DC’s [email protected] presence kicked off today with the Batman: Fear State panel. Batman group editor Ben Abernathy hosted the panel, where he was joined by writers Dr. Stephanie “Murderer of Comics” Phillips (Harley Quinn), Mariko Tamaki (Detective Comics), Tom Taylor (Nightwing), and Ram V (Catwoman). Also in attendance in absentia via pre-recorded messages were I Am Batman writer John Ridley and Batman writer James Tynion IV.
The panel opened with a pre-taped intro from Ridley, who thanked fans for their support of Jace Fox and The Next Batman. He said that the events of Fear State will propel Jace Fox to become Batman, and teased a new story for the character coming in 2022.
Abernathy then properly kicked things off by asking the writers what their deepest fears are. Phillips said she’s “petrified” of snakes after being chased by a water moccasin as a toddler while living in Florida. Tamaki is scared of the dark, which she said is not a big problem living in the city but becomes more of an issue when she’s out in the country. Taylor joked that, living in Australia, he’s not allowed to be afraid of snakes, and continued that he’s afraid his long con of having broken into comics will be revealed. V named spiders and insects as a fear, and described an ‘insect sense’ that he has whenever an insect is near. Taylor added that he once received a “spider from the United States” in a box of comps.
Phillips described the current status quo of she and Riley Rossmo‘s Harley Quinn, with Harley working towards redemption in the wake of Joker War and facing off against Hugo Strange. She said that Harley just wants to help the other heroes during Fear State, and teased that Harley’s new ‘sidekick’ Kevin would don a costume himself to help on the streets of Gotham during the storyline.”You can tell that Riley and I both play and like hockey,” Phillips said of Kevin’s costume, citing the high number of hockey pads involved.
Tamaki briefly described the recently-wrapped opening arc of she and Dan Mora’s run on Detective Comics, with both Batman and Bruce Wayne in conflict with new character Mr. Worth. “Mostly it’s just been interesting to sort of look at the civic world of Gotham,” she said, and said focusing on Gotham’s mayor Nakano has brought a political aspect to Gotham.
Abernathy asked Taylor what he and Bruno Redondo’s goal was when taking over Nightwing. Taylor said he’s a huge fan of the character, and that he wants everyone to realize that Nightwing is an a-list character, as well as being “a positive, pure force of good.” Abernathy and Taylor both praised Redondo and Adriano Lucas’s work on the series.
V said that Catwoman has made her own place in Gotham in Alleytown. He said Selina and Batman’s paths are set to collide again, particularly after Selina’s rescue of Poison Ivy from Simon Saint.
Asked what Harley’s role is in Fear State, Phillips said she will interact with figures from her past like Catwoman. The event also places Harley on what Phillips called “a definitive side” in trying to be a hero in her own right, without just mimicking Batman or others. The major lesson Harley may learn is that, even if she does everything right, people still won’t love her, which Phillips said is a lesson we all have to learn at some point.
Abernathy asked Tamaki about what drives Mayor Nakano and his vendetta against vigilantes. Tamaki said he sees “a very limited vision of justice,” and that that comes from the character’s past, which includes a traumatic event connected to Batman. Tamaki said his experiences within Gotham will ideally give Nakano a wider viewpoint on things.
Taylor said Nightwing will play a pivotal role during Fear State. Dick’s inheritence from Alfred and his desire to save Bludhaven will contrast against what he sees in Gotham, which Taylor described as “what not to do.” Taylor teased that, during Feat State, Babs gets attacked, Nightwing arrives to save her and is ambushed, and then leads the fight against her attackers. Taylor teased more Tim Drake Robin in the series, as well as “some more Batgirls.”
Asked why the Magistrate is targeting Alleytown, V said it “serves as a good staging point” for Nakano from a PR perspective. “What he doesn’t realize is things are about to go very wrong,” he teased.
Coming soon to the pages of Harley Quinn….Waffle Dog pic.twitter.com/SHbbOfUi04
— riley rossmo (@rileyrossmo1) May 13, 2021
Abernathy asked Phillips about a character called Waffle Dog that artist Riley Rossmo teased on Twitter. Phillips laughed and said he’s a dog named Waffle, and that the issue in which he appears will feature both a dog and a bear. The dog is not literally a waffle, but Harley imagines them morphed together, and Phillips teased that the character will hang around, possibly to hang around with Bitewing. Taylor joked that Waffle Dog and Bitewing is a new miniseries.
Tamaki said Nakano and Batman’s relationship is interesting because they’re “not entirely dissimilar.” She talked about forcing the two characters together, and described the solution they came up with as both sci-fi and gross, and “conflict resolution, comic book style.”
Returning to Bitewing, Taylor said the dog would not be coming to Gotham during Fear State. “No one would bring a puppy into that,” he said. Dick will leave Bitewing with a neighbor during the storyline, saying that the kids will take to him quickly, and will take better care of him than they did their goldfish, whose fate was undetermined by the panelists.
On the topic of Selina’s deepest fear, V said he thinks it’s being alone. Regardless of what role she has played people around her tend to get hurt, he said, and her relationship with Batman is maybe the most stable one she’s ever had in terms of him not getting hurt.
Taylor teased “something genuinely life-changing” for Dick in Nightwing #81, which is already in stores and revealed that Melinda Zucco is Dick’s long-lost half-sister. Talk turned to the neighbor’s goldfish, and how it’s spying on Nightwing for Aquaman, and Taylor said the goldfish will be the villain of Bitewing & Waffle Dog. Abernathy joked that they’ll find a space in the Batman: Urban Legends anthology series for this story, so look for that soon.
Abernathy turned things over to a pre-recorded message from Tynion, who apologized for not being there live with everyone else and said he would answer questions that Abernathy had sent over to him ahead of time.
Tynion said his deepest fear is society, in particular the ways in which society is not working and how “inadequate” our systems are to solve societal issues. He described how those fears have driven a lot of his horror-related work beyond his Batman books.
Asked what horror elements he’s mining with Fear State, Tynion said the Scarecrow works well because he makes abstract fears literal through various means. He talked about how many fears are related to our reactions to external things, and said Scarecrow knows “how to get under Batman’s skin” in that respect. He said Scarecrow’s goal is for Gotham to evolve into something else through fear, which he believes Batman did at one point. Batman, naturally, disagrees.
As for specific horror elements, Tynion said he was excited to work with Jorge Jimenez on bringing cyberpunk elements into Gotham through the Unsanity Collective. He described Scarecrow and the Collective as the “ideological poles” of the Fear State storyline. He also praised Jimenez’s redesign for Scarecrow.
Tynion said he has felt for a long time that Scarecrow “deserved an A-List storyline,” given the central role that fear plays in Bruce Wayne’s development of Batman. He said a lot of stories have used fear toxin to spend time in a dream state, which makes it hard to escalate things as the story progresses, and that his goal for Fear State was for Scarecrow to not use “a single drop of fear toxin” while still making the people of Gotham more scared than ever.
Asked about how the Magistrate reflects real-world fears about police militarization, Tynion said he has wanted to explore those elements as much as he can. He called those fears both timely and timeless, and said that Simon Saint is the biggest villain in the Batman series next to Scarecrow. He also teased information about Peacekeeper-1 in which he comes from a long line of cops who were kicked off the force by Jim Gordon, and that his desire to become the perfect hero for Gotham makes him “the perfect pawn for Scarecrow.” He described the moment that Fear State begins as aking to the moment in Jurassic Park when the company realizes they don’t have control of the dinosaurs anymore.
On the differences between Joker War and Fear State, Tynion said Joker War was “a little fly by the seat of our pants,” and that after the success of that story and the extension of his and Jimenez’s run on the series he was very excited to create “an interconnected web of titles” across the Bat-books. “We’ve been building towards this in all of these different titles from the moment we started,” he said, from Future State to A-Day. Tynion said one of his main goals has been to create “an era of Gotham” with all of the series interconnected and playing off of each other, and he expressed his gratitude for the positive reception to the line.
Unrelated to Fear State, Tynion said The Joker is him “fanboying out” by touching on a lot of things from the past, and teased that it’s building towards something bigger to come.
With that, Abernathy thanked all of the panelists, and plugged Batman: Fear State Alpha, which arrives in stores on August 31st.