As Batman’s 75th Anniversary winds down, DC Comics celebrated in style at New York Comic Con 2014, bringing creators from across the Batman family to a single panel. “Batman: Gotham Rising” was a celebration of all things in the modern Batman library with a cornucopia of creators including “Batman” creative team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo; “Detective Comics” team Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato; “Batwoman” scribe Marc Andreyko; “Batman Eternal” writer James Tynion IV; “Batman and Robin” writer Peter Tomasi; and newly minted “Batgirl” creative team Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr — as well as group editor Mark Doyle.
Moderator John Cunningham introduced the massive panel of creators, the panel kicked off with Snyder & Capullo’s “Batman” — which recently began its “Endgame” arc.
“It’s very intimate and small,” joked Snyder, who was tired due to his 3-year-old having nightmares — about creamed corn. “This story is meant to be a thank you to you guys where for us, we got to deal with the most sacred material in the Batman mythology and redo his origin,” he continued. “The fact that you guys kept it at the top for that entire thing — this is meant to be something that’s a celebration of everything awesome about Batman, and the entire cast.”
“Endgame” features the return of the Joker and Snyder sees it as the second part of “Death of the Family.” Snyder described “Endgame” as “over the top and muscular,” and it’s the Joker breaking “every piece of every toy of every game.”
“It’s really something I’ve been planning with Greg for 2 years,” said Snyder, noting that it was the 75th anniversary of Joker as well.
“‘Death of the Family’ was nice guy Joker,” said Capullo, noting that “Endgame” Joker is the exact opposite. The creative team said it was the most fun they’d ever had on the book. “Part of that is because Scott and I are always in a state of evolution with our work,” said Capullo.
“It’s really the top of our game in terms of the way we work together,” said Snyder saying it was a celebration of “everything you guys have let us do on the book so far,” as well as Batman’s 75th. “It leaves everything on the table at the end and changes the status quo that allows us to tell a [new] story afterwards. It’s something we’ve been building to forever and we’re so grateful to you guys.”
Tynion joined in on the conversation, discussing the backup stories in the main “Batman” title. “My first published work ever was in ‘Batman’ #8, so when they started about doing backups again, I couldn’t let someone else jump in,” said Tynion. “We’re talking about a story that’s the 75th anniversary not only of Batman, but the Joker. For these backups, we had the idea of going into these twisted versions of how the Joker became the Joker.. through the eyes of several different psychopaths.”
The first issue’s backup was illustrated by Kelley Jones with Graham Nolan, John McCrea, Sam Keith and Dustin Nguyen to come.
“I’m really excited to show you guys what we put together,” said Tynion. “I’m so excited to be back on the book.”
“Batman Eternal” was next up on the docket, prompting Tynion to discuss the whole point of the series. “We decided to take all the toys out and break them a little. This is us throwing wrenches in how Gotham City works,” said Tynion. “We have the massive reveal that Hush is one of the massive villains of the series, but it still seems like it goes deeper. … This is a very dangerous Gotham City. This is a Gotham manipulated to hurt Batman in the worst possible way. … Everything escalated to the next level with this.”
The series is deep in the second act and is heading towards its third, and Tynion says the writing team needs every single one of the 52 issues to tell the full story of “Batman Eternal.”
The return of Spoiler is something that many fans have become very excited about, and Tynion says right now there’s a humongous bounty on her head. “The knowledge she has makes her one of the biggest assets in Gotham City,” he said. “Now we see the most intense assassins coming in from Gotham and beyond. … We’ve got a lot of really crazy things going on in this series. I couldn’t be happier with the response.”
What’s currently happening in “Batman” takes place after the events of “Eternal,” which Snyder says gives the world “a real elasticity.” With the new books launching like “Arkham Manor” and “Gotham By Midnight,” as well as “Catwoman,” allows the team to do things in Batman they’ve never done before. “He’s in the Batcave, but Wayne Manor is now Arkham Asylum. All those things make Batman so fresh to me,” said Snyder. “Our feeling — all we want to do is keep it vibrant for ourselves. … There are a lot of surprises along the way too that will make you want to go back and read ‘Eternal.’ What Mark has been able to do with the Bat-line is give every book a neighborhood that doesn’t make it feel like they need to cross over.”
The books in the Bat-family have a vast number of different concepts coming in the pipeline, and Snyder said the diversity of Gotham was part of the fun. “The fact that you guys buy it and support us, allows us to do exciting things with these books,” he said.
Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr were up next, and Stewart said that he was approached to take on “Batgirl” on his own — but he didn’t have enough time to do it on his own. “Brenden and I have been friends for 15 years, and we talked about what it was about Batgirl that we liked,” he said. “The iconic versions of Batgirl have been the Yvonne Craig version from ‘Batman’ and Batgirl from ‘Batman: The Animated Series.’ They had this positive, hopeful approach. We wanted to do Batgirl as a contrast to Batman. … She’s not the same personality type as him”
Fletcher said he was aware of the character’s history, and the implications of Barbara Gordon being Batgirl again. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “I think that immediately we were drawn to look at the iconic representations of Barbara in the Batgirl costume. … We tried to figure out a way to make that contemporary and ended up in this place — and ended up with Babs!”
Tarr had never done a comic book prior to “Batgirl,” and her style was unlike any other book in DC’s library — which is exactly what Stewart wanted. “It’s exactly the kind of stuff that’s relevant to the character of Batgirl,” he said.
Fletcher said that Barbara’s mind is what sets her apart from the rest of the Bat-family, and they had never seen anyone use her photographic memory in a visual way. “It’s something that we really thought could help tell the detective side of the story,” Fletcher said, referencing the two-page spread in “Batgirl” #35.
Each issue of “Batgirl” will hopefully be different than the previous one — “We’re trying different things with the action, with the mysteries,” said Stewart. “We want it to be a book where you don’t know what you’re going to get each month.”
The writing duo also praised Tarr, saying that she gets better and better with each page. Fletcher said “Batgirl” #36 looks “like ‘Akira'” and Stewart called her “the invisible third writer on this book.” Tarr said she “couldn’t feel luckier” to be on the creative team, and the writers stressed she was “integral” to making the book what it is.
Tomasi’s “Batman and Robin” was up next, and Peter Tomasi said there’s been a lot of interpersonal stuff throughout the aftermath of Damien’s death. “Now it’s kickass time,” he said. “Batman in this issue has maybe 3 balloons. He’s taking no prisoners — with the new Hell Bat suit, he’s taking on Apokalips. … We’re really going all-out on the action for these next couple issues — let action define characters.”
The current arc in “Batman and Robin” leads into “Robin Rises,” and Tomasi said the action and character stuff in the issue is “just awesome.” “It’s been a hell of a ride,” he said. “I hope everyone enjoys where we go with it. The reveal comes in December — our first three issues are pretty action-packed and some pretty great surprises coming. I hope everyone digs the uber-story we’ve been creating. The people who have been with us from the get-go will see some [parallels] to our first few issues. Even the readers who came in on ‘Omega’ will see an amazing journey that we hope pays off for you guys.”
Doyle was on hand to discuss “Arkham Manor,” which has a pretty simple premise — Wayne Manor becomes Arkham Asylum. “Bad things happen to Arkham Asylum and the question becomes, ‘What do you do with all the crazy people?'” Doyle said. “Once Batman has all these crazy people in his house, he has to figure out what to do with them.” The editor described the series as “a tight, fun book and that writer Gerry Duggan has a “whole other arsenal” of material for the series.”
The panel cycled back to Fletcher to discuss his work on “Gotham Academy,” which he described as a book that “came out of nowhere” — and that he had to thank Doyle and Becky Cloonan. “If it had been up to Karl Kerschl and I, it would have been a straight-up Batman book, but Becky said, ‘No! It has to be in a school! We have to see what these kids are doing!'” said Fletcher, saying it’s quite dreary over at the academy, keeping in step with Gotham City. “How these buildings and how these students are connected to Gotham and Batman are a central part of the mystery.”
Protagonist Olive Silverlock has “extremely deep connections to the city and we make it quite clear that there’s a mysterious connections between Olive and Batman — to put it bluntly, she doesn’t like him.” The influence of Batman is always present, and it makes her life somewhat miserable. Maps serves as a foil for Olive as an enthusiastic new face to the academy. Fletcher said the series has “a different flavor” than what readers might be used to, and it has a lot of things that the creators would like to see.
“Everything has a depth to it and a reason,” he said. “If you pick it up, there are a lot of things that feel familiar, but hopefully it’s a warm familiarity.”
“The relationship between Olive and Maps — they’re very Batman and Robin,” said Doyle. “I said it to Becky like I discovered it and she said, ‘Yeah — did you read the pitch?!'”
“It is very much a Batman and Robin relationship and I hope that resonates as well, ” said Fletcher.
The writer also praised Kerschl, saying that “Academy” is “the work of his career.” “He is responsible for all the design work, he is responsible for everything but the final colors on the page,” Fletcher said. “I can’t sing the praises of the ‘Gotham Academy’ team enough — I’m the luckiest writer at DC.”
The next big book on tap was “Gotham by Midnight,” which Doyle described as “a cop shop book,” but focusing on the midnight shift. “Ray Fawkes is writing it and Ben Templesmith is the artist,” said Doyle. “It’s definitely a Gotham book and it’s a police procedural book with but weird kind of stuff — Gotham P.D./’X-Files’ matchup.”
Andreyko was on hand to discuss his “Batwoman” run, and he said that “Batwoman” #35 is “high above Gotham” — and the new team is Batwoman, her sister, Ragman, the Demon and Clayface. “This is a weird corner of the Bat-universe,” said Andreyko. “This issue takes place entirely in outer space and the next arc is going to be called, ‘How in the hell did we get here?'” Georges Jeanty just jumped on as artist, and Andreyko said he’s “doing the work of his career.” There will still be an interpersonal nature to the series, but he said readers should stick around because it’s “been an absolute blast to do.”
Rafael Albuquerque is doing the covers, which feature members of the new Batwoman team. “These covers are just breathtaking,” Andreyko said.
Finally, Buccellato and Manapul discussed “Detective Comics,” which is set to feature Anarky.
“It starts with a murder. Somebody dies and Batman has to find out why,” said Buccellato.
“Anarky is going to give Gotham City the gift of choice,” Manapul said, noting that the choice is going to bring a dangerous freedom to the table. “At the end of it, it’s interesting to see who the readers are going to root for — Batman or Anarky.”
Manapul said that he thought people were used to what the “Detective” team did on “The Flash” in terms of design — but “Detective” had become more rigid and traditional. However, as soon as Anarky is introduced, the book goes back to the duo’s freer “The Flash” style.
With that, the panel moved on to a very brief Q&A session. In terms of Easter eggs, Fletcher said “Gotham Academy” is full of references to characters from “Batman ’66” and “Batman: The Animated Series.”
The question of a Stephanie Brown ongoing series came up before the panel’s conclusion — and the Bat-group editor was understandably cagey before the panel wrapped.
“I have a lot of pitches on my desk. I’ll just say that,” said Doyle.
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