When last we spoke with Batman writer Chip Zdarsky about the post-'Failsafe' alternate Earth Bruce Wayne currently finds himself on in the current story arc 'The Bat-Man of Gotham,' he gave us what he self-described "worst interview ever."
We think he was being a bit hard on himself, but either way, he was a little more forthcoming in his answers when we posted a few questions to him about the story after the release of January 3's Batman #131.
To quickly recap, in a climatic battle with Failsafe, who is essentially his robotic doppelganger, Failsafe zaps him with a gun that seems to disintegrate him but instead transports Batman to familiar but different Gotham City, which is still home to many of the same Batman supporting characters but in alternate roles. And oh yeah ... in which Bruce Wayne never became Batman.
Think "It's a Wonderful Gotham City" with a skeleton Jim Gordon subbing in for Clarence.
If you haven't read Batman #131 yet, well go ahead, what the heck are you waiting for? If you have, then enjoy these first look pages of February's Batman #132 by artist Mike Hawthorne, part of two of 'The Bat-Man of Gotham,' along with our new brief Q&A with Zdarsky...
Newsarama: Chip, obviously in an opening chapter to a story arc like Batman #131 readers are supposed to have more questions than answers at the end, and true to form Batman's predicament is still very much open to interpretation.
What can or would you like to tell readers about exactly where Batman is and how he got there?
Chip Zdarsky: At the end of our opening arc, Batman gave Failsafe a slight upgrade of "compassion." So, instead of killing him, Failsafe sent Batman to a universe where Batman never existed. That was his compassionate compromise: giving his creator a world where he could continue his mission, away from ours. Mission accomplished.
Nrama: Zapped by energy, assumed dead on Earth, but survives on a mysterious twisted version of his reality is pretty much what happened to Batman in Justice League #75 and the early months of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Did your storyline take shape before you knew that was happening outside the core Batman title or didn't it matter either way?
Zdarsky: Ha! Yeah, this was all part of my original pitch back in 2021, so I didn't know the specifics of Justice League #75 or Dark Crisis at the time. While there are similarities I think we're telling very different stories, so I'm not too fussed about any of it.
Nrama: Some characters we meet in this alternate Gotham are pretty familiar, like Selina, and the Judge Dredd-esque Harvey Dent but others less so, like Red Mask, and Julia/Jewel. What can you tell readers about them?
Zdarsky: Yeah, I wanted a healthy mix of altered classic characters and new ones. People like Jewel who suffered tragedies because Batman didn't exist to stop them. And villains like Red Mask who would have been too scared to rise up in a world with Batman. Part of the fun of this arc for me has been trying to work out what would be different and what would be the same.
Nrama: Speaking of which, what the hell is up with skeleton Jim Gordon?
Zdarsky: [laughs] The reason will be revealed! But once I had that ludicrous visual in my head I knew I wanted to see how Mike would draw him.
Nrama: Nightwing #100 recently featured a moment in which Dick called Bruce "dad" and told him he loved him. But does The 'Bat-Man of Gotham City' suggest his heart's desire more than being the patriarch of an extended family is starting over as Batman in a Gotham that doesn't have one?
Zdarsky: Bat-patriarch is a role he's grown into over the years, sometimes with great discomfort. But in his heart, he'll always be in a one-man war on crime.
Nrama: Going out on a limb here ... we didn't see him in the first chapter, but theoretically an Alfred Pennyworth could exist here the same way Selina and Harvey do.
Mark Waid recently played three-card monte with the return of Alfred in Batman Vs Robin and now here he is again. Do you think a dead Alfred casts a larger shadow over Bruce and Batman than he did alive?
Zdarsky: I think there's an absence without Alfred, for sure. But that's part of what I like exploring here: how is this ultimately affecting Bruce? Alfred kept him grounded in a lot of ways, kept him in check. He was even the one to make sure Failsafe didn't get wrongly activated.
Nrama: But given this is comic books and all, and you're the main Batman writer right now, what are your thoughts on when Alfred will eventually return? When will the time be right and do you think it will be right on your watch?
Zdarsky: I love Alfred, but the story going forward hinges on him not being alive. I'm playing with what I inherited because that's the best way to write these serialized stories, I feel.
Nrama: Fair enough. Hope we can talk when more details of this alternative Gotham City are revealed. Until then, can you say if this world exists in the Multiverse, or if this world is a creation of Failsafe?
Zdarsky: It's in the multiverse. At least it is until my editor tells me it isn't!
Batman #132 goes on sale February 7.
This is a great time to check out all the new Batman comics, graphic novels, and collections from DC in 2023.