We both had brief writing careers that had temporarily been shelved when we became staffers, but we shared the same storytellling sensibilities, so we decided to pitch the Batman editor on a story that we’d write together. That partnership yielded something much, much better than the sum of its parts and would for years to come.
He didn’t really need me; Brian was a talented writer on his own. I still remember the morning he pitched me on Gotham by Gaslight, which ended up becoming his best-known work, deservedly so. I’d like to think that it was both of us who teamed up to recruit artist Mike Mignola, but truthfully, Brian did most of the heavy lifting there–we’ll come back to that in a moment–and it turned out to be a defining work for Mike, too. But that story showed people what Brian the solo writer could do, and it still stands as one of the best Batman stories ever told.
Brian was great that way when it came to recruiting and working with others; he saw talented people and knew what they should be doing. A bunch of people owed their success to Brian: Humberto Ramos, Mike Wieringo, Travis Charest, Ethan Van Sciver, Mike Parobeck, and so many others–but certainly no one owed him more than I did. Than I do. At a time when I’d gone freelance and couldn’t get arrested at DC, Brian–and only Brian–was interested in keeping me employed. He went to bat for me when everyone at the company–everyone–was discouraging him, telling him I was just a fanboy who didn’t have anything to bring to the table, and when Brian decided to assign me the Flash, upper management made it abundantly clear they disapproved. He didn’t care. He gave me the gig.
Brian was more than my editor back then no matter what we were working on together. From the start, even before he finally left editorial and officially became my co-writer, he was essentially a co-plotter; not a single story came out of anything other than the two of us on the phone, talking out ideas and constantly trying to top one another. We were so simpatico it was scary. I relied on his help to break stories so much that we eventually got to the point where, if I was stuck on a plot point, all I had to do was pick up the phone. Not talk to Brian, just pick up the phone. I didn’t even have to make the call, just start to dial. Instantly, I knew what he’d say, how he’d respond, how he’d suggest I fix things, and that he was right, so I just put the phone back down and carried on typing.
It wasn’t just Flash we talked about. When I was starting out, I really couldn’t do anything without his input making it better, and there’s some of his DNA in all my early work, from Kingdom Come to Captain America to Justice League–ideas and notions and bits, all essential. Years later, as the career that I owed him everything for blossomed, he used to joke that no one could accuse him of riding my coattails because he made the coat, which was 100% accurate. I have never been shy about saying that, without Brian, I’d have spent the last 25 years working at a car wash somewhere, and that’s the God’s honest truth.