According to writer Ray Fawkes, there is nothing else at DC that looks "as weird and dark and gorgeous" as the November-launching Batman title, Gotham By Midnight.
Featuring art by fan-favorite artist Ben Templesmith, the story of Gotham By Midnight focuses on Gotham City Police Detective Jim Corrigan, who's better known to comic fans as The Spectre, DC's powerful deliverer of divine judgment. In Gotham By Midnight, Corrigan leads a team that investigates supernatural threats in Gotham City.
The book spins out of Batman Eternal, the weekly DC series that's currently setting up Corrigan's role as a protector of Gotham — and that features Ray Fawkes as a co-writer. Newsarama talked to Fawkes about his new series.
Newsarama: Ray, before we get into the specifics of this title, fans have been noticing all these new and revamped titles coming out from the Batman office over the next few months — including Gotham by Midnight. Can you describe the working/creative atmosphere that not only led to Gotham By Midnight, but also seems to be encouraging other comics that feel different from the norm?
Ray Fawkes: I can’t speak to everyone else’s experience, but I can tell you that I’ve had full support for this concept at every level of DC. It started when Dan DiDio asked me to pitch a Spectre book, and I came back to him with the idea, which he was very into. He’s the one who asked me not to hold back on it - to really show what I would do if given complete freedom. Then, when we took it to Mark Doyle, he was equally enthused and supportive, and he really backed the idea to get Ben Templesmith on board - a magnificently freaky artist who would be perfect for the book.
So they wanted something different from the norm right from the start — and I was all too happy to take a shot at it. I’d like to think it’s why Dan asked me to pitch it the way he did.
Nrama: You mentioned Ben Templesmith's art, and I assume that's one of the things that will make this story stand out, right?
Fawkes: Right! There is nothing else at DC that looks as weird and dark and gorgeous as this book is going to. I don’t just think it’s going to blow minds — I think it’s going to throw the gauntlet down for other mainstream titles out there.
Nrama: … but after all the genres we've seen show up in Batman titles, what (besides Ben's art) makes Gotham By Midnight unique?
Fawkes: If you could see what I’m seeing, you wouldn’t even have to ask the question. It’s insane, gorgeous, horrifying, painterly stuff that nobody but Ben could produce. You will shiver with delight.
Nrama: How much of a role does Batman play in both the formation/maintenance of the Gotham By Midnight team, and in the comic itself?
Fawkes: Batman is instrumental in the formation of the team, and he provides them with some case recommendations, but he’s very hands-off. You won’t be seeing more than a panel or two of him in most chapters, though in some he figures more prominently - largely because he’s not just an ally - he’s one of Jim Corrigan’s only true friends.
Nrama: We've seen you approach supernatural horror in Constantine. Is Gotham By Midnightcomparable to that title, as far as the type of stuff we'll see in the DCU? Or is there a special kind of horror in Gotham?
Fawkes: It’s a special kind of horror unique to Gotham. Something sick and deep in the soul.
Nrama: There's obviously a huge supernatural threat in Batman Eternal. How much does this story and comic spin out of that title?
Fawkes: Only in that readers of both Batman: Eternal and Gotham By Midnight will recognize Jim Corrigan’s unique brand of investigation, and will know full well the threat The Spectre represents by the time Gotham By Midnight debuts! But the story in Gotham By Midnight is all its own beast, so to speak.
Nrama: So what's the premise? (Is this really part of the GCPD?)
Fawkes: Yes! Though sidelined, maligned, and nearly bankrupt, the so-called “Midnight Shift” is a legitimate task force organized by the GCPD. They are the cops assigned to cases of an unclassifiable, “supernatural” type - mostly dug up by Detective Jim Corrigan’s weird efforts. On paper, they’re awful police - the cases they solve almost never lead to statistics that anyone can point to: no real arrests, no convictions, and little in the way of admissible evidence. But they do help the city.
Nrama: We've seen Jim Corrigan in Batman Eternal, but he's really had his hands full. Are we going to get to know him better (as a person) in this title, and can you describe the character as you envision him, particularly his status in Gotham By Midnight?
Fawkes: Absolutely. Corrigan is a man - a very flawed man - who finds himself carrying the burden of God’s Judgment within him - in the form of The Spectre - and does everything in his power to spare the world its awful force. He tries to find the humor in bad situations - mostly in an effort to maintain sanity (his and everyone else’s), and he does his level best to be a good person now that he has concrete proof that Heaven and Hell both exist.
Of course, then he sits with a bottle and wonders about whether you really are being a “good” person if the only reason you’re trying to behave is fear of punishment.
Nrama: The sketch that DC released of Jim Corrigan makes him seem like any other detective… but we know he has the Spectre inside him as well. How exactly does that work, and what part does the actual "Spectre" play in not only Corrigan's life, but in the comic's stories?
Fawkes: The exact workings of The Spectre and the mechanism of its release are mysterious and frightening. Even Corrigan doesn’t really have a handle on it, and its possible that he never will. In the stories, The Spectre often represents a looming threat - if Corrigan can’t solve a case before things get out of hand, this Old Testament force bursts forth from his body and renders judgment on all present. It’s never pretty. Almost all of us are sinners.
Nrama: OK, so you've also got Detective Lisa Drake, which we saw in a sketch. Am I sensing a Goth inspiration to her look?
Fawkes: You sure are. Detective Drake is not only a whip-smart sleuth and talented interrogator, she’s also an unabashed Goth. Hey man, she’s seen some incredibly freaky stuff in her time on Earth. Maybe this is her way of dealing with it. Or maybe she just likes lacy black clothes and grew up reading a lot of vampire books.
Nrama: (I get the feeling I'm really going to like her...) Any hints you can share about her personality and outlook?
Fawkes: I’ll share this: she’s smarter than all of us, and if you tell her to smile she’ll punch your teeth all the way down your neck.
Nrama: Who are some of the other characters we'll see working with Jim and Lisa?
Fawkes: Our two detectives report to Lieutenant Sam Weaver, a perennially downtrodden bureaucrat with a taste for the simple things in life, like not getting ripped in half by a luminous shape-shifter from unknowable dimensions. There’s also Doctor Szandor Tarr, a “Bela Lugosi-sounding nut” in Detective Drake’s words - a forensic specialist with what might be the most open mind in the history of the profession. The last member of the crew is Sister Justine, a gifted scholar with a very unusual hidden talent. Others will join the team, but these are the members as the first issue begins.
Nrama: You've mentioned that a nun named Sister Justine plays a role. Supernatural comics quite often deal with demons and angels and such, but with the Spectre involved, you're dealing with the actual will of God. We've seen DC's "heaven" and "God" explored quite a bit in Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger. How does this comic deal with those concepts, and Spectre's link to them?
Fawkes: I’m not going to lie: it will deal with them as much as I possibly can arrange. Readers of my indy work will know that I will, absolutely without irony, devote entire books to philosophizing. Of course big questions about God, punishment, justice, and the nature of good and evil will be expounded upon. Of course.
Now it may happen while Corrigan is wrestling with the sentient tongue of an immense beast from beyond the stars, but who’s to say the tongue might not have a salient argument or two to deliver before it gets cuffed and printed?
Nrama: In a DC Universe that has plenty of spandex-clad superheroes running around, why do you think a book like this works in the DCU — in Gotham City in particular?
Fawkes: Hey, nothing against the Spandex-clad superheroes of the DCU, but most of those guys would get chewed up and spit out by some of the hellish stuff that shows up in Gotham city. Sometimes only one thing can stop the truly weird - and that’s someone who’s truly weird in his or her own right.
In Gotham in particular? Well, read the book. There’s a reason for all this happening in Gotham City. Something very sick and demented is there - and may well be responsible for more than just Corrigan’s nightmares...
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Gotham By Midnight?
Fawkes: Yes. I’m energized as hell by the response to the book already - and the fact that fans are responding so well to the concept and the artwork they’ve seen. But I want to say: if, like me, what you want is a defiantly intelligent, freakily beautiful, totally off-the-beaten-path horror comic from DC, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Show it your support, and I have no doubt DC will deliver more of what you want!