The world of DC’s Gotham City Garage may have started as an oddball, and undeniably cool idea for a line of DC Collectibles… but it will soon draw readers into a dark version of the DC Universe – where the once heroic Batman has descended into tyranny and fascism in service of an extreme superior. It’s not an Elseworlds story meant to tell a chilling “what if?” parable about the Dark Knight in a distant, unthinkable universe. And it’s also not a cheap imitation of Marvel’s turning of Captain America from hero to villain. No, Gotham City Garage reimagines the current DC Universe, and how a catastrophe in the past could have paved the way for the likes of Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Harley Quinn to adopt a biker lifestyle and drive the open road in a Mad Max version of DC’s America.
It’s not all “chaps and choppers” as the usual ‘biker’ style might imply, because in the vast wasteland traveled by Garage‘s stars, there sits a single city untouched by the plight. A cyberpunk vision of Lex Luthor’s power left unchecked by government control or superhero resistance. A city known as The Garden, patrolled by a man who should have become a champion of the innocent… now a dark figure charged with keeping the people in line through any means necessary. A figure known only as The Bat.
Talking to the creators of the upcoming Digital First comic series from DC, it sounds like they’re after much more than the typical ‘shock value’ of turning a good hero into a ruthless supporter of fascist oppression. In the case of Bruce Wayne, they believe their vision is one that is possible.
We got the chance to discuss the new series with Gotham City Garage writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, just days after the series and its dystopic, cyberpunk premise was officially revealed. Standing before collectible statues of tattooed, biker versions of Supergirl and Batgirl – the stars of the series – at San Diego Comic-Con, the co-writers explained how their Full Throttle version of the DC Universe is intended to honor, not insult the reason people have loved these icons for so long. As Lanzing explains, that means drawing Batman a bit closer to another well known, faceless, ruthless enforcer of the law:
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.
It may sound like a shock at first, but imagining who Bruce Wayne might’ve become without Superman to keep him tied to his humanity is an enticing pitch on its own (not to mention a story reflecting Batman’s journey through the DCEU to Justice League). And, more importantly, not inherently dishonest to the core of the character – in the same way that the new Joker is a cyberpunk, Harley Quinn superfan responding to the heroine she was always destined to become.
Still, some are guaranteed to see the story as sensationalist, or heresy: turning a DC icon into an enforcer of an unjust system. Lanzing isn’t scared by the thought:
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 who emerged without help from the Joker, or a version of Supergirl raised by Jim Gordon doesn’t convince you to keep an eye out for Gotham City Garage, then Batman ruling over America’s last cyberpunk city as a watchdog for Lex Luthor might do the trick. Of course, DC doesn’t have to worry about the bombshells and ripples throughout the entire DC Universe (and its fanbase) that would come from forever changing the current Bruce Wayne with a turn towards fascist dominance.
Instead, fans will get to see what Bruce Wayne would have been driven to in order to protect the law in a world without Superman… with new versions of Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, and even Jason Todd being teased by the writers to boot.
Gothan 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.
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