“Fear State” may be reaching its end, but no matter what happens with the Scarecrow and Simon Saint’s oppressive Magistrate, when you’re talking about Gotham, there’s always a new terror hiding in the shadows.
Which brings us to “Shadows of the Bat,” a massive new 12-issue weekly Detective Comics event that kicks off in January and shines a big, bat-shaped spotlight on one of Gotham’s darkest corners—Arkham. However, Arkham is no longer just a simple asylum, it’s been upgraded and reimagined into a cutting edge, artfully designed new tower overseen by an enigmatic new personality known as Dr. Wear. The Bat-Family suspects that all is not as it seems with this new project and that Dr. Wear may have other more sinister plans, but learning what those are will require them to infiltrate Arkham’s frightening new complex…and to do it largely without the aid of the person who trained and molded them into the heroes they are.
“Shadows of the Bat” will catapult Detective Comics to new levels of action, mystery and suspense, while bringing some of the Bat-Family’s supporting heroes to the forefront. And did we mention that this week’s Detective Comics 2021 Annual helps set the whole thing up? With that in mind, we thought it was the ideal time to sit down with “Shadows of the Bat” writer Mariko Tamaki for a free-ranging discussion about what we can expect from her biggest and most ambitious DC storyline to date, which heroes will be taking a leading role and just how suspicious we should be of this oddly named new doctor. (Is he even really a doctor?!?) Plus, read through to the end for an exclusive first look at the Detective Comics 2021 Annual.
How exactly did “Shadows of the Bat” come about? Did you always envision it as a weekly event?
My editors, specifically Paul Kaminski and Dave Wielgosz, came to me with this project as a weekly 12-issue series. So, we approached it as a sort of mini epic graphic novel of sorts. I think we knew from the beginning it was going to have something to do with some kind of a new Arkham (post A-Day) and I had this vision of a Die Hard-type story because I, like so many, love Die Hard. I’ve also always wanted to mix a supernatural menace with something that felt more like a con, where you can use the 12-issue structure to play out all of the twists and turns. Plus, we wanted something with a lot of different characters so you can give them all some space with the twelve issues. Hopefully, the final result feels like The Grifters meets Die Hard, with BATS.
What’s the experience of writing a weekly comic been like for you? You’re a pretty busy writer. How did you juggle “Shadows of the Bat” with your other projects?
This is a pretty huge project—for me, at least. And a very complicated one. But I also feel like writing Detective Comics and Crush and Lobo has been like the warm-up for pacing this all out. It took a TON of planning and I could not have done it without Paul and Dave. It’s been a lot of late-night texting and figuring things out. Also, everything that’s being developed in this story is also being set up in the variety of other Batman stories that other people are working on. I am very glad that I only have to deal with MY twelve issues. I couldn’t imagine coordinating them all. It must be like planning twelve villains' weddings all in the same place on the same day!
What can you tell us about Dr. Wear and Arkham Tower?
Dr. Wear is a salesman—charismatic and convincing. When we meet him at the beginning of this series, he’s in the middle of a huge press conference promoting Arkham Tower, a new and improved 2.0 version of Arkham Asylum that recently completed construction just blocks away from City Hall. Arkham Tower is a new day for not just Arkham, but for Gotham City. Wear is promising Gotham a medical “miracle”—a cure that transforms those who have been historically Arkham’s patients, Gotham’s most dangerous criminals, into what seem to be contented docile models of society. The idea is that if this cure works on Gotham’s “worst,” it can cure everyone in Gotham of what ails them. Of course, there is no miracle cure and what Wear is actually setting up is a ticking time bomb in the heart of Gotham City.
Batman is away from Gotham City during “Shadows of the Bat,” putting the focus on other members of the Bat-Family. Who can we expect to play a prominent role, and which of them has been the most fun to write?
They’re all fun to write. Also, it’s lots of undercover action and that is VERY fun to write. I’m a huge fan of Huntress, and I always enjoy writing her. It’s been nice to write a little Nightwing too. We also feature Batwoman, the Batgirls, Tim Drake, Oracle, a patient who thinks she’s Harley Quinn and a few other surprises too!
That said, Bruce does play a role in this story. Can you shed some light on what to expect?
Well, it’s going to take a pretty major team effort to stop the residents of Arkham Tower from wrecking mass destruction. Batman will definitely be a part of that.
Harley Quinn has been sort of an unofficial member of the Bat-Family for the past couple of years. What role will she be playing?
Harley Quinn will have her own, unique, slightly twisted role to play in the Tower. I actually just got a page of some gorgeous Harley Quinn action in my inbox and it is FABULOUS.
You’re starting this off with Ivan Reis as your artistic partner. What has that been like?
Obviously, Ivan is pretty much a legend and so it’s a little intimidating asking a legend to draw your Batman story. But he is so detailed and so expressive in what he does. All the characters just completely come alive on every page he draws. It’s legitimately epic. The whole team on this book, everyone from Ivan, really ALL the illustrators, and colorists and letterers and inkers, are amazing. The whole team is stellar.
Detective Comics 2021 Annual #1 by Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg, David Lapham, Trish Mulvihill and Lee Loughridge is available tomorrow in print and as a digital comic book. Look for "Shadows of the Bat" to begin in earnest in Detective Comics #1047 on January 4, 2022.