Tuesday, December 25, 2012


First a word of thanks. We can't thank the fans enough for their support of Li'l Gotham, which has turned into a nice success. It's not often that you get a chance to work on something you enjoy for yourself as well as sharing it with others. And while most people reading the stories are currently enjoying their holidays with their families, the work actually still continues for us. It takes quite a bit of time for the art to be drawn and painted, the stories finessed, and the lettering and editing applied. And even with the DC work offices closed for the holidays, our home offices are very much burning the midnight oil to keep things moving ahead. Time away from friends and family, with some of us foolishly working to the wee hours (I know how Santa must feel). All that said…it wouldn't be worth it without our fan support. We read your comments online and your enthusiasm is very much appreciated. Our gift to you is nothing but our best. And your gift back to us is your love for the material. Thank you!

I can't recall who came up with it, either our editor or Dustin, but the idea was to try something different with the credits this time around. To have Dustin paint "Li'l" versions of each of us. A fun idea that definitely brings a more handcrafted approach to putting these stories together. Since I'm usually never without wearing a cap, it made for an easy painting for Dustin to draw.

As far as the story itself, Mr.Freeze has always been my favorite Batman villain, in no small part due to Paul Dini's reinvention of him as a tragic character in the animated series. After his wife contracted an incurable disease, he froze her in a state of suspended animation to work on a cure, but an accident resulted in his cold living condition and loss of emotions. The best villains really are the tragic ones. The ones that we can relate or empathize with. The ones doing the wrong things for the right reasons. And therefore, also one of the hardest characters to write. It's not a shock to know there are very few great Freeze stories written out there. Some see him as very one-note in his longing for his wife. He isn't used that often. And while I've always wanted to write more of him, I also feel he's one of those that really needs a compelling story to be used to its fullest. When the Christmas issue was discussed, he became our villain of choice for obvious reasons associated with the holiday…snow and cold. But how could he be used to pull at our heartstrings?

With Freeze always carrying around a figure skater snowglobe related to his wife, we thought it would make for an interesting visual to have a giant snowglobe used to hold children. Victor sees it as a way of protecting the kids from the harsh cruelness of the world, but everyone else would see it as him holding them hostage against their will. And it is that differing opinion that throws Batman and Nightwing into battle with Mr.Freeze over the fate of the children. And plenty of cute little forest animals for Dustin to continue to draw into the story.

Something I always look forward to is anytime there's a chance to come up with song lyrics or clever puns. It probably never calls for it in most mainstream "serious" comics, but we get away with it to reckless abandon in Li'l Gotham. I wanted to take the popularized "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robin Lays An Egg" lyric, and do a different version of it. The funny thing here is the mention of Batman falling into the ice. That was originally in an earlier draft of the script, where Batman (fighting solo) would fall into the ice lake while dodging Mr.Freeze. But rewrites later would add in Nightwing and allow Dustin to rework the fight choreography. The falling into the frozen lake bit was gone, yet wasn't changed in the song. Still works regardless.

And on that note….happy holidays to everyone out there! And make sure to check out our next issue, which actually goes on sale today. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, December 24, 2012


This time of the year is always busy. You've got the holidays, trying to get work done before the offices close as well as working through the break, and then the whole end of the world nonsense. Compound that with juggling three different ink projects, polishing up current scripts, starting on a script for a new company, and getting a tooth pulled…and December has been a bit more hectic than usual. Which is why I've been absent from my posts here. But hoping to get caught up as we inch towards the new year.

First up, the latest print issue of Arkham Unhinged...


With Arkham Unhinged #9, it was a chance to center a whole story around the Mad Hatter. In fact, his scene in the game was the very first thing I saw when I was invited to Burbank to see the game before its launch. It's such a small side mission segment of the game, that I thought it would be fun to revisit him and do something more. Especially with how they set up his appearance spying on Vicky Vale after she got rescued by Batman. I thought…that seems like the game developers might've been setting up something there, with how Jervis Tetch always tries to kidnap someone to play his "Alice", but never got around to showing more of it in the game itself. So now would be my opportunity to take things further. Plus as a writer, it scratches that itch of getting inside your character's head. Getting his mannerisms down and his speech pattern. To find that rhythm of how he talks and thinks. And the Mad Hatter is one of the more fluently interesting villains in the Arkham-verse to play with.

I also thought, why not expand his cast. From my time working on Detective Comics, Paul Dini had helped develop the "Wonderland Gang" around him, consisting of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, but also creating the Carpenter, the Lion, Walrus, Unicorn, and the March Hare. It would be fun to have them show up in Arkham City. Game players and fans are sometimes quick to argue that these other characters weren't in game, but that's the reason for these comics. To not just retell and repeat notes and beats from the game itself, but to tell stories within the game for how some of them might be there, but just were never shown.

Instead of one "Alice" he'd capture, why not all of them. It was a chance to gather as many females in the game that would be under Mad Hatter's control into one place. I did want to have Harley and Talia even, but the timeline of the game would have them both preoccupied with the Joker, so they were off the table. Instead, we'd be able to put the Carpenter as well as other female cops that were inside Arkham City's walls. Separately, we also had a chance for Oracle to make a brief appearance. She was always someone tough to write into the stories, since she's outside the walls of the city and there to relay information to Batman from time to time. Most of the stories never required her help, but we managed to have her show up in this story.

Keeping with the Alice In Wonderland theme, I wanted to bring in more elements from that children's story. I thought it would be an interesting visual, if under the effects of a hallucinogen, that Batman would see some of these girls as characters from that story. Catwoman was an easy choice for the Cheshire Cat, the Carpenter would be a more high-tech version of herself, and of course the inspired choice of "Red" herself, Poison Ivy, playing the part of the Queen Of Hearts.

And I'd been itching to put a Jabberwocky into a story going back even before Arkham City. I've always liked that crazy dragon design. And back when I was pitching stories for an issue of Zatanna, I actually developed a story that involved Zatanna needing to get a new top hat after a stage show appearance in San Francisco, and falling under the influence of Mad Hatter (himself trying to steer clear of Batman in Gotham). Not realizing that he had a magician of her caliber under his control, it would start to get the best of him when she'd magically create a Jabberwocky that would run rampant in the Bay Area until she was able to break his hold over her. Story ideas that don't get used in one arena have a funny way of reappearing in a different fashion later, as the Jabberwocky would be how Batman sees Tetch during his hallucination.

Designs by Peter Nguyen
Lastly I should point out the wonderful art we had this issue. It was great to reteam with Peter Nguyen, since the last time we worked was on an issue of Catwoman.  Always great to work with friends. Having this issue so heavily favoring the female persuasion, was a chance to have him cut loose and draw some lovely pages. And Mico Suayan would continue with another cover for us this issue; this one being my favorite of the ones he did. He managed to fit in so many elements on the cover without it feeling too crowded. And it would be an early indicator of what he could bring to pencil an upcoming story.

Shaded cover pencils by Mico Suayan

Saturday, December 1, 2012


My schedule of working on comics usually involves working through the night. All reasonable people go to bed when it gets dark outside, but that's when I'm finally sitting down at the table to ink or write. It's more quiet, less distractions from the phone or door, and I'm just more alive and active. And before the sun hits midday, I'm back to bed to recharge. Graveyard hours are working hours for this freelancer.

Currently I'm in the inking phase of my relationship with comics. Scripts are turned in ahead of schedule. And now I'm juggling three different stories that I'm inking over three different artists. And while I like to write in complete silence, to hear my thoughts or the voices of my characters without music behind it, I actually like to ink with something involving sound as a background filter. Podcasts are one of the top things to help me through the work week.

Lately I've been listening to Kevin Smith's "Fatman On Batman" podcast, which has him sit down with any number of voice actors or comic professionals to talk about working on Batman and their love of the character. Currently he's running a month long visit (although I hope it extends even further) with Paul Dini. And the great thing, is that they're doing a running audio commentary on various Batman related episodes or movies that Paul wrote. And it's utterly fascinating to hear Paul reminisce about the makings of each.

The most recent one had them talk about the first animated Batman movie, Mask Of The Phantasm. Talking about how it was Alan Burnett's original idea to write a different kind of story that showed Bruce's failed romance in his early days that helped push him towards becoming the Dark Knight. Something you wouldn't regularly associate or see on the animated series for a kids show. And listening to it, it got me thinking of a story idea Dustin Nguyen and I were toying with awhile back.

Back when we were pitching to take over/relaunch the Batman Beyond comic (before it eventually evolved into Justice League Beyond and Batman Beyond Unlimited), we were coming up with and tossing around various story ideas. One of them involved Bruce falling into a coma. As he lie in the hospital, Terry was thinking of some way to speak to him or get him to hear things he might remember that might awake him from the coma. He was able to dig up a shoebox full of letters that Bruce kept back at the mansion. And before he could sit bedside with him, he'd have to go out as Batman and stop some threat in the city. Of course he would explain it away to his family and Dana that he had to start getting Bruce's accounts in place in this worst case scenario if he was to die this way. But in his place, Dana would sit with Bruce until Terry could come back.  She could read these letters to him and maybe be that soothing tether that could bring Bruce out of his coma. And it would be a way for her to find out more about the man that employs her boyfriend, drawing her closer to Bruce as well as Terry.

These letters would be love letters. Bruce, the ever failed romantic, would have kept various writings and mementos from the special women he cared for throughout his life. There wouldn't be anything in them to reveal that he was Batman (we'd find a way to be vague without implying too much so Dana wouldn't have that revealed). But it would also have a chance to flashback to various moments through Bruce's younger days…key moments of maybe when those relationships fell apart. It would be a chance for us to show a lot of Bruce's loves portrayed in the animated universe and a love letter to all the fans of those relationships. We'd touch on his first with Andrea Beaumont (most likely dealing with her reappearance after being thought dead at the end of the Phantasm movie), the confliction he felt being close to Catwoman and Talia, his brief relationship with Lois Lane (in "Worlds Finest"), and also his friendship and special relationship with Zatanna.

We'd even get into the romantic relationship with Bruce and Barbara Gordon. That was always the most heated contention amongst fans of the show, when that was introduced in the "Mystery Of The Batwoman" movie and on Batman Beyond. I thought it would be a great challenge to show how that relationship came about, worked briefly, and fell apart. To show the conflict that relationship would have to the dynamic of Dick Grayson (both to Barbara and to Bruce), which ultimately led to Barbara deciding it was an office romance that could never, and should never, go forward. That she would come to her senses and break it off, as she realized that Bruce would be too focused on his mission to fight crime, to ever truly become close.

Once it was decided that we'd be working on Justice League Beyond, that pretty much nixed all the Batman-centric stories. We'd have a much larger group to work with, and that seemed a more personal story for the Batman Beyond cast. As it ends up in the current stories by Adam Beechan, Bruce is in the hospital from liver failure. There's no way a story of this type in this form, could be introduced at a later date without feeling like a retread. Much like those love letters, the idea behind it is now just a memory. Something to think fondly of before returning it to that shoebox, as we move on.