially, then they emerged with Mannheim, and then they disappeared again. Now there’s a book. And the thing of it is, as much as the religion has run “dark,” it’s also been an “urban legend” in the DCU. Like talking about the Illuminati or other similar global and timeless conspiracies.

EN: I’m sure he’s just looking for tenure somewhere.

GR: Heh. He’s actually already GOT it.

EN: So how would you classify the series? Is it a detective story? Is it Lovecraftian horror?

GR: Oh, man…I think it’s both, frankly, but one could argue that most of Lovecraft was detective fiction. You just didn’t actually want to solve the case in his stories, you know?

It’s a Question story. It answers some questions, and it raises a lot more.

EN: We’ve seen some sketches from Crime Bible artists on your blog. It looks as though you guys have redesigned the Montoya-Question look somewhat?

GR: Yeah, very much so. She couldn’t wear what Charlie wore in the “traditional” garb, and I was always a fan of how Cowan altered what Charlie wore depending on season and locale. The costume, ultimately, was the mask, to me, and while other elements are certainly cool — ie, the fedora — we wanted to make sure it worked.

The fact is, she looked kinda silly to me wearing Charlie’s clothes. Not to mention, they didn’t fit. As a character, Renee had her own style of dress, and that seemed the logical place to start. So that was the impetus behind it — to give her a look that was uniquely her own, but that would also work for the Question.

EN: How much of a hand did you, as a writer, get to play in the redesign?

GR: Both myself and the editor on the series, Michael Siglain, were very involved in the process. We bandied various ideas back and forth, and then it was Mandrake who sort of took the lead on it at the start.

Ultimately, her look is consistent throughout the five issue, but in each issue, it’s also altered to suit the where and when of the story, what she’s doing, where she’s doing it. She’s in Hub City in winter, for instance, in issue 4 — so the light jacket look isn’t really going to help, there. Issue 5 she’s…somewhere very hot and humid, so she’s in lighter clothing. And yes, she wears the fedora a lot.

EN: Across the Internet, folks are stroking their chins and saying, “Hub City, eh?” Leastwise, they will be when they read the interview.

GR: Yeah, Issue 4 is very much an homage to the O’Neil Question series. It’s very much a Hub City story.

EN: Any other hints you want to share as to locales that Renee will be visiting?

GR: Issue 1 is London. Issue 2 is Bethesda, Maryland. Issue 3 is Gotham. Issue 4 is Hub City. Issue 5 is Bangladesh. Chittagong, Bangladesh. Or more precisely, north of the city. On the beach. And now people are scratching their heads, wondering WTF.

EN: Those hints are terribly vague.

GR: Yeah. It must kill you having to ask questions that you actually know the answers to.

EN: It does! But let me ask one more, the one that everyone has been asking me since they found out that I had access to the scripts, and I’ve been refusing to answer….

GR: Shoot.

EN: Batwoman: What role will she play, and will we learn more about her character?

GR: Kate’s in issue 3. She’s instrumental in issue 3. We get more hints about her life, and we get more hints about her relationship with Renee, and how the two feel about each other. The nutshell of the that relationship is that they are each the other’s great passion. But, like many great passions, that doesn’t actually mean they’re good for each other.

But if people are hoping for the reveal of Kate’s origin, for instance, or if she’s still working as Batwoman, or things like that…nope, not here. For the record, I know the answers to all those questions. I may, in fact, be only one of two or three people who do know those answers. But the mini is about the Question, not about Batwoman.

The “truth” about Batwoman is coming. That’s all I can say about that.

Well, that’s not true. I can say that, I think, readers will get a better sense of Kate from her appearance in issue 3 than they will have anywhere else prior. Remember, it’s been about a year for her since she nearly died, and that’s changed her outlook somewhat, too.

EN: Someone out there this very moment is still on the fence about picking up Crime Bible #1. What would you say to convince them to give it a try?

GR: It’s a damn good comic, and the first page is unlike anything you’ve read in any comic book, possibly ever. And there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Like the whole series.

Honestly, I think this is some of my best work in years. I’m very proud of the mini, and I think people are going to really dig what we’re doing, what we’re adding to the DCU, and how we’re honoring the Question who came before while defining a very cool Question who is now.

But, frankly, I’d toss it back to you, because you are the authority on Q online, as far as I’m concerned. Why should people pick it up?

EN: Hmm…I think you’re right in saying that it’s unlike any book in the super-hero genre we’ve ever seen. You’re dealing with issues of morality and conscience in a way we haven’t seen in a comic before. There are aspects of storytelling and design that are fascinating and new. We see mysteries solved as deeper, more intriguing ones arise. Most importantly, this is the introduction of a new stage in Renee’s life, one in which she embraces her new role as eternally curious vigilante, and it’s a hell of a good start.

Renee’s adventure in Crime Bible strikes me as a little Philip Marlowe, a little Indiana Jones, a little…for some reason, I don’t know why…Young Sherlock Holmes, and a little O’Neil-era Question wrapped up into a story that’s still much bigger than any of those elements.

GR: I like all those comparisons.

Buy Crime Bible #1 today!

Preview pages by Tom Mandrake for Crime Bible #1!

Crime Bible #1 page 11

Page 11

Crime Bible #1 page 12

Page 12

Crime Bible #1 page 17

Page 17

Crime Bible #1 page 18

3 Responses to “Conversation with Greg Rucka (pt. 5 of 5)”

  1. linkage « supervillain says:

    […] -Greg Rucka’s fifth interview w/, concerning The Crime Bible miniseries. […]

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 31, 2007: Your client didn’t produce Lolita says:

    […] Eric Newsom’s mammoth, five-part interview with Crime Bible writer Greg Rucka concludes. Related: Douglas […]

  3. The Question | Vic Sage | Renee Montoya » news » Crime Bible debuts / Rucka interviewed says:

    […] your copies of Crime Bible #1, out on Halloween. If you’re still on the fence, check out our latest round of chatting with writer Greg Rucka which also has some preview pages of art by Tom Mandrake! Spread the good word: These icons link […]

Leave a Reply