Welcome, one and all, to another guest post! Today, Sarah Kay Moll is stopping by to talk about one of the biggest influences for her new novel, Dark City. What is that influence? Well, let’s have a look …
Batman, Gotham, and Dark City
by Sarah Kay Moll
I will admit that out of all the superhero stories I love, without a doubt my favorite hero is Batman. There’s just something about Batman. It’s the grittiness, the realism, the darkness inherent in the story. I don’t think it’s any surprise that one of the most brilliant Batman comics, The Dark Knight Returns, is done by the same guy who made the dark, beautiful masterpiece that is Sin City. There’s something about that aesthetic and that universe that spoke to Frank Miller, and that speaks to me.
My novel, Dark City, is the story of a Gotham without Batman. And there is no larger influence on my writing than the wide and varied universe of Batman comics, movies, and games.
I started the story with two ideas in mind, two core aspects that would build on each other through the entire process. The villain, and the city.
The city was very much inspired by Gotham, from the sleek skyscrapers topped with millionaire’s penthouses downtown, to the slums where criminals lurk in back alleys to conduct their shady business. Like Gotham, the dark city has a deep and rich history closely intertwined with the rise of organized crime, and what was once a bright, shining symbol of industry is now the crime infested district they call the Warrens. On those stone streets, once proud and clean, now coated with grime, the villain does his dirty work.
My villain with his sinister smile and musical laugh, is part homage to the Joker and part my own conception of what kind of evil would thrive in a city without Batman. And how dull it is for him to have no heroes to fight! He has to make his own fun.
His name is Ras. It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t come from anywhere, but it is his and always has been. He’s eighteen years old and he owns the mean streets of the dark city. Like the Joker, he has no conscience and no empathy, and he kills without compassion or remorse.
If I had to pick a favorite movie of all time, I would say without hesitation that it’s Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Not only is the storytelling absolutely brilliant, but the villains are more alive, devious, and vibrant than I’ve seen almost anywhere else. I was very inspired by the way Nolan kept the film grounded in reality more than the comics do. Although there are greatly implausible aspects to it, it is set in our world. Human ingenuity and resilience might be greatly exaggerated, but there’s nothing supernatural about it. That’s the level of realism you can expect from my writing.
If I had to pick a favorite comic series, that would be harder. Batman: The Black Mirror is one of the best. I’m absolutely in love with Francesco Francavilla’s lush strokes of vivid color, and the story by Scott Synder is quite good too. But for story, it’s hard to beat The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, which has the Batman vs Superman story the movies should have followed. All of them have influenced my own writing, and I always strive to paint lush, beautiful pictures too–just with words.
Batman has such a striking aesthetic, and The Dark Knight and The Black Mirror and other works have captured it wonderfully. I wanted my novel to have a similar dark aesthetic, but creating a visual concept isn’t so easy when you’re writing a book without pictures. I spent a lot of time thinking about the words I used, the texture and color and shapes of the dark city. A lot of description was written, and then re-written, and then re-written again, until I created the visuals I wanted.
In the sequel to Dark City, the hero finally shows up. I’ll be honest; I’m not completely sure what happens after that, because writing for me is always a process of discovery. It’s only once the words are on the page that I can look back and see where the inspiration came from, and then go to the bookstore and hunt for more.
I’m going to close with a few of my favorite Batman things, in no particular order.
- The Dark Knight (movie)
- The Dark Knight Returns (book)
- Batman: Year One (book)
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (game)
- Batman Begins (movie)
- Batman: The Black Mirror (book)
I think of all the things I read and watch and experience as little sparks that kindle a roaring fire that eventually becomes a work of art. For those of you out there reading, whether you’re writers or not, is there something that inspires you in your creative work? Drop me a line; I’d love to know!
If you want to know more about Sarah and her work, you can check her out at the links below: