Ray Fawkes Interview: Gotham by Midnight, Constantine, and Batman: Eternal

The writer Gotham by Midnight, talked to us about the upcoming supernatural series set in Batman's world from DC Comics.

Ray Fawkes is no stranger to the dark supernatural side of the DC Universe and in Gotham by Midnight, Fawkes will tell a story about Detective Jim Corrigan (aka the host of The Spectre) and his diverse team as they work through some of the strangest goings on in Gotham City. The book is a spinoff from the Batman: Eternal series that Mr. Fawkes also worked on, but with the freedom of a monthly series and the addition of legendary horror artist Ben Templesmith, it seems likely that Gotham by Midnight will carve out its own identity quickly.

In an exclusive interview with Fawkes, we discuss that identity, whether this book will feel more like a Vertigo title, Ben Templesmith’s impact, Batman’s role in the series, and allowing for a bit of dark humor on the page. We also asked the Constantine comic writer about whether he wants to say more about John Constantine’s sexuality in the comic or on the screen.

Den of Geek: What is it about Batman and Gotham that initially drew you into this sandbox with Batman: Eternal?

Ray Fawkes: That’s a big question. Batman is… Batman. He’s one of the greatest superheroes ever created, and I’ve been reading his stories since I was a little kid. I’ve always been drawn to him — for his genius, for his humanity and for his darkness. When DC and Scott Snyder approached me about being part of the Batman: Eternal team, it took me all of two seconds to say yes. There was no hesitation at all.

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Can you tell me a little bit about the behind-the-scenes timeline for this series — when did Ben Templesmith come aboard, did this spinoff exist as an idea before that, and if so, how has the project morphed in anticipation of his involvement?

I pitched this book before we knew Ben would be involved. Once the project was approved, we brought Ben on board, and it immediately informed the majority of the decisions I was making in refining the characters of the cast and setting up the initial stories for the book. Finding the right artist for a project can give it its real “fuel”, so to speak, and knowing that Ben would be involved was incredibly inspiring. I began almost immediately to write knowing that everything I put on the page would be interpreted through his twisted lens, and loving it.

You mentioned before how no other superhero comic will look like this book and you’ve got Mark Doyle, who spent time at Vertigo, on board as the Batman group editor. Corey Blake over at Robot 6 has a great article about the creative diversity that the Batline seems to be embracing with your book and others. So I’m wondering, is this book, with its darker tone and unique art, going to feel more like a Vertigo book and was the intent to create something that appeals to people who might be looking for something with more of an indie and edgy flavor?

Well, yeah. Yeah, in short, that is my intent. I’m writing the kind of Gotham book I always wanted to read here — dark, cool, and fearlessly weird. And Ben is spinning the scripts into pure nightmare gold. People are right to credit Mark Doyle for the explosion of diversity in the Gotham line, and this title is absolutely benefiting from his encouragement.

This sounds like it will be an appropriately dark book, but is there any room for the occasional bit of dark comedy? Just a bit of snark or lightness between team members?

Of course! This is a book about people facing insane, uncanny threats to humanity. Sometimes the only way to keep from going completely around the bend when you’re knee-deep in shape-shifting horrors is to find the funny side of things, you know? Jim Corrigan himself, as you’ll see, is an expert in defusing that madness. It may actually be his most valuable talent.

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Will you explore what it is about Gotham that makes it ground zero for evil (be it supernatural and otherwise) and are there familiar events from Batman and Gotham’s past that will be referenced as evidence to support the theory that there is some kind of innate wrongness within the city?

Yes. Forgive me if I’m a bit tight-lipped here, but that’s exactly what Gotham By Midnight is all about, and I don’t want to say anything that might spoil the enjoyment of reading the book.

Batman is meant to be a side character in this book, but will you shine the focus on him at some point down the road?

It’s possible, though I think Batman catches enough of the spotlight elsewhere in DC’s line. For now, I’m content having him play a supporting role, as a consultant and ally.

What are some obscure Batman rogues that you’re excited to write about in this series?

Readers of Batman: Eternal have already seen evidence of the joy I take in some of the stranger characters in the Gotham stable — villains like the Ten-Eyed Man, Doctor Double-X, and Maxie Zeus are getting some play in the Arkham storyline in that book. Who knows… some of them might show up in this title from time to time. Or maybe I can find someone even weirder…

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Can you tell me about some of your favorite supernatural Batman stories and if you’re going to try and pay tribute to them in Gotham by Midnight?

I’m a huge fan of the “Mad Monk” vampire storyline back in the Gerry Conway & Gene Colan days of Batman, and the “Nocturna & the Night Slayer” stories from the same era.

In your mind, how far do you want to take this and do you have the story outlined all the way up to its end, or are you in more of “see where it takes me” mode?

I have a long term plan — but as with anything new, right now I’m focusing on making sure the first stories are the best they can possibly be. Hey, in my ideal world, the book is a huge hit and we get years and years to work with…

Are you comfortable with where your career is at presently with regard to the balance of creator owned projects like The People Inside and your DC work and do you hope to embrace one type of challenge more over the next few years?

I’m very comfortable! I have no problem working in the two different worlds at the same time, and actually find that they balance each other out quite nicely in my day-to-day. If I feel the urge to lean in one direction more than the other, of course I will — but for now things seem to be  moving fine!

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I know you’re not officially involved with the show, but I have a Constantine question that ties into the comic: With regard to John Constantine’s sexuality and the controversy that arose from statements that indicated that he would not immediately be presented as a bi-sexual character on the TV show, do you think that that strong response has more to do with fans wanting to see the canon respected or is it a desire on the part of a lot of TV viewers to see more diversity and LGBT characters on TV and a feeling that they are being cheated out of an opportunity to see that here? Also, do you want to say more about John’s sexuality in the comics now?

Well, John’s bisexuality has already been mentioned in the pages of Constantine — and made nary a ripple in the fan base, as far as I can tell. I’m not sure how much of the demand comes of a desire for diversity and how much is down to a respect for the canon — but I do know that the choice to reveal his sexual preferences should, if it happens at all, be relevant to the story above all. I can’t speak for the people involved with the TV show, but I know that my intent, in the comic book, is to explore more of John’s relationships in the future, but never to sensationalize, never for a headline grab. Always for the story.

Gotham by Midnight will be available at your local comic book shop and where fine digital comics are sold on November 26th.

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