The line-wide version of DC's Future State event may be over, but one of the most prevalent possible futures the event explored is still alive and well. Over the course of several miniseries some of DC's best creators imagined a dystopian future Gotham City dominated by a police state with a mandate to hunt down superheroes, and then threw some of Gotham's most memorable characters into the mix. Now that potential future is set to continue in the new series Future State: Gotham, and we've got an exclusive preview of what's to come.
Written by Joshua Williamson and Dennis Culver [who, full disclosure, is also an editor here at SYFY WIRE] and drawn by Giannis Milonogiannis, Future State: Gotham will pick up many of the threads first established by Future State titles like Dark Detective, Red Hood, The Next Batman and more, all beginning with a story focused on Jason Todd. In the world of Future State: Gotham, the enforcers known as The Magistrate rule the city with an iron first, hunting down every vigilante they can get their hands on, but Jason Todd isn't running from them.
No, the former Bat-Family member known as the Red Hood is actively collaborating with The Magistrate, and when a disaster strikes with The Next Batman Tim Fox as the primes suspect, Jason will have to go head-to-head with the people who were once his closest friends and family. But of course, this is a Gotham City story, and the city's shadows are hiding certain deeper motives.
"To the Bat-family and the rest of Gotham, he's the top Mask Hunter working for the authoritarian Magistrate that runs the city with an iron fist. But really Jason it working undercover to gather evidence against them under the guidance of a shadowy benefactor yet to be revealed," Culver said.
"It's an interesting setup for Jason's character. Just as he was accepted back into the family he had to turn his back on them for the greater good because he was the only person that could credibly do the job. He desperately wants out but he knows he's doing the right thing. So of course things are about to get a whole lot worse for him and the rest of the city. War is coming."
But this espionage-laced plot twist isn't the only hook that hopes to draw readers in to Future State: Gotham's dark world. To emphasize the noir influence of the story, Batman group editor Ben Abernathy and the book's creative team decided that Milonogiannis would design and draw the book entirely in black-and-white, casting a starker eye on one of the DC Universe's most iconic locales. For Milonogiannis, who also worked on Future State's previous Red Hood stories, it was an opportunity to look at a version of the city he'd already drawn with entirely new eyes.
"The Future State take on Gotham is definitely one of my favorite things to approach -- especially as it's been presented very neon colored so far, and the idea of bringing that city to a black and white series is an interesting challenge," he said.
In the preview below, you'll see what the black-and-white approach does for the Future State version of Gotham City, as Milonogiannis gives us a showdown between Red Hood and the future version of the Ventriloquist, complete with a super-sized take on Scarface. Plus, SYFY WIRE can exclusively reveal today that Future State: Gotham #1 will also include a reprint of a story from Batman: Black & White #4 (1996) drawn by legendary Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, to further emphasize the power of black and white storytelling in Gotham City. Check it out:
Otomo's connection to the book actually goes beyond the simple black-and-white Gotham City story link. According to Culver, Akira and other key pieces of Manga storytelling were among the major influences the creative team discussed when breaking down the look of the book.
"I'm a huge fan of Manga myself and along with Ben, Josh, and Giannis it's been a blast swapping influences," he said. "There are some more obvious visual influences like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and the like but also some less obvious influences will start to shine through once the story kicks off as well. Personally I'm reading everything from Naruto to Vagabond to the current Batman books and it's going into the stew!"
Milonogiannis added, "From the beginning, 80's/90's manga has been a big influence on Future State: Red Hood and Gotham -- and now with the series in black and white, I can really focus on trying to nail down that look with screentone and heavier inked areas. Working with colorists for a while, you eventually change your art to leave room for them to do their own work -- it's been challenging to recalibrate my eyes to work fully in black and white for Future State: Gotham."
The black and white art, combined with the unique position of Jason Todd as the book begins and the worldbuilding of Future State, all combine to create a comic that offers a different perspective within the Batman line while also underlining the vast importance of Gotham City as a key DC Comics character in its own right.
"One of the things we're constantly trying to reinforce in this book is that Gotham City itself should always be felt as a strong presence," Culver said. "The contrast between the rich and poor has never been more amplified in Gotham. It's a police state that becomes more and more unstable with each passing day. Naturally we're introducing people who want to exploit that."
Future State: Gotham #1 is on sale May 11.