Each week, MTV News is breaking down the big events in "Batman Eternal." For issue six, which hits comic book stands today (May 13), we're talking to writer Ray Fawkes about the supernaturally inclined plot.
What's up with Deacon Blackfire? Who is the Joker's Daughter really summoning? And Batman really believes in ghosts? Read on for that and more info. Oh, and spoilers on, of course:
MTV News: This issue is a decidedly different bent for the series. We've had nanotech, we've had gangsters, but this issue we're leaning into the supernatural. Generally speaking, how does the supernatural fit into Gotham, and in a greater sense, "Batman Eternal"?
Ray Fawkes: If you go back and read through amazing material of the past 75 years, Batman has got at least one foot in the supernatural world. Every once in a while a villain crops up who turns out to be a vampire, or a werewolf, or a ghost. It's got a lot to do the fact that Batman, mythologically, lives in darkness.
The look of Batman, and the mythology of Batman have to do with fear. It's inevitable that the books would occasionally touch on traditional horror stories, or less traditional ones.
We were first talking about "Eternal," and Scott [Snyder] and James [Tynion IV] mentioned they wanted to cover all of the Batman bases, and all of the Gotham bases we knew there had to be a supernatural element involved.
Of course, I was at the end of the table waving my arms frantically because I'm way into that stuff.
MTV: There's a great exchange where Batwing says, "Oh what was that, was he some sort of solid hologram?" and Batman says, "He was a ghost." It's such a funny thing to hear from Batman, who you always expect deals with facts. For him, are ghosts just a fact of life in Gotham?
Fawkes: Batman is a detective, and he's a scientist so he will always look at the root cause of things and try to figure out what, technologically, he's looking at.
But he's also smart to enough to understand, if he's facing a ghost… It's a ghost. That's what it is. He seeks out a technological solution. He's found out that Nth Metal for reason disrupts ghosts, and he's obviously been experimenting with that.
In answering Batwing's question, Batman is telling him, "Just cut to the facts. Cut to the simplest side of things." You can describe this thing so many ways, but you'll understand what it is if I just tell you it's a ghost.
MTV: One of the big villains, or mysterious entities in the issue is Deacon Blackfire, who appeared very briefly in 1988, in "Batman: The Cult." I believe when I was talking to Scott about it, he said you were the guy who introduced the idea of bringing in to "Eternal." Why is he so important in this issue, and what can you tell us about his role in the series?
Fawkes: It was more of a mutual idea to bring him, a tossing around of names. But Blackfire… "The Cult" was such a great story about the cultural effect that Batman has, and Deacon Blackfire has a deceptive, devilish figure. The sort of figure that would inspire people, and manipulate in perhaps the wrong direction.
He seemed like a really great character to explore the supernatural side of Gotham with. I keep wanting to return to the word devilish, or diabolical. He's not the kind of villain that you can just punch out, because he has a lasting effect on the impressionable characters, and villains, and people he comes across. He inspires them to behave in ways they wouldn't normally behave.
I thought he'd be a great root for a lot of the trouble that's going on in Arkham Asylum, and Scott and James went for it. The whole gang put something together around that, which I think is really cool.
MTV: This leads to the reveal that the Joker's Daughter is hunkered down deep inside Arkham Asylum. I want to talk about her in a second, but first is there any worth in having Arkham at this point? Every five seconds it gets taken over by a supervillain, or there's something going on under the Asylum that's the absolute worst thing they can imagine. Should they just burn it to the ground?
Fawkes: It's funny, we get into that, we talk about that, and that's actually part of the point of the Arkham story. There are characters who are suffering in Arkham Asylum, and under Arkham Asylum who will make a point of saying, "I'm here because it's a hospital. Someone was supposed to help me."
In this issue, you see this poor character Martin being walked underground by his doctor, and taken to a terrible fate. And yeah, you're meant to ask the question, what was the point of this place now? What was a hospital, and what was meant to be a place to care for people is basically a monster machine at this point.
There's no coincidence that Jim Corrigan, and within him the judgment of God are having a look at this place now.
MTV: We'll talk about Jim in a second too, but briefly, the Joker's Daughter, she has this line where she says, "It's all part of the summoning, we have to bring the man back." She doesn't specifically name Deacon Blackfire. So is she talking about him, or The Joker?
Fawkes: You'd have to ask her. [Laughs] I get the impression, and I guess I'm being disingenuous saying that because I wrote her line there… I'm looking to give the impression that it could be either, or both, and maybe she's not exactly sure. Maybe she's a little confused.
MTV: What about Jim Corrigan then. We don't get to see him in his Spectre guise, but how does he play into the story? Why is he important?
Fawkes: Jim Corrigan is a police detective, but he's a weird police detective because he actually died, and had this spirit, The Spectre, who is supposed to be the vengeance of Heaven downloaded into his body. And he's carrying this spirit around.
Every once in a while, maybe it's preordained, maybe its premonition, the spirit bursts forth to make declarations, or sometimes lays a heavenly smackdown on some people. So he's become this very, worldly, wise character who's now aware of the supernatural side of things.
He carries this incredibly powerful spirit inside of him, but doesn't seem to have that much control over it. Sometimes it seems to guide him places, sometimes it lends him power. On the one hand, it feels like he's trying to do some good. On the other hand he feels like he's being walked around like a puppet with this thing inside him that's ready to jump out and deal some justice.
It makes him a little bit of a cynic. Because he has this spirit in him, and because he's already dead, he's not afraid of much. He's going to learn a few lessons about that, very soon.
MTV: Moving to the cliffhanger, we see Deacon Blackfire setting some barrels ablaze, and explosion near the Batmobile. Is this the same thing happening at the same time? Or two unrelated events?
Fawkes: This is all one thing. While everything is going on, while Batwing is doing what he has to do, and while Batman is trying to communicate with Alfred, we see that Deacon Blackfire and Doctor Phosphorus, and everybody, what that's meant to convey is that what's happening in Arkham is not its own thing. What's happening in "Eternal" is part of a larger, grander design.
MTV: So is there a mastermind behind all of this?
Fawkes: [Laughs] I can't answer that question.
"Batman Eternal #6" is in stores now from DC Comics. Head back here next week for our post-game on issue #7 with writer Tim Seeley.