Mister Miracle was one of the best comics on shelves last year – but the first reunion between Sheriff of Babylon partners Tom King and Mitch Gerads at DC almost took place much closer to home than that the cosmic Fourth World. It started, as a lot of things at DC Comics do, with the Batman.
Speaking at Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Manhattan last week in a conversation with Glen Weldon to celebrate Mister Miracle’s trade paperback release, King and Gerads discussed how the pair’s next project together after the gritty war series Sheriff of Babylon at Vertigo was actually going to be on a Batman comic series, standalone from King’s ongoing work as the writer on the main Batman series, and a dream come true for Bat-fan Gerads.
The series would’ve seen two of Batman’s most iconic foes – the Joker and the Riddler – throw Gotham City into chaos as they fought over the chance to be the rogue who buried the Bat, and... well, you might be able to figure out why not only all that sounds so familiar, but what ended up happening that meant King and Gerads were no longer making it together:
Tom King: Mitch and I were supposed to do a Batman book... we did this book called Sheriff of Babylon. Everyone who read it is in this room right now. And our follow up was going to be The War of Jokes and Riddles – a Riddler vs. Joker story. I’m a nerd, so we’re getting pretty serious. And DC called me [and said] “I have fantastic news. We love your Joker versus the Riddler idea. We’re going to take it out of you and Mitch and put it in the main book with a much more mainstream artist, because Mitch, no one likes your art–
Mitch Gerads: My mom says it’s awesome.
King:–and [they] were like, “Aren’t you so excited?” Yay. You just took away my favourite book. Awesome.
The War of Jokes and Riddles became a multi-issue storyarc in the main Batman series in 2017, with Mikel Janin and June Chung on art duties. But after a night out with DC publisher Dan DiDio, King was given another potential project he could do with Gerads, one more in line with his subversive work on The Vision at Marvel Comics that shot the writer to superstardom – one that thankfully also turned out to be Gerads’ other dream DC project:
King: Went out with Dan DiDio, DC’s much-beloved chief who’s almost hated as much as I am. And he invited me out for drinks. He’s an old man, I’m obviously so young. And I was like, “I can drink this guy under the table, easily”. Seven shots later I was gone, and he was solid as a rock. Which is probably how he gets people to agree on killing the Flash. [DiDio’s] like, “Tom, are you okay?” And I’m like, “You took my effing book away”. So he goes “Well I’ll give you a book. Whatever you want”. Because I did this book called The Vision, and he’s a, can you do that? Just give me something like Vision. Anything you want.
“Atomic Knights or Mister Miracle?” I was like, “Oh man, I’m doing Atomic Knights”. [DiDio goes], ah no – Mister Miracle will sell 2,000 more copies. So I chose Mister Miracle. That’s how I ended up with the character.
Gerads: [Tom] slid into my DMs one day, to tell me that I was no longer able to do my dream Batman book. Which was fun news to hear. And he asked me, “Is there anything else you want to do?” This was before I knew what we were going to do next. I told him, I wanted my Batman book. That’s the dream. There’s only two characters in my life I really want to do: Batman and Mister Miracle. And silence. He’s like, “That’s what I’m pitching you right now.”
I have this weird... I grew up with a brother super into comic books. There’s a few books he gave me over the years, I was very small, and the one that really resonated with me, was Mister Miracle. And so it was something I always wanted to bring back. And lo and behold, that’s what he pitched.
King and Gerads went on to work together on Bat-stories beyond the initial plans for The War of Jokes and Riddles, of course – Gerads did art for several issues of Batman, and most recently returned for a story featuring Professor Pyg in Batman #62. So while plans may not have worked out as they were meant to initially, at least the artist got to ultimately achieve not one dream, but two.