Before Gotham by Midnight hit comic shelves in October 2014, writer Ray Fawkes predicted it would "throw the gauntlet down for other mainstream titles" as it (and other indie-influenced comics from the Batman office) challenged the status quo of superhero publishing.
Eight months later, it's looking like the new wave of creativity hitting the Batman books is doing that. The "indie influence" that made Gotham by Midnight so unique has permeated the DC line in June. As the company is set to debut a couple dozen new comics, its line is morphing into a diverse mix of traditional superhero fare and unusual-looking, eclectic comics like the ones that debuted with Gotham by Midnight.
And when Gotham by Midnight returns with #6 in June, there will be a new look for the book, as Fawkes will be joined by new series artist Juan Ferreyra. Having previously worked with Fawkes on Constantine: Futures End, Ferreyra is no stranger to the supernatural side of the DCU, as he replaces former series artist Ben Templesmith.
The creative team will launch a new storyline in June, picking up where the comic left off in March's #5. With one team member down and some surprising developments in Jim Corrigan's life as the Spectre, Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about what's coming up in Gotham by Midnight.
Newsarama: Ray, the first storyline seemed to be the first battle in a much greater war. So is the June issue a good place for people to jump on board with this series, as the war for the souls of Gotham is just beginning?
Ray Fawkes: It’s a great part to jump on! The first arc was about Gotham’s twisted roots, and the question: is the city worth saving, from a heavenly perspective, or is it a lost cause? It was answered: there is hope for Gotham. But evil runs rampant throughout, threatening the souls of all the citizens, and it’s up to Jim Corrigan and the Midnight Shift to get down to the work of fighting that war now. Starting in June, we’ll be seeing the modern sins of the city manifesting, and Corrigan’s response.
Nrama: There's a new Gotham City Police Department approach to "Batman" (the all-new one, that is) in June. Does that influence the story in Gotham by Midnight at all?
Fawkes; Yes. Absolutely. Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne set the Midnight Shift up to handle the supernatural problems that Batman can’t deal with on his own. Now everything is changing, and the new guard is looking at Corrigan and his crew with new eyes. It may take some work for them to understand the value of the Midnight Shift… and there could be trouble...
Nrama: OK, so how would you describe the story we pick up in June's #6?
Fawkes: Well, one of the Midnight Shift was killed in the battle to save Gotham in #5, and the whole crew is dealing with the emotional and logistical fallout from that loss… and, of course, now that the sins of the past have been acknowledged, it’s time to fight the monsters born of the sins of the present. So Corrigan and his team are going to jump right in, fighting the first real battle in this war while still trying to piece themselves together...
Nrama: The last issue helped define the way the Spectre operates and how Jim Corrigan refuses to completely be a slave to the spirit of vengeance. What were your thoughts about depicting the battle through Jim's thoughts and his relationship to the Spectre? And how much of a role does that play in the coming months?
Fawkes: The relationship between Jim Corrigan and The Spectre is the engine that drives the story in Gotham by Midnight. It’s everything.
That’s why we went into Jim’s head during the final battle in #5, and that’s why you’re going to see more of that in the future. There are some shocks still to come with regards to The Spectre and how he operates, and there are some big changes coming for Jim Corrigan — changes that may affect all of Gotham City itself.
Nrama: Sister Justine won't be around in June. Can you explain her death and sacrifice a bit, and its role in the story (having held off judgment, I believe)?
Fawkes: Ha! Who says she won’t be around? This is a book about ghosts and spirits, after all. But seriously — I don’t want to get too in-depth about her sacrifice, because it’s a major point of contention between the characters in the story, and I don’t want to bias the readers’ opinions before everything plays out.
If she really did delay judgment by offering herself up, that would make her the unknown martyr of Gotham, wouldn’t it? But you’d have to really believe in God, and a god who would take that kind of sacrifice to save a city like Gotham, to accept that. Some of the characters will be wrestling with that realization in the coming months.
Nrama: OK, so going forward in June, you've got a new cast member in Kate Spencer? Is she part of the team? Why is she joining the book, and why did you choose her?
Fawkes: Kate Spencer is joining the cast of the book, yes. At first, as a friend coming in to help out with a particular problem that threatens the crew, but eventually as a proper part of the team in her own right. Kate was perfect for the book — not just because I wanted someone who could take part in a story that involves the shady legal definition of the Midnight Shift’s actions, but also because she’s well known to readers as a person who is driven by a strong sense of justice. That’s going to be essential to the role she plays.
Nrama: So how would you describe the Kate Spencer we'll meet in Gotham by Midnight?
She’s very much the Kate Spencer readers know and love — whip-smart, focused on justice, and troubled. She hasn’t taken on the mantle of the Manhunter in the New 52 — not yet.
Nrama: You've got a new artist coming onto the book in June. I'm sure I'm not alone among the fans of this book in mourning the loss of Ben Templesmith, but with an attitude of giving the new guy a chance, how would you describe the work of new series artist Juan Ferreyra and what it brings to the comic?
Fawkes: Ben Templesmith is a genius, in my opinion, and he was absolutely perfect to launch this book. Getting him to draw it was like firing a warning shot to the world of comics: DC Comics is putting out something different and gorgeous and shamelessly weird here, and we wanted everyone to know that we were fully committed in a way that surprised some readers.
It was a staggering success, in my opinion, and I couldn’t be happier. But Ben only wanted to do the first few chapters, for now at least, and we always knew that — so the whole team was considering the next artist from the start.
Juan Ferreyra was a front runner from day one, as far as I’m concerned. Readers of Constantine will know his covers, and will remember the stunningly beautiful (and strange) work he did on the Future’s End: Constantine issue, and they’ll also know that Gotham By Midnight is in good hands with him.
I’ve seen the art for #6, and I’m starting to see the pages of #7 come in, and I promise you: your minds will be blown. The freakiness is all there, and so is the beauty. It’s different, but it’s all there. And there’s still going to be nothing like it at DC, or anywhere else. I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Nrama: You told me, before the release of #1, that Gotham by Midnight (and particularly its art) would "throw the gauntlet down" for other mainstream titles. Do you think your comic and some of the other more unusual titles that launched in the Bat-universe in October 2014 had influence on what DC is doing in June (because it sure looks that way for us innocent bystanders)? And what do you think of the new "diverse" direction we're seeing?
Fawkes: Not only do I think Gotham by Midnight succeeded in throwing down that gauntlet, but so did Gotham Academy, Batgirl, and Arkham Manor… and they all had great success.
Combine them with the month-to-month top-form excellence of Batman, Batman and Robin, and Detective Comics, and we’ve put together one of the strongest lines at DC, or anywhere really, in the history of comics.
And now we’re seeing the result: DC’s June launch is one of the bravest rosters of titles I’ve ever seen from the company, in terms of creative freedom, diversity of voices and character, and the general sense of thrill & surprise. I couldn’t be prouder than to have taken part in this move.
Nrama: Let's talk about the next gauntlet you're laying down. How would you describe Gotham by Midnight in the second half of 2015 and beyond?
Fawkes: Fans want intelligent horror, outlandish weirdness, and sharp social commentary, and they’re going to get it. They want insane, bloody fury-of-God action from The Spectre and they want to see Corrigan, Drake, and the rest of the Midnight Shift stepping up to face insane Lovecraftian monsters and they’re going to get it.
This book will be unabashedly strange. This book will be unflinching and terrifying and unique. The creative plan for Gotham by Midnight is: no fear. Let’s see if anybody can match the pace we’re going to set.