Back in March, the IGN crew gave you a sneak peak behind the scenes at Batman editor Mike Marts' editorial guide map, "The Wall" – a massive mural tracking the locations and status of all of the Gotham-based characters. Back then, Battle for the Cowl was raging through Gotham City, and the exclusive look gave fans an idea where their favorite characters would be appearing in the blockbuster event.
Now Cowl is over, Dick Grayson has stepped up to become the new Batman, and DC is getting ready to unveil an exciting new line of Batman books featuring amazing creative teams. What better time to hunt down Marts and ask for another look at his top-secret board?
Mike was kind enough to accommodate our curiosity once again, so we picked his brains about the specifics of "The Wall" as well as the direction of the Batman franchise. Check out The Wall for yourself and see if you notice anything we missed!
[Editor's Note: You can find our "spy photo" of The Wall below and to the right.]
With the wall, I get this image of something like the NFL draft, with you playing the role of commissioner and the different writers vying for the chance to use each character. Obviously that's not the case, but what's a more accurate way to describe how you break down which series will handle which character?
Marts: It's a combination of a few different methods. We divide everything up by regular monthly titles, and then if there are any ancillary books like one-shots or events, we include those as well. More or less we're working from what's already there and then branching out.
In other words, if Grant Morrison has an outline in for Batman and Robin, and we know that certain characters are going to appear in that series, we'll earmark those characters for that series and know that their appearances in other books will be limited or restricted. We kind of work that way, using the outlines from our writers and our conversations with our writers. Then we leave an open area for characters that are at large. And "at large" doesn't necessarily mean they're at large in Gotham City and running free. It can also mean that they're at large in that they're not currently being used in any of the core monthly titles.
IGN Comics: So it is it a common occurrence for you to have to tell a writer that Character A is off limits because he's being used in another series?
Marts: Definitely. In fact it happened this morning. I got a script in from one of our writers who wanted to use Firefly. He's a good villain, but not really an A-lister, and he hasn't really been used in that past few years other than some appearances in Gotham Underground. Suddenly it seems like for whatever reason Firefly is all the rage. We had him appear in Battle for the Cowl, and he's also going to be used in Paul Dini's Streets of Gotham.
So for the other writer who wanted to use it in his book, I had to explain that the character is being used in a significant way over here, which means we kind of have to adjust or make changes or come up with a replacement villain to be used in his book. So that's one example. It happens a few times a week, actually. But that's just one example of how the board helped us in managing the characters and knowing who appears where, when and why.
Marts: We're doing a little bit of both. The trick with Batman is that you're primarily dealing with a single character, and then there are a number of supporting characters that branch out from him. So to avoid repetition, you really want each title to maintain its own identity and speak for itself.
We encourage our writers to do their own thing and have their titles have their own distinct voices. But at the same time, it's our job as editors over here to make sure that even though the voices are distinct and unique, that they're all following along the same path and heading in the right direction, and that the voices don't contradict one another.
So I encourage Paul Dini to do his thing in Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens, and I encourage Grant Morrison to do his thing in Batman and Robin. They're going along the same basic path, but it's up to us to make sure that they don't contradict one another or step on each other's toes.
IGN Comics: So let's talk about "The Wall." As we're looking at it now, what period of time does The Wall reflect?
Marts: It's definitely post-Battle for the Cowl, and then some things on The Wall indicate events in the next few months to come. This is basically June 2009 onward – probably anywhere from three to five months out.
IGN Comics: We recently talked with Grant in depth about Batman and Robin. It sounds like he's going to be blazing a trail for the other books, running with the remaining threads from RIP and documenting the new Batman and Robin's first adventures. What else can you say about this title? Is it the core book of the franchise moving forward?
Marts: Well it's tough to say that any one book is more important than the others. Obviously Grant has led the charge over the last few years in terms of Batman's ongoing adventures. The stories that he's told in storylines like RIP, the Black Glove and Batman and Son, if you're looking at those as chapters, this is the fourth installment of that mega story arc. This is the next chapter in Batman's life as told by Grant Morrison.
At the same time we have the Batman monthly comic, which Judd Winick is writing, and that'll be the continuing adventures of Batman as told by Batman. Whereas Batman and Robin is a team book more or less, with Batman and his sidekick, Batman is more or less a solo book told through the point of view of the title character.
Marts: Exactly. We'll see Two-Face appear; we'll see Penguin appear. Black Mask shows up again. Judd is definitely picking up threads from Battle for the Cowl.
IGN Comics: It's curious to see Jason Todd show up under the "Batman and Robin" section. Because Judd will be handling so many of the threads from Battle for the Cowl, I expected to see Jason show up there. Will he be appearing in both? Where should fans expect to see Jason?
Marts: Well that card there just says Red Hood. We're assuming that Jason may have perished at the end of Battle for the Cowl #3. So don't assume that he's under the hood. We're not sure who is under the hood. All I can say is that Grant is planning a story arc called "The Return of the Red Hood."
IGN Comics: Interesting. Will Damian be appearing in Judd's book as well?
Marts: We'll be seeing Damian appear as Robin in a few of the books. His primary adventures will be in Batman and Robin, but because he's an important part of Batman's life, he'll be in the other books as well.
IGN Comics: What can you say about the character Bosworth, who falls under the "Batman" section?
Marts: Bosworth is a character that was introduced in Battle for the Cowl. He's basically Penguin's first lieutenant.
IGN Comics: Let's move on to the other series. Because Paul Dini is writing two books, Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens, is it safe to assume those two series will interact more so than others?
Marts: People will see definite common story threads showing up in both of Paul's books, specifically in the area of Tommy Elliot. He'll make his presence known in both Streets of Gotham and Gotham City Sirens.
IGN Comics: What kind of role will Batman play in the two series?
Marts: In Streets of Gotham, Batman is still very much the main protagonist. The title of it is Batman: Streets of Gotham, and we're treating this as more or less a new Batman monthly series. He'll still be the main character in this. The difference in Streets of Gotham is that these are Batman stories told through the point of view of other characters in Gotham City. So it could be Commissioner Gordon telling the story, it could be a villain, or it could be a supporting character telling the story.