As John Layman finishes up his "Gothtopia" storyline for Detective Comics this week, the writer is leaving Batman behind to concentrate on his indie series Chew.
Originally announced as one of the writers on Batman Eternal, Layman later revealed that he would not be staying on the creative team — and would only be contributing a few issues. (Fans later found out that Layman will be replaced on the team by Kyle Higgins).
As he leaves Batman behind, Layman has taken the opportunity to give more attention to his Eisner-winning series Chew, which follows the story of a crime-fighting former FDA inspector who has psychic connections with food he eats.
The Image series, which is drawn by Rob Guillory, also has an animated adaptation in the works. The hope for the straight-to-digital animated version is that it will lead to a live action adaptation.
For fans of Layman's writing, his departure from the Eternal project (and apparent departure, for now, from DC) means this week's Detective Comics #29 — which finishes up the "Gothtopia" storyline — will be the writer's last hurrah as a solo writer on Batman.
Or will it?
Following up on our last conversation with Layman about "Gothtopia," Newsarama talked to the writer about the story's end, and found out he hopes to return one day.
Newsarama: John, first off, can I go to Gothtopia? 'Cause it looks sweet!
John Layman: Uh....
Nrama: OK, OK… maybe not the high suicide rate. Plus, I get the feeling this whole story's motivated by the dangers inherent with the human desire for "escape" from the real world, so I probably shouldn't admit I want to escape there. Am I interpreting the theme correctly? Is the story that "psychological?" Or am I reading too much into it?
Layman: I think all Batman stories are psychological to some extent, because Batman villains are so psychologically complex... as is Batman. Of course you can say Scarecrow is one of the more psychologically complex in an already very diverse and disturbed stable of Batman villains.
Nrama: Now that you're finishing up your run as a Batman writer, do the themes you're exploring in this final story relate to what you've been exploring over the last year and a half in Detective?
Layman: No, not really. I went into this arc before I knew it was my final arc, so it wasn't about thematically tying everything together so much as it was about exploring a character I had not before, in a way that I hope had not been done before.
Nrama: It's definitely a new approach. As you look back, what are you most proud of about your run on Detective?
Layman: There's really nothing I'm not proud of. Issue #19 stands out because I did 50 pages, which for me is quite a bit. I'm proud of how the book was able to roll with the punches and reflect other events going on in the Bat-verse without compromising the stories we were trying to tell.
Nrama: You're writing 4 issues of Batman Eternal, and we've already talked to the other writers on the weekly about the characters they're concentrating on during their stories, as well as what genre or approach they're utilizing in their issues. Anything you can reveal about your issues and the approach you took?
Layman: Well, we're following a story architecture given to us by Scott Snyder and James Tynion, and my stories have a bit more "street-level Gotham" to them — stuff with rival gangsters, new Gotham "bosses," and the role of the GCPD.
Nrama: What characters are playing a central role in your four issues of Eternal?
Layman: Oh man, that's the thing about Eternal.... a better question would be "Who doesn't?'
Nrama: The cast is that wide?
Layman: Batman Eternal touches on all aspects of Gotham, and all characters from the Bat-Verse, at least it feels that way, both good and bad. ?
Nrama: OK, let's talk about this week's Detective finale. As you revealed on the final page of issue #28, Scarecrow is being served by Batgirl, Talon, Catwoman and Batwoman — and Batman is apparently going to have to fight them all. How does this battle affect Batman? What can you tell us about what we might see as they fight?
Layman: Well, there has been a formula to my Batman stories, and I hope it's not too obvious. Batman is smart — this is Detective Comics, after all, and he's one of the world's smartest detectives — so there's always a point where you realize Batman is one step ahead of where you thought he was, and things aren't quite what you thought they were or expected.
So yes... Batman fights them briefly... and then he does something you would not expect. All part of the plan!
Nrama: Before I switch to a question about Chew, are there any final words you want to leave with fans and the comic industry as your last Detective issue comes out this week?
Layman: Only that is was a great time. I'm grateful to editors Mike Marts and Katie Kubert for the opportunity, and to all the readers who checked out and enjoyed the book during my run. I think Jason Fabok needs a special shout-out for being such as awesome collaborator, as do my old pals Aaron Lopresti and Scot Eaton, who I'd worked with in the past, and it's always a pleasure to work with each of them.?
Nrama: You mentioned, when you announced that you were leaving Batman Eternal, that you're experiencing a creative recharge on Chew. What can you tell us about what's coming up with the series?
Layman: Well, I'm just trying to get ahead, rather than play catch-up, as we enter the final third of the book's 60-issue run. It's important the final third is every bit as good as the first two, because this is a book that I really want to stand the test of time. Plus, on the business side, the animation stuff is really gearing up.
For me, it was an issue of giving the attention that it needed, because I know Batman will always be there. There's comfort in that, because someday I hope to be back in the Bat-verse!