Okay, so the comic isn’t really called that–but with the advent of a Manhunter second feature in the first issue of Batman: Streets of Gotham, and with Gotham being such a force in the way the title is being handled by Marc Andreyko and company, it seemed fair to just reclassify the Manhunter stories in this book as Manhunter: Streets of Gotham, and thereby give myself a new numbering to work within.
Certainly Andreyko and Jeanty are a boon to this book. While the main, Batman-centric feature at the front of the issue is much darker than, say, Grant Morrison’s fairly jovial new Batman & Robin ongoing, Kate’s adventure returns substantially more to its character-driven, less super-heroic roots and in so doing diverges from the most recent “relaunch” which started at #31 and ended with the series’ final issue eight months later. Of course, the last pair of Manhunter issues were set in the future, echoing Alan Moore’s classic “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” story and the end of the pre-Crisis era for Superman. A return to form, then, was a pretty obvious move for Andreyko and DC, who arguably had noplace more “super” for Kate to go.
Andreyko joined Blog@Newsarama for a discussion of the issue on the week of its release; apologies for a number of technical issues that led to the delay of the interview’s release.
Blog@Newsarama: Nine pages still seems a little underwhelming in terms of content—it’s over before it starts! Is the backup feature a hard framework to operate within?
Marc Andreyko: Yeah it’s a challenge but I looked at it in the way that I try to have a beginning middle and end even in the nine-page story so that it’s complete in and of itself but moreso than when I’m writing a full issue, it’s more like a movie serial. You kind of have to have cliffhangers because you’re working with less than half the pages. I’m not complaining about that—if the choice is be canceled or have a backup, give me the backup! And if the choice is be canceled or have a backup in a new Batman number one when Batman’s more popular than he’s been in twenty years, I’ll take the backup.
Blog@: That said, what do you see as the role of Manhunter in Gotham—not just as a character but in a creative or editorial sense, because eventually she’ll (theoretically) be going back to the west coast?
MA: There’s going to be a learning curve, I think, for all of us because Kate is a part of Gotham City now and a lot of questions will be answered and a lot of things will be brought up but Kate’s not only going to be appearing, hopefully, in these nine-page backups. She’ll be appearing elsewhere with other writers, too, and who knows what the future holds? The reaction has been really nice—that’s really been gratifying to see that a lot of people e-mailed me or posted to say that they wrote the book for Manhunter, so that’s nice. So yeah, I think it’s something new—I think it’s the smartest way to get new characters out there in people’s minds, because with the economy being as horrible as it is, and with retailers having their choice of 300 Avengers books or 1500 Batman books or 1700 X-Men books, putting these backups in books that compliment each other, allows people to check these things out. Because if you bought Streets of Gotham but you don’t care about Manhunter, I bet you’re going to read it anyway—because you paid for it. So why not, you know? And I think it’s smart of DC, I think it’s great. Manhunter and Blue Beetle are the only backups that have started yet, I think, but these backups too—when you look at the creative teams that are on them and the books that they’re in—these aren’t just old inventory stories that they’re burning off. These are, although they’re shorter stories in a monthly way, they’re still an active, viable part of the universe.
Blog@: Clearly they’re putting at least a little thought into what creative teams complement each other, because with Mike Norton on Blue Beetle, you get a guy whose overall look is a lot more suited to backing up [Booster Gold artist] Dan Jurgens than, say, Hamner would be, even though both of those guys are perfectly good and widely respected artists on that character.
MA: Oh, yeah, sure.
Blog@: Barbara Gordon has, in the past, expressed reservations about…well, let’s say about the way Kate does things. And yet here she says that the city needs some “real justice.” Is she changing her stance on lethal force here or what are we seeing in Oracle’s character?
MA: Well, you have to understand that Bruce has just died and a lot of things are happening to her right now. I do think that people are seeing smoke where there’s no fire, and they’re reading all kinds of things into that comment. Remember, too, that Kate isn’t just coming in as Manhunter but she’s coming in as the district attorney. But yeah, I think that Barbara is looking forward to having someone else in Gotham who is driven to do what needs to be done sometimes. I just think it’s human. As humans, we’re not always consistent. And if you catch any of us at the wrong part of the wrong day, you’d think we’re the most horrible human being alive so it’s all about context.
Blog@: In defense of the readers, though, I feel like part of why they’re seeing these things is that at the same time as Manhunter is rolling out, DC was pushing those little five-page teasers of James Robinson’s Cry For Justice series, in which Hal Jordan—not usually such an impetuous or violent character—is basically saying, “Let’s take it to these mothers.”
MA: But it’s believable in the sense that if you take the DC Universe from Identity Crisis to now, all the horrible stuff that’s happened to the heroes—they do need to be proactive, you know? The FBI and the CIA investigate things and try to stop things from happening before they do. Superheroes are generally reactors. We don’t see them being very proactive and if we do it’s always kind of marginalized like whatever version of the Outsiders we’re on now. There’s this sense that because they’re proactive they’re somehow outside the law, and I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. I’m actually really excited that James [Robinson] and Mark [Bagley] are doing the new Justice League of America. Just because the characters are frustrated now, and are stressed, doesn’t mean that they’re all becoming Wolverine. If you look at these things in the context of where these people are in their lives, nothing is being said out of character. And: people change, as well. If you want to read stories where Batgirl’s like, “Gee whilickers, Batman,” those stories exist in the Batgirl Showcase. The thing that’s great about these characters is that in the “real” DC Universe there needs to be some growth and change because without it, we’re just recycling the same stories over and over again.
Blog@: Kate’s met Superman, Batman, all these guys…but somehow her meeting Jim Gordon feels more important.
MA: Oh, yeah. She’s a legacy hero that became a legacy hero in her thirties. You know, she didn’t do the superhero thing until recently. She was a federal prosecutor who went after villains, you know? These crazy people with green hair and who shoot molten lava out of their ears and all that nonsense. She definitely identifies with the average human being, so she admires Gordon because Jim Gordon has been in the trenches in the most dangerous city in America for years and he is still, after everything that has happened to him—after his wife being murdered, his daughter being crippled, he himself almost being murdered three or four times—he is still a man of impeccable moral character. And that is an admirable thing—he’s fucking Elliot Ness! You know, in the DC Universe, he is a big fucking deal, and he should be given that respect. I thought that scene—I was shocked that people reacted to that so much, because when I was writing it I was just like, “Well, the moment she sees Commissioner Gordon, she’s going to be struck by getting to work with him.” It just felt really natural to me. She’s far more impressed with Jim Gordon than she is with Batman—because Batman has the ability to do what she does, in terms of taking down the villains. Jim Gordon, as an officer of the law, can’t kill the Joker. He’s doing everything he can within his profession and not compromising. Batman is arguably doing what he does because he’s doing the things the police can’t do…but he’s not doing what the police can’t do when it comes to the most important part of it. That’s her point-of-view.