IGN Comics: The Robin and Nightwing series both end in February with "Last Rites" tie-ins, and even though the characters will obviously be moving on to other books, I think fans are curious what to expect from those final issues. Will these books be more of a finale to a chapter in both these characters' careers, or a launching point into their next chapter, which I assume will include Battle for the Cowl?
IGN Comics: Keeping track of how the timelines of each monthly book line up in the greater scheme of things is tricky enough as a reader, and I imagine it would be even more difficult as an editor. How do you go about keeping track of how each book lines up with the others without getting a giant headache?
Marts: It is a tricky job. On the one hand, you've got a group of books that are a family of titles, such as the Batman family of titles. In this event, we were trying to involve all the books and have them be a part of this major event. At the same time, you want all the books to sort of stand on their own and have their own distinct voices, and allow the creators to tell their own stories. I think the RIP tie-ins that we did this past year succeeded in maintaining that distinct voice for each title while also tying into the family feel of it.
As far as the precise continuity and figuring out where each story takes place, we know that almost all of our readers have been with us for a while, and all our readers are intelligent. And we don't want to really insult our readers by banging them over the head with a precise timeline of "this is when this happens, and this is when that happens." For the most part, we figure that they'll be able to situate the stories where they feel comfortable situating them in their heads. But the whole time we have a solid idea of what storyline takes place first and in what order. For the most part, if we can release them in a chronological fashion, and have them come out according to when the stories take place, great. But in the cases where that's not a possibility, we leave it up to the readers to figure out how best to fit it in.
IGN Comics: Grant has stated that he didn't conceive of Batman RIP as supporting any tie-ins. As an editor, how did you go about deciding how each tie-in arc would relate to his story? Was that something you consulted the different series' writers about?
Marts: Yes. Originally, I think that was what Grant envisioned. And then sometime around the New York Comic-Con last year we talked to Grant about the possibility of having the other books tie-in thematically. Then after speaking with Grant, we approached each of the other writers individually. Sometimes we had specific ideas in mind about how certain characters and books would play into things, and other times we went to the writers to see if they had ideas of their own. But I was happy with what we came up with.
We have Birds of Prey, Nightwing and Robin all coming to an end, and each of these three final issues serve three different purposes. The first one is that they're kind of tying into the Batman "Last Rites" story, and the idea that the world is without a Batman for the moment. We definitely will see a lot of that in Nightwing and Robin. The second thing is definitely giving a sense of closure or finale to these series, which have been running for many years now, and giving a nice final beat to the stories as a whole. And the third thing that we're doing is definitely setting up these characters for the next stage of their lives and the next phase of their evolution. We have exciting things in store for each of those three books, and in the case of Birds of Prey, definitely with Barbara Gordon.
IGN Comics: I definitely want to talk about all the high-profile two-part stories you have coming up in the Batman books, but first a general question that can apply to working with Grant, Denny O'Neil, Neil Gaiman or any such veteran writer: How does one go about editing a legendary writer with such a distinct vision? How do you balance doing your job as an editor with letting the writer do what he does best? Is it more difficult or easier than normal?
You'd be surprised. It's almost like the bigger the name, the easier it is. That's not always the case. But having worked with Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Grant Morrison
– these guys are pros for a reason. What they do, they do so well, and their scripts are usually flawless and flow so well. So the editor's job in terms of story editing and story feedback is not as difficult as it is on other assignments. These guys make it easy, and my experience with at least these few guys has been extremely good.
IGN Comics: Because they are such big names, when you have an issue with one of their scripts, do you ever find yourself hesitant to step in and say something, because, you know… it's Neil Gaiman, or Grant Morrison?
No. I think it's just part of the job. I've been doing this long enough that I can spot when something might be off, or a certain beat is repeated or a beat is missing, or if something could be staged a different way. And if it's worth bringing up, then nine times out of ten the writers are thankful that I brought it up. Sometimes they've been working really fast and working into the late hours, and they can't always catch everything. So I think they're appreciative for when the editor can help them out with something. And that definitely goes for people like Neil or Grant.
IGN Comics: So let's move onto Denny O'Neil's upcoming two-part "Last Days of Gotham" story. First off, how and when did you guys approach him to do this story?
We approached him a while back. I think once we had all the RIP structure in place and new what tie-ins we wanted to do with RIP, we were thinking about what was coming afterwards. And we knew that we wanted several months of, for lack of a better term, retrospective stories, and special stories that spoke of the legacy of Batman. And when we started talking about the legacy of Batman, it was only a few seconds before someone suggested Denny O'Neil. So I gave him a call and let him know the basic things that we were thinking of, and there was immediate interest on his part. We got together, talked about a few interesting story ideas, and he was real professional and got his scripts in early. It's been a joy to work with the man who sheparded this character for so long, and his feel and his voice can be felt on the character to this day, and will always be there.
IGN Comics: What was it like editing not only one of the best Batman writers of all time, but one of the most renowned Batman editors as well?
I had to go into it almost as a student. I was playing the role of the editor, and I kept that part of the relationship the same. But I also went into it knowing that I'd be working with a legend and the guy who had my job for so many years, and did such a great job of it. So any type of wisdom or experience I could absorb from it, I wanted to.
IGN Comics: Next up after that is Paul Dini's two-part Catwoman/Hush follow-up. What should fans expect from this?
Well this ties into our January "Faces of Evil" event, so it's kind of a break from everything Batman RIP and Last Rites related. We deal specifically with the characters of Catwoman and Hush, and follow up on where they were in the Heart of Hush storyline in Detective Comics
. That storyline got great reaction from the readers, and we're really proud of what Paul and Dustin Nyugen did on that. This storyline takes that beat a few steps further, and sets up those two characters' roles in 2009, which will play heavily into the Batman plans for next year.
IGN Comics: Since Paul's original story took place before RIP, and this story takes place after, will we see this story – and Catwoman and Hush, for that matter – acknowledge what happened to Batman in RIP?
You will definitely know that RIP has happened between "Heart of Hush" and the "Faces of Evil" storyline.
IGN Comics: It seems like there has been a concerted effort to move Selina Kyle further towards a more moral gray area than she's occupied in recent years. Do you think it's important to get that character back towards the villainous or amoral side of things?
You know, she's starring in a "Faces of Evil" one-shot, so that says something big about Selina's character and where she's deciding to take things in her life. She's a strong enough character where I think a lot of times she writes her own stories. I'll say that over the course of the next few months, the ball is definitely in her court as far as where she's going to lean – whether it is towards the Robin Hood side of doing good things through shady deeds, or if she'll lean more on the sides of actually being a villain.
IGN Comics: Moving on to Neil Gaiman's highly anticipated story. I think the title "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" brought about a ton of questions regarding how the story will fit into continuity. Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" closed the book on the Silver Age Superman before the original Crisis rebooted the character's history. I think many fans are wondering how Neil's story will align with both the current continuity and the future continuity. In other words, is this story part of the ongoing saga of Batman?
It is. But also it's the type of story that will be attractive to readers from the outside. People who haven't read Batman in years or haven't read Batman before could go into the comics shop, pick up these two issues, and have a complete Batman experience. And also not be worried about what came before or necessarily what's coming after. For those readers who have been around for the long haul and for those who have definitely been with us for the past few years since Grant's come onboard, they'll have a completely rewarding experience in that Neil's story definitely originates from the things that have been going on in the last few months, and very much sets the stage for things that are coming up in the near future.