John Layman’s run on Detective Comics is coming to a close in March, but he’s got one last spectacular trick up his sleeve – the what-if-Gotham-was-a-happy-place? story of Gothtopia. This is the first time in the New 52 that a Bat Family crossover wasn’t lead by Scott Snyder’s Batman. We traded emails with Layman to dig into what makes both Detective Comics and Gothtopia different from what readers might expect. For more information on Gothtopia, head on over to our Gothtopia event page or check out our conversations about Detective Comics 27 and Batgirl 27.
Retcon Punch: First, congrats on Detective Comics 27 – it’s a huge issue and people really seem to be responding positively to it. Did you know that your first Gothtopia story was going to appear beside so many other “imaginary” stories? Did that change your approach to it at all?
John Layman: It didn’t really change my story, but I communicated with all the other creative teams, so they knew what I was doing, and I knew what they were doing. To make sure everything meshed, and every book complimented the other while being unique.
RP: What do you think distinguishes Detective Comics from the rest of the Batman books? Is there a thematic focus or a set of characters you’re more interested in exploring? How will Gothtopia embody that difference?
JL: I’ve tried to make Detective, during my run, more about the job, about the case. Not really focused on Batman’s personal life, because we have other books for that. It’s been the “Law & Order” of Batbooks. As such, it’s been a little more villain-centric. Gothtopia is still about the case. What makes it interesting is how Batman tackles it in a different world and dramatically altered circumstances.
RP: How involved are you with the tie-ins for Gothtopia? Is there a tie-in you’re particularly excited about? Did you let those characters’ writers inform the decisions you made about their Gothtopia counterparts?
JL: I was involved enough that I gave feedback to each creative team, but I did not dictate anything. I wanted other creators to be able to tell the best stories they could, using my ideas just as a springboard. There’s no tie-in I’m more excited for than the others. They’ve all be great, as are all the respective creators to work with.
RP: Were there any ideas you came up with for Gothopia that won’t make it into the event anywhere? Any favorites?
JL: Well, if there was more space and more issues, I could have spent a lot more time in the world, and touched on literally every Batman villain and supporting character, to show where they are. But that’s the advantage of having the tie-in books, to add more depth to the story.
RP: There are obviously some hints of The Matrix or the Batman Animated Series Episode “Perchance to Dream” buried in the Gothtopia concept – are there other alternate-reality stories that your story takes cues from? What are some of your favorite alternate reality stories (in comics or otherwise)?
JL: I think if Gothtopia is influence by anything it’s Dark City (which is essentially the same movie as The Matrix, but better in my opinion.) Similarities will become even more clear in Detective #28, though — I swear — I wasn’t trying to rip the movie off!
RP: Why did you decide to show the villains behind Gothtopia in the first issue? Is there a reason you’re not letting that be a driving mystery of the series?
JL: My Gothtopia story has three distinct acts, and I think the story is probably going in a direction people will not expect. The reveal of the villain is just the twist of the first issue. What he’s got ultimately planned is the next twist, which reader’s will find even more surprising.
RP: Is Bruce the only one trapped in Gothtopia or are other characters also plugged into it? If so, is anyone going to have a hard time giving up their make-believe life?
JL: Check out the tie-in books. Just about everybody is having a hard-time, though exactly how and why varies from character to character.
RP: “It was all a dream” is a notoriously deflating ending — are there elements of this story that make it “real” for Bruce? Or for the audience?
JL: Well, we KNOW it’s a dream by the end of the first issue. Or, at least, a hallucination. The story is how does Batman rescue Gotham and his friends from this altered reality. And what does Scarecrow have planned next?
RP: Are there going to be any lasting effects from Gothtopia? Any characters or concepts you’d like to see migrate from this artificial reality to actual reality?
JL: Um, considering the last issue of Gothtopia is my last issue of Detective, if there are any lasting effects, sadly I won’t be around to explore them.