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.


  1. I've really been enjoying all the Arkham City comics, and End Game at the minute is especially good. The 'find my body for $100 million' idea feels very much in the vein of The Dark Knight Joker's 'social experiments'. One thing I was wondering: do the Kiler Croc and Robin/Bane/Grundy stories from Unhinged take place before or during the game? Unlike the other storylines, there's not realy any details to pin down their placement with...

  2. Glad you're enjoying them!

    In the comics just like the movies, Joker is about chaos. And what a perfect way to upset the balance after his death, than to cause the whole city to go into a wild goose chase to recover his body, knowing that money is a great motivator.

    The Killer Croc story takes place during the game, since it opens with Batman in Arkham City as he's fighting off clowns. And also provides for a flashback to explain Croc's origin.

    The Robin/Bane/Grundy story takes place before Batman encounters Penguin and Grundy himself in the game. It also ties into the previous Arkham City digital exclusive comic with Robin, to show that he's been finding ways in and out of Arkham City to check it out, even against Batman's wishes.

  3. Thanks. In that case what about the placement of the Penguin flashback and 'in-game skins' stories? Before or during the game? Batman calls the events of the warehouse attack from the Penguin story 'recent' in the Abramovichi twins story, but recent as in earlier tonight, or recent as in a few days ago? The issue using all the alternate skins, by the way, was excellent. Such a clever way of making them more than just a fun bonus. Thanks for your time.

  4. Penguin flashback at the Iceberg Lounge takes place before Arkham City was even built. The rest of the story takes place during Arkham City, which is why Batman showed up at the warehouse. The thing to keep in mind is that the Arkham City game takes place in one long night. So when Batman mentions the recent Penguin attack during the Abramovichi story, it's that night.

    The alternate skins story was a lot of fun, and I'll be discussing more of that when the print issue comes out in another few weeks.