This issue was a bit of a free-for-all.
Up until this point, most of the stories for Unhinged had centered around a villain or two. But the idea came from on high to try to come up with a story that would have as many of the villains as we could fit into it. A lot of that had to do with the artist they had lined up. Mico had already drawn a couple covers for Unhinged, when it was decided to let him draw the interiors of a story. And they thought it would be fun to have him draw as many of the characters as possible.
In the game, the villains are all over the place, and not necessarily willing to work together. So what would get them to come together for this story? It really hinged on the idea of how they all ended up in Arkham City to begin with.
With that in mind, I immediately thought of the animated series, since the games and the animated shows shared the same writer in Paul Dini. And the game borrowed elements from how characters were portrayed as well as voice actors. So I thought of the "Trial" episode of Batman: The Animated Series. How the villains in Arkham captured Batman and put him on trial. But not wanting an exact retread, I figured we'd do a different variation. Since Joker's scheme in the first Arkham Asylum game lead to the destruction of the island facility, and the incarceration of all the villains into a walled Arkham City; the next logical step would be to have a trial against the Joker. That all these incarcerated villains would put their rivalries and annoyances aside to find Joker guilty and be punished accordingly.
Picking the villains to make up the jury was fun. You already had a lot of favorites that had been seen in previous issues. But it would also allow us to throw in characters that were only mentioned or even never seen much, if at all, in the game. Ventriloquist would get some face time. Black Mask would alude to an upcoming issue with his history against the Joker. Rat Catcher gets an extended scene compared to the briefest of cameos in issue #8. And I got to continue my love for ex-Wonderland Gang member, The Carpenter. It was fun writing her in "Streets Of Gotham", so I was always looking for an excuse to have her pop up in Unhinged whenever I could. Croc would never make it to the jury just because I didn't think he'd ever surface from the sewer to care. And same goes for Mr.Freeze, too involved with his plans for Nora to even bother.
Judge Harvey Dent would be a nod to the animated episode "Judgement Day". In that show, Harvey assumed the vigilante role of a masked court judge, going after various villains. I thought we could do a little adaptation of that visual in our story as well, with Dent's dual roles…Harvey as Prosecutor and Two-Face as the Judge. His half wig/half robed appearance was originally questioned if it could work, but they relented and let me do it, and I think it's an impressive visual for the character.
We even had an alternate juror in Calendar Man. Since he was already imprisoned beneath the Courthouse, it would be more convenient for him to be in this story than any other Unhinged issue due to his limitations in the game. And I always had plans to do more with him. I had pitched a short story that involved him after his escape from his Courthouse jail. Gamers will recall that after you visit him on each of the marked holidays, that he eventually escapes his cell, back into the city. My idea had him team-up with Jervis Tetch. That Tetch might've been one of the few to visit him in his cell, and they formulated a plan to work together, using Mad Hatter's mind-control technology, to go after Two-Face's gang that imprisoned him (and had also caused Mad Hatter trouble). By ambush capturing some of the gang members and applying the technology to their masks, Calendar Man would tell his victims to climb to the highest building and jump to their deaths (very aptly timed to come out during "Leap Year" in 2012). I thought it would make for a nice catchy way to market the story. But the timing and approval process never worked its way out.
I can't get away without explaining the absurdity of Batman and Joker teaming up in this story. It should never work. But if there's one thing I always ascribed to was the ending to the game, and how after everything Joker did; that Batman was still willing to help cure him if given the chance.
The idea that Batman would sit idly by and watch as this rabid jury would tear apart and kill the Joker, I just couldn't see happening. He would want to get down there and stop the proceedings, and end up saving Joker at the same time.
It would be the unlikeliest of team-ups, but there was a basis for it...
Before the game came out, a video surfaced known as the "Arkham City Batman Joker co-op" (do a search for it online and you can watch it). It showed game footage of Batman and Joker facing each other in a dark alley in Arkham City, only to be surrounded by gang members, and the two of them having to team-up to fight them off to survive. It was a lot of fun to see these rivals not only fighting back-to-back, but assisting each other during the fight. Eventually that video of game footage was revealed to be a fake (but a well created fake). So having Batman and Joker fight off the jury in our story was my way to give a little nod to that bit of inspiration.
Lastly I've got nothing but praise for the artist. Those of you that are enjoying Mico Suayan's covers on a range of DC and Valiant titles, got to see what he could do drawing a story. I remember when I first started to see his super tight pencils show up, that I thought they were so detailed, clean, and finished, that they wouldn't even need an inker and could go straight to color (and that's blasphemy coming from someone who inks, right?) Mico did a knockout job having to draw a range of characters, as well as Arkham City itself. And on top of that, was easy and enthusiastic to work with. You couldn't ask for a better collaborator. Check out his thumbnail layouts to the first chapter, along with the first tightly rendered pencil page to the story.