The Valencian Paco Roca, winner of the 2008 National Comic Award for Wrinkles and awarded the prestigious Eisner Prize –the Comic Book Oscars– in 2020, he has been chosen by DC to reimagine, from his particular point of view, the Dark Knight and include that story in Batman: the world, a comic that collects stories of the famous hero imagined by artists from 14 different countries. In the Spanish cartoons, Roca has decided to take Bruce Wayne on vacation to Benidorm. The cartoonist and screenwriter counts for 20 minutes How has this experience been?
How did Batman get into the hands of Paco Roca? I was very surprised that for this project, in which DC was looking for an author from each country in the world to place Batman there, they chose me, because there are many Spanish authors who are closer to the world of superheroes and who do. very well. I am not from the world of superheroes, as a reader yes, but not as a cartoonist
And how was your reaction? First of all, it surprises you, it makes you happy, but then you also get scared and say … what do I do with a superhero when in my comics you could count the action vignettes with the fingers of one hand, which is almost always very slow, by far dialogue and everything very everyday. So I took it to my field.
And he took it on vacation, why to Benidorm? Because history required it. I thought about what I could bring to the character and I knew I couldn’t give him fast-paced action, because that’s not my record, so I figured out how to bring him into my universe. And I also thought that maybe the time had come, after so many decades of Batman fighting crime practically every day – also thinking that within this compilation there would surely be a lot of action – that perhaps a relaxation would be good, a moment to watch. Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne, in another activity and being able to stay more with that human part rather than with the heroic one.
Then he came to the central idea. Sure, I thought I’d give him a vacation, turn it into a story where Bruce Wayne takes a vacation from Batman. And, since it had to be Spain, what better destination or what destination better known both in Spain and outside of Spain than Benidorm? In addition, it is one of those cities that never sleeps, with skyscrapers and others, and that could visually resemble Las Vegas, which is a place that in the United States would also be very close visually. So, well, I thought Benidorm was the best possible option.
When it comes to luxury, Marbella would be another good destination. Also, it could have also been Marbella, but hey, since I’m from Valencia, I had Benidorm closer, I’ve been many more times than in Malaga, and I thought Benidorm could work very well in this case.
In very few vignettes and almost without dialogue he manages to convey one of his usual themes, the passage of time … Yes, and it is also that this story, which is the germ, emerged during the pandemic, in the confinement. Sometimes they ask me: ‘Are you going to do a story about the pandemic, about all this?’ And you think that everything we live is leaving a mark on what you do. So even if you don’t explicitly make a story about the pandemic, you leave a mark on what you are doing at the time, and surely without the pandemic this story would not have existed.
How exactly did it influence? This story is the result of those feelings that I had and that we all had at that moment, of being in a place and, perhaps for the first time, in which the world stopped, being able to look at ourselves in the mirror in a different way and consider ourselves what is our life, what are we doing and if it really is the life we would like to lead. And that in essence is this story, in which Bruce Wayne takes a vacation for the first time and for the first time looks in the mirror not as Batman but as Bruce Wayne and realizes that what he sees in the mirror is what same as us. everyone sees: the passage of time, that we are getting old, that perhaps we lead a life that is not the one we would most like to lead … But, at the same time, what makes the difference from all the others is that it starts superhero, and without it it is a mortal like any other. Whether or not he is able to renounce that superhero part is what this story tells.
Another issue that is emerging and that is receiving more attention lately is that of mental health. Yes, which I think is what we are faced with on a daily basis. Bruce Wayne continues to be a mirror of our lives, taken to the extreme of living in panic and the terror of dying every day. But other than that, it’s also what we face in our society every day, and we don’t realize it until we stop. At that moment of stoppage is when you think ‘host, what happens here, this emptiness that I feel what is it?’ That dilemma of whether we are capable of living with that emptiness or if we need that stress, even if that stress itself leads to death, so to speak, is a scale that is sometimes difficult to balance.
He said he’s a Batman fan as a reader … I like the superhero genre and have read a lot of Batman stories. It is true that you are choosing one thing and another, there are so many things to read … Not that I consider myself a total fan of Batman, but there are a couple of his stories that would be among my favorites of all comics history.
Which are? Both are from Frank Miller: Return of the dark knight is one and the other would be the one he did with Mazzucchelli, which is the Year one of Batman. Well, and also The cultby Bernie Wrightson. Those could be my three favorite Batman stories. But there are more very good ones: The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum…
Why do you think Batman is such a fascinating character? Man, I’d say for two reasons. First, because visually I think he is the most powerful superhero, more than any other. That black cape, that sinister point that the character has graphically is what makes him more attractive.
And in second place? Batman’s dark character makes him much more interesting than characters like Superman or anyone else who moves more in light than in shadow. That depressing personality, with such a major trauma and others, I think is what makes him a magnetic character.
What do you think of this initiative to bring together authors from all over the planet? It’s very interesting, because it’s about offering different points of view about a character. And I think that most of the authors are strangers to the world of superheroes, who sometimes contribute different, interesting things, more than when you are deeply immersed in that universe, that you end up moving most of the time, with few exceptions, within clichés . These kinds of things are fine.
Plus, it’s a way to get Batman out of America. But it is also what figures that have become popular culture, who are no longer an American character to belong to everyone. That’s good, to see how that pop icon is interpreted from outside the United States, which I think is what these types of books contribute. He said he’s a Batman fan as a reader … I like the superhero genre and have read a lot of Batman stories. It is true that you are choosing one thing and another, there are so many things to read … Not that I consider myself a total fan of Batman, but there are a couple of his stories that would be among my favorites of all comics history.
If DC now tells you they want the same thing but with Superman, what would they do? I think Superman is an even more difficult character than Batman, because Batman has that dark side, a character on the edge of the abyss, which is very suggestive. And deep down it’s easier for you to deal with him than with a character as bright and seemingly flat as Superman could be. I would have to look for a twist there that the truth is that at the moment I would not think of anything to work with. Such a powerful being costs a lot, logically you can make stories, but I think a character is much more difficult to make interesting.