The new DC world of Gotham City Garage might have been conceptualized as an oddity, a twisted way of looking at the DC world through a different viewpoint and to create a fresh line of DC collectibles. However, what it will soon unravel upon the readers will be a cold, dark and unfriendly version of the DC Universe where the Batman is not a hero but, a tyrant, a fascist servant of an evil master. This is not just another tale aimed to invoke the reader into pondering, ‘what if?’
On the contrary, Gotham City Garage completely restructures the DC Universe as we have known it. It unfolds before us a new DC’s America wherein a past catastrophe has left the likes of Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Harley Quinn to become Mad Max style lady bikers traversing the open road billowing dust clouds aplenty. This new DC world of ‘bikers’ is not only about chaps and their choppers, because unlike Mad Max, but there also is one single modern city standing intact in the expansive wasteland, and this city has remained untouched by the misery that fell upon the rest of the land. This town is the citadel of Lex Luthor’s power which was left unchecked by the government and unchallenged by any superhero. This city known as ‘The Garden’ and is protected by a ruthless man who in an ideal DC world must have championed the cause of humanity, but, is now a foul figure commissioned to keep his flock from fleeing, whether by mercy or destruction. This man is known as ‘The Bat.’
A discussion with the creators of the upcoming DC comic series revealed that the creators are not just aiming to milk the ‘shock value’ of portraying a superhero as a villain (something that’s been tried and tested with varying degrees of success in the past). Rather, as per them, it is very much possible for this kind of thing to happen in the case of Bruce Wayne.
Shortly after the series and its dark, unusual cyberpunk premise was announced officially, we had an opportunity to discuss the plot with Gotham City Garage writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly. The discussion took place as we stood next to the collectible statues of the new biker avatars of Supergirl and Batgirl at San Diego Comic-Con. The writer duo emphasized that this new version of the narrative is aimed to honor the reason why the readers have loved these characters for so long and not the other way round as it may seem at first glance. According to Lanzing, this meant Batman getting closer to becoming a ruthless, faceless and in the shadows kind of a law enforcer who doesn’t draw a line while executing his mission.
The world basically clicked into place when we realized that rather than trying to tell a… it’s not an Elseworlds. We found a bifurcation point. So thirty years back within the history of the DCU, something fundamental changed – something we call The Dark Age. And that essentially wiped out the world. Destroyed all the cities and left only one: Gotham. And that’s what Luthor built his super city on that he calls The Garden.
This is a universe where Superman never existed. Where the only iteration of Batman this universe knows is, essentially, a Judge Dredd character in The Garden… Working for Luthor.
Although it sounds shocking at the outset, the premise of finding out what Bruce Wayne would have been like if it wasn’t the Superman who kept him controlled and attached to humanity, is fascinating (we are not even talking about the Batman’s journey from DCEU to Justice League). At the same time, despite the change, the new character is not dishonest to its core values just like the fact that the new joker is cyberpunk, a self-claimed super fan of Harley Quinn who affirms to the heroine that she was always supposed to be. Undoubtedly, A lot of people would see the new plot as sensationalist or insulting: refusing to accept the conversion of a DC icon into a ruthless enforcer of unfair rules. Lanzing is unperturbed by such thoughts.
Please, bring it on! If you think that’s heresy, wait for the rest of the book. A big part of the point of this book is that we’re trying to take the major assumptions that you make about the DC Universe, and across the board we’re trying to say, ‘Okay, let’s say you take those assumptions away. Where do the heroes come from? Who becomes heroic and why?’
When we meet The Bat he is a force of nature, he is a thing to be feared, a thing to be run from, he is the darkness and the shadow that brings you to justice. And what am I describing? I’m describing Batman, it’s just that the laws he’s holding up are not the laws that we understand as being ‘good’ laws. So ultimately, over time, whether or not Bruce Wayne starts to recognize what he’s become a part of – that’s a great question for us. Is he still a good man in there? Let’s see, right? We’re not trying to change the core of the character, we’re trying to take away the assumptions so we can get to the core of the character.
If a Harley Quinn unsupported by the joker or a Supergirl who wasn’t raised by Jim Gordon is not temptation enough for you to look out for Gotham City Garage, then an evil Batman lording over America’s only standing cyberpunk city and acting as a puppet for Lex Luthor will surely bring you on board. The world of DC is bound to witness massive ripples and uncomfortable bombardments of the DC Universe as we have always known it to be. Creating a dark, deadly and insensitive Bruce Wayne is a big cultural shock for all DC fans.
However, as stated above, the real thing to watch out is what Bruce Wayne’s composition would have been in the absence of a controlling force known as the ‘Superman’. Even Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, and Jason Todd will not be the same in this universe.
Gotham City Garage #1 will arrive August 16, 2017, with a new chapter released biweekly through October 2017 and weekly thereafter, with print issues available in October.