This summer, Gotham City enters a new era of fear when Batman: Fear State kicks off across the DC Comics Bat-family of titles. Ever since the devastating events of Joker War, the climate in Gotham City has been changing, thanks in no small part to the machinations of the Scarecrow. Now, it's all coming to a head, and no one in Gotham is safe.
To give readers a taste of what they can expect from this horror-tinged event, DC assembled several key members of its Gotham City creative team for a Comic-Con@Home panel Friday afternoon. Led by Batman group editor Ben Abernathy, Batman writer James Tynion IV, Catwoman writer Ram V, Detective Comics writer Mariko Tamaki, Harley Quinn writer Stephanie Phillips, and Nightwing writer Tom Taylor discussed the threats Batman and his allies face, and what Gotham City might be like in the aftermath.
After leading off with a pre-recorded thank you from I Am Batman writer John Ridley, who couldn't be part of the panel, Abernathy kicked things with a rundown of the current status quo of each book, from Harley's desire to prove herself as a hero to Nightwing's ongoing efforts to reshape Bludhaven. Then it was time to talk Fear State.
Though each writer was, of course, dancing around spoilers in discussing the upcoming event and its repercussions, Phillips was keen to emphasize that Harley's personal journey to become a hero in her own right will be a major element of the story. In the pages of Nightwing, Taylor teased that Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon will have a "pivotal" role in the story when a mysterious new foe launches an attack on Oracle. Over in Catwoman, Ram V emphasized the ways in which Bruce and Selina's relationship will be affected, particularly as it relates to Selina's fear that everyone close to her will eventually get hurt. Meanwhile in Detective Comics, where the political center of Gotham has been just as vital to the story, Tamaki touched on the evolving relationship between Bruce Wayne and Gotham City's mayor, Christopher Nakano.
"They're both people who want Gotham to be a better place and want to protect Gotham, and they're in conflict as to how to do that. Basically, in figuring out how to force them together we came up with the grossest possible way -- the most sci-fi, gross way -- to force them together. It's like conflict resolution, but comic book style."
Though Tynion could not be part of the larger conversation with his collaborators, he arrived later in the form of a pre-recorded solo session in which he outlined the central conflict of Fear State, and the thing that gives it name: Scarecrow, his abilities, and what he plans to do with them.
"The benefit of a character like Scarecrow is he can take these fears that are very abstract and he can make them literal, and make them feel very present in front of you through his fear toxin, and also through some of the devices that you will learn as readers that he has at his disposal during the Fear State event," Tynion explained. "To be able to show people what they're afraid in stark terms, and make them come to terms with the simple fact that a lot of times our fears aren't necessarily about an external problem. A lot of times our fears are how we will react in a certain moment to a certain set of stimuli. Scarecrow understands fear inside and out, and he understands Batman pretty well too. He knows exactly how to get under Batman's skin.
Though there are other ideas in place, including the looming threat of Simon Saint, The Magistrate, and Peacekeeper-01, Tynion emphasized that Scarecrow remains the puppet master behind much of what's happening in Gotham, stoking very clear fears as well as more existential ones, all the while hoping that Batman will understand what he's trying to do.
"One of my favorite things about the larger Fear State story is that he wants to take Batman off the page, but this isn't an attack on Batman. This is an attack on Gotham City, because Scarecrow believes that through fear Gotham City can evolve into something more than it is. He is trying to sideline Batman, but there's a part of him that wants Batman to agree with his core mission. Scarecrow has intuited that there is a part of Batman that faced a great fear, and he evolved because of it. And so he's saying, basically 'I'm going to do to Gotham City what Gotham City did to you, so why are you standing in my way? Isn't this what you want?'
"Honestly, that really creates some of the real underworkings of the Fear State event."
For more on Fear State, including how the Unsanity Collective and Miracle Molly factor into the story, and more teases from the larger Batman line, check out the full panel above.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2021.