City Without Batman: Nicieza on Gotham Gazette

Nicieza on Gotham Gazette

Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead? Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?

Batman was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

Alright, shoehorning Dickens into the piece may not fit perfectly, but at least we know that Batman is coming back. That much is known. But before all the hoopla of Battle for the Cowl gets started, Gotham Gazette: Batman: Dead? hits in March.

Written by Fabian Nicieza, Batman: Dead? is the first of two Gotham Gazette issues that bookend Tony Daniel’s Battle for the Cowl miniseries which will see the family of Batman (and others) vie for the opportunity to wear the cowl and call themselves “Batman” in the absence of Bruce Wayne.

In Gotham Gazette Niceiza will focus on four characters who’ve played integral parts in Batman’s life over the years: Gotham Detective Harvey Bullock, reporter Vicki Vale. Dr. Leslie Thompkins and the Spoiler, Stephanie Brown.

We spoke with the writer for more on the two issues.

Newsarama: Fabian, you’ve been pretty well-entrenched in the Bat-offices recently, but what got you over to this project amid the post-“Batman RIP” fallout?

Fabian Nicieza: After 20 plus years I always find the idea of a freelancer feeling "entrenched" anywhere to be quaint and a recipe for savage, unexpected betrayal [laughs].

But... Mike Marts, Janelle Siegel and Michael Siglain were obviously feeling the holiday spirit of giving, since, as Robin was ending, they were hoping to find something else I could work on during the family-wide upheaval and fun turmoil that R.I.P. and Battle for the Cowl were creating.

We were talking about Azrael when Mike discussed his desire to bookend Cowl with two one-shots that would serve as to feel the pulse of Gotham City as this was going on. There were enough superheroics to cover in Cowl, we wanted to explore how Batman's loss would affect other people across the city, and that turned into Gotham Gazette - Batman: Dead? and Gotham Gazette - Batman: Alive?

NRAMA: Was the overall approach, that is, a look at Batman's absence DC's idea, or was it something that you wanted to look at?

FN: It's been a real team effort. Mike had the basic game plan to do two one-shots that framed Cowl and call them Gotham Gazette, I came up with the headline concept of Dead? and Alive? to frame the thematic approach to the stories. We discussed a man on the street perspective, but then decided it would work best from the points of view of characters we know. We discussed options on various characters we could spotlight and I pitched who I thought would work best and why for the kinds of mini-stories we wanted to tell.

NRAMA: So how does the city react to Batman's absence? I guess, before you answer that one, we should probably talk about how the city "knows" Batman is around in the first place... There've been many views of how Gotham reacts to Batman over the years, so in your view, and as a foundation for Gotham Gazette, how does the city "know" its protector?

FN: I'm sure everyone has their own take on that question, but I think of Batman an urban legend that everyone knows exists but most people either don't want to believe or refuse to believe unless they see it with their own eyes.

It's like being told that Dick Cheney has a heart. I'm sure he does and his cardiologists all know it's there, but for many people, the jury is still out... [laghs]

With Gazette, we're dealing with characters who all know Batman exists, so the stories are really more about how his loss affects them personally or professionally. In Batman: Dead? Each one of them starts from a standpoint of loss, either the loss of Batman or, as importantly, each comes from a position of having lost something, which is thematically reflected by Gotham's loss of Batman. To the second one shot, Batman: Alive? each character finds a ray of hope, so again, that is reflective of things going on in Cowl that affect the lives of the characters and the city.

NRAMA: For the common Gotham City resident, how does the absence of Batman affect them? Do they even know?

FN: I think based on events in Cowl #1, many "civilians" will suspect something is wrong. Then many bad guys will know something is definitely wrong...

NRAMA: In that vein then, the city itself - how is it different without Batman than it is with Batman? After all, there's Nightwing, Robin, Batwoman, Huntress and the others stepping in...are these four (or more) unable to fill the void left by one man?

FN: As I pointed out as a recurring story thread in the recent Robin issues, there are plenty of crimefighters to uhm... fight crime, it's more a matter of how does Batman's presence deter potential crimes? That is almost impossible to measure in a cauldron of vice like Gotham, but Batman's absence over the course of a few weeks certainly gives the criminal element the feeling of carte blanche to try running rampant.

NRAMA: Moving to your viewpoint characters - why Harvey, Vicki, Leslie and Stephanie? What unique points of view do they offer on the city and its situation?

FN: Harvey's story is "never give up." In his own stubborn way, he sees a chance to try and turn a negative -- the loss of Batman, rising crime and his own tenuous standing in the GCPD -- into a positive.

Vicki's story is one of opportunity. The loss of Batman and the rising turmoil in the city gives her a chance to reclaim a career that has spiraled into the toilet after she was fired from the TV show she was on. Plus, it offers an opportunity to reclaim the love of... Bruce Wayne -- ?

For Stephanie, it's about making the right choice. After the events of Robin, this marks a very important decision on her part as to her future as Spoiler -- if she is going to continue wearing a costume at all, and if so, how will she operate in a Gotham City crimefighting hierarchy that might not appreciate her efforts anymore.

For Leslie it's a story of redemption, reclaiming her sense of self and her sense of purpose in a city that's falling apart.

NRAMA: Explain the “bookend” nature of Gotham Gazette a little more if you can – things start in March with Dead?, then Cowl happens, and in Alive? we catch up with the same characters to see their reactions to the return of “Batman?”

FN: Yeah, pretty much. We're still working to see how the pieces all fit together. Juggling the timelines between Cowl and then the individual mini-stories of four characters isn't easy. Each character gets five page chapters in the two bookends, so little things like, this scene needs to take place in the daytime, that one at night, this has to be the next day to show a headline versus this has to be two nights from now for the Robinson Ball to take place, etc. --

I won't pretend the puzzle pieces aren't still just a little bit scattered, but they're coming together. Really, as an ancillary to the lead title, it's more my job to fit in to Tony's story then it is theirs to fit into mine. It'll work out to near-flawless perfection the way these things always do...

I think the tapestry of characters available in Gotham City make the potential for future Gotham Gazette issues surrounding other events scenarios, or even as a regular series of one-shots, a very real possibility, depending on reader interest.

All the writers who have worked on the Bat-titles or are working on them now appreciate the depth of stories that can be told with all of these supporting characters. Gotham Central brilliantly focused on police work, and with Gotham Gazette, we take it out a little further than that (though I won't claim as wonderfully written as that series was, because, hey, it's me writing it and not Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker).

In Gazette, we are also looking at things through the eyes and attitudes of journalists and the medical community as well as the police and vigilante elements.

Though all can be thought of as "small stories," I think they are also very interesting opportunities to provide both closure and future fodder for these characters that the on-going Bat-titles can choose to explore.

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