Last week, many of you hit your nearest comic shop or favorite online retailer to grab the first issue of Batman Eternal, our brand new weekly comic featuring the Dark Knight and kicking off with one very bad night for Commissioner Gordon. Well, guess what? The second issue’s out today and so is the third in our series of interviews with the Batman Eternal creative team.
Writer Ray Fawkes has been helping to shape the DC Universe for a while now, contributing to such memorable storylines as “Trinity War” and “Forever Evil: Blight.” While Batman Eternal is his first extended trip into Gotham, Fawkes is no stranger to the world and characters and his contributions to the Eternal story promise to be memorable. And more than a little terrifying.
Cover art for Batman Eternal #2 (art by Jason Fabok and Tomeu Morey)
Ray, you’ve been writing for DC Comics for quite a while now, but so far, everything you’ve worked on has been in the more mystical vein—Justice League Dark, Constantine and Pandora. This is the first time you’ve worked on Batman. How did it come about?
Well, I didn’t come into this a complete stranger to Gotham—I wrote a two-issue story about James Gordon Jr. in Batgirl last year, and Scott Snyder and I put our heads together to create the Riddler issue for the Villains Month event. After those two books—both fantastic experiences—I threw my hat into the Gotham ring, so to speak, making it very clear that I’d love to do more. Luckily for me, Katie Kubert and Mike Marts brought me onto the Eternal team!
Is it a nice change working on a character that’s grounded in a more real-world approach to super heroics? And as a follow-up, can we expect Batman Eternal to delve into the supernatural eventually?
Sure—I love Batman as the ultra-rational detective and vigilante, and writing him that way puts him in a very different head space than characters like John Constantine or Pandora. That said, Batman does deal with the supernatural here and again, and he will definitely be facing it in parts of Eternal. Early in issue #6, he tells Batwing how he reconciles being a logical thinker with fighting the occasional beyond-the-grave type, and I think it’s great fun.
How long have you been a Batman fan? Was he a favorite of yours growing up?
Batman was the book I bought as a kid—I have clear memories of biking to the corner store and picking up issue #400, with that great Sienkiewicz cover—and I just loved the character (and his villains) so much. I can’t remember not being a Batman fan—when I was too small to read comics, I was watching re-runs of the ’66 TV show and Saturday morning “Superfriends” cartoons.
On the Batman Eternal panel at Emerald City Comicon, you mentioned that you really respond to Gotham’s darker side. How frightening is this story going to get?
Pretty damn frightening. I mean, Gotham is a nightmare city, at its worst, and Batman’s the Knight who stands between the horrors and their innocent would-be victims. There are a number of terrible moments in Eternal, if I can be honest, just horrifying glimpses into how bad things can really get when you let the denizens of Arkham Asylum have their way.
Interior spread from Batman Eternal #2 (art by Jason Fabok)
Are there any of Batman’s villains that you’re particularly excited about writing?
Yes, of course! There are some of the big icons that everyone really wants to sink their writers’ teeth into here and again—some I don’t want to name, because I don’t want to give away the Eternal game.
Then there are also what one fan at the panel in Seattle referred to as the “Z-list” villains—guys like the Ten-Eyed Man, for example, who I got perhaps a little too excited about during one of our early story planning sessions. I just love the strange guys, and I love pushing them out on stage and showing them off in all their high weirdness.
The Batman Eternal writing team seems to be made up of a few writers who are very experienced writing Batman and his world and a few who are pretty new to it, like you and Tim Seeley. Do you think that mix has worked out well?
I’m going to say a resounding yes—I mean, maybe as the new guys Tim and I are excited about different aspects of the story than the rest of the team, and that makes it easier to divide duties? Whether or not that’s a factor, I can’t really say, but I do know that this is the smoothest writing team experience I’ve ever had, hands down.
What are a few of your favorite Batman stories?
Well, the classics: Miller and Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One and Miller and Janson’s The Dark Knight Returns loom large in my mind, as does Morrison and McKean’s Arkham Asylum. I also have a deep abiding affection for that issue #400—the great jam issue I mentioned above. I love what Snyder and Capullo are doing right now with “Zero Year.” I’m nuts about some of the Conway and Colan issues from the 80s too—the stories with Nocturna and the Night Slayer, for instance, and the vampire Batman story with Dala and the Monk.
Finally, there are very few characters in fiction that have remained popular for more than 75 years. Why do you think Batman’s been able to do it?
Honestly, I think Batman is truly iconic: a distilled representation of the very best in ourselves, dedicated to the dark task of keeping the shadows of cruelty and terror at bay. I think he’s much too good a concept to fade away.