Burnett & Rucka Get Animated about "Gotham Knight"

On sale now is "Batman: Gotham Knight," the latest release from Warner Bros.' DC Universe line of direct-to-DVD features based on the iconic DC Comics superheroes. Split into six chapters created by six different teams of writers, directors, animators, and composers, "Gotham Knight" bridges the gap between 2005's live-action "Batman Begins" and the forthcoming sequel, "The Dark Knight."

Veteran telvision writer Alan Burnett, who has penned Emmy Award-winning scripts for "Batman: The Animated Series," "Batman Beyond" and "The Batman," wrote the final short, "Deadshot" and also added a 'connective tissue' to the six stories. The other five shorts were written by Brian Azzarello ("100 Bullets"), Josh Olson ("A History of Violence"), David Goyer ("Batman Begins" and "JSA"), Greg Rucka ("Final Crisis: Revelations" and "Gotham Central") and Jordan Camera Goldberg, who helped conceive the overall story and served as an associate producer on Nolan's "The Prestige" and "The Dark Knight."

"It was a lot fun," Alan Burnett told CBR News. "I like the short form. When I first heard it was being done, I was really excited about it. And when I was asked to write one of stories, I was thrilled."

Because of his long-history with the character in DC's animated universe, Burnett was asked to story edit the six stories upon completion to ensure the overall arc flowed naturally. "The producers wanted to connect the stories a little more so I added a connective tissue, but very little," explained Burnett, "as little as possible because I didn't want to interfere with the original scripts, which were all great."

Burnett, who has won four Emmy awards over the past 15-plus years working on animated versions of Batman, added, "I thought it would be nice to see a prism of people's views on Batman or each writer's particular take on Batman, so I didn't want to insert myself. And I didn't."

Interestingly, Burnett remarked, "I actually liked the idea of doing stories without the connective tissue. I liked the idea of doing six different Batmans and seeing what everybody came up with. I like shorts that stand on their own."

While he hardly reinvented the wheels on the Batmobile, Burnett's "Gotham Knight" story does feature a character he's been targeting for some time to script, the expert marksman Deadshot. "The story is about eleven minutes long, so it's not like I am reinventing Batman for my section," explained Burnett. "What was different was that I was dealing with a villain that we could never do on television " Deadshot. Because he is a guy who uses bullets and I haven't been able to use bullets since 'Batman: The Animated Series.'"

Burnett teased that his story becomes a cat and mouse game between Batman and Deadshot, the man who never uses a gun versus the arguably the best shot in the DCU. "What's really fun is Deadshot is very much a loner," said Burnett. "He works by himself and talks to himself and he kills from a distance. I think he takes great pride in what he does because he does it so well. He's a pretty vicious character. But in some ways, he's a bit of a coward because he's killing from a distance."

Having finished his script nearly a year ago, Burnett was hands-off the "Gotham Knight" project for some time, but he recently saw the finished the product and was amazed by the results. Said the writer-producer, "It's got a lot of eye candy. And all six stories are very different. They all have different palettes and a different use of lines. That being said, they all work extremely well together."

One of the writers who entered the Batcave from a different entrance was Greg Rucka. The novelist and comics writer penned the second story in the anthology, entitled "Crossfire." "I was asked specifically to do a 'Gotham Central' type riff," Rucka told CBR. "It was initially described as a Crispus Allen/Renee Montoya story, but set in this period between the emergence of Batman and the coming of the supervillain crisis."

Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya were both featured in Rucka's run on the Eisner Award-winning "Gotham Central" as detectives, but are now DCU's current incarnates of the Spectre and The Question, respectively. Both are also key players in Rucka's upcoming "Final Crisis: Revelations."

Like Burnett, Rucka wrote the story ages ago and was then out of the loop until he saw the final cut. "The producers gave me an overview and I sat down and hammered at it and turned in a script," he said. "They said they liked it and then I went away. You write something for animation and once you script it -- at least this is how I was involved in it -- you have no input and no say. It goes off to Japan and they hand it to the director of the animation studio and these guys make of it what they will. I got to see it a little while ago and it's not what I pictured in my mind at every turn but you know it's very hard for me to judge because you try not to come to these things with preconceived notions. But a lot of what I was after got there."

One thing that didn't get there was one of Rucka's favorite characters. "Word trickled down to me that they are changing Montoya to do this character Ramirez, who I guess is in the movie," said Rucka. "I don't know if Allen is actually in the movie or not but it's now Cris and Anna Ramirez."

Rucka was very happy to be included in the project as he is long time fan of many of those involved in "Batman: Gotham Knight." "Kevin Conroy is doing the voice of Batman. And that's just so cool," said the writer. "Conroy's Batman is perfect. And I love the Alan Burnett, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm animated Batman. I'm working on a thing where Alan Burnett is on it and Bruce Timm is on it. Holy mackerel. It's that same thrill I got the first time I read a comic and all of sudden, there was an artist and he drew Batman and Batman was saying the stuff I wrote. Now there are a bunch of guys who animated this thing and Kevin Conroy is saying the stuff that I wrote. Wow! It's really hard to look at any part of that gift horse and any part of its anatomy and not be happy."

Rucka is also glad to see Crispus Allen, his own original creation, prominently featured in not one but two of his big projects this summer. "I got no complaints. Trust me. I am very happy. I'm just hoping he's doesn't wind up dead in anything," laughed Rucka.

Crispus Allen is voiced by Gary Dourdan, known most notably as Warrick Brown on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." "He did a fine job. The only thing that I found in watching it was that the dialogue ran slower than I had envisioned it," said Rucka. "And that's just a pacing thing that comes out of animation. It gets animated a certain way and the actors have to deliver lines to match the animation. So instead of getting the banter between two cops who know each other, everything becomes very severe gravitas. It works, so I am not complaining."

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