There are many different ways to be a fan of something. You've got fans, who collect all the DVD's of their favorite actors or actresses, are first to stand in line when their new movie comes out and who crowd the message boards to proclaim their love. But you also have fans who dress up like their favorite characters, go to conventions and other events and perform like their heroes. A very professional group of enthusiasts that falls squarely into that second group is Gotham Public Works, consisting of Batman-fans who take their fandom to a whole other level.
When you look at the pictures on the website of the Gotham Public Works, you will immediately be impressed. The people behind the group have done their very best to immerse themselves as much into Batman's world as possible, and the results are amazing. But it's not just the way these fans look, it is also the story behind their passion that makes for very interesting reading. "Everybody who’s in GPW is in it cause to us (and themselves) they just basically are the character they represent," says the woman who portrays Harley Quinn in Gotham Public Works (In case you are not so up to speed with Batman's world, Harley Quinn is The Joker's girlfriend). "That’s a huge part of the 'magic' for us and hopefully for the people who like us.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea for Gotham Public Works?
A: Bats and I met back in ’99 when he, Joker and I were in line to register for the costume contest at SDCC, and once we shared who we were all dressing as we were extra happy to have met. Then later when we saw each other in costume we were mutually impressed and even more happy to have met! Bats and I stayed in touch, and there were long phone talks where we realized that we both had the same drive to be a part of the Bat-world in some interesting, deeper way (geez, that sounds creepy) than just watching it or reading it. Very gradually we started to figure out what that could be or how we wanted to do it, and once we at least knew that it would have something to do with trying to be the best physical representations of our characters that we could we slapped a name on it and went from there!
Q: Growing up, did you used to 'play Batman' in the streets? If so, which character were you?
A: I wish!! I was sadly unwise in the ways of the Bat at that age. That was my She-Ra and Rainbow Brite time.
Q: How important were the Batman characters when you were growing up? Did you read the comics, or watch the TV-show?
A: I’m still bummed that I bloomed kinda late with Batman. My earliest memory of Bat-fandom was when Batman Returns came out when I was about 13 and getting the poster for my room, then a few years later I got REALLY, really into the animated series, and pretty soon I was smitten with the whole thing. Started finally reading the comics, buying tons of the goodies, arguing with people about why Joker does love Harley or whether the current storylines were retarded… An acceptable Bat-geek!
Q: What do you think of the Batman movies? Did you see the latest one for instance, and how do you think it compares to Tim Burton's batmovies? Do you think the movie has given the Batman franchise a new lease on life?
A: Begins was SUCH a huge relief!! It made me sooo happy and encouraged. I still love the feel and the aesthetic of Burton’s take too, and his will always be totally classic. Nolan and Goyer have the benefit of knowing what maybe didn’t work in the past and they did such a great job of righting the wrongs and giving you a vision of Batman’s world that really made sense but is still magic and so much truer to the comics.
Um. And there were some other ones too! “Forever” was groovy…
Q: If you read the comics or watch the movies, do the characters ever do anything that makes you think: my character would never do that?
A: Sadly, yeah. I’ve seen a lot of that with Harley (and sometimes with Joker via Harley) as they’ve tried to redefine her for the comics, but fortunately they’ve also done a lot of good with her (and them) in that universe too. I just wish it was more. Since everybody elses characters are more established I don’t think that happens as much for them, but now and then. It’s the nature of it…
Q: What can people expect when they see one of your performances? And can the crowd participate in any way?
A: Well, the main stuff that we end up doing is definitely more what I’d call an “appearance” than a “performance”. But what we really pride ourselves in and what tends to surprise a lot of people is that as much as possible when you see us you get that character; not what feels like just somebody in a costume. We refer to ourselves and each other as our characters, we talk like them and try to just say what they would say and do what they would do, and even interact with each other the way they would interact with each other. I mean, the actual behaviors of course have to get toned down by a HUGE degree cause we’re not gonna have Joker try to kill everybody or make me tie up Pengy but, you know, in the confines of the situation we do what we can.
Q: What is the coolest thing that has ever happened to you during one of your appearances?
A: Oy, that’s tough! Well, a lot of really amazing things have happened because we were suited up or cause of what we do. But to answer your question right I guess it’s just really whenever we draw a huge, lingering crowd. We don’t dress up for general public stuff all that often so when we do it’s still so freaking cool to see this massive wall of people form just to watch us and take pictures of us, and to see that wall not break up till we split or till security says it’s blocking the walkway too much! It’s just such an amazing, cool thing every time.
Q: For what type of events can you be booked? And was there ever an event that you just had to say no to?
A: Well, we’re still actually kind of undefined as a group and have never bothered yet to make ourselves super officially available for bookings, but all kinds of different gigs still come to us randomly now and then. So far we’ve always been asked to do pretty cool and kosher stuff though. I wish I had a more exciting answer for you!
Q: When you go to something like a comic-con, do you prepare a performance in advance, or is it more or less freestyle?
A: Totally freestyle so far. Years ago we’d planned on having some kinds of skits or whatever, and Joker and I had even taken some stage combat lessons just for fun, but we realized really fast that situations at conventions and stuff really don’t lend themselves to breaking out into fun action sequences. Not scripted ones anyway! Hopefully we’ll get to show off that side of what we’re made of if we ever get our film off the ground. Cross your fingers, please!
Q: You would like to make your own Batman-movie someday?
A: We’re still trying to pull together our own big bag o’ money to do just that! Or at least that for 2 to 22 minutes. Wish us luck! But I think we’ve always envisioned combining the grittiness and darkness and purity of the characters from the comics, with the type of fun storytelling and more streamlined Bat-universe from the animated series. If all those swanky buzzwords make sense. It’d be really character driven and as dimensional as we could make it, but definitely with some good action. And I’d do all my own stunts!! And you’d see snippets of Harley and Joker’s home life and lots of costume changes and no villains would die! And a dance sequence if I had my way.
Q: Your outfits look amazing, do you make those yourself?
A: Thanks! Each of our suits is a whole different story. Bats makes his own and most of the hero suits, and he makes certain pieces for a lot of our suits, and Black Canary makes hers too. The rest of us either find good resources to piece ours together or we work closely with other people to get the main parts or certain accessories custom-made, and then we’ll make or tweak little parts ourselves… A mish-mash of methods.
Q: Is your group still expanding? Are more characters being added? And if somebody is really good at a certain Bat-character, what does he have to do to be able to join Gotham Public Works?
A: We’re always expanding! Sometimes faster than we’re able to manage and so we’ve got a lot of people waiting to go through the process of becoming a member or not. GPW’s really just the elaborate hobby of a bunch of geeks so it gets hard to keep up with it when it wants to grow in spite of us. But we do have a new character officially in who’s in the process of getting ready to be debuted, and we have at least 4 other people on deck for consideration into the group. And sending in an application thing is really easy. We’ve got a page on our website that explains what to do.
Q: When you put on that outfit, how does it make you feel? Are you really immersed into the character?
A: Whenever I first get on the makeup and the suit things are usually really hectic and stressful, so at first I’m the bitchiest Harley you’ve ever seen and I get afraid that I won’t be able to go to my good Harley place, but once everything mellows out and it’s time to roll it’s like the character always manages to seep in and take over, and it’s so wonderful. In fact it’ll even feel weird and gross if I have to drop the voice and step out of character for some reason, but with the suit and makeup on it is really easy to slip into the Harley part of myself. I can get away with a lot more goofy, obnoxious stuff dressed like that too! Whole lotta freedom.
Q: Do you do any other type of performing outside of Gotham Public Works?
A: Yeah, actually! I do burlesque and go-go dancing now and then, I’ve done a teeny bit of acting and I’m trying to do more, I do little acts for random shows sometimes, a little bit of modeling, little bit of mime, and Joker and I practice the clowny arts when we can. Stuff like that. I know Bats and Pengy have done some acting, Mad Hatter acted as a kid and he’s now a voice over actor and director for anime, Catwoman’s an amazing musician, and so is Bats, actually! Maybe we should sell her album on the site…
Q: Who does your group consist of?
A: As of this very moment we’ve got Batman, Joker, Harley, Catwoman, Penguin, Black Canary, Mad Hatter, and the new guy coming in is Two-Face who we’re really excited about!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Or is that a secret identity you don't want to reveal?
A: You’ll have to buy my biography!
Q: Final question: Do Harley Quinn and Catwoman get a lot of marriage proposals?
A: Do people really do that?! You hear about that and it’s so weirdly Victorian and yet insincere. Our Joker proposed to me and I took him up on it, and I think it’s maybe happened to me and Catwoman at least once or twice each in a facetious way. We get a lot of other kinds of proposals though! I’ll leave the rest to your imagination ;)
To read more about Gotham Public Works, go check their website here.
All images courtesy of Gotham Public Works