Gotham City is a scary place. While only a city born of imagination, Gotham is still seen as a benchmark to how far humanity can fall. Joker, Penguin, Doctor Pyg, the list of the depraved goes on and on. However, beneath the streets and within its very fabric, lies a more insidious darkness. The Supernatural. Spirits. Ghosts. Goblins. Things that go bump in the night. These terrors are every bit as real in Gotham as the ravings of a lunatic clown.
Standing between this ugliness and the people of Gotham, are our heroes. Corrigan. Constantine. Zatanna. Deadman. These are a few of the heroes who make up not only the solo Constantine book, but also Justice League Dark and the upcoming Gotham By Midnight series. In the center of this dark vortex is writer Ray Fawkes, a creative mind that brings consistently exciting and entertaining stories out of the darkness.
Fawkes has also had a major hand in Batman Eternal, the series that has become quite the theme of New York Comic Con. I wanted to know more about these dark crevices, the characters who protect them and the man who brings life to all these books. He was kind enough to grant me an audience, and here’s what went down.
CraveOnline: You have always handled the more mystic realms. How did you get involved with Batman Eternal?
Ray Fawkes: Right from the start in Batman Eternal they knew wanted to cover all sorts of characters in all sorts of genres. They wanted to bring in different writers with different strengths, and I’m the guy they thought of when they wanted to have a supernatural element because I’m the guy working on Justice League Dark and Constantine.
Juggling two books were you hesitant to work on Batman Eternal?
Fawkes: No, I jumped at the chance. They called me and asked if I wanted to do supernatural Arkham stuff and I said ‘I need no more details, I’m in’.
You’re pairing up Jim Corrigan and Batwing. Corrigan I understand from being part of the Spectre, but why Batwing? He’s outside your wheelhouse. Did DC hand him to you?
Fawkes: No, I actually asked for him. We knew that a big part of this book was bringing in the whole family, and every Batman character we could think of. I knew the supernatural stuff was going to involve some high weirdness, and I really wanted to have somebody who was very technical and scientific and could look at what was happening through different eyes.
As opposed to say Corrigan and Batwoman?
Fawkes: If it was going to be Corrigan and Batwoman, then it’s just people who deal with this all the time. I wanted a character that would look at the situation and say ‘Wait a minute, can’t we just punch this stuff or tech our way out of this?’ I’m finding it to be really enjoyable to take Batwing, put him with Corrigan, and have them bounce off each other. It wasn’t a matter of there was no place to put Batwing so they assigned him there. I needed a foil for Corrigan and I think Batwing is the guy to do it.
They have a very natural chemistry. You should put them together again.
Fawkes: I absolutely will put them together again at some point. I think they do really well with each other. It’s not quite an opposites attract kind of situation but it is close. They fill in gaps for each other. Corrigan is supposed to be the sage teacher here but there are times when Batwing has ideas that make a lot of sense, and it is something Corrigan never thought of. This is a two street that is really fun to watch as they figure each other out.
Corrigan seems to be so involved with the larger supernatural elements that he misses the details Batwing picks up on.
Fawkes: Very much so. When I’m writing characters I tend to break them down into what their thought processes are and how they see the world. Corrigan has a big picture view that might even be dangerous for a human being to have. He’s got the Spectre in him, what he believes is evidence of God’s hand, literally flexing those mysterious ways that Corrigan doesn’t understand.
Is that the only way their attitudes differ?
Fawkes: Corrigan looks through the supernatural world and says ‘I don’t get it, but I’ll walk through this world’. Batwing is the guy on the ground level who sees what he thinks are injustices that Corrigan might miss. Batwing’s attitude is we can punch this guy; we can handcuff him and take him to the cops.
In Batman Eternal, Corrigan is faced with an ominous threat and keeps calling for the Spectre, who never shows up. It was a great scene but also very telling of Corrigan.
Fawkes: That, to me, is super important in Batman Eternal and follows through in the new book Gotham By Midnight.
Fawkes: Gotham By Midnight is exploring Corrigan’s relationship with the Spectre, and how it isn’t what he thought it was. He can’t summon the Spectre if the Spectre doesn’t want to come. Corrigan is trying to figure out what the circumstances must be to bring forth this incredibly, apocalyptically powerful, spirit. There are times when Corrigan is getting punched in the face a lot and would like Spectre to come out and handle the problem but the Spectre has no interest in that situation. So Corrigan is learning what his place is and what is the Spectre’s part in all of this.
How does Gotham By Midnight build from Gotham Eternal?
Fawkes: It’s almost like Corrigan is going to walk away from Batman Eternal not being able to forget what happened. He’s going to carry that with him. In Gotham By Midnight we’ll see a shell-shocked Corrigan trying to deal with the fact that there is a bigger supernatural problem in Gotham than he knew, and how he’s going to tackle it. We get to see him assemble a team, with Batman’s blessing, to go out and fight this evil that is something only Corrigan can handle.
Over the last few years it seems that Gotham has become a character all onto itself, with different books exposing different sides.
Fawkes: All credit to Mark Boyle and Dan Didio who selected these different teams to work on these different books with different flavors. They lit us on fire. We’re dealing with the same iconic spirit of Batman as this pillar in the center of Gotham city, but we all deal with Gotham with our own set of views, different eyes and different hearts. They wanted to know what our filter saw in Gotham. Now we have these fantastic stories with Gotham Academy that shows the children of Gotham, or the new Batgirl that is an exuberant view of Gotham City. Then my dark, black, heart shows us a Gotham that asks us a lot of questions about sickness and madness, and what is it when a city gets so large as to drive some of the people in it insane. We all get to do our own versions and attack this iconic city with our own visions.
Constantine, Justice League Dark and now Gotham By Midnight, all dark books but with different tones. How do you keep them from bleeding into one voice?
Fawkes: Tell you the truth, I love the darkness and the evil, and I love to go there and speak that language, but I’m a humanist at heart, I’m a romantic and so it’s not as much about the plot and the darkness, but its about the hearts of the people facing it. People like Batwing, Corrigan and John Constantine. I love Constantine because he’s maybe the most psychically injured of the DC Universe, and that’s because he has an understanding of the darkness that nobody else does. There’s just so much to get into with him and how rides the line between dark and light. It’s all because of what’s in his gut. I honestly believe, unless somebody is completely nuts, that they want to be happy, and that’s how I come at it.
Constantine is thought of as a cynical dick, but really he’s just seen so much that it weighs on him.
Fawkes: It’s because he’s like a soldier on the frontline that has been through eight or nine battles, and he’s walking up to the line again with a bunch of rookies who believe that goodness naturally triumphs. John has seen those people fall, so he knows not to get too close to them. He comes across cynical and dark but what he really is, is somebody who doesn’t want to hurt anymore. If you stick with him and listen to him you’ll learn what you need to win, but sometimes what you need is not very nice.
Do you like writing group books like Gotham By Midnight and Justice League Dark?
Fawkes: I like it fine. It’s like flexing different muscles. It’s easier to get deep into individual characters in their own book. When you’re dealing with a group book it is more about the group and how they deal with each other. It’s a different language. Writing group books can be difficult because you have to give everyone on their moment, and it is easy to get lost with your favorite character.
Outside of Constantine, who is your favorite Justice League Dark member to write?
Fawkes: Deadman. I love Deadman. Deadman is the greatest. He’s seen all the bad stuff Constantine has but he still has a good outlook on things and a sense of humor. Deadman is a very hopeful character. Where Constantine is dismissive and cynical about superheroes, Deadman admires those guys, he’s always wanted to be a superhero. It’s fun to have Deadman in those dark situations.