An enthusiastic crowd practically went into Joker-esque hysterics on Thursday when WB Games kicked off its official panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego for "Batman: Arkham City." The room was packed with all kinds of appreciative fans, who weren't disappointed as a variety of pros and guests emerged from backstage to discuss the game.
Taking part in the panel were Rocksteady Games' Paul Crocker, DC Comics' Jim Lee, writer Paul Dini (who was also instrumental in developing "Batman: The Animated Series"), Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman), Mark Hamill (the voice of the Joker) and "Castle" co-star Stana Katic, introduced as the voice of one of the new characters in the game, Talia al Gul.
Katic actually kicked off the event talking about her character. She was once romantically involved with Batman, but things fell through. Not smart, though, as her character has a samurai sword -- and isn't afraid to use it. And for the record, she got to touch Mark Hamill. (Not with the sword.)
From there, Lee spoke up about the "Batman: Arkham City" comic book series, currently on issue #4. He also spoke briefly about the digital comics, though no breaking news was announced. Of course, DC remains happy with the direction they're going.
Dini then spoke about the game's transitioning story, moving from the interior of Arkham Asylum to a full-blown fortified city. "It's a nice bridge of the mythology between the two games," he said, though the work that goes into writing a game is far more complex than that of a comic. Dini would know, as he's worked on both the games and the coordinating comics, and worked closely with Rocksteady to ensure "Arkham City" had an outstanding story.
Hamill had a chance to speak about voicing the Joker and how he was inspired by the Dini-written "Batman: TAS" episode "The Man Who Killed Batman." Following that, he was to provide some impromptu Joker voiceovers, only to be matched up with Conroy, who supplied the Batman quips. The best one of the bunch? "Oh, baby." Hamill also related the story of how he wanted to record a book on tape of "The Killing Joke," but couldn't get the proper assistance from Alan Moore, for obvious reasons. "Arkham Asylum" somewhat fulfilled that wish.
Conroy reflected about how he was able to nail the audition of Batman, his first voiceover role. He then talked about how he went for said audition during the L.A. riots, with a bunch of cars driving the other way. Katic responded in a perfect manner: "Well, that's because you're Batman," which drew some hearty laughs from the crowd. Conroy and Hamill then briefly discussed recording-studio horror stories, even mentioning some of the outtakes that didn't make the cut. (Hopefully we'll hear those in MP3 form someday.)
Next up, Crocker offered more about the game, but sidestepped spoiler territory. He wouldn't even discuss Talia's role in the plot. He and Dini discussed the ins and outs of collaborating, adding as much character and story elements as the game could handle. Apparently the game couldn't take everything, as they had to drop a massive storyline, something they may revisit next year. They didn't divulge how, but could we possibly be looking at episodic downloadable content? Sorry, more frustrating silence.
Hamill chimed in, stating he didn't even know the game was doing so well until his son saw a story on Joystiq.com. "You're a hit!" He then discussed the Joker character some more, and his approach to bringing his playful voice to life. He also lightly complained about the fact he didn't get any "Arkham Asylum" action figures (yet, anyway). From there, several figures were shown, including Battle-Damage Robin, Harley Quinn and Killer Croc. (Here's hoping he makes a trip to "Arkham City," as well.)
Dini then discussed the comics, which tie together events between the first game and the second, factoring in everything that's transpired, including the creation of Arkham City.
The panel then went into the Collector's Edition of the game, which features a collectible statue and other swag. Different retailers will have plenty of extras (including Best Buy's Robin challenge maps), but the panel didn't detail all the plans just yet, saving them for a later date.
Crocker was forthcoming about how his team at Rocksteady converted the studio into "The House of Batman," since everyone loves the character. They literally have the bat-symbol on everything around the office. He then stated how the team is working hard on the new gliding system, where Batman zips around by swooping downward and then back up to gain momentum.
From there, the latest trailer of the game was shown, which features Batman squaring off against the Penguin only to end up fighting Solomon Grundy, who also makes an appearance. Check it out below.
After that, a legacy edition of "Batman: Arkham City" was discussed, including an oversized figure in a grey and blue outfit -- the old Batman duds. This could possibly be an unlockable costume in the game, but the team couldn't confirm it. A smaller version of the figure will be available exclusively at Toys 'R Us with the purchase of the game.
Hamill admitted that the Joker isn't his only comic book voice -- his other DCU animated work includes voicing Solomon Grundy on "Justice League." He liked the game version better, though, calling him "gnarly." The audience asked who voices the Penguin, but the panel couldn't say.
A Q&A portion was intended to close out the panel, but unfortunately time ran out. While that's somewhat saddening, the non-stop flow of information, quips and good times (especially the character voices) made this a worthwhile Comic-Con attraction.
Look for "Batman: Arkham City" in stores October 18. Stay tuned to Comic Book Resources for our interview with Paul Dini, to be posted soon!