Layman's "Detective Comics" Shows Off Joker's Gotham

As the clown prince of crime has stitched himself back together in horrific fashion in the page of DC Comics Batman books recently for the "Death of the Family" event story, there's likely not been one fan of the Dark Knight who doesn't know about the impending showdown. But while the crossover gets driven by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Batman" monthly, the other grand old title of the hero's line is seeing its long term plans shape up as well under the pen of writer John Layman.

This Wednesday, "Detective Comics" #15 ships to comic shops by Layman and artist Jason Fabok. The comic marks the third issue by the pair and the first tying into the "Death" event. But while the previous two comics centered on solo Bat-villains the Penguin and Poison Ivy respectively, the writer told CBR that his latest case file for the Batman would be about more than a Joker cameo or even the continuation of last month's Clayface cliffhanger.

"I think this is the issue where the story will come into focus and people will see what I'm doing. Three issues in, the format I'm taking will start making sense," Layman explained. "I've also got my sea legs now. I was terrified at first. It was very daunting to be working on something so big and historic and with so many eyes on it. By the third issue, I really started to find my groove, and I think it's the best one we've done. That was really gratifying. I don't want to say I didn't like #13, but there was a lot of second-guessing going on there. It moved a little slow and I thought, 'Shoot...if people liked #13, they're going to go crazy in a few issues.'"

So far, the new "Detective" run has been an old school mix of puzzling adventures to test Batman's mind and stand-alone stories that rely on classic comic tropes less seen these days including liberal use of caption footnotes to tie in events in other Bat-titles like Poison Ivy's recent defection from "Birds of Prey." But Layman found tying tightly into the line part of the job. "Do you not see that much anymore? I read a few books here and there. I'm not a superhero maniac where I go out and follow every book from the Big Two. I follow creators, and I don't necessarily know the trends, which may make stuff like that fresher. I just thought, 'Hey, I'm part of the Bat Universe...I'll be part of the team.'"

With issue #15, being part of the team involves a "Death of the Family" issue complete with diecut cover, and while previous mentions in the book mentioned Joker's latest reign of terror, this story won't feature a coordinated attack on a supporting cast member like other tie-ins. "For one thing, I didn't know about this [crossover] when I originally pitched by Penguin story, but it actually worked with what I wanted to do about the Penguin," the writer said. "Scott needed to take Penguin for his story, and having him go over to 'Batman' is perfect for what needs to happen next in my story. So I got lucky that the two ended up complimenting each other. But what I do with the next two issues is tell a story that's all about 'This is Gotham when Joker's in town.' Yes, it's got some specifics to 'Death of the Family,' but if for whatever reason, if you can only buy 'Detective' I still want to give you something satisfying on its own. This shows how the city is affected when Joker's in town, and it doesn't necessarily have to be 'Death of the Family' specific, although it is."

Though he's brought a few humorous moments to Batman's world so far in "Detective," Layman noted that the comedy chops he's showed off on his Image Comics hit "Chew" won't translate to the skin-masked clown killing his way through the event. "I'm not necessarily using the Joker, which is good because this Joker is a little darker than my tastes run. Scott Snyder excels at creepy and horrific, and honestly I wanted my take on Batman to be a little lighter. So I keep Joker on the sidelines where if you know Joker, you know he's doing all this stuff. I know what happens in every issue of 'Death of the Family,' and it's hardcore. Every issue has something hardcore."

Overall, Layman expressed surprise that he's been able to step into Batman's world at all, though he plans on moving forward for as long as DC will have him. "DC had offered me a few things, but my schedule is very packed right now," he explained. "Then they offered me Batman, and I couldn't say no. Despite the fact that my schedule is killing me right now! I knew Mike Marts and worked with him in the past, and as far as I'm concerned, he's the best editor there is. Working with him on 'Detective'? It can't get any better than that. I've got other stuff I want to do too, and if DC likes what I'm doing here and this opens doors for that, that's another side benefit. But if all that ever happens with this is that I write 'Detective Comics,' that's great."

"Detective Comics" #15 is in stores this Wednesday from DC Comics.

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