Ray Fawkes isn’t afraid of the dark. Or maybe he is, but you certainly wouldn’t know it by crosschecking the characters he’s explored since he started writing for DC Comics. Constantine, Swamp Thing, Madame Xanadu, Frankenstein, even Pandora — a character that essentially triggered the New 52 — are all shrouded in darkness, but none compare to Jim Corrigan.
Corrigan lives his days as a detective in the Gotham City Police Department, knowing full well that if he can’t deliver (divine) judgment in a timely manner The Spectre will arrive to take care of business. Pushed to the edge of the police force by his fellow officers, Corrigan now leads a team charged with investigating all that goes bump in the night in the brand new DC series “Gotham By Midnight.”
Illustrated by fan-favorite artist Ben Templesmith, “Gotham By Midnight” is the result of Fawkes’ pitch to Batman group editor Mark Doyle, an idea that came to the writer/artist after scripting Corrigan in “Batman Eternal,” one of DC’s three weekly series.
Having loved the 63-issue run on “The Spectre” by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake in the 1990s, Fawkes is a long-time fan of the character dating back to his appearance in “Swamp Thing Annual” #2 in 1985, written by the legendary Alan Moore.
Fawkes told CBR News that Corrigan may be considered stone-cold crazy by his GCPD peers, but he has Batman’s trusts, which is good enough. The writer also shared the names and some details about the rest of Corrigan’s team, who are known as the “Midnight Shift,” and teased that Batwing will have a role in this new series after teaming with Corrigan in “Batman Eternal.”
CBR News: If I was told DC Comics was publishing a news series titled “Gotham by Midnight,” you would honestly be the first name to come to mind. Does that trouble you or sound about right?
Ray Fawkes: Sounds good to me. Not that I’m looking to be pigeon-holed or anything, but we’ve all got our natural inclinations, and mine is to write about more philosophical, esoteric subjects — most often through a dark lens. I’m perfectly happy if that makes me a go-to guy for supernatural horror at DC.
Was this your pitch to [editor] Mark Doyle, or was the concept already moving ahead and Mark reached out to you to write it?
It was my pitch. I saw the great things Mark had in store for the Gotham line and thought I’d throw my hat into the ring with something that would stretch the line in a different direction. Writing the Jim Corrigan/Batwing storyline in “Batman Eternal” has been very rewarding and I thought we could spin a really cool and strange title out of that.
Glad you mentioned Batwing, but before we talk about him your love of DC Comics’ “dark” characters like Constantine and Swamp Thing is well documented. What’s your history with The Spectre?
In my memory, The Spectre is part and parcel with all of my other favorite characters at DC. I first encountered him in the pages of “Swamp Thing” in the annual where Alec journeys to Hell to retrieve Abby’s soul and then again at the climax of the “American Gothic” saga and was hooked ever after. I collected and read the [John] Ostrander/[Tom] Mandrake series with devotion.
The name, and character, Jim Corrigan has long been tied with The Spectre. But tell us about Detective Corrigan. What makes him tick?
In this version, Corrigan is a good man who is forced to shoulder the terrible burden that The Spectre represents. Imagine knowing that you’re walking around with the spirit of God’s Divine Judgment inside your skin and that at any moment it could burst forth and bring down the wrath, Sodom-and-Gomorrah style. Somehow, Corrigan’s avoided going insane with helpless despair, often by finding whatever humor lurks in the situation.
Ultimately, Corrigan is motivated by the belief that if he can ferret out and defuse horrible problems quickly enough, The Spectre will be satisfied to stay its hand and withhold judgment for another day.
Traditionally, Corrigan is an outsider at Gotham City Police Department akin to Agent Mulder with the FBI. Is that still the case?
Oh yeah, most of the GCPD thinks Corrigan is stone-cold crazy. Only Commissioner Gordon’s word kept him from being turfed long ago and Gordon’s favor is really just a nod to Batman, who counts Corrigan among his allies.
On the first issue cover, Corrigan overshadows, one would assume, other characters from the cast. Left to right, who do we see and what are their connections to Corrigan?
The rest of the characters you see in that image comprise the crew known to the rest of the GCPD, with a sneer, as Corrigan’s “Midnight Shift.” They’re the team who track the weird, supernatural cases in Gotham with him. They are, from left to right: Lieutenant Sam Weaver, their loyal and cynical commanding officer; Dr. Szandor Tarr, the perpetually enthused forensic investigator; Sister Justine, the shy consultant on all things occult; Det. Lisa Drake, Corrigan’s brash partner and keeper of a terrible secret of her own; and Sgt. Peyton Rook, an internal affairs investigator who gets drawn into the Midnight Shift’s orbit.
Awesome. Now let’s return to Batwing. As you mentioned, in “Batman Eternal” Corrigan teamed with Batwing at the request of Batman. Does Batwing play a role in this series? And what about the Dark Knight Detective himself?
Luke Fox will certainly make an appearance in this series, but I don’t want to reveal any details about that, because I don’t want to give away where Batwing and Corrigan’s plot in “Eternal” is going. Suffice it to say that he’ll be around.
Batman plays a peripheral role in the book. He feeds cases to Corrigan and asks for Corrigan’s advice from time to time. As one of the only people who knows Corrigan’s secret, he also acts as his friend, which is something that both of them benefit from more than they might admit. But “Gotham By Midnight” is really Corrigan’s title. He and the Midnight Shift hold the focus of the book.
Okay, it’s Corrigan’s title, but what role does The Spectre play in the series?
The Spectre carries the Word of God. When he shows up in this series, it means that Corrigan’s failed to stop a problem from getting out of hand. And then there are new problems, as divine fire rains down from the sky and all sinners are judged. I guess you could say that The Spectre is one of the antagonists of this book. He’s… complicated.
In terms of threats, will we be seeing any classic supernatural characters like Black Adam and Nekron or will you be introducing new villains?
The first arc of the book focuses on a threat readers have never seen before in the DCU. As for later stories, only time will tell but surprises are in store, I’ll tell you that much.
Can you give us a tease about the team’s initial threat in “Gotham By Midnight” #1?
No. I want you to go in knowing nothing. That’s the best way to enjoy a horror story.
Scary. What about story construction? Will these be done-in-one mysteries or will you be telling a longer story over multi-issue arcs?
The first story is a two-parter, working as an introduction to our heroes and their world and facing them off against a new threat. Then there are several one-and-done stories that may or may share a horrifying link or two. You’ll have to read and see.
Finally, you’re teamed with Ben Templesmith on “Gotham By Midnight.” Were you a fan of his work before this project and what does he bring to the series as a collaborator?
Yes! Yes, of course I was a fan. How can anyone who loves dark stories see his work and not be? Ben brings such a unique sensibility to comics and to art, a sort of seething, undulating gloom infuses everything he does, and yet somehow every image conveys a sense of twisted fun and wonder. Man, it’s a blast seeing him draw this. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — there’s nothing else at DC like the work Ben Templesmith is doing and it’s an incredible experience riffing with him on this title. It’s pure art, pure freakout joy.
“Gotham By Midnight” #1 by Ray Fawkes and Ben Templesmith arrives November 26.