Some time in the last decade, nerd culture became norm culture and with that came the inevitable nerd backlash. At times it seemed you couldn’t swing a Deadpool without hitting someone in a sour T-shirt that was angry about the latest celebrity talking about always loving the super-powered men in tight clothing that have taken over the multiplex.
But know this: Chris Daughtry’s comes by his nerdery honestly and his comic-book love runs deep. The American Idol star and lead singer of the band Daughtry has been a die-hard fan of the Caped Crusader for most of his life and he’s put in the work to prove it.
We talked with Daughtry on the day that Batman #50 dropped, sporting a Batman V. Superman-inspired cover drawn by the “It’s Not Over” singer himself.
How does an American Idol contestant end up drawing the cover of a Batman comic?
It’s actually kind of crazy. The whole thing was a few years in the making. I connected with [comic-book artist] Jim [Lee] back when I was on Idol. I messaged him on MySpace and we just connected. After talking back and forth, we ended up becoming friends. He did the artwork for our second album Leave This Town.
Then a year or two later — obviously at this point he knew that I drew — he asked if I would do a piece for a charity auction. It had to be a member of the Justice League and obviously there’s only one member of the Justice League [laughs].
After I did that, I kept talking to him about possibly doing variant covers. I kind of hounded him a bit. We ended up being together at this Halloween party and he asked “Would you be interested in doing a cover in March of Batman v. Superman to help promote the movie?” Of course, I said yes.
I kept bugging him for weeks to get back to me on what he wanted and when he needed it by. I said ‘Remember, Jim. I take a lot longer than you do.’ [laughs] Finally, I got this email with the guidelines of what they wanted. That kicked off a period where I was recording during the day, putting the kids to bed and going straight to the board to work. I was up until 3 a.m. every night, working on the pencils. I think I lost about 6 pounds trying to make the deadline.
Do you remember how you first got into Batman as a character?
I first became obsessed with Batman in 1984. I was watching the Super Friends cartoon and getting the whole toy line. I was obsessed and it never really petered out enough to become a “phase” in my life. I just loved anything Batman-related.
A lot of people, once they got famous, they spent their money on cars and other cool sh*t. I started buying more comic books and filling my house with action figures and Batman cowl replicas. Let’s just say I have a very forgiving wife [laughs].
Do you have a favorite storyline or moment from the comics?
Obviously, The Killing Joke was huge. I was around 10 or 11 and remember being completely blown away by it. We hadn’t really seen anything like that before, especially not on Super Friends. That [storyline] really made Batman real in a distinct way.
I was into the comics on and off once I really got into music. Obviously I loved the Jim Lee ‘90s stuff like Wildcats and later I got into [Todd McFarlane’s] Spawn. But I think Hush was the first book that got me back into Batman as an adult.
I’m a huge fan on Jim’s work back in the ‘90s but Hush is probably the best comic of the last 15 years. The art, the story the visuals, everything in that book is just great. I’d love to see that as an animated movie.
Your cover shows Supes and Batman squaring off to promote the new movie. Are you excited for Dawn of Justice?
Oh, man. I’m seeing it in an hour. I’m so excited. I’ve got my Affleck shirt on and everything.
Do you have a favorite Batman film?
This is just my opinion. I know this can be kind of a polarizing topic but for me, personally, it’s Batman Begins.
That movie was something we had never seen before from a Batman film. It wasn’t rushing to get anywhere. It was just getting in deep with these characters and telling a story. The Dark Knight kind of picked up the pace. After [Begins], that was crazy. It was less of a story and kind of like [Michael Mann’s] Heat. There was just so much going on in that movie.
Of course, ‘89 Batman is great, too. When that came out, it was the coolest sh*t ever. It still looks awesome and exactly like what comic-book Batman was at the time.
I’m switching gears here a bit. But you were just in Tyler Perry’s live Passion musical, playing Judas Iscariot. How did that come about?
Well, I wanted to do acting and was into comic books long before I got into music. So, I’m kind of doing everything backwards.
What happened was I wanted to really get into acting, so I decided to take a year off after my last tour and really pursue it. I wanted to show that I was serious and when you’re on tour you can’t really commit to the time it takes to be in something. I wanted them to know I was interested. I even moved to Los Angeles, so that I could be here in between the music.
I booked a pilot…where I was recurring character and it didn’t get picked up. After that, I was approached by [the team putting together The Passion]. I really wasn’t interested in doing a musical, per se. Especially not one that’s focused on religion. That’s something that can be so polarizing to many people. I mean, I grew up Christian but there’s enough assh*les everywhere to give everybody a bad name, you know?
I didn’t want to be involved in anything like the typical Jesus story. You know, flip-flops and a bearded guy with a lot of cheesy, theatrical stuff. But they told me, “We can’t see anyone playing Judas but you.”
I was like ‘What does that mean? Do you think I’m an asshole? What are you trying to say?’ [laughs] But then they explained it to me and told me that nothing was going to look…well, Jesus-y. They’ve been doing this production in Holland for years and they love it, which is surprising because Holland’s kind of an atheist country. They showed me all these clips and I couldn’t understand a word but I knew it was powerful.
How did you prep to play a hated character like Judas?
My inspiration for the role was really Hugh Jackman in Les Mis. He was so compelling in that movie that I honestly forgot he was singing half the time… There’s your headline “Chris Daughtry Said Wolverine Inspired Him To Play Judas.” [laughs].
When they first told me that I was going to sing Evanescence, I was like “Really? You’re making me do ‘Bring Me To Life’ with the rap and everything?” But [they] found a way to make it work, even though it’s not a song that I would normally do. Originally, the song was going to be “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M., but that really didn’t fit with the angsty mood we were going for.
Do you plan on keeping up with acting and drawing in the future?
I’m going to try to make them co-exist as much as I can. I don’t have anything planned but I told Jim to give me a few weeks to recover from all this and I’d really love to do another cover. I won’t touch [the internal artwork of comic books] though, that stuff scares the hell out of me.