New Batman Villains Take Center Stage in Gotham Nocturne

Superstar writer Ram V talks about introducing new villains to Gotham City, and the influences behind his moody new Batman tale.

Batman in Detective Comics #1062
Photo: DC

This article contains Batman spoilers for Detective Comics #1062. 

You know a creative team is going to make a big splash when DC Comics redesigns the logo of their longest running series, and the very book that gave the company its name. That’s exactly what happened in honor of Detective Comics #1062, the original home of Batman, when Ram V and Rafael Albuquerque moved in to Gotham City to tell an exceptionally gothic (even by Batman standards) tale that begins with “Gotham Nocturne.” 

Whatever’s going on in “Gotham Nocturne” it probably isn’t good news for Bruce Wayne or Jim Gordon. Every bit as moody and operatic as that “Nocturne” title hints at, this new Batman tale introduces a mysterious new group of villains, the Orghams, and is drenched in stunning art and cinematic color. Ram V told us what it all means, and what’s next for Batman in the pages of Detective Comics.

Listen to the full interview here, or read highlights below!

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Den of Geek: Detective Comics # 1062 is the first part of your “Gotham Nocturne” story. Whenever a new creative team comes on board, it should be a good jumping on point for new readers, right? Is there anything you think readers need to know about the broader Batman picture in the DC Universe before they pick this up? 

Ram V: I mean, really, Batman has a current status quo, in that Bruce Wayne is no longer as wealthy an individual as he used to be. In the in the same sense, Gotham City and its and its criminality has a status quo. But those are about the only general basics you need to know before you jump in. Essentially, all that information is also covered within the issue, which is the thing I like to do when I’m starting new runs. I don’t like the idea that people have to go do homework before they read any of my stuff. I think a good story should give people all the pieces of the puzzle itself.

A lot of your work has musical undertones, and this is no different. The opening pages certainly invoke the word “nocturne.” It’s operatic and gothic. 

I work in a strange way I, I would like to tell people that there’s some kind of great, thoughtful idea behind doing some of the things that I do with these books. But really, the reason those pages are there is because as soon as I started the story, the first thing that popped into my head was a stage, a spotlight, and a man in a mask standing on the stage. I kind of built that opening scene from that image. I knew it was going to be too hokey to have it be Batman, so I kind of wanted to do this. 

Okay, there is an opera playing for some reason, then it turned into “there’s an opera in Gotham,” then it turned into “okay, what am I saying about the character with the scene, otherwise, it wouldn’t have a reason to exist.”But there’s a single empty seat in the front row that says “reserved for Bruce Wayne.” And Bruce Wayne is not there, because clearly he’s somewhere else. And I think that just sets the tone for the rest of the issue. I’m glad there’s that level of trust to put in a scene that has no apparent motivation other than to say, “the person you were looking for, he’s not here.”

What were you listening to when you were working on this?

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I was listening to a piece by Pergolesi called “Stabat Mater,” which is a very religious, composed, operatic piece. But it’s essentially about the suffering of the mother. That’s what it says. But the idea that there is a soundtrack about suffering playing while Bruce goes on his infinite end run through Gotham, beating up criminals, and trying to stop crime. I thought there it was a nice reflection of his circumstance. 

Speaking of the criminals in the book, it seems like we’re meeting some new villains.

I don’t know necessarily that I would call them “criminals,” but there are definitely new villains in the book. Part of the the narrative inquiry of this book is “what what would happen if someone came into Gotham and did everything Batman was trying to do, but did it better? At what cost? How do you achieve that?” And then if you’re Batman, “what do you ask yourself? Are you going to reinvent yourself? Are you going to rediscover yourself? Are you going to question your motivations?” So they’re villains, certainly, but I don’t know that they’re criminals. And I think that is a that is a modern day quandary that a lot of us face even in our real life,

Can you tell me about the Orghams? Because that spelling recalls something else in Gotham. Will that be explored?

Yes, absolutely. I think that’s actually the central piece of the puzzle that will become quite apparent to readers. That’s what we’re looking at quite early on. Part of that is actually a very personal experience, in that my name has gone through so many changes, because I grew up in India, I lived in the States, I moved, I live in London now. And each time I go to another place, my name suddenly changes, because I’m sure you can correct people all the time. But language has its own mind and is a beast on its own. And so historically, a lot of the places that we know with the names that we’re familiar with, are derived from things that are entirely disconnected to what they are now…that’s why the name is Orgham. You’re absolutely right to draw the connection to Arkham. But what we think Arkham is, that’s what we’re kind of diving into with that.

There’s a panel that points out “Bruce Wayne’s brownstone.” From a wider DC Universe standpoint, it makes sense, because Bruce Wayne is, as you said, not as wealthy as he once was. But the idea of Bruce Wayne in a brownstone being in the middle of Gotham rather than at Wayne Manor recalls the early days of the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Batman stories, where suddenly he was working out of a penthouse in the middle of the city. And then you have Talia show up. So there are a couple of elements that kind of are recalling these historic Batman comics, but nobody picks up a Ram V comic looking for homages to old superhero work. But what were the touch points in Batman history that you wanted to remix or play with as you were composing the story?

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You’re right, in that no one picks up my books to get their dose of nostalgia, if you will. But the hallmark of my work on on Swamp Thing, or even Catwoman, has been that there are these references to existing runs, because I think the great joy of working in comics is that you are writing chapter number 452 of some great mythological tapestry that was started decades ago. The O’Neil/Adams run is certainly one of my favorite Batman runs, so you will undoubtedly find more references to it, I’m sure. The Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale Batman stories are also big influences, as well as Darwyn Cooke, and Batman: The Animated Series for that matter. So I do wear all of my influences on my sleeve. But they’re not central to the story…They’re there because everything has history and everything is connected.

I feel like The Animated Series influence comes through in the coloring, especially.

Dave Stewart’s an amazing colorist. The first conversation we had with him…we were sending references to each other. Rafa, Jessica, and I were on a zoom call with him. There were literally cels from Batman: The Animated Series. But then, equally there were also biblical paintings and Mead Schaeffer paintings passed around like, “okay, these this is what we’re trying to do.” I genuinely think that the experience of reading a book, especially a comic, is absolutely in every single layer of that thing. So the colors plays such an important role in transmitting the mood and tone and atmosphere of what we’re doing.

I’m fascinated by where you put Jim Gordon in the story, and what you’re doing and this poor guy.

Jim has been through been through some rough times through no fault of mine. He’s been through the rough times in books of his own. One of the big questions I kind of wanted to answer when I was starting on this run was…since Alfred is this huge missing character in Batman’s life now, but for a strange reason, like, you need someone in Batman’s ear when he is going through Gotham otherwise, it’s not the same. And my first instinct was to say, “okay, we need a character who can play that role, but who cannot be another father figure.” And it just made sense. It was perfect in that okay, if Jim Gordon comes back to Gotham, this is what he would find himself doing. So we’re going to see Jim’s journey from starting at Gotham to eventually making his way to, you know, the old scenario of “I’m helping that man, but is this really constructive for me?”

How many issues do you have planned for your story so far?

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I’ve got about 20 to 30 issues planned. So about a couple of years worth of comic book storytelling. There are some big twists. I’m very excited about them. I know editorial is very excited about them. So strap in, you’re in for you’re in for quite the ride.

Detective Comics #1062 is out now.