In DC's new Gotham City Garage title, writers Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly are turning some of DC's favorite superheroes into outlaws. But that doesn't mean the characters have suddenly gone bad; instead of fighting against crime, they're fighting tyranny and a fascist overseer in an apocalyptic alternate world.
Gotham City Garage is a digital-first title that launches in print this week with an issue drawn by Brian Ching. The story is inspired by designs for statues from DC Collectibles, mimicking the success of the DC Bombshells line that also spun its story out of a collectible line.
As the story begins in this week's Gotham City Garage #1, readers are introduced to this strange world through the eyes of Kara Gordon - whom readers will recognize as an alternate version of Supergirl. She's living in a city where Lex Luthor rules all, even programming the thoughts of his citizens.
After rebelling against the establishment, Kara meets other outlaws, including Big Barda, Steel, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Silver Banshee and Hawkgirl - all riding on their signature motorcycles.
But the rebels of Gotham City Garage should watch out for Lex Luthor's main henchman - a very angry, ruthless Bruce Wayne.
Newsarama talked to Kelly and Lanzing about the series, how they brought an anti-fascist" theme to the series (as advertised by DC), and what readers can expect when Bruce Wayne is hunting down DC heroes.
Newsarama: Collin and Jackson, this series was billed as being "anti-fascist" when it was first announced, but it's also very strongly rooted in the idea of freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Was the idea to address some important issues while also having fun?
Jackson Lanzing: Absolutely. Collin and I actually got the initial call to pitch on this book back in March or late February when we were on a bachelor weekend. We were on a ski slope.
Collin Kelly: Literally on the ski slopes heading up the mountain.
Lanzing: Our initial thinking was, neither of us ride motorcycles. Neither of us are motorcycle riders nor motorcycle enthusiasts. So we're not going to be able to tackle this book as a gear-head book. So we shouldn't do that.
So we decided to find what we found interesting about motorcycle culture and outlaw culture and apply that idea to superheroes. We thought, let's turn superheroes into outlaws - take them from characters who fight for a cultural status quo and to maintain law and justice, and instead create a situation where they're fighting against the status quo.
From that followed ideas of society being unjust, fundamentally, in order for our main characters to still be heroic.
So yes, we're looking at freedom of speech, issues of forced labor, of mind control, of a lot of the shorthand that we talk about when we talk about anti-fascism.
And I should say - that's not just a DC marketing line. That was in our pitch. We put it right up front, in the header, that the book is going to be anti-fascist - not in an in-your-face way, because the worst way to be anti-fascist is to yell "no, no, no fascism" all the time. The best way to do it, at least, from our perspective, and from the story's perspective, was to look at this world filled with fascist concepts and say, how would the heroic characters from the DCU like Wonder Woman and Supergirl find themselves in a position of being outlaws and being not "super heroic," but rather being individually heroic?
That was the main core of what drew us to the book, though of course what followed was us being obsessed with the characters. The characters are really the core.
Nrama: They are similar to the characters they are in the DCU, but with a twist, right? And you developed them out of the designs for the statues?
Kelly: Yeah, they had a few of these designs already mocked up, and some of the designs for the extended cast were put together, but who they were was a huge question.
They didn't really know what made these characters tick and how they were different from the traditional DCU.
So we got to roll in - ha ha - and look at what motivates them to be who they are. We really got to find what made our Gotham City Garage versions unique.
It comes from not just the ideals of trying to tell a story about outlaw culture, but what it means to grow up in a society that makes that a reality.
Once you start looking at it like that, every character has a fundamental shift in who they are. So they should be recognizable to a DC fan, but they're all going to be an interesting critique and examination of that traditional expectation as well.
And in some cases, though they may have the superhero name you expect, the actual name - the secret identity underneath - may be completely different.
Lanzing: For instance, our Catwoman is not Selina Kyle.
Nrama: There are quite a few mysteries that aren't revealed right away in the digital chapters - and now in the print issues - as we learn more and more about this world's history. You have a long-term plan for how you'll unfold these mysteries?
Kelly: We do. When we entered into this project, we set some pretty long-term goals in term of where we were going to land this.
We knew we were setting up a new universe - one that was the DC Universe until one thing happened … and then it wasn't. The universe went through what they call in the book "the Dark Age." There was a big event, and then the Dark Age came and really scarred the world.
It left the DC Universe you know as a sort of apocalyptic wasteland.
So for us, it was a matter of saying, we could tell you everything about the Dark Age and why it happened, but then it would take a long time to get to the reason they're actually here - these characters finding each other and forming their friendship and fighting against the control of Lex Luthor.
We decided to make this part of the background, and we would let it out over the course of the book.
So yes, we do expect you to be a little bit lost in the world. That is intentional.
We want readers to just sit back and enjoy the world of Gotham City Garage, and then pick up the details about its past as they come along.
Whenever possible, we try to avoid big info dumps about this world. But we'll tell you all that stuff as the story goes on.
Kelly: And remember, the characters don't know what happened. I think that's often a point of contention for readers - they're like, well, I feel like everyone knows something but me.
The characters in our story don't really know the details of the Dark Age either. It was a long time ago. They were much younger people. It was an insane-level disaster. When you're a grunt on the ground, you don't necessarily know who's making the decisions at the top.
So they're confused as are you - but all will be revealed!
Lanzing: The one thing I will point out is that in issue #1, when you go to the garage, if you look above the bar, you'll see that one of the many accoutrements of the old world that Natasha has put into the garage is Kal-El's pod from Krypton. It's hanging up above the bar, and you'll notice it's not broken.
So that will give you an idea of the timeline. The Dark Age and the events that changed this world happened after the pod arrived on Earth but before the pod opened.
So it gives you a sense of where this came from and how it might have come, as well as giving us the opportunity to play out a world where Kara has been raised as a human but doesn't know Kal-El exists or even know that Krypton exists.
Nrama: But she's discovering things about herself through the story?
Lanzing: Yes, she'll learn more about herself over the course of the story of Gotham City Garage.
Nrama: You mentioned that Lex Luthor is the dictator of this world. Can you describe who he is in this series? I assume he was an easy fit when you tried to find a leader of this sort of environment.
Kelly: Absolutely. Lex was a no-brainer. We immediately knew that we were doing a controlled state, and we knew that there was some degree of the "programmed humans." That actually came from DC Collectibles - they had the idea.
So we thought, who's diabolical to put programmed thoughts into an entire city of people and lord over them? And of course, it's got to be Lex Luthor, right?
One of the things we love about taking that character and putting him into this story is that this has taken a toll on Lex. He's an older man. He's a more hardened, more desperate man than he was when he was struggling to get to the top. Being at the top hasn't been everything he wanted it to be, and it's made him determined to maintain the status quo.
The story about how he got to this point is something we'll be teasing out as the story goes. But what fascinates me, from a character perspective, is how how unhappy he is once he gets in power. But he's still a person who will never let go of that power, no matter how hard you pull.
Nrama: Let's talk about the art. How does the art add to the feeling of the outlaw culture, and the youthful feel of these characters?
Lanzing: Our artists are amazing. One of the most beautiful things about this book is how we get to work with new artists. Brian Ching, who kicks off the book, brings a real rebel energy to the book. It's got a kinetic quality.
And then immediately after, for issue #2, you'll see Lynne Yoshi's work which has a youthful, manga, action-adventure flair.
Kelly: Yeah, and she was amazing to work with. Her attention to detail and storytelling was so on point, and she was so involved in every aspect. She came to us several times and asked if she could rework an action scene, because she saw a way to do it better. And if there's one thing we've learned, it's to trust your artist.
And what she came back with was so much better. So she's just been a joy to work with.
Lanzing: And then down the line, coming up, we have a Harley Quinn story in issue #3 with Aneke on art. There's a double-page spread halfway through that issue that's unbelievably cool. We have Carmen Carnero on issue #5. She's absolutely killing it.
Across the board, we have really wonderful work from a whole list of incredible artists.
Kelly: And the covers are just jaw-dropping.
Lanzing: I could spend the rest of my career begging to work on any book with Rafael Grampá, and I look up and boom, there's a Rafael Grampá cover on Gotham City Garage. We feel honored. Guillem March, Dan Panosian, Rafael Albuquerque. We have an incredible list of cover artists on this book. And seeing the world we've been imagining brought to life like this has been one of the true joys of getting to work on a book of this magnitude. It's really jaw-dropping for us.
Nrama: Then to finish up, let's circle back to who Lex Luthor's main henchman is: Batman. Tell us more about that.
Lanzing: Yes! Bruce Wayne is our antagonist for the first six issues, and by the end of that issue, he'll be bringing that fight to all of the Gotham City Garage. If it looks like Kara got away scot free at the end of issue #1, I guarantee you, it's very much the opposite.
Once Bruce Wayne has your scent, you're as good as caught. So I can't wait to see all of them have to deal with him down the line.