Wednesday, June 27, 2012


With the 6-part Arkham City "End Game" story over, I guess it's time to share some final thoughts and reflections.

I think with a lot of stories, one can be under the gun as a writer. Deadlines and schedules are constantly changed around as you're trying to finish everything. Early ideas and drafts of stories probably look a lot different than the finished product, as you apply notes and cut out and add things at your own discretion or encouraged to by the company. It can sometimes be a minor miracle if everything turns out as it should, much less if the reader enjoys it at the end of the day.

I am extremely happy with the way it all came together. And much of that starts with the artist, Jason Shawn Alexander. It was quite the vetting process trying to not only find someone that fit the tone of this dark story, but someone that was available. But when I was presented with his art, I was sold. Jason comes from a very naturalistic style to his work. His characters look very human, and real in all the right and wrong ways. Heroic, innocent, and when needed, very disturbing. He captures all of that in his storytelling and in a lot of very reflective moments with the characters, we're brought into the story and into the panels with them. I look forward to all of Jason's future projects and hope we get a chance to reteam sometime down the line.

As far as the deathtrap scenario of chapter 5 and how that was resolved (or wasn't resolved) in chapter 6, my approach to it was this… I didn't want to make it conclusive. I didn't want to show exactly how Batman could've escaped that locked cell surrounded by all the bombs within. I wanted to leave that to the reader. It's sort of my pet peeve of the dumbing down of entertainment and the over explanation of everything. So many times, you're presented with how something turns out in comics, shows, and movies. And at the end of it, it's inevitable. You'll turn to your friends or think to yourself, "Yeah, but I would've done it this way instead."  Think of this as me allowing that to happen. To bring that imagination back to comics. To not spell everything out. To let each of you to come up with your own reason for how this occurred and how Batman escaped. I know I have my own idea how it happened. And now you can have your own too.

I know there's still a lot of debate over whether the Joker is dead or not. I think comics in general have molded our minds to think, dead is never dead. That characters come back, both heroes and especially villains. That nothing is ever final. But what if it were? The thing I love about the Arkham-verse in the games, is that they don't have to follow those notions at all. It's its own universe, separate from the regular DC comic continuity and universe. What happens together in the games and the Arkham related comics is its own thing. And with that, we're able to explore what actually does happen when the greatest threat to Batman and Gotham is no longer with us. And that's not to say that none of us involved don't like the Joker. Quite the opposite. But it should be fascinating the new ground still yet to be discovered.

There will always be those detractors that think this can be another trick from the Joker, it could be a version of Clayface in disguise, another switcheroo, a clone… any number of excuses why it isn't him. That even if they cried out to see an autopsy shown in the comics, that they still wouldn't believe the results. That any way you presented it, there'd always be disbelief or outright denial. Whether that's because of how comics have always been presented or not, or just the love for the character and wanting to see his return…it's probably all of that. But as a writer, I'm always interested in what comes next. No one really gets to tell the aftermath of death in comics very often, because we're usually spoiled knowing the character is returning before their body is even cold. But here, Joker's body isn't cold anymore. It's very burnt and ashy. I'm ready to accept that and hope the readers are too.


Monday, June 25, 2012


Just like I'm doing with Arkham Unhinged, I thought I'd go through each print issue of Batman Beyond Unlimited and give some thoughts or easter eggs concerning the Justice League Beyond portion of the issue. So we'll start with issue #1 and eventually catch up to the current released print issue. Also I'll list the episodes that might tie-in specifically with the story, for those of you that would like to follow along as avid watchers or those new to the show.

To launch Justice League Beyond, Dustin and I wanted to hit the ground running. I think some of the best episodes or movies for the DCAU jump right into the action and then flow out from there. And if we could tie into previous Batman Beyond episodes (as well as Batman:TAS, Superman: TAS, and the two Justice League series), then even better. It would bring some familiarity while also moving the story forward.


• I thought it would be cool to set up a gang war in Gotham between the Jokerz as well as a gang of Splicers. The Splicers would be remnants of the group that was affiliated with Dr.Able Cuvier, who founded the gene splicing technology. But those that've seen the episode, saw his eventual disappearance or destruction. I figured it wouldn't be long before the remaining people would gather together and start their own gang. That they named themselves the "Animal Kingdom", when there was a similar named group that just appeared in the Batwing comic, was just an odd coincidence (especially since we'd been working on this comic a year before Batwing hit the stands).

Watch List:  Batman Beyond episode "Splicers"

I don't know if Dustin drew the character here intentionally or not, but he does bear a striking resemblance to Howard Groote from Batman Beyond (I probably should've added his glasses, but maybe ol' Groote is using contact lenses here).

Sorry, no Bonk..."dead"
• Enter the Jokerz. Even though the gang from the movie never was seen mixing with the gang from the show, I always figured the Jokerz are a vast gang in Neo-Gotham. Why wouldn't they all come in contact and work together. So there's a lot of familiar faces here from both groups as well as some new ones that Dustin created. Plus I hope to make a running gag of the Dee Dee twins always with different boyfriends (or in this case, boyfriend) with each appearance. Here they've saddled up next to the Jokerz gang leader.

Watch List:  Batman Beyond "Return Of The Joker" movie


• Whenever possible, Dustin and I wanted to add new characters. This Jokerz member specifically gets the name of "Punchy". The idea was for some demented Jack-In-The-Box styled clown, that wore a box that would have different weapons and contraptions that could pop out of it. And of course, a pet monkey named "Bobo" that could act as both instigator, cheerleader, and early warning device.


• Having Dana be at Hamilton Hill H.S. during "Homecoming Week" during an attack of GOLEM robots, was a way to put Terry's girlfriend in danger while also being a nice nod back to the show.

Watch List:  Batman Beyond episode "Golem"

• Who didn't love that new metal Batsuit that Bruce wore when fighting Inque? It was a nice call back to that episode by having it in the batcave.

Watch List:  Batman Beyond episode "Disappearing Inque"


• I wanted to expand on Bizarro's family. That versions of him could've been created through experiments. Dustin did a nice job designing Bizarra and Kidzarro to look a lot like zombified versions of Supergirl and Superboy.

• Instead of just having the standard Phantom Zone device from the Superman: TAS that put the criminals inside the device, I thought it might be interesting to have an additional way to imprison, collect, and store villains that they caught. The flat plates they'd be contained in, could be moved by one of the League's robots to be stacked and filed away in a secure area. Of course it has a close resemblance to the Phantom Zone from the Donner Superman movies.


• With Micron gone rogue, it isn't the first time something like this has happened. The League reflects on the earlier incident where Superman was mind controlled by Darkseid, even wearing a new uniform.

Watch List:  Superman TAS episode "Legacy part 1"

• Also the time the whole future League was under control of Starro. Definitely a fitting call back since this was the first appearance of the future League in Batman Beyond.

Watch List:  Batman Beyond episode "The Call part 2"

So yeah, there are quite a lot of nods in the very first issue towards the old shows. And that will continue in future issues, although maybe not as many as we put into this first issue. But it sure was fun to see. That should provide some background on the first issue. And we'll cover more issues in the days and weeks ahead.

Special thanks for screenshots provided by World's Finest Online, a real go-to source for anything and everything animated in the DC universe!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The next to last chapter of Arkham City End Game came out this week. With this chapter, I felt it was important to sort of come back to the beginning. Since the Arkham-verse of the games started with Arkham Asylum, it would seem fitting to bring it back full circle here. And you get to see the passage of time with how the island appears today, over a year since the first game took place.

The whole purpose of End Game was to really put Batman through an emotional wringer with the Joker, in life and in death. And of course the chaotic effect that has on everyone around them.

I recall reading a tumblr feed where someone said the story and flashbacks had the feel of "Silence Of The Lambs", and I take that as the highest of compliments. There's plenty of knockdown action stories out there with Batman in them. But I'll always gravitate to the more psychological aspects, which is what I was attempting in End Game. Especially when pitting Batman against the Joker for the fate of their souls. And having it all take place in a dark cell in a long abandoned Asylum seemed fitting. As if Arkham couldn't get any creepier.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


A question that gets asked often about the Beyond universe (for Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond, and Justice League Beyond) is where does it all fit? Is this the canonized future of the DC new52 universe? Is this the future timeline of the shows? Is it somewhere in-between?

It is one of those things I understand why people would want to know, but it's also probably one of my biggest pet peeves of comics…continuity.

Continuity can be a necessary thing, to have characters grow, change, and adapt in the long lives of comics in general. It's that whole illusion of change. Things happen, characters marry, die, come back from death, join teams, quit teams, become enemies, become allies…and eventually still sort of revert to status quo. The idea is that the comics and characters have to stay relevant to each generation that buys and reads them, so they can't realistically age them with their audience (of course, that's where future stories can play with the idea of these youthful characters at an elderly age).

Continuity can be the lifeblood of these stories, but it can also be the aneurysm that kills the entertainment to the audience. I always feel, once the audience starts asking where and when a story takes place…once they get that concerned with the specifics of it…then it feels like comics are just being filed away in a numerical dewey decimal system in their library collection. My answer is always, try not to think about it. Hopefully my job is to entertain you with the story being told, rather than how it fits if my future character hasn't had the same experiences as the same character in the current DC universe.

What also goes hand-in-hand when it comes to continuity is…are all these comics accessible? And I can see the argument for and against it on both sides. There are many comics where it's tough to jump in, due to the vast continuity and history of all the stories previous to the current one. That it makes it tough for a new buyer or even a regular reader to keep up with everything. And that will probably always be a struggle for the companies and creators to attempt to work around. But at the same time, I always wonder to myself….SO WHAT? 

My problem is the dumbing down of entertainment. You know what I mean. When movie trailers show you the entire film in that 2 minute preview, where you know everything before you've seen it. Where tv shows will eventually do a "clip show" that replays all of the previous highlights of the season to get a new viewer brought up to speed. Or even in comics, where sometimes every new storyline or every issue would rename and reintroduce all the main characters before the story would begin (X-Men was notorious for this back in the Claremont days). I understand the mentality that every comic or every show might be someone's first, but I also feel it starts to dumb down the entertainment and leans more towards the audience being idiots that can't figure it out for themselves. Maybe they have a point and need to do this, but I think that sells the audience short.  If you're constantly dumbing it down, then don't be surprised the audience you will get…a dumb one.

I think back to when I was a kid picking up comics for the first time. My first foray into reading comics didn't come with a number #1 issue or a self contained mini-series. It was right in the middle (issue 24 for one title and in the 300s for another). Now did the comics do a good job recapping everything I missed? Or were they well told enough that I could get an idea of who the characters were and just be entertained by the story? Definitely the latter.  Plus…get this…once I bought these titles and was interested, I actually sought out previous back issues. And today, is even easier with stories that get collected into trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

With all my vehemence against the idea of continuity, it's probably ironic that Justice League Beyond relies pretty heavily on it. It's a comic based on a show that had it's own continuity spread out over many series, much of which I tied into the stories being told. It definitely caters towards the hardcore fan that grew up watching those shows, with plenty of easter egg references to storylines and episodes that happened for shows that are over 5 to 10 years old now. At the same time, it gives me a lot of joy when I've read reviews from people with either a passing familiarity with the shows, or never watched them at all; but still found the Justice League Beyond comics entertaining. They might not know who these characters are or their history, but they're onboard for how we're telling the story today. And maybe they'll seek out the shows to further their enjoyment. It means I've done my job.

So where does Justice League Beyond take place in the continuity of the DC Universe? The answer…wherever you want it to. I leave it up to the reader to decide if this is THE future, a possible future, alternate timeline, alternate world, animated canon…whatever they want. And if it doesn't match up to how they want the characters to be towards the current DC Universe, well…there's always the new52.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Artists are always told to carry a sketchbook with them everywhere. That way you can draw the world around you, whether you're sitting at a coffee shop, waiting at the doctor's office, or stuck in Jury Duty (yup…my first professional comic job, I had to report downtown to jury duty. And I wasn't about to lose my gig, so I brought artwork with me to ink in the lobby while I waited to see if I'd get called up to a room. Thankfully, I didn't). With writers, I think the advice is very similar. I'm never too far away from having something to scribble down on.

The idea is that your "writing time" might not come in a traditional working fashion. Of course you'd like to set aside a specific chunk of hours out of the day to sit down, without distractions, and write. But it's not always going to be that convenient. There's a good chance, you won't even be home or around the computer when that flash of inspiration happens.

For me, ideas are constantly forming. A never ending generator of mad ideas. And it's never on a schedule. And sometimes, never when I'm in front of a computer. I used to just think, I'll remember this thought and pull from it when I get the chance later. But as we know…that usually never happens. It's easy to forget as thoughts can be fleeting. Or we might not remember exactly all the specifics of the idea when we came up with it originally. And it turns into a bad facsimile whatever we half-remember.

So I'm never too far away from a post-it note or scrap of paper. Or even a small notepad or notebook to bring with me. And you technologically savvy people with your texting devices…that'll work too. I just like having something nearby that I can jot down notes longform. Can be as sparse as a word or a phrase (although that can lead to misinterpretation later if you wait to expand on it further). Or most likely, I'll start jotting down sentences and bulletpoints. And of course, these don't have to be fully fleshed out ideas. You're brainstorming here and most if not all will get changed later. But it's always good to get those initial thoughts down, and build out of it.

Of course, anyone visiting you will think you're some wild conspiracy theorist, with lots of scraps of paper and scribblings, randomly scattered around the room. But cast those brainless fools aside….you're an entertainment inventor. And that half scrawled note might turn into your next big story. Just make sure you transfer those ideas onto your computer first, before you throw away and recycle that paper.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


With the start of this issue going forward, we'd be back to doing stories out of consecutive order. We could jump around in the timeline of the Arkham-verse. And I know one of the things that I wanted to further expand upon and Rocksteady was interested in, was the backstory of the feud between Joker and Penguin, hinted at in the game. They both control large gangs in their own section of town in Arkham City, and a rivalry was formed. And now was the opportunity to flesh out how that started.

I kind of think it's a bit of a lopsided rivalry. Penguin has a pure disdain for the Joker after he was humiliated by him in the Iceberg Lounge years ago. And he's sort of taken it upon himself to go after the Joker and his clowns in the city whenever possible. I think Joker is amused by this, which is why the degree of his attacks can range between gags (throwing pies) to deathly serious (acid wine). That's what makes the Joker so unconventional and dangerous. You never know how much of a threat he'll become in the moment. I think some fans were expecting some type of huge battle between the two in this story. And we'll see more attacks from both sides in future installments. But I kind of like the idea that Joker is more playful when it comes to the Penguin, and not as serious as he can be if he really wanted to.

It's weird to think back how long ago this was written. I remember visiting the Burbank offices to see and play Arkham City a month before it was released. And at that time I was already in the process of writing this script. I remember because an idea came to me while playing the game and seeing Penguin's shark "Tiny" for the first time. I thought it might be fun to show a smaller baby version of the shark for this story in the flashback to the Iceberg Lounge (we already had seals and penguins in an enclosure, and thought it would be fun to have a baby shark in an aquarium as a nice foreshadow to its appearance in the game). Sadly it never made it into the art. A lot of ideas get left on the cutting room floor in the process to get the work in on time, whether intentional or not. Would've been fun to see though.

Simon Colby art (left) / Alex Ross design (right)
What was intentional was Joker's tuxedoed appearance at the Iceberg Lounge in the flashback, owing an influence nod to Alex Ross' famous cover. I thought for Joker to make an appearance at a public event and not draw too much attention (although keeping the green hair gives it away), he would dress the part in formal wear and even put on normal flesh makeup to cover up his white skin. Harley's design was all artist Simon Coleby's doing. I think I mentioned to put her in some kind of red dress, but I'm glad he kept the domino mask on her. Gives her an almost masquerade ball look to her appearance.

I think we're all caught up now for the print released issues. I'll try to keep this a regular thing when each new issue hits the stores, to give a little running commentary. And of course, any questions or comments you have on these specific issues, feel free to comment below and I'll reply back. Thanks!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Most of the stories in Arkham Unhinged are stand alone one-shots at 30 pages long. To use a comic term, they were "done-in-ones". One story in one issue. And breaking conventional logic, I decided that it would be more fun to jump around and not have them all line up in order. In Arkham City, the game takes place in one long night with Batman inside the city with the criminals. But for the comics, the idea was we'd be able to use the vast timeline in the Arkham-verse set up in both games. We could tell stories during or before Arkham City, during Arkham Asylum (which takes place a year before Arkham City), or even further into the past. Whatever benefited the story and the characters involved. That said, it maybe made it harder for the casual reader to understand. They might get confused why one villain would appear in one issue one month, and then their next appearance might not relate to it at all if the story jumped ahead or behind from the last story we saw them in. I always tried to put in specific "markers" into the stories so those playing the games might be able to figure out where in the timeline of the game the story could fit. But it always made it interesting reading fan reactions if they were able to pick up where the stories took place, or if they were confused altogether.

As far as issue two goes…it was a rare exception. It picked up right after the end of the story in issue one. A captured Two-Face and Catwoman (from the end of last issue) are en route towards Arkham City. And Batman is in pursuit but fails to release them. And this is all told later that night by Batman to Jim Gordon on the top of a building. It's a chance to tie-in a lot of elements of the game, the players involved, and flashback to various elements that could be further explained (such as Hugo Strange working at Arkham Asylum of the first game, behind the scenes, when he never appeared in that game to begin with).

Ching's rough layout and finished pencils
Stories like this are also great because it's a chance to flesh out characters that didn't get much screen time in the games themselves. Jim Gordon has only a few scenes sprinkled into both games, so to have an extended issue that has him and Batman having one of their great rooftop talks is what Batman comics are all about. And it's a nice way to bring readers up to speed on some backstory while the characters are unaware that they're being advanced on by Tyger soldiers as the action builds to its conclusion.

Also part of the fun of working on a project like this, is sort of becoming a de facto art director. To keep to a weekly schedule releasing these Arkham comics, it was always going to be a matter of turning in a lot of scripts in advance and have a lot of artists involved (usually one per story). So it comes down to the editor and I to find various artists that have an open schedule. For this issue, I had stumbled across the art of Brian Ching on deviant art (check out the Links column on the far right to find a direct path to his site). His pencils looked incredibly detailed and a nice fit for this story. So it came as a surprise when I recommended him to my editor, only to find that he had already seen and hired him for this story. Pretty cool!

Inks by Livesay

Friday, June 15, 2012


Even though there are multiple issues of Arkham Unhinged out there in digital release, since that was how it was presented first, we're now starting to see the release of the print issues (for those that prefer to buy and read their comics on paper rather than on the computer screen). I'm happy there are both options available, to get as much of an expanded audience as possible. But I figured I'd take this time to get caught up on the print released versions and maybe shed a little insight on each issue.

To start, the Arkham City digital exclusive stories had done well and maybe even better than they originally thought. DC had an order to do 5 of them (which is why that many were collected into the Arkham City hardcover collection along with the comic mini-series). But early into the run of doing those stories, they decided to expand to 7. And then things were underway to release ongoing stories based on the Arkham-verse presented in the two games, Arkham City and Arkham Asylum. So very quickly, Arkham Unhinged by way of the previous Arkham comics, would become a huge cornerstone in the launch of exclusive digital comics content for DC.

For the first issue, DC and Rocksteady already had a suggestion in place. Rocksteady had a backstory already written by their staff for how Catwoman and Two-Face were the last to be caught and enter into Arkham City. This would actually set up their very first scene in the game, when Catwoman tries to steal intel from Two-Face.

The approach to scripting off a plot rather than just writing from scratch, can be a different mindset for a writer. Since I had already come off scripting Paul Dini's plots (for those couple issues of Streets Of Gotham as well as the previous Arkham City digital exclusive stories), I was already pretty comfortable with it. The idea is that you take the plot that you're given, which can be anywhere from a loose springboard of a few paragraphs that summarizes the story, or a longer outline sometimes with full dialogue (in this case an actual full teleplay); and then you rework it into a full script. You figure out how it all fits into the length you're provided (in this case, 30 pages). You figure out how to pace it out, panel by panel. How to end each "chapter" on a cliffhanger (in the case of digital, the idea is each issue/chapter is 10 pages in length that leads into the next one). And you add, rewrite, or remove dialogue that you've been given. Or sometimes create whole new scenes as well. You sort of become a film editor or story editor, as it's up to you to take what you start with, and work it out so you get a complete comic out of it.

The few times I've gotten scripting credits, I always try to remain faithful to the original plot or story. I try not to deviate from it too badly, since my job is to assist and not try to wrench credit away from where the idea came from. But sometimes you get the chance to add things here or there that might not have been in the original plot. And I think as long as it builds and helps the idea, then that's your job as well. And being an artist that writes, I think that helps being a scripter. You're able to see your story visually, and can make artistic decisions on how to write panel descriptions for the artist to interpret. As an example, when the teleplay introduced Two-Face, the main focus was on him rolling his famous coin over his knuckles as he sits in his car. We'd know it was him but wouldn't get a clear look. But I thought it might help play better to show that, but also we'd see both halves of his face lit from outside the car as he's driving. It's an artistic choice that comes into play while scripting. Same result, but better visually realized.

Scripting can be a fun exercise to do. Most writers ideally like to work alone and get full credit. To come up with the idea and craft the story to their taste. There are a few co-writers that work together in comics, but they are few and far between. And when it comes to scripting, I think the fun challenge is to see if you can take someone else's story and make it better. In that way it's a lot like inking…I'm taking the pencils from the artist, and trying to clean them up and present them in the best fashion I can with ink. But of course, it's always fun to be the sole writer on anything, and receive all the accolades (and lumps) that come with it. With scripting, you might fall into the easy mindset that if people didn't like it, then you can always say "hey, that's the story I was given to work from". But you're a part of the collaboration team on it, so if your name is on it, you can be just as much to blame. Or rewarded.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


"Capes are sooo last century!"
There's something to be said for getting the chance to write characters you love. Characters you grew up with. To have the chance to play in that sandbox, might be one of the most enticing things about working in comics (that and of course owning and telling stories of your own creations). But it's that whole idea that the toys you loved as a kid, you're now getting to play with as an adult. Just as long as you don't break them. You want a chance to make your mark on a title, while also being respectful to the property and what has come before. And who knows…maybe someone reading it today will be inspired just like you were when you first came across it years ago. Every generation and every comic run inspiring the next.

I've been working in comics on the art side of things for the past 13 years, but only more recently in the last few years expanding out into writing. And I don't know if you're ever quite ready to be given the keys to the kingdom. Yet you always sort of hope you will get that chance, and then…not screw it up.

Cover prelims by Dustin Nguyen
With Justice League Beyond, I was pretty darned ready. Many years ready. I had seen every single episode of  the DC animated shows when they first aired. Batman:TAS all the way up through Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited. Ah the days of recording episodes, sans commercials, on VHS tapes (thankfully we now have DVD series sets of everything). I had shown my art portfolio and taken storyboard tests to try to get a job on the show. And of course, after working in comics and building up enough of a resume of work at DC, Dustin and I had proven ourselves and pitched the project to them. Little did we know that the whole Beyond universe would sort of grow from there into what it is now.

When Batman Beyond was being created as an animated series, they went the route of going forward. All new characters and villains. They didn't want to take the easy road and fall back into just having offspring of the villains (i.e. Two-Face Jr.) or show a lot of the older DC characters that might still be alive. It could've backfired, but it was a smart move to establish the new direction. Plus they still had an older Bruce Wayne to have that tie to the past. For the comics, I feel we can sort of tread both grounds. The comic fans are always interested in what happened with certain characters and who is still around and alive in the future. But we also get to explore new territory and will create new characters as we move forward. But I definitely wanted to use this as a chance to not only tie into the Batman Beyond show, but Justice League Unlimited as well. There's some definite middle ground to cover whenever we decide to flashback. It's a real exciting prospect to have that ability to maybe iron things out as well as how that relates to moving forward.

Cover by Dave Wilkins
With the Arkham City property, I was less prepared, but no less enthused. See…I had given up on gaming for the most part, after high school. The years spent playing Atari, Nintendo, and Playstation were behind me. I knew once I was trying to break into comics, I made a focused effort to set those aside and concentrate only on creating art samples and going to conventions to try to get work. Years and years of this paid off. And then the real work began with chaining yourself to the art table and staying on deadline. And as it goes with things you put down…you sometimes have a tendency to not pick them up again. Aside from hearing about games or watching friends play, they were out of my life.

But once I was brought on to help script some Arkham City comics which led into launching an ongoing Arkham Unhinged title, it was now time to get back into gaming (at least in Gotham). Got myself a PS3, plowed through Arkham Asylum in a couple weeks, and then got to play Arkham City before it was released. I was devouring as much information on the topic that I could get my hands or eyes on. For awhile there, it felt like I was living a life in Gotham. I'd track down all the gaming guides, read articles online, look at promotional art and youtube clips. I wanted to be as versed in the games as I could when writing them. And as I played the games, I was taking down notes, noticing stories and ideas that could come out of those games. It was a real crash course, and still is as we continue forward. That I get the chance to tell stories in current game Gotham as well as future Gotham for Beyond, is a fun treat.

In comics, you don't always get to work on things you want. Most of the time, you're handed and take whatever you're given (especially if you want to make a career and living out of this). You might toil on something you know nothing about, with unfamiliar characters, many that you aren't interested in writing or drawing. All with the hope that, around the corner, you'll get a chance to work on characters you do know. Stuff that you were a fan of. Titles you were buying to read and enjoy and now are contributing to. So I guess the idea is, to stick with it. It won't be given to you. With anything in life, the more you work at it and prove yourself, the better the reward.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Every writer probably has that one great Batman/Joker story in them. It's one of those things you hear about constantly when comic professionals are asked or talk about in interviews. As creators, and even many fans, you all hope for that one day where you'll get your chance to tell it. That if you get that one opportunity to write Batman, you'll have that idea ready to go and can finally share it with the world. For most of us, that never happens. Currently I'm getting that opportunity.

Arkham City: End Game is a 6-part digital comic that takes place after the end of the Batman Arkham City game. And a chance to tell a very personal story how the Joker has affected all of those around him, in life and in death. The first three chapters are available now, and the fourth gets released today. How's that for timing?
Cover Idea #1

I've had a Batman/Joker story I've wanted to tell. Something I had thought of and written down years ago, back when I was inking Batman: Streets Of Gotham. Pardon the vagueness, but I always had this picture in mind of a circumstance where Batman would confront the Joker after a criminal act, but would have lost the ability to transport him back to Arkham by vehicle. So he would have to walk him back miles and miles through the streets of Gotham, and the perilous nature that would entail. I think I even called it "The Long Walk". I amused myself, told friends and a few pros, but basically filed it away as something that I probably would never get around to telling.

Then Arkham City happened. And I was brought on at first to help co-script some digital exclusive stories with Paul Dini. And that lead to writing ongoing stories for Arkham Unhinged. And with the impending release of "Harley Quinn's Revenge" downloadable content, it was decided to have a special comic written up that would help set that up. But I wanted to go one further. I wanted to tell a story right after the end of the game, leading up to the DLC, and after the DLC. And tie in a flashback to a personal story between Batman and the Joker. I now had my shot…dust off my idea, rewrite it, and make it fit into part of Joker's own revenge plan he set up as a contingency for his death. To throw Gotham into a mad state of chaos, as one last jab at Batman.

Cover Idea #2
It would be a very psychologically driven story, and less about BAM POW fighting. How Joker gets into the heads of anyone he comes in contact with, with his favorite adversary (victim) being Batman. To me, it's more of a thrill to get two people locked together in a room to battle with their minds more than their fists. Probably why that interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker in "The Dark Knight" speaks to so much of us. Joker always knows just the right buttons to press. That no matter how badly you question him, how badly you try to get the information out of him, that he'll just laugh in your face and force you to come down to his level. To go against every ideal and moral you have until you break. And he wins.

So the release of the fourth chapter (issue) of Arkham City End Game is just part of that one great Batman/Joker story I always wanted to tell. And it continues on from there into the last two chapters in the following weeks. That I also get to tell this story based around Joker's death, makes it that much more exciting.

Final Wraparound Cover - Pencils by Patrick Gleason & inks by yours truly

Monday, June 11, 2012


Sometimes a job comes along that is so easy. So perfect. That you wonder why all assignments can't be that way. But you count your blessings that you experienced it at all. And maybe, aim to achieve the results with all your work in the same way. That's how I feel about working on Zatanna.

Inking had been steady work by this point with long runs on Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham. But I'm never satisfied and always looking for the next thing. So usually every few months or more, I tend to have a ritual of checking around with editors and companies, to see if there's anything available that I can work on. I might already have work on my plate, but that doesn't mean I can't take on more. It probably comes from my first year of working in comics, where work dried up quickly, and I had nothing for about a year's stretch of time. It's a scary prospect working freelance, never knowing if there will be a "next time". If your current work might be your last work. So even when work is steady and busy, I never feel comfortable. I always want more. I never want to turn down a job, even if it means finding a way to juggle a few things at the same time.

The success rate when it comes to landing something by asking around, has to be in the low percentile. Like single digits. It usually never works, for a number of reasons. Most editors only work with their small group of talent they manage on their books. There's not a lot of openings for someone new or even someone proven, as projects get tied up months (or years) in advance. Not to mention, just cold call emailing editors you haven't even worked for is just frustration waiting to happen. Most won't answer your emails (take note aspiring creators…it's as tough for the "pros" as it is for those trying to break in). And those that do, might give the perfunctory "sorry, I got nothing but will keep you in mind". And who can blame 'em. Their email boxes are full every day with multiple requests just like mine, in addition to the real work they're trying to get done. You've won half the battle if you even get any response back at all.

So I was surprised when after I sent an email to Joey Cavallieri, editor on Zatanna, that he responded back quickly. Never underestimate perfect timing. It just happened that when I wrote, he was in the market to do a lot of one issue stories. Little did I know at the time, that the title was nearing the end of its run, so they needed a few of these to wrap things up. I think in my initial email, I even sent in a quick springboard idea for what a story might be. So when he came back and said to send him a few more to pick from, that was all I needed to hear. I had a few other ideas for stories ready to go, and fired them off. And I'd say within a day or two's time, Joey had selected the one he was interested in, and then I was off to write a beat sheet breakdown for what happens on each page of the 20 page story.

initial hunter designs by Jamal Igle
My initial pitch to the story went like this:

After performing multiple shows and benefits over a weekend, Zatanna is worn down to the point of exhaustion. But instead of being allowed to rest to restore her powers; she's on the run, placed in a life or death situation. An ancient order that has hunted the makers of witchcraft throughout time (as well as killing other species of warlocks, werecreatures, vampir, and sasquatch), has set its sights on the mistress of magic. It is up to a child stagehand to help guide and protect Zee in her weakened condition, as she uses her last vestiges of power to use the child as a vessel to channel her remaining power against the order. By the end of the story, they'll have transported the current members of the order back through time to the famous witch trials, where they'll ironically be mistaken for users of witchcraft, to be contained and punished.

Upon writing up the outline and scripting it, I decided it might work better to have Zatanna alone on the run as she was being hunted. I'm sure there would be added tension if she was trying to protect a child at the same time. But I felt the hunters that were after her, wouldn't want to put any innocent people in danger, and only saw Zatanna as their target. It would just be more focused, and get into the head of her character, if she were alone in this and having to scramble.

I basically wanted Zee in the roll of John McClane in "Die Hard"…struggling against all odds to survive and take down the attackers that outnumbered her. Yippee Kai Yay!!

Shortly thereafter, I turned in a script, and aside from a couple of great suggestions from Joey, it was done. Maybe the easiest job I'd ever had in comics. In a whirlwind of a week's time, I was hired and turned in a finished script that everyone was happy with. The artist was off and running, and then I just sat back and waited for the results.

And it almost didn't happen.

Zee speaks the truth!
You see, DC's new52 has just been announced and things were gearing up for a company wide relaunch. Some titles would survive, but most would not. And I had no idea at this point if the issue I had worked on for Zatanna would ever see print. Months and months and months went by as I grew more cagey. DC isn't in the business to pay for something they wouldn't use, but it has happened before where projects get left in the drawer during times of upheaval or restructuring. I had gotten paid. But I think any professional would agree that it's just as important that your work make it to print and get seen as well. I think they go hand in hand.

Half a year after I initially wrote the script, my issue of Zatanna came out. Everything worked out and my issue was the next to last before the title got cancelled. I just made it in under the wire. They even collected it into a trade paperback later, which I was equally amazed by, as I didn't think there would be enough issues to collect near the end (much less any need to collect the rest with the relaunch happening).

Special thanks go out to my editor on the issue, Joey Cavalieri, for giving me the shot to write the issue just on a whim. And the combined work of Jamal Igle and John Dell on art, and John Kalisz on colors. And I have to admit being spoiled by having, in my humble opinion, the best cover he did on Zatanna that Adam Hughes drew. So simple and so iconic.


Sunday, June 10, 2012


I hate having to wait. It's probably one of those traits that ties us all to humanity. We want what we want, when we want it, and we want it NOW!  Of course, there's something to be said for the anticipation of something. Waiting to open Christmas presents is ruined if you're peeking to find out what they are days or weeks ahead of time. Making sure a meal is cooked before we devour it will ensure you not getting sick in the process. Even seeing a movie we've been dying to watch for months (or years) can be ruined if we know too much about it or see too much in the advertising leading up to it. They call them "spoilers" for a reason.

Still…I hate waiting, especially when it comes to work. I wonder if it has to do with being part of an assembly line, with each person waiting for the one before them. You wait for the company and editor to greenlight the story, you wait for the script to be finished to start, you wait for the pencils to be finished before you get them to ink, the colorist can't start until those inks are finished. The letterer gets the weird position of being able to start lettering as soon as there are pencil scans turned in, but then has to tweak them at the end after the writer and editor get a chance to read the lettering proof stage to make any corrections. So really, much of the final burden lies with the colorist being the last in the process waiting for everyone. If things slow down and get delayed at the beginning for any number of reasons, then each one in the process after has to make up that time. Hurray for deadlines and being rushed!

So when I was offered a chance to write an issue for the line wide event of "Bruce Wayne: The Road Home", needless to say I was more excited than normal to start. Up until then, I'd mainly been an inker. I had written a few short stories published through DC and elsewhere, but hadn't gotten the chance to write a whole issue of anything all on my own. I was downright giddy! I couldn't wait to begin. And you start thinking of that assembly line. Blame always goes up the line and not down. If things start slow and cause people to rush, then blame can always track back to the people at the start of the assembly. And having been on many projects as a rushed inker, I didn't want my time as a writer to ever cause those after me to have to wait. I want to be as prepared as I can to let those after me have as much time as humanly possible.

But coordinating a multiple title crossover event can be a real juggle. In this instance, we were given a brief outline of what the main story would entail and leave it up to each writer to write their title within those boundaries. Since this was telling the story of how Bruce's supposed death and disappearance from the DC universe had affected those around him, each title would have it's own take on how that fit in. Since I was given the Catwoman book, I'd definitely want to deal with Selina's feelings towards Bruce and the possibility of his return.

There would still be more notes and clarifications to come. If I remember correctly, this was all started before the weekend. But I was antsy. Even with the briefest of direction for the project, I wanted to get going. I wanted to write. Because for me, it's always to strike while the anvil is hot. Once the idea hits me, it's time to drop the reins and let this horse run. And so I did. I wrote up an outline for what I wanted to do, and dove into writing the first draft of the script. Something that would involve Catwoman going after a specific statue that had eluded her throughout her life (a chance to throw in a flashback to earlier when Batman stopped her from getting it). But with the statue resurfacing, she'd track it to a criminal group, would chase after them on her motorcycle down the tarmac, and board a huge cargo plane taking off. This final set piece would have her combating her adversaries up in the sky in a very swashbuckling Indiana Jones style adventure. And by the end of the story, Bruce Wayne would reappear in her life, seemingly back from the dead, to provide closure tying into the flashback at the beginning.

The weekend came and went, and then more notes started coming in. We'd have our editor and lead writer providing a guiding hand to further clarify what the larger scope of the story was. And how each of our stories could fit into it, especially since each issue would sort of set up or hand off to the next title in the run. Characters could overlap. Ideas presented in one could be continued or resolved in another. It could run more cohesive that way. And of course, it sort of dashed my original story idea. But that's the part of writing you start to learn…don't get too attached to your script. That's also why there aren't many scripts that go to print from their first draft, nor should they.

I was able to keep some of my initial ideas…Selina going after the statue from the criminal group and the flashback (heck you'd even get a chance to see the criminal's plane going down in flames on the final splash page to insinuate something went afoul, you just would never see how). But then I had to work in the larger story at play, to add in the other Sirens from Catwoman's group (Harley & Ivy), to show Vicki Vale's dangerous position of trying to search for Bruce Wayne in the criminal underworld of Gotham after she found out his secret of being Batman, and that Selina wouldn't know who this mysterious "Insider" character was that was watching and testing them all (spoiler…it was Bruce). And when they met in the story, she wouldn't even get a chance to embrace him with that knowledge, as it would be left for another title. So be it. I went through a few more drafts before being satisfied with the one that was turned in. And that was that. Special thanks goes to my collaborator on the issue. Peter Nguyen (no relation to Dustin) who drew the issue. It's always fun working with friends, so it was cool to work on this together. And we'd do so again on an Arkham Unhinged/Mad Hatter story.

So in closing...each project I write, each story I get under my belt, I'm learning a little bit at a time. You pick up different things along the way. Things to do and things not to do. And this was my lesson learned: Don't jump the gun. I could've easily had waited for the weekend and through the rest of the week to get more clarification and more notes how every piece would fit into this run of stories. Even at the outline stage, they would've been able to see what I was planning and steered me away from what couldn't work in this story. But having worked up the draft of the script, it turned into this process of having to go back over it and chop, slice, and dice it to get to the final version. I think the rewrites ended up being more of a struggle and taking longer than what it took for me to write the initial first draft. But that's not their fault. It was all mine. But you learn and you improve. And now even if I have to wait after turning in an outline, and it can be awhile before editors get around to giving back notes (with them juggling more than one title in their group of books)….I'll do it. I'll save them and myself the headache. And you become a better writer and creator because of it.

But I hate waiting...

Saturday, June 9, 2012


As a writer, you're hopefully a fountain of ideas. Everything around you is an influence, from the people you meet, the places you travel, the entertainment that you enjoy and are inspired from, and the music you listen to. Sure you'll run into the dreaded "writer's block" or have downtime between assignments. But if anything, your brain should always be thinking of that next idea. There should be no off switch. And it's probably what makes those in the writing profession tough to be around. We're constantly in our heads, sometimes preferring to be alone (artists of course fall into this category as well), and maybe even struggle shutting off our brains for the simple act of recharging our bodies through sleep. Or maybe I'm just using this blog as therapy, explaining my own quirks and struggles. There's been plenty of times where I've gone to bed, still deep in thought as ideas start flooding my mind as I lie awake in the dark, and I'll just have to get back up and start writing them down. Never a moment to waste as a writer. There's always going to be another idea ready to pounce on you and not leave you alone.

So it's a constant joke amongst a good friend of mine. We'll brainstorm and think up stories and characters and moments. Grandiose ideas and enthralling epic stories full of adventure, love, loss, revenge…you name it. And when we've gotten to the end of the conversation, having discussed all the ins and outs. Having formulated a plan of action or hoping on a dream yet unfulfilled. We'll just look at one another, make the gesture of opening up a drawer, and put that idea into the folder, and close it shut. Maybe we'll come back to it later or maybe never again. We laugh and we move on.

So what's this mythical folder I'm talking about? Have any other creative types out there experienced the same thing?

I've learned to become an idea hoarder. No good (or even bad) idea going to waste. Just because you can't tell your story now, doesn't mean it needs to be thrown away or abandoned. I just file it away in my mind, or better yet, into an actual folder on my desktop. And from time to time I come back to it. A little tweak here, a big rewrite there, and keep chipping away at it, nursing it along. Even a bad or dismissed idea can have a fresh set of eyes look upon it later and make it better. Because there might be a time when I can use it. And then I'll have it ready to go. Or it can all be thrown out and I come up with something entirely new. But that's the fun of it. It can switch on a dime.

I'd say the majority of stories I currently write, are very much developed in the moment. There's a certain need from a company for certain characters to have a story told. Or a certain approach. And boom…the fountain of ideas flows. But every now and then, I'll have that opening. Something will magically click, and an idea I've had in the folder of my mind, gets a chance to be dusted off and used. And that's always fun. At one time, it very well could've been thrown away forever. But now you get to share it with the world. And it feels right.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Before I broke into comics, animation was an equal love. And when Batman: The Animated Series debuted, I was in my senior year of high school. The designs, the moody darkness of Gotham and its characters, and the writing; all top notch. It was the beginning of my obsession with the show. And from there it grew into more animated series with Superman, a return to Batman, Batman Beyond, and the Justice League shows. This great long continuity that they were able to establish. It was something I wanted to be a part of.

So with portfolio in hand, I not only was trying to break into comics but also animation. I'd go with friends to the WonderCon conventions (at that time, held in Oakland) in order to sit in on portfolio reviews, most of them centered around Warner Brothers. I went to art school for a year in Los Angeles, taking life drawing, storyboarding, and animation clean-up classes. I was just bound and determined to get my foot in the door if I could. Driving around to every animation studio in the greater LA area to drop off my portfolio and get tested on some shows. But with all things creative, it was a tough go. And while I got to test on a few of them (the last one I'd test on would end up being Batman Beyond coincidentally), it never worked out. But comics came along and nabbed me. But I always thought, one a these days, it would be fun to revisit those shows I had loved. The way they told their stories was a huge influence on how I wanted to craft my own writing.

Fast forward to many years later. I'd get the chance to ink Dustin Nguyen at DC on two projects that would involve some of those writers/producers I had admired so greatly at WB. Alan Burnett wrote a run of Superman/Batman that started Dustin and I off on the paths we would take throughout Gotham at DC. And from there, we'd get a chance to work on stories written by Paul Dini on our run of Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham. But I couldn't help but have that itch to do more. To write in addition to inking.

Our editor knew this and gave us the chance. When the opportunity presented itself, Dustin and I were able to pitch in on a couple issues of Streets Of Gotham. Deadlines were catching up with all of us, and it was a matter of seeing if we'd be able to script off of Dini's outlines. It was one of the most fun but hectic few months we'd have. Probably a milestone in how much we managed to juggle. Not only was Dustin drawing (and I inking) the Streets Of Gotham issues, but we'd be scripting them, and finding the time to do the art for a larger sized Detective Comics issue written by Denny O'Neil (Dustin provided pencil breakdowns and I was doing ink finishes to try to alternate between the current look we'd been achieving and then a more animated throwback style to the flashback in the story). And against all odds, we managed to get everything in on time. Kudos to our editor, Mike Marts, for sticking in our corner and not having any doubts.

After that the talks continued. We wanted to write and do the art for a project all ourselves. Streets Of Gotham was wrapping up and Batman Beyond had already launched and was a success. They were looking towards continuing that. But the real trick was, how that might happen. There was talks of us taking over Batman Beyond, or making a Beyond Brave & The Bold style book. But eventually it resulted in us doing Justice League Beyond which is sort of the nice way of blending all of that. You have Batman on that team, but then get to flesh out the future Justice League from what was presented in the show, and eventually add to it. And so, that's what's happening right now. Justice League Beyond starts out as a digital release and then is collected into print with Batman Beyond Unlimited.

When we pitched Justice League Beyond, I was ambitious. I didn't want to just come up with one large story, I wanted to plan out a few years worth. Even if all of it couldn't happen, they could see the scope and how things are setup. We could always insert new ideas or rearrange things. But I wanted a plan going in so if things were successful, we wouldn't be scrambling. Especially on a series that as it would turn out (and we didn't know at the time) would evolve into a weekly release sort of comic. By the time the very first digital chapter came out, Dustin had already finished drawing the entire 120 page opening arc. And I was on the last issue of inks. This in addition to the Beyond: Origins that would be interspersed in the arc itself.

And that's where things stand. I'll be covering more about Justice League Beyond as we move along, especially since that and the Arkham stuff have been keeping me busy. Planted firmly in Gotham, present and future.


I thought we'd get things started by showing a couple pages from the current project I'm writing, Arkham City: End Game. This is of course, based on the popular Arkham City game by Rocksteady. And DC has been releasing comic stories based in that Arkham-verse for awhile now; starting with a mini-series, digital exclusive stories, the ongoing Arkham Unhinged series, and now this special 6-part story that takes place after the end of the game.

These are the first two pages of script along with the art (by Jason Shawn Alexander). A chance to see how I described it to the artist and how he interprets it with his heavy black inkwork that really sets the mood.



Panel One - We open our story inside a small darkened room at an undisclosed location. Jim Gordon stands alone, looking down towards us at something out of our view. He should be in a work shirt and tie.

Panel Two - Same as panel one, as Batman now steps forward from the darkness behind Gordon, to join alongside him. Both looking down towards us now. We might only be able to make out Batman's eyes and heavy shadowed body in the darkness.

1) GORDON:  The more I look at him, the more I keep expecting him to wake up. Laugh. Anything.

Panel Three - Side profile of the two of them as they quietly stand beside each other, looking down.

2) GORDON:  But it’s been what…weeks now? Months? I can’t even remember anymore.

3) GORDON:  I just know one thing…


Panel One - Half page splash. The only thing in this panel is an overhead nice full shot of Joker's dead body lying flat on a slab. His permanent grin still frozen exactly on his face the last time we saw him in the game as he died on the floor. His face still shows the effects of the Titan poisoning he died from, with open sores and gashes.

1) GORDON:  …the Joker is dead!

Panel Two - Closeup on Joker's frozen smile.

Panel Three - Closeup on Joker's eye as it's still open, but it's lost the color in it's retina. It now looks foggy as all life has left him. He's definitely dead. Maybe through the cloudy eye, we see Batman and Gordon reflected as they look.

2) GORDON (off panel):  It’s funny you know…


From there, Gordon continues his statement into the next page, as things go from bad to worse throughout the story. But there ya go. And hopefully those first two pages are enough of an enticement for you to want to find out the rest of the story. You can purchase the comics on Comixology from the link at the beginning of this blog post.

INTRODUCTION or…"Hey, it's that tracer. What's he blabbing about?"

I'm finally here!

I've been slow to catch up with technology, which is ironic since the majority of work in comics that I do is being presented from the digital division of DC Comics.  I'm not on Twitter. Not on Facebook or LinkedIn. Don't have a Tumblr (but you can find my art over on my DeviantArt account). I have an old clunky cellphone that is dying out, not to mention I rarely turn it on. Yup, I'm a technology dinosaur.

And this brings me to the point of having a blog, as everyone has one by now. They share their art, their photos, their political leanings, what they're entertained by, and the minutia in their day. Basically it's long-form Twitter, for those that have something to say other than a shout out or sarcastic remark in under 140 characters.

And that's why I'm starting this…I feel I have something to say.

I wanted a place to be able to talk about the process of writing, or more specifically, my process of writing. Ideas that come to me throughout the day. How I've handled the transition of not just being an artist but also a writer. Someone using words along with a brush or nib. To shed a little light behind the scenes of projects I'm working on and the process behind them. At the same time, I'll also be showing how I write…from the spark of an idea, to fleshing out notes and outlines, to how descriptive my script pages are. And the peek behind the curtain of how the various artists translate those nutty ideas into the fantastic art that gets created. And I'll get a chance to gush or maybe even introduce you to the artists working on the projects I'm on. Granted, most people reading this will be hard core comic fans that already know these artists. But some of them might be new to you (and to me). And I want to sing their praises as well. Because I never lose sight that I'm a fan of this stuff too, that just happens to be working a job I love.

I have a range of topics I'll be covering, as well as keep things pretty loose in-between when something just jumps out at me. And of course advertise what I'm working on for those wanting to find and read it for yourself. I'll flashback to past work to discuss and reminisce about it. But what I really hope happens….is those of you that are reading this, contribute. I want to hear your thoughts. I want you to post questions. And I'll do my best to answer what I can, when I can. To evolve this into an ongoing discussion.  And I'll be updating frequently, because there's a lot to discuss (that and I'm long winded at the computer).

So welcome. We're off and running...

- D