Interview: Ray Fawkes – The City is Sick in GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT
By Charles Webb on August 29, 2014
In November, writer Ray Fawkes and artist Ben Templesmith plan to take us on the Midnight Shift in Gotham City: DC recently announced that the pair would be the creative team on Gotham By Midnight, a new ongoing series featuring a team within the Gotham PD investigating the strange goings-on around the crime-plagued city.
Led by Detective Jim Corrigan – and current host of the Spectre – the team will attempt to solve the mysteries that are too odd for Batman to tangle with while unraveling the greater mystery of what’s leading to the otherworldly sickness that’s lead to so much of the madness and evil that surrounds Gotham.
Recently, Fawkes was kind enough to answer a few of my questions by e-mail about the upcoming series – like where Batman fits into the mix and how to write around a magical atom bomb like the Spectre (along with the True Detective ties to the book).
Nerdist: Tell us a little about your version of Gotham in the book? You’ve been quoted as saying it’s a “sick” city spiritually.
Ray Fawkes: The approach we’re taking to Gotham City in Gotham By Midnight takes that approach, yeah – that the city is suffering from a spiritual or psychic sickness – one that either arises from all the horrible, large-scale violence that happens there on a regular basis… or is the root cause of it. Detective Jim Corrigan and his people believe they may be able to figure it out… and maybe even eliminate it.
Nerdist: So why this team? Why aren’t the heavy hitters of magic in the DCU handling the “sick” city that is Gotham?
Fawkes: We’ll get into that. It’s a mystery. Right now, that’s an unknown to Corrigan and the Midnight Shift… and to be perfectly honest, on a day-to-day basis they’re too busy fighting the symptoms to bother trying to figure out how to call someone like Zatanna and ask for help.
Nerdist: Gotham’s been through a lot over the years: plagues, earthquakes, Jean Paul Valley – what sort of threat does the supernatural offer the city? And how does the average citizen deal with it?
Fawkes: The supernatural tends to take hold wherever the shadows of pain and fear are deep – and it manifests in all sorts of strange ways. Ghosts, the restless dead, shape shifters… these are just the tip of the iceberg. The Midnight Shift will be seeing some huge, mind-shaking creatures in just the first few chapters of Gotham By Midnight.
Nerdist: To what extent does the idea that the city is cursed invalidate or play with the longstanding concept that Batman was somehow responsible for the supervillain escalation in Gotham? Is he part of the same problem?
Fawkes: That’s an ongoing debate you’ll see characters in the book take up, on both sides. I think it’s more fun that way.
Nerdist: The Spectre is a literal Deus ex Machina – as a storyteller, how do you work around pulling the trigger and having him go wrath of God on every threat Corrigan and his team comes across?
Fawkes: I try to think in terms of scale. What kind of crime or supernatural event requires the direct attention of an agent of God? What kind just gets a “warning”? Corrigan himself is trying to understand why the Spectre does or doesn’t show himself in certain situations – but what he does know is that the wrath of God tends to drop on an area, affecting everyone caught within the storm – and when it does, everyone’s last chance at redemption is over. As a man with a checkered past of his own, Detective Corrigan would prefer not to subject people to the Spectre’s style of judgment – so he usually does his best to defuse threats before the divine spirit comes out.
Nerdist: What sort of role will Batman and the other heroes of Gotham play in the book? Can we expect to see John Constantine or the members of Justice League Dark making their way into the book?
Fawkes: Batman and the other heroes of Gotham are aware of Jim Corrigan and his crew, and they feed them potential cases, relying on their expertise in supernatural matters. I don’t have any plans to bring Constantine or the JLD into this title for the first few issues, but there’s always a chance for later.
Nerdist: Where does the Arkham legacy fit into all of this? Since the start of the New 52, all the way back in All-Star Western, there have been hints of their not-so-noble roots in Gotham.
Fawkes: The Arkham family – and the histories of some of the other long-established families of Gotham – play a significant role in this book. The legacies of madness and cruelty in some of the bloodlines of Gotham may have contributed to the tainted aspect of the city, after all… and some of the families involved may surprise readers…
Nerdist: Finally, do you have a recommended reading list for fans before they pick up the first issue in November? Any standout stories about Gotham (or other “bad” cities) that you’ve been reading yourself?
Fawkes: Get down with your Lovecraft and Ligotti, friends. Stories like The Dunwich Horror and The Colour Out of Space or anything out of The Nightmare Factory would make very atmospheric prep for Gotham By Midnight. Some of the early work of Cormac McCarthy too – books like Outer Dark and Child of God if I can be so bold.
Gotham By Midnight lands on bookshelves and online November 26 from DC Comics.