Saturday, November 24, 2012


While working on Arkham Unhinged, my approach was two-fold…tell interesting stories (for myself and hopefully the audience) and to try to make sense of various things in the game. You were hopeful to be successful at one of those; lucky if you were able to accomplish both. But a lot of time, it really came down to deadlines and getting the work completed, since there was always the process of getting everything cleared through both Rocksteady and DC, and then do any last minute re-writes before tossing it to the artists to give them enough time to draw it up. It was amazing that it stayed on-schedule at all.

Case in point…when the idea came down to have a story that tied into the "Harley Quinn's Revenge" downloadable content, it was already under the gun. I remember visiting the offices to meet with DC & Rocksteady (who happened to be in town) in mid to late February. The hunt for the artist began immediately. I turned in the script for March. And then the artist had to draw 60 pages of story and finish in time for the comic to come out in and around the release of the game content in May. So basically…not a lot of time. Most artists struggle to produce 20 pages in a month's time. Jason had to draw three times that in under two months.

While I feel like I can work quick on my feet, I always lean more towards being prepared and thinking ahead as much as possible. Which is why it can be so frustrating working in comics which seems to constantly fight against that notion. After finishing "End Game", I tried to pitch a tie-in story that could explain the new Arkham City Armored Edition. Since that newer version of the game for the Wii would include new armored outfits for Batman and Catwoman, I thought it would make for the perfect advertisement…both for the game as well for getting people to try the digital comics. And if planned and finished quickly enough, they could even add the comic as a special download/code insert included in the games itself (introducing the Nintendo audience to the digital comics). Of course this would leave out the people that had already bought the game on the previous platforms, but I figured that the story could eventually be bundled into the print comics so no one would miss out. I know it was something even tossed around for "Arkham City End Game" at one point, maybe to be included in the Game-Of-The-Year edition or as part of the HQR download. But it never went past the idea phase as they were more concerned with finishing it on time.

The idea I pitched for the digital comic tie-in would help show what their armored suits were capable of in the game, but the fan in me thought it would be the perfect way to introduce Lucius Fox into the Arkham-verse. That he would be ideally responsible for creating the technology for the suits. And you could even have Catwoman steal that technology to adapt it to her own outfit. I saw it as being something that would happen before the Arkham City game itself, so there'd be a larger timeline available to make it work. Needless to say…it never happened.

At the time of the pitch, DC didn't have any firm idea when the Armored Edition would be coming out, so it wasn't something on their immediate radar. I think they were more concerned with Unhinged coming out week-to-week and weren't thinking that far ahead. It's a shame too that the companies never plan stuff that far in advance. They do for larger event crossover books. But I'd say a majority of regular monthly comics out there from all companies turn in each issue barely on deadline each month and seem lucky to know any handful of stories coming up. I guess it comes as no shock that anything a month or more ahead is seen as something to worry about for later.

Monday, November 19, 2012


When Dustin and I were coming up with a full calendar year's worth of stories to pitch for Li'l Gotham, it was a matter of trying to figure out the best villain for each holiday. Of course many of the holidays will have multiple villains showing up in it. Such is the nature of wanting to watch Dustin cram in as many characters in fun situations. But for Thanksgiving, it really came down to just one villain. With the holiday centered around turkey, it was easy matching up Penguin as their advocate. And having it take place in a sort of Macy's Parade in downtown Gotham, lent itself to some fun visuals. Parades and celebrations will continue to be a theme around a few of the upcoming holidays.

It was kind of serendipitous how closely pilgrim-wear was to Penguin's own black tuxedoed attire, both in color as well as similar hats. And Dustin draws a great Cobblepot. He pulls off such great expressions in such limited space. The other thing I love about working on this project is it allows us the levity to have the characters say all sorts of puns and cheesy lines that probably wouldn't fly elsewhere. All in the name of fun.
Dustin added a lot to my initial story idea. Having turkeys playfully peck away at Damian was something he added in at the last second, as well as Damian naming one of them as a sort of pet. Might not be the last we see of "Jerry" either.
It really can be a team effort shaping the stories on this project. Most of the original ideas coming from Dustin and I. But in the case of the Wayne Family dinner, it was something brought up by our previous editor to the title, Ben Abernathy. We were just going to have the story end with Penguin in jail being served turkey. But he brought up the idea of maybe having a Rockwell-esque gathering around the table for Bruce and his extended family, and that made it a perfect way to get all of them together by the end. I liked the idea of having all these heroes hang up their capes and cowls before sitting at the table, so that made for a fun visual as well to show who attended.
Some of the villains in prison with Penguin all come from our beloved run working on Detective and Streets Of Gotham with Paul Dini. A nice way to show Tweedledee & dum, Little Italy, and Mr. ZZZ.  I'm sure we'll be sprinkling in more over the months ahead.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


If it wasn't already noticeable, Arkham Unhinged provided me an outlet to do something I've always enjoyed, which is getting inside the heads of the villains. With arguably the greatest rogues gallery in comics, with many of them featured in the Arkham games, it was a chance for each issue or each story to be able to shine the focus on them (many of whom never get much time devoted to them in the regular ongoing comics).

As the title continued, it would be something of contention between myself and the editor. I think I always saw them as interesting slice-of-life character studies while he felt they turned a sort of "villain-of-the-month" and wanted a new direction. I don't think either of us were wrong, which also allows an ongoing series to continually grow and evolve as it pushes forward with different writers and different visions.

Here now…but not originally
One point brought up to me on a few occasions, was to not forget the title was named after Batman (understandably) and that I might want to start making him more of a focus or at least try to include him more. I know with my first draft of this issue, I don't think I had Batman in it at all, or even less than what showed up in the issue itself. It was basically a Killer Croc origin issue in the Arkham-verse, so I wanted to show it from his point-of-view, his history, and maybe have readers view him in a more circumstantial or tragic light than the monster we're used to seeing. Plus the character only has a brief cameo in the game, so this was a chance to show what he'd been up to off-camera while all the events were happening in Arkham City.

Words to live by
Since the editor had gotten Darick Robertson onboard for his first chance at drawing Batman for DC, if I'm remembering correctly; it was one of the first times I'd actually been encouraged to go back and put some more characters in for him to have fun drawing. That it would be a shame to not have Batman in it at all, which is why we get an opening with Batman dispatching clowns in Arkham City, as well as other montage scenes that also show Robin, Nightwing, and Catwoman…however brief they might be. Plus it's not like they had to twist my arm, as I like to sprinkle that stuff in for artists to draw since I'm as much a fan as I am a writer. And Darick draws one heckuva creepy Joker, who always was in this story from the original draft.

For Killer Croc's origin, I sort of merged what had been established with the character in the comics as well as Batman:TAS. I always liked his appearance in the animated series when Croc escaped captivity and takes refuge with other circus freaks on the episode "Sideshow". And since the Arkham games were borrowing heavily from the comics and cartoons (least of which, because of Dini's involvement), I thought it worked here as well to do a different adaptation of that. That someone of Croc's appearance would end up in some sideshow and actually like it there. But there would be no happy ending for him. And I could even link it to the Abramovichi twins, since they came from the same background. Just a matter of chance how Darick drew the panel that it looked similarly angled like the one in the show.

On a closing note, it was a great surprise having Robertson draw this issue. The thing I've found working in comics are the strange coincidences and fanboy zeal that comes with the job. How you can go from being a fan of comics to actually working shoulder-to-shoulder with the same creators whose work you were buying before breaking in. Going back almost 20 years ago, I remember when Darick came to my town to do a hotel show. We got very few comic professionals of any caliber for anything like this, so for him and a few others to show up was not to be missed. I recall he was drawing Wolverine, and it was roughly around the time that the story called for Logan to lose his trademark hairstyle and mutton-chops. I brought whatever issues I'd gotten for him to sign. A few years later, while trying to break-in as an inker, I had gotten his contact email and asked if he could send some pencil photocopies for me to practice over. It probably came as a cold-call out of nowhere, but he was extremely cordial in dealing with me and sending some my way. I'd run into Darick again about 6 or 7 years ago, when I came as a guest to a DC dinner at San Diego Con. This was before I ever worked at DC. I was sort of in awe at the luau themed gathering far away from the convention center, amidst all the talent that was there. I was a nobody and here I was at an event with Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, and all sorts of top names.  Ate right next to Darick at the table and asked if he remembered doing that hotel show a number of years back. When DC's President, Paul Levitz, stood up and gave this inspirational speech about the industry and all of our places working in it, I knew then and there I wanted to do what I could to work for DC. And I think about a year or two later, I got my opportunity. Now two decades later from that hotel show and Darick would draw this Arkham issue that I wrote. Ah comics…it boggles the mind sometime.
Which do I miss more…that different hairstyle or the pricing of comics at that time?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The HERO Initiative is this great organization that helps out creators in hard times. Those from the early days of comics that didn't have the perks or financial security that those of us today have or have planned for. Most of the creators from yesteryear, now in their waning years, have run into financial troubles that come with rent, food, or even more serious conditions involving their health care. The HERO Initiative helps raise money through various charitable means to give back to those creators that need a helping hand.

Their most popular fundraiser are one of a kind specialty sketch covers, usually based around a first issue or anniversary issue. They've done covers mainly with Marvel (I've worked on ones for Wolverine, Avengers, and Fantastic Four) and also DC (I worked on one for the JLA). Most recent is the one based on The Walking Dead #100. Of all the covers they do, they actually get 100 covers drawn by roughly 100 different artists (some guys end up drawing two covers). That this fundraiser involves my favorite current monthly comic, one of which I've been following since the very first issue, made it easy to work on.

I picked my favorite character in the book, Carl, and came up with the idea of staging it like a class photo. Sadly his friends and classmates have all become zombies. Carl is the only one remaining from that class still human (or what passes for human in his one-eyed apocalyptic world). My good friend, Ken Jones, did the pencils this go around with me on inks. I'm really happy how it turned out. And hopefully the proceeds from its sale help in a small way towards creators from previous generations.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Just like I've done with Arkham Unhinged and Justice League Beyond, I'll provide some commentary on each issue of Batman: Li'l Gotham that comes out, to give a peek behind the curtain how Dustin and I put each story together.

As it goes with a lot of these projects, it's been awhile since we pitched the idea. Memory can be fuzzy. But I think once Dustin and I decided to format the pitch, we sort of agreed on the theme being related to holidays. I think it came out of the idea that Dustin thought it might be fun to have a calendar of all the story images, so why not allow ourselves at least 12 stories to pitch this thing. Some holidays would allow us to cram in as many characters and cameos as we could fit, while other stories might only feature a few characters or even just one villain. And then with that in mind, the real fun was trying to figure out all the stories.

Hush meets the Mummy
I'm not sure how other two-man writing teams work, but for us it's a lot of back and forth. We started making a list of all the months and holidays to pick from. Then what characters might best represent those holidays. Some were easier than others and write themselves. While others, you sort of have a rough idea or even a "place holder" that you're not married to and can switch out later if you come up with a better idea. And once all the story ideas are in place with a general idea of what it's about, we decided to split things down the middle. Each of us pick half of the stories we wanted to write. It's still a collaboration, with the idea that one of us gets a first pass on writing up the first draft of a particular month, while the other gets to make suggestions or changes to the other's script. And it's kind of a fun way to riff on each other. Sometimes Dustin will add a fun line of dialogue or draw some ideas into the background of my story. Other times I'll do the same with his scripts and add in specific exchanges between characters or recommend certain cameos that we can throw into the scenes he's written. It's a bit of give and take as we both work right up to the last minute to fine tune each story, with the help of lettering and editorial.
Colin almost dressed up as his hero, Captain Marvel, in our first Li'l Gotham story
For our very first story in October, I had actually written up an entirely different script than what was used. It was still trick-or-treat based as Damian went out on his own and then met up with his friend Colin (from our run on Dini's Streets Of Gotham). Colin was to be dressed up as Captain Marvel, since he was a fan of a lot of superheroes that he'd pin up on his walls growing up. And after going door-to-door, they'd discover the kids in the neighborhood were affected by fear induced candy, that just happened to be given out by a house at the end of the block by none other than Scarecrow. And the two friends would team up to give him his own just desserts. While it was fun and definitely would cater to the whole Damian/Colin fan base that's built up online, it had very little Batman or any other characters in it. And for our first issue, we kind of wanted to at least have the Batman & Robin dynamic. So I scrapped the entire thing, wrote a new draft of Damian learning what Halloween was all about (including his amusing take on the holiday with his mom & grandpa), and then Dustin recommended it would be fun to have all the villains show up at the end at some dinner gathering. That it would be the one night out of the year that they could blend in with everyone else. And just like that, we had our story.

"Zombie Family Holiday"...possibly my favorite goofy idea that Dustin brought to life (or death)
As with most writers, the joy for me is seeing the art as it comes in. These stories are steered very much by Dustin's fun playful designs. And a lot of times, the first drafts to our stories are very loose in order to allow him room to create. On that same token, once I see the art come in, it gets me excited to add dialogue to the scene to play off of what he's drawn. The scene with all the villains in the Italian restaurant was originally silent. Because I knew I could wait until after Dustin drew it up, before I would go back over it and add in the the harmony of words and sound. To see what he'd draw and where he'd position everyone, and then I could compliment that and have the characters come alive.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


It is a term closely related to comics…the illusion of change. Pretending to present something new to the fans, while really not moving forward at all, and just giving them more of the same. And as a creator, that's very disturbing to me.

Fans have always seemed to want it both ways. Humans get bored with their entertainment very quickly. Probably why sequels do well to begin with, but by the third or fourth outing, numbers diminish and it's time for a revamp. Fans want new stories, but when you do that, they sometimes rally against it and would rather see old characters again and again. Comics are notorious for not having characters age and keeping things status quo. But readers get bored and want new, and when you shake things up and give them new, they dissent and want the old classic versions again. It's a fine line to walk, and it's not just in comics but in most forms of entertainment.

Bond...both new and old
Last night, I got the chance to see an advance screening of the new 007 "Skyfall" film before it opens wide in North America. After it was over, I definitely felt this sense that it was less about furthering the stories set up in Daniel Craig's previous outings, as it felt more like a "Best Of Bond" homage to much of the past (of course, it being the 50th anniversary to the franchise might've also come into play). To me, it feels more like a step back to the traditional Bond with the humor (some awkward one-liners), recognizable characters (reintroduced behind the desk or in the labs),  over-the-top villainy, and a return to the classic cars and eventual gadgets. I feel like we barely got to see a more real world, dark, and different take on Bond as presented in Daniel Craig's first two-part outing in "Casino Royale" and "Quantum Of Solace"; that we're already moving away from that back into something more comfortable. But to me, it's a missed opportunity. I feel like we had gotten 20 or so movies like that in Bond's previous run, and was excited to see where they'd take things after "Quantum". But instead, it feels like that experiment was quickly stopped, and now Bond has returned to its comfort food elements of every previous film. Maybe that's what the producers feel that fans want, or maybe they've missed it themselves, and there's been no shortage of high praise for this new film's return-to-form. But while the movie was enjoyable, it feels like a missed opportunity for me (one who felt earlier Bond films had a time and place, but really enjoyed the last two films so much more). And I see that same outcry or hesitation with comics as well as comics in animation.
Batman…not the one fans need or want, but the one they deserve?
When more was revealed about the upcoming "Beware The Batman" cartoon, most of the fan outcry was over the producers decision not to use any of the traditional villains most associated with Batman (i.e. Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Ridder, etc). Instead they decided to dig back through the history of the comics, both past and more recent in Grant Morrison's stories, to use villains and characters that have been underused, and even more importantly…those that have never been featured in animation before. As a working professional, I actually really love that choice. It's a way for them to write and play with many characters most don't know or see often, and bring something different to a Batman cartoon. And you would think the fans would agree, after having seen every new iteration of Batman cartoons with the same rogues gallery over the past few decades. But it was just the opposite…so many fans felt it was a mistake NOT to have Joker and the other villains we've seen used countless times. It can be a frustrating thing trying to please the fans and please the creators working on this stuff. And it's not like the next Batman series won't go back to the traditional villains again (they always find a way to resurface). Heck, I wouldn't put it past the producers to have time to introduce the newer villains in one season, and eventually sprinkle back in the classic rogues eventually in further seasons if they get to it.

But it's the more-of-the-same mentality that can end up being an anchor for entertainment. Never fully embracing trying something new and going forward, when the audience seems to want their favorite standbys to show up again and again. And I'm not without being guilty in the same regards. The first storyarc of Justice League Beyond is a call back to many characters that fans of the shows are familiar with. But in some of the stories that follow, I will be expanding and bringing in different characters as well. It's a fine line to walk. A tightrope. And storytellers seem to fall off of it into the comfort of the familiar all too often.

Friday, November 2, 2012


This issue was time for the big payoff. All the story built up from our previous issues leading into the final battle between Kobra and the Justice League. Of course, we never expected it to take as long getting here as it has.

Originally when Justice League Beyond was being worked on, a full year before it would debut, the idea was it would be released weekly. We'd actually be able to tell the entire story in 3 months. But this was before the Origins would be added in, and then ending up sharing the title with not just Batman Beyond but Superman Beyond also. A 3 month opening arc battle turned into a year long war. But we're now finally approaching the finish line. And this chapter of the story would be another chance for Dustin to flex his artistic muscles having to draw a range of characters.

A few more observations for this issue…

I always love war room scenarios. The planning that goes into the final confrontation. And especially for this story, I probably owe much of how it plays out to "Return Of The Jedi" (of all things). The idea that there's a war being fought on a few fronts. We have part of the League divided; half sent out to defend the Watchtower from the snake, and other half infiltrating Kobra's base of operations to shut them down. And of course, all being coordinated by those inside the Watchtower itself. That way you sort of build up tension across multiple scenarios, with all of them being crucial, and if any fail…then it all can come crashing down.

This was our little nod to Hal Jordan. It's unsure whether or not Hal is still alive in the Beyond universe. But the idea that he helped inspire a squadron of air force fighters that would homage his name on their aircraft, seemed fitting.

Our big battle wouldn't be as epic if we couldn't bring in as many heroes to help make their last stand. And even with their sketchy history from the animated series along with some mention in our Origin stories, more numbers could definitely be provided if the Green Lantern Corps and the hawks from Thanagar showed up to assist.

I have to say that the one scene that really hinged the most for our entire first JLB story arc, all came down to this. To Terry transforming into the Demon Etrigan. And sort of the interesting history behind it...

When Dustin and I were first in talks to work in the Beyond universe, I had mentioned how we originally pitched for relaunching Batman Beyond. Being overly ambitious, we had come up with about two years worth of loose storylines. I'm of the firm belief of planning ahead. Of knowing as much as you can about where you want to go to build things up accordingly. Most likely, not all the stories would happen, and some could be adjusted and shifted around; even added to. But I thought if we could put in a solid couple years on the title, it would make for a nice run. And part of thinking ahead like this, I also thought if we did one last story before we left the title, we could bring on the Justice League with Terry, and have the New Gods and Darkseid show up, and toss in as many Kirby things as we could. It would make for a nice swan song from the title and would set things up for what they could do next with the stories going forward.

But of course, things changed. No longer were we going to be working on Batman Beyond, or even the proposed Batman Beyond team-up title, but rather launch a Justice League Beyond title. With that in mind, we thought why not start with this big Kirby/Kobra arc. If there's anything I've learned as a writer, is it's best not to wait to tell stories you really want. Because you might not ever get the chance or the timing to do so later. So we went ahead and did this story first, with more ideas for stories growing out of this with the Justice League in mind.

And for some reason during all of this, I always had this image burnt into my head of the Demon being in the story and the wild idea of having him come tearing out of Terry himself. It would be one of those large WTF type moments. And then it was just a matter of finding out how that would work and fit into the story in a logical way. With Etrigan, you never know what to expect; if he'll help or hinder the heroes. And that all still awaits to play out as the story nears its conclusion.