"Loneliness Is Really What I Was Dealing With More Than Anything" An Emotional One-On-One with DC's Paul Dini

Anthony Desiato (@DesiWestside) writes,

On Thursday afternoon, legendary Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini took the stage at San Diego Comic Con for a one-on-one conversation with moderator John Cunningham to talk about writing Dark Night: A True Batman Story for Vertigo. In the autobiographical tale, Dini recounts his brutal mugging at the hands of two attackers over twenty years ago and how the inspiration of Batman helped him get back on his feet, both literally and figuratively.

When asked how he feels in the wake of the book's recent release, Dini responded that he was "happy, relieved, and incredibly grateful" for its reception, for DC's encouragement, and for the fact that he lived through the events depicted in Dark Night. Far more important than the attack itself are the lead-up and aftermath, all of which Dini presents with raw, unflinching honesty and often by breaking the fourth wall.

From the "invisible child" who finds salvation in his imagination, to the rising animation star who attends parties with actresses on his arm but winds up alone at the end of the night, Dini pours all of himself into the pages. In one particularly shocking and revelatory sequence, Dini wins his second Emmy, goes home, and cuts himself in front of the mirror with the golden statuette over getting stood up for the ceremony.

As Dini explained to the audience, the decision to include that part of his story was not an easy one. After debating it for a while, it was his former boss, Batman: TAS producer Alan Burnett, who told Dini how powerful the scene was and how much it would resonate. Dini described the scene of self-harm as "the smoking gun" in telling his story and revealing where he was at that point in his life. "I was lost in my own pathos," he told the audience.

Even—especially—after the attack, "the loneliness is really what I was dealing with more than anything," Dini said. However, he did have some company: his imagination, which took the form of the Batman characters Dini spent so much time writing. The graphic novel presents his "visitations" by friend & foe alike. The villains all encourage Dini's destructive tendencies: Penguin advocates solace in the bottle, Poison Ivy points out his romantic shortcomings, and Joker enables Dini in his wallowing, during which time he fell behind on cartoon scripts and stayed in his apartment as much as possible. It is only Batman, with his tough-love approach, who pushes Dini to rise and move forward.

In terms of the book's production, Dini revealed that the book took about two and a half years to write, and there were long stretches where he walked away from it. He tearfully credited his wife, Misty, for her support in completing the project. Of his collaborator, artist Eduardo Risso, Dini said that he was one of the top three names considered for the project, due in large part to his ability to draw "quiet violence."

When the pages showing the actual mugging came in, "I shrieked and put them aside and couldn't look at them for a week," Dini said. That scene in particular showcases the 100 Bullets style Risso is known for, but the book puts his artistic versatility on full display in a number of sequences. For his part, Dini said he did not want to direct Risso too much, and in certain instances Dini removed or reworked dialogue to better suit the art after Risso's pages came in.

Perhaps the panel's most powerful moment came during the Q&A, when an audience member asked what Dini would say to his attackers if he came face to face with them today. Holding back tears, Dini answered, "I forgive you."

Dark Night: A True Batman Story is available now.