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Exclusive: Batman group editor Ben Abernathy teases 'years in the making' Fear State event at DC Comics

By Matthew Jackson
Batman: Fear State Alpha page 7

This month, the next major event to rock Gotham City kicks off with a city on the brink and a madman pulling all the strings. After rocking the city with Joker War, the Batman creative team of writer James Tynion IV and artist Jorge Jimenez are about to shake Gotham to its core once again with Fear State, the ultimate showdown between Batman and the Scarecrow. 

Building on months of Batman storytelling set up by Infinite Frontier #0 in the spring, Fear State explores what happens when Scarecrow finally gets to enact his grand experiment: An attempt to push Gotham City into such an extreme state of fear that the city has no choice but to evolve. Standing in his way, of course, is Batman and his family of allies, but this is not a completely clear-cut showdown. With everyone from the Unsanity Collective to Simon Saint wrapped up in the city's latest struggle, and facing a city filled with panicked citizens, Batman's fight becomes about much more than simply stopping Scarecrow. 

Preludes to the event begin next week with Jace Fox's new adventures in I Am Batman #0 from writer John Ridley and artist Olivier Coipel, and continue in the following weeks with tie-in stories from Ram V and Fernando Blanco in Catwoman #34 and Stephanie Phillips and Laura Braga in Harley Quinn #6. Then, on August 31, it's time for the main event to launch.

Fear State Alpha #1, written by Tynion with art by Riccardo Federici, will set the stage for the Fear State event by bringing together all the elements that have been in play across Gotham over the past few months. Whether we're talking about the involvement of tech billionaire Simon Saint and his emerging Magistrate program, those trippy dialogues between Batman and The Scarecrow that have been seeded throughout recent Batman issues, the role of Oracle and the Batgirls, the fate of the Unsanity Collective, or what exactly Poison Ivy's been up to this whole time, it's all here and ready to launch readers into full-on event mode.

In the gallery below, you can get an exclusive taste of some of Federici's art for Fear State Alpha, including a look at the Batman/Scarecrow face-off the main Bat-title has been teasing for months.

Fear State will run through the main Batman title, with supporting stories across the Bat-Family line, from September all the way through November, culminating in the concluding chapter, Fear State Omega, in December. It's a massive undertaking, building on Gotham City stories going back years, and Batman Group editor Ben Abernathy is at the center of all of it. SYFY WIRE reached out to Abernathy to chat about everything from coordinating Fear State's many creators to what's going on with Gotham's new supporting characters, and more.

This event feels in many ways like a culmination not just of the past year, but of things set in motion even before Joker War. What's it been like working with Batman writer James Tynion IV and the larger Bat-family creative team to put an event of this scale in place?

Very perceptive as yes, Fear State is really an event years in the making with City of Bane and The Joker War being real catalysts and motivators for both Scarecrow and The Magistrate program.

And I can’t say enough great things about James—he is an absolute delight to work with as he might be the biggest Bat Family fan in existence and as an editor I couldn’t ask for a better creative partner in an event of this magnitude. Combining his passion and story with the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G work of Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles on interiors has just been mind-blowing. Jorge somehow ‘levels up’ each issue and the energy and focus he brings to everything he’s doing is beyond inspiring. Wait until you see his killer connecting covers on Batman #116-117!

For most of the creators on the other participating titles this is their first big “group” event and they have really embraced the challenge. Their enthusiasm and ideas have helped shape a really robust reading experience for fans. Lastly, a great big shout to my editorial staff as they’re the unsung heroes in helping keep this engine running at maximum speed!

How has the larger Bat-family helped to enrich the Fear State beyond what Tynion initially laid out in Batman?

The creative and editorial teams have all been deeply engaged with the event planning and have really stepped up in helping flesh out the ideas around the larger plan from James. We began having “Fear State Zoom Summits” last December to get all the writers in a virtual room with editorial to start outlining plans and it’s been an amazing and collaborative experience!

One of the keystones of this era of Batman has been the introduction of lasting new characters like Ghost-Maker and Miracle Molly. What can you tell us about their roles going forward in this event?

Thanks for noticing, as we’ve worked hard to introduce an array of compelling new characters alongside the deep gallery of heroes and villains in Gotham, not just in Batman but across the line.

Ghost-Maker and Miracle Molly both play pivotal roles in Fear State and will prove to be important allies to Batman. Molly is a fascinating character with a focused set of ideals and will ultimately play a real central role to Fear State. Shameless Plug #1—everyone be sure to pick up the Batman Secret Files issue featuring her! (On Sale September 21)

And Ghost-Maker might be my favorite of all the new characters introduced and I can’t WAIT to share some plans we have for him in 2022! Shameless Plug #2—the Batman 2021 Annual, on sale November 30, will conclude the story we’ve been running as back-ups in Batman over the spring/summer months! It’s gonna blow your MIND!

This also feels like a big moment for Jace Fox, building on what we've already seen from him in the Future State era. What is I Am Batman bringing to the event that we won't get from the main Bat-title?

Oh, it’s definitely a big moment for Jace Fox as it’s the culmination of what we’ve been building to since Future State: The Next Batman and with The Next Batman: Second Son and I Am Batman #0. Jace will be bringing a more street level approach to Fear State, as he’ll be dealing first-hand with the more violent aspects of the misinformation being spread throughout Gotham. The work John [Ridley] and Olivier [Coipel] have done on issue one is really incredible!

Poison Ivy is a major piece of the action in Fear State Alpha. What can you tell us about her role going forward in the event?

I wish I could tell you anything but even something small would spoil too much! I will say I’m really excited for Poison Ivy’s role in Fear State (and beyond), as this is a story we’ve been seeding (ha!) since Batman: The Joker War Zone, and we’re working hard to recenter her as a prominent character in the line.

Obviously, whether Scarecrow gets his way or not, this is a period of big changes for Gotham that's setting the stage for another year of stories. Is there anything at all you can tell us about what lies ahead for the Gotham books in 2022?

We’ve been building a foundation these last 20 months for a compelling and exciting future for Gotham City, and Fear State is the latest stop on that journey. We definitely have big plans for 2022 and beyond with some pretty killer stuff in the pipeline line-wide…I wish I could spoil some of the cool stuff we have planned.

Batman: Fear State Alpha #1 is in stores August 31.