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|