Nearly 75 years ago, DC Comics’ “Detective Comics” #27 hit newsstands, introducing the soon to be legendary Batman in Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” This January, the character, the story and the entire concept of “Detective Comics” gets some time in the spotlight as DC revisits the landmark comic in the 27th issue of the New 52 series.
Anchored by the kick-off chapter of the “Gothtopia” event written by regular series scribe
CBR News: Mike, tell me about the origins of “Detective Comics” #27, the “Gothtopia” event and all things surrounding it. I know John Layman had said that “Gothtopia” started as his own story, but you must have been thinking about ways to blow up this issue already, right?
Mike Marts: We knew that we wanted to do something special with “Detective” #27, honestly, since the beginning of the New 52. As soon as we had it on the horizon, we knew it was time to do something big with it. The inclusion of the “Gothtopia” storyline was really just perfect timing. We’d been talking with Layman about doing an aggressive story that we could pursue in “Detective” and a few of the other titles, and the timing worked out really well, where we could fit this whole storyline into our mega-sized issue.
What were the marching orders for the stories in this issue that aren’t Layman’s feature? There is a who’s who of modern Batman creators on this — did you have a hit list of people to include or put out more of an A.P.B. for creative talent?
It was a little bit of both. We knew we had a short amount of time to put something really big together, and we also knew that a lot of these great creators had commitments doing other things. We cast our net out and contacted as many people as we could, and we were fortunate enough to get most of the current Batman writers involved, as well as a few great additions like Brad Meltzer and Mike Barr. We also have a few guys contributing covers, like Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Tony Daniel and Frank Miller. And we’ve also got a few guys contributing pinups who maybe didn’t have time for a full cover. Mike Allred is doing one of those, and Jock is — there’s Graham Nolan. It’s a lot of different Batman creators past, present and I’m sure future as well participating in this issue. There’s actually one guy who’s illustrating Pete Tomasi’s story named Ian Burtram who’s a relatively unknown guy, but when people see his work, they’re going to go, “Wow! I want to see this guy drawing Batman in the future.”
What did you ask of all these creators? Did you just pretty much say, “It’s ‘Detective’ #27. Go nuts”?
Well, we knew that the “Gothtopia” storyline was going to be the hardcore continuity, monthly adventure part of the issue. So with the other short stories, we intentionally asked the guys to contribute things that were trying to comment on the timeless aspect of Batman as a hero, how he works as a myth and an icon. They were approaching it from an evergreen perspective, with some stories that could be appropriate for any day and age.
Let’s look at some of the particulars, starting with that Brad Meltzer story. His tale has been described as a new take on the Dark Knight’s origins. Since you’ve been doing so much on that front with “Zero Year,” is this a more spiritual take on Batman’s origins or a new piece of that New 52 continuity?
I think that idea of a spiritual approach to Batman’s origin kind of hits the nail on the head. Brad’s story is an interpretation of the original first appearance of Batman from “Detective” #27, and I think he does it in a way that only he could do. And we were fortunate enough that Bryan Hitch contributed to the artwork.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy telling a future story featuring a new Robin that’s garnered some attention. How does that fit in to the Batman mythos overall?
This is the first time Scott and Sean have paired together on a major DCU project, and just as some of the stories in “Detective” #27 deal with the past element of Batman’s legacy, Scott’s approach to this story is more of a future look at that legacy. Without spoiling too much, we get some glimpses into a possible future and a possible direction for Batman in the years to come. Some of the exciting visuals that Sean was sharing on Twitter are just a glimpse at the allies of Batman Scott conceived for the story.
It did strike a chord, though, because I think that question of Robin is still hanging out there since the death of Damian. We’ve seen Tomasi playing with the potential for that character with Carrie Kelly in “Batman And Robin,” and fans have speculated about Harper Row in that role. Are you guys closer to nailing down who the next Robin will be in general?
Robin is always an ongoing discussion for us. Just like Batman, the Robin legacy is something in and of itself that has continued to endure. Right now, I think the fun is in seeing what the readers expect from this and what they think could happen. “Could this character become the new Robin? Will Robin ever come back?” That’s fun for the time being because we still have a lot of stories to tell dealing with the after effects of Damian’s demise. That’s something that has a huge effect on all the supporting cast, and we’re not really done telling those stories yet.
Of course, another big part of what we’ll see when “Detective” #27 comes around is that new Batman work from Frank Miller. Is he returning to his “Dark Knight” period, or is there some other aspect of the character he’ll be exploring?
When we were lucky enough to hear that Frank wanted to get involved in this issue, honestly, it was such an honor and a great opportunity that we kind of threw it to him and allowed him to do what kind of visual he wanted to contribute. That’s all going to be part of the surprise when the issue hits.
“Detective Comics” #27 is obviously a celebration of Batman’s past, but I feel like from here through “Gothtopia” and to the weekly “Batman Eternal” series, there’s about to be a turn in Batman’s publishing life. How does this issue set all that up?
With the launch of “Eternal,” we’ll see the next era of the Batman books begin. There will be so much going on in that series that the rest of the books will reflect what happens there, and vice versa. We’ve got some creative changes coming around that same time with Francis Manapul and Brian Bucchelato coming on to “Detective.” There’s going to be a lot of energy on the Batman books in April of next year, and it’ll be a great opportunity for readers to jump on if they’re not acquainted with the line already.