As John Layman finishes up his run on Detective Comics, he's taking Batman into uncharted territory as Gotham becomes a pleasant, happy place in the crossover story "Gothtopia."
Layman and artist Jason Fabok are departing from Detective to clear their schedule for their next project for DC, the new weekly series Batman: Eternal, announced last week at New York Comic Con.
On Batman: Eternal, Layman is joining a team including Scott Snyder, James Tynion, Tim Seely and Ray Fawkes. The weekly is touted as an action-filled story that will explore unseen corners of Gotham and the Bat-Universe to celebrate the character's 75th anniversary. The weekly comic, which will tie into Snyder's monthly Batman title, is expected to launch around April 2014.
Layman's final story, "Gothtopia," begins in January's Detective Comics #27, a 96-page issue that also features stories by Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Gregg Hurwitz and Peter Tomasi, with art by the likes of Neal Adams, Dustin Nguyen and Francisco Francavilla.
The "happy, bright" city featured in Layman's "Gothtopia" will also appear in tie-in issues of Batgirl, Batwing, Birds of Prey and Catwoman.
Before writing for DC, Layman was best known for his Eisner-winning series Chew, but has since established himself as a key Bat-office writer with his year-long run on Detective Comics.
Newsarama talked to Layman to find out more about "Gothtopia" and what readers can expect from Batman: Eternal.
Newsarama: John, where did the idea for "Gothtopia" come from? Was this something you had brewing for awhile?
John Layman: Actually, I came up with a list of ideas to pitch the Bat-editors and they picked this, which I thought was the craziest, least likely story for them to pick.
Nrama: Why is this fitting for your final hurrah on 'Tec?
Layman: It's certainly the strangest and most far-out story I've done so far. I get to play with a lot of different characters, too, so it feels like I am going out on a high note for a lot of reasons.
Nrama: Where did the name come from? And what does it describe?
Layman: Actually, it was an internal nickname that just stuck. I wasn't crazy about it at first. It sounded to me like something they would sell at Hot Topic. But the title does fit.
For so long Gotham has been this dark, ugly, crime-ridden place. But what if it wasn't? It's a different sort of re-imaginging of Gotham. Gotham as a bright, shiny, happy place. Gotham as a utopia.
Nrama: Why is a story like this a unique challenge for Batman in particular? As you mentioned, he's used to a darker Gotham, but he's also such a grounded, "just-the-facts" type character.
Layman: Well, Batman is a character who thrives on the dark, who works best in shadows, and isn't conventionally thought of as "happy." How's he going to respond when taken out of his element. Even if it, at least superficially, seems to be for the better?
Nrama: How did the idea to tie in the other comics come about?
Layman: The Bat-editors liked the concept well enough they shared it with others, and invited other writers to participate. It was flattering to me that other creators wanted to, and so we've been coordinating on how to make this work on a larger scale.
Nrama: So you've been working with the other writers on the development of their stories?
Layman: Yep, Gail Simone and Ann Nocenti in particular. Which is great, because both Batgirl and Catwoman factor pretty heavily into my story.
Nrama: As you look back on your Detective Comics run, are there any specific story moments or themes that you explored that not only fulfilled your wishes for the comic, but maybe even exceeded it?
Layman: I'm happy with the entire run. Frankly, I never expect the run to last as long as it did, so I'm grateful for the opportunity, and for the positive reader response.
Nrama: How has it been working with Jason Fabok on the series? And how does it feel to be bringing him along onto Batman: Eternal?
Layman: Jason is fantastic. If I have any complaint about him, it's the same complaint I have about my Chew artist Rob Guillory: Both he and Jason are too damn fast, without ever cutting corners or compromising quality, and every time I turn around it seems like another script is needed.
Nrama: Are you already working on the Batman weekly?
Layman: Yep. Scripts are in from all the writers. Is a well-oiled machine, thus far.
Nrama: How are you guys all working together? How are you dividing up the scripts and responsibilities on the series?
Layman: Seems to be going well. We all get along. No ego, lots of cooperation. James and Scott have given us a fantastically detailed overview to work from, to pass the baton from issue to issue, but we're also free to put our own mark on the books.
Nrama: You've obviously been working on Batman stories for awhile now, but how does the Batman: Eternal project challenge you as a writer in new ways?
Layman: Eternal is going to be a different tone than Detective. With Detective, every issue tried to have a self-contained Detective story, even when it was part of a larger story. Eternal is going to be more action-oriented and faster-paced and will have a much broader reach into the Bat Universe.
Nrama: What types of themes and stories are you hoping to explore in Batman: Eternal?
Layman: Question is what are we not? Eternal is literally going to have a little of everything, touching every character and every corner of Gotham, the Bat family, and Batman's rogue's gallery.
Nrama: You mentioned the different tone on Batman: Eternal, but will your scripts on the comic continue some of the themes you have been exploring, or pulling in some of the characters you've introduced?
Layman: I'll be revisiting some of the characters from Detective, just as I'll be tackling new characters and characters I haven't had a chance to touch yet.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about your work on "Gothtopia" or Batman: Eternal?
Layman: Um... buy it? Love it? Give me candy!