To celebrate Batman's 75 Anniversary, DC Comics pulled out all the stops. In addition to the special logo and ancillary products, the publisher launched a new weekly series, a slew of new titles, and installed a brand new Batman Group Editor, as Mark Doyle set up shop in Gotham.
For Vertigo fans, Doyle's name was a familiar one. Beginning his DC career with the long-lived, often edgy imprint, Doyle worked on multiple critically acclaimed series, including Brian Wood's "Northlanders," Jason Aaron's "Scalped" and Scott Snyder's "American Vampire." In the wake of previous Batman Group Editor Mike Marts' return to Marvel Comics, Doyle stepped up to the Batman plate, marking his arrival by overseeing a huge shift in the focus of the Bat line.
Using the Anniversary as a launch pad, Doyle instituted numerous changes in creative teams and titles, the cancellation of series and soft relaunches for books like "Catwoman" and "Batgirl," which changed their overall tone along with writers and artists. Add in the launch of the weekly "Batman Eternal" series, which DC already has plans to reprise with a "Year 2," and 2014 was one of the busiest years for the Bat Group since the New 52 relaunch.
Looking back on the sweeping, critically acclaimed changes the Bat-line underwent in 2014, CBR News spoke with Doyle, who dove into the past twelve months and shared his genre-spanning vision for the line. And though he wasn't able to directly provide any new information about new developments for 2015, he did share the thought process behind the biggest changes during his first year on the job, and what Batman's world might look like as the New Year kicks off.
CBR News: Mark, we're now at the end of your first year as Batman Group Editor, a year that has seen a lot of big changes come to the Bat books. Take us back all the way to the beginning: How did you feel about coming onboard as Group Editor during Batman's 75 Anniversary, and more than that, replacing Mike Marts, who had been part of the Bat offices for years?
Mark Doyle: In the beginning, I wasn't thinking about the scope of things like Batman's 75Â Anniversary, or taking the chair that's been held by some of the greatest editors in comics' history. In the beginning, it was just [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio asking me if I wanted the gig, and me saying, "Yes!" before he could even finish his question!
Because that's a rule in comics. You never say no to Batman.
But shortly after I settled in, the scope of it all really started to hit me. The anniversary had a big impact on me. Got me excited. Got me thinking. This character has been around for 75 years. Why? And what can we do to make sure he's around for 75Â more?
You know writer Scott Snyder very well, as the two of you worked together at Vertigo on things like "American Vampire" and "The Wake." I know from talking to him Scott has beenÂ superÂ excited about the changes going on over the Batman line -- had the two of you discussed the possibility of taking over as Group Editor previously?
No, he was as blindsided as I was. He had no idea who Dan had in mind for the chair. I think he and all the Bat-creators were probably a little nervous until they got the news.
But as you say, I've worked with Scott for a few years. We came up in comics together. So when I called him with the news, he was floored and very excited. We have a great rapport, same story sense, and we get excited about a lot of the same concepts and characters, so he immediately saw the possibilities.
So what were your immediate goals for the Batman line this year? What did you want to accomplish in your first year as Group Editor?
A Batman book for every fan, for every genre.
That's it. That's my mantra. As I said before, the anniversary weighed heavily on my mind. When I asked myselfÂ whyÂ the character has been so popular for so long, I settled on this idea that it wasn't one thing, it wasÂ allÂ things. Superhero stories and sci-fi stories and dark stories and campy stories -- you can do all of them with Batman. Different fans love different aspects of the character, and different characters in the mythology. So when I looked at the whole line, I thought, "I want to have at least one book in this line for everybody."
Make comics for everybody. That's it. That's the goal. Maybe it's a lofty goal, but you have to aim high.
2014 saw the launch of a lot of new books, like "Arkham Manor," "Gotham By Midnight," "Gotham Academy" and "Grayson," along with the cancellation of series like "Birds Of Prey" and "Batwing." All of these series vary wildly in tone and characters; as Group Editor, what are your criteria for selecting new ongoing series?
Well, like I said, I want to be making at least one book for everybody. So I think of the target audience when developing. Who is this book for and what do they want?
But more importantly than that -- it's character. Tim [Seeley] and Tom [King] understood Dick Grayson so well, IÂ knewÂ they would write a book that would resonate, even with Dick out of costume and out of Gotham.
Or "Gotham Academy." All-new characters, but characters who immediately felt to me like a part of Gotham. Exactly what kids would be like, growing up in the shadow of the Bat.
Good characters and good takes on those characters are going to make for good ongoing series.
Many have commented, in terms of books like "Gotham Academy" and the new direction on "Batgirl," that parts of the Bat-line now feel a lot more like indie titles rather than traditional superhero stories. Do you feel your time at Vertigo influences the way you approach the Batman Group when deciding what new titles to pick and what new creative teams to work with?
Absolutely. From the relationships I made at Vertigo to how we would build a series -- it all had a huge impact on how I work.
"Gotham Academy" comes about because I've known Becky [Cloonan] for years from our Vertigo work together. But I also know she's a big Bat-fan. So I call her up and say, "Hey, I'm looking for a new angle on a Bat-thing."
But I think it also comes from the Vertigo approach to things being a creator-driven community. Calling up a writer or an artist and saying, "Hey, I love your work, do you want to do something over here at Vertigo?"
Talking about a concept and characters and building the story from there -- Vertigo was the best place in the world to learn how to make comics.
Speaking about those new creative teams, this year saw a lot of women join the Bat offices, including Becky Cloonan, Babs Tarr and Genevieve Valentine. As Group Editor, is this part of an ongoing goal to broaden the diversity of the books behind the scenes?
Yes. More points of view, more stories, more characters. This might sound cheesy, but I want the characters in the books and the creators behind the books to reflect the world I see outside my window.
(I mean, there's nobody wearing a cape outside my window, but you get the idea.)
Two of the biggest things coming out of the Batman Group this year were the events of "Batman Eternal" and Damian's return in "Robin Rises." To start with the latter, how long had Damian's super-powered return been in the works?
A long time -- well before I got here. Once I took the chair and saw all the awesome they had planned for this character, I knew my job was to just help carve out the space so these guys could tell the biggest, best story possible.
We also know that "Batman Eternal" will continue on into next year, though it will take a break before picking up for Year 2. Even with the hiatus, will this series continue to set the pace for the other Bat books?
Yes. Sorry, can't say much more than that, but, yes. Big, fat, enthusiastic yes.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out "Harley Quinn," which launched big and has sustained its sales, consistently coming in as one of DC's bestselling titles. What do you think is behind the success of this darkly comedic book?
Why does the sitcom remain a dominant form on television? Why do they go back to the well for another "Dumb and Dumber" movie? Why are funny GIFs and listacles all over the Internet?â€¨Because people love to laugh. And Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner] get that. They crack me up all the time. We deal with all kinds of crap all the time in our lives -- feels good to laugh once in a while.
Looking ahead, with the new year rapidly approaching, what is your vision for the line going into 2015?
We took a lot of risks in 2014, and in order to take some of those risks, I had to silo the books a bit, carve out a space to make this book work over here -- try out a new creative team over there.
Now, it's time to break those silos down and get everyone mixing it up together. From the fantastic ongoing titles to new projects in the pipeline (I can't talk about them yet! Don't make me!) it's time to mix it up and see how all these ideas and characters play together.