BOF/CHRIS CLOW: Iím here with Mr. Mike Marts, the editor of the Batman line at DC Comics. Mike, thank you for taking the time to talk to Batman-On-Film! We really appreciate it.
MIKE MARTS: Certainly!
CC: First question is, how did you come to be the editor of the Batman line, and when you started at DC, did you start as an editor or did you come in as a writer?
MM: I came in as an editor. The beginning of my career I spent at the competition (Marvel), and then our publisher had recruited me to come to DC. That was about five years ago, and when I first came to DC, I was working on a few other titles. Nothing Batman-specific. And the current Batman editor at the time, whoís Peter Tomasi, one of our writers, was looking to go freelance full-time. And I guess that Dan DiDio had faith in me to take over the Batman reins once Pete stepped down and went freelance. So, that was about four years ago.
CC: Great, sounds like a hell of a job (laughs)!
MM: Itís great! Growing up, Batman was definitely my favorite character and the first comic that I picked up. So coming in to work on Batman was really like a dream come true for an editor. In the past I had been used to working on team books [Like Marvelís NEW X-MEN -- Chris], but I really find working on a solo character to be a lot more rewarding.
CC: Yeah, Iíll bet. I can certainly understand that. Obviously one of the big stories right now is the ďNew 52,Ē the entire DC Universe relaunch.
CC: So, kind of moving onto that, from an editorial perspective and working with a character thatís as beloved as Batman, what did you see in the New 52 as the best opportunity to sort of ďshake upĒ Batmanís character and status quo? It seems like, compared to many other DC heroes, Batmanís changes have been relatively minor except for maybe his age. Would you agree with that?
MM: Yeah. I mean, a lot of what we had established in Batman over the past few years have been so solid and have built such a nice foundation for the character, we didnít feel we had to abandon any of that for the readerís perspective. So instead with the New 52, we took that as an opportunity to focus on the story, to remind people why this is such a great character, and also to explore Batmanís rogues gallery in re-presenting classic villains like the Joker and the Penguin for the first time to readers. And also to introduce new, exciting villains to add to his roguesí gallery. Whether itís The White Rabbit in THE DARK KNIGHT, or The Dollmaker in DETECTIVE, or The Court of Owls in BATMAN.
CC: All of which are really interesting stories so far. So, when it comes to the revised history of Batman, since fans correctly donít have access to a bible of events, and I know you canít really say a whole lot. But would it be safe to assume that most of the major events of the previous incarnation of Batman are still around, or is that an assumption that fans shouldnít make?
MM:I think itís okay for fans to assume that, but maybe not to take it as gospel. I think we can count on the fact that most of the milestones of Batmanís past history that readers have come to love and enjoy are still there. Whether itís YEAR ONE, or if itís THE KILLING JOKE, or the earthquake in Gotham, or encountering Bane, all these big moments in Batmanís life and history we accept as still being there and being a crucial part of his backstory. But, part of the fun of the New 52 is that, you know, perhaps there will be some subtle changes along the way. And, those are surprises which weíre keeping here and weíll reveal a little bit at a time, and hopefully the readers will be excited as we reveal these new things along the way.
CC: Yeah, certainly. Well, going off of YEAR ONE was kind of my next question, because it seems like at DC thereís sort of a renewed interest in revisiting origin stories of certain characters. Iím a retailer too, I work at a small store in the pacific northwest, and SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN was a big hit here. DCís also publishing LEGION: SECRET ORIGIN and had a similar story in Green Lantern recently. So, I guess Iím wondering if YEAR ONE is more or less intact, or is there something we could potentially look forward to with a BATMAN: SECRET ORIGIN at some point?
MM: Well, like I was saying just before, I think that the YEAR ONE history is so important to Batmanís character that weíd be foolish to abandon all of that.
MM: But I think that as we move forward, we will be examining some areas of Batmanís origin, and most specifically the early parts of Bruce Wayneís career as Batman. And some of that may touch upon story elements from YEAR ONE, and some of that may be brand new things that readers arenít expecting.
CC: It seems like many fans both new and old are buzzing about the Gotham-centric work of Scott Snyder, and I was kind of curious about how he came to your side of things over there. The first time he was really on my radar was with AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Did he make a transition straight from Vertigo to the Batman line, or was it something that you had been pegging him for early on?
MM: All of us here at DCU editorial were reading AMERICAN VAMPIRE and loving what Scott was doing there, so we knew that the Vertigo guys were very lucky that they had Scott working for them. Scottís been in the halls, heís a local writer, so heís here in the office a lot, and it wasnít a secret that he loved Batman and loved the character, and he had expressed interest in writing some Batman stories at some point in time. I think the first thing that either he had pitched or that we asked from him was possibly doing a Commissioner Gordon second feature (This was at the time that we were running second features in some of the books) . So, that became a conversation, and it quickly evolved into a situation where we knew that Scott had a lot more to offer to us than just a Commissioner Gordon second feature. And that conversation evolved into what eventually became ďThe Black MirrorĒ storyline in DETECTIVE. Incidentally at the same time, we knew that the structure of Batwoman in DETECTIVE was going to change shape. We knew that we were going to be doing a Batwoman solo series, and so it was just kind of a nice serendipitous moment where we knew we needed a new writer for DETECTIVE, and at the same time Scott was pitching these awesome ideas, which we wanted to pursue in a monthly format. So, the two things just kind of came together at the right time.
CC: Perfect! Kind of shifting focus a little bit to BATMAN AND ROBIN, I love that title right now. I think itís easily one of my top three of the New 52. In the new series, it seems like Bruce is sort of struggling with finding his role as Damianís father. And maybe explaining his discomfort within that role, is the relationship that Bruce has with Dick and Tim maybe less fatherly than itís been shown in in the past? Are those two still his adoptive sons?
MM: I think Bruceís relationship with each of the characters, whether itís with Damian, or Tim, or eventually Jason, each relationship is different, and so are the relationships that Batman has with their hero counterparts. Whether itís Red Robin, or Robin and Nightwing, or Red Hood. So specifically in BATMAN AND ROBIN, I think what weíre seeing there is a father-son relationship that is unlike any other. This is a father and son who barely know each other, who are more or less hero and partner out there fighting the good fight and fighting crime, but theyíve rarely worked alongside each other. And while theyíre both fighting the good fight, they have different ways in how they approach it. Different ideologies and moral codes, and this will lead to many complications with their relationship. So this book I think is a lot of fun. Itís really a journey to see how this small, dysfunctional family unit is moving forward together. And also to see, what I think, is one of the most unique hero combinations in all of comics.
MM: Iím glad that you like the book a lot. I think itís in large part due to the chemistry between Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Those two guys have such a great creative relationship, and such shorthand together, that itís not surprising to me that itís striking a chord with so many readers out there.
CC: Yeah, they definitely captivated me with THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS when they had their run on that. One thing that I was personally very excited to learn about coming out of the New 52 is that Grant Morrisonís going to be able to finish his story with Batman. It seems, though, that thereís been a little bit of confusion on whether or not this is going to be a new volume of the BATMAN INC. series, or whether this will be a mini-series entitled BATMAN: LEVIATHAN. Can you speak to that at all?
MM: I can say that Grantís storyline is definitely continuing. It definitely involves elements of Batman Incorporated, it also involves Leviathan as an entity and as an adversary for Batman, but the specifics of the story and the project are still taking shape. I can guarantee that itís going to be exciting, itís going to satisfy all of Grantís fans and readers out there, and will also tie perfectly into current New 52 continuity, because it is a part of New 52 continuity.
CC: Cool! Can you reveal the title of that one?
MM: Stay tuned! Thatís all I can say right now.
CC: Alright, sounds good. Moving on, at seems like at Marvel in particular, whenever thereís a media event that revolves around a certain character, their comics react to it in some way, they launched new #1ís for both THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA alongside their films this year. DC doesnít seem to take this approach and apparently likes to keep the narratives intact. Is this a policy that we can expect to see continued, or is there pressure on you to have some sort of Batman comics event tie into the release of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES next summer?
MM: I wouldnít say there are any direct policies or pressures. I think that, and I canít speak for Marvel in the way that they do things, but at least at DC thereís such a close relationship between the publishing side of things and the media side of things that most of the time the stories that are happening in both areas are both so strong that theyíre already doing a great job of reflecting one another. So, for our part in the publishing side of things, weíre really just trying to concentrate on getting the best stories out there to our reading audience. And, you know, if things in the movies happen to reflect what weíre doing or vice versa, thatís just an extra benefit.
CC: Sure. One of the other things about The Joker in particular: it seemed like while Grant Morrison was in the middle of his story in the main Bat-titles, The Joker was sort of ďhands offĒ to other creators and their titles, but now that weíve seen him simultaneously in both DETECTIVE and THE DARK KNIGHT, can we expect to see The Joker show up in more places? Or is there a singular title focus with him like thereís been in the past?
MM: Well you know with The Joker, Chris, while Grant was telling his story, I hope we didnít give readers the impression that The Joker was completely hands off to other creators. But, we preferred that Grant was the one telling Joker stories at that point in time, because he had a story to tell. You know, Grant had his Joker story, and he told it, and itís been embraced by the fans and everyone loves it. At this point in time, The Joker is being handled by other creators. And weíre super excited about the reaction that we had in DETECTIVE #1. I think the cliffhanger at the end of the issue that Tony Daniel created took everyone by surprise, and no one expected it. And weíre happy to see that people are out there guessing at whatís coming next: is The Joker gone? Is he in hiding? Whatís going to happen? So thatís just been a great thing for us.
CC: Alright, excellent! Well thank you very much Mike, we really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today, and great job on the books so far! Really looking forward to everything thatís coming next.
MM: Thanks a lot, Chris! I appreciate it.
CC: Absolutely, this was quite a thrill!
Special thanks to Josh Kushins from DC publicity and BOF Founder Bill "Jett" Ramey for allowing me the chance to talk with the esteemed Batman editor!