Comic Book Resources had a chance to view the new "Batman: Gotham Knight" animated movie during last month's Wizard World Chicago. The direct-to-DVD film depicts adventures of the Batman set in between the film "Batman Begins" and its forthcoming sequel, "The Dark Knight," with each tale told by a different team of directors, animators and writers that includes Alan Burnett, Jordan Goldberg, Josh Olsen, Brian Azzarello, David Goyer and Greg Rucka. Each chapter stars Kevin Conroy, reprising his role of the voice of Batman.
Just prior to the Wizard World Screening screening, CBR News was invited to sit down and talk with the creators behind the movie, including noted Batman comic book writer Greg Rucka, who penned the second chapter of "Gotham Knight," a 10-minute story titled "Crossfire" that is essentially a new story set in the mold of his award-winning "Gotham Central" title.
With "Batman: Gotham Knight" available on DVD, Blue-Ray disc and as a direct download now, CBR brings you our interview with Greg Rucka.
Is it true that "Crossfire," your chapter of "Batman: Gotham Knight," is a "Gotham Central" story in animated form?
It is the "Gotham Central" one. [laughs]. It is, in essence, [Renee] Montoya and [Crispus] Allen doing a prisoner transfer. It's not Montoya, the character is a character in "The Dark Knight" named Anna Ramirez. Basically, I was asked to write a story out of "Gotham Central" that fit into the continuity after "Batman Begins," before "Dark Knight."
Thematically, what it's dealing with is that Allen doesn't like Batman; doesn't like the fact that the progress in the city has been made through the use of a vigilante; doesn't like the fact that his immediate superior, Gordon, is really tight with this guy; doesn't like feeling like they're on his leash. And Ramirez, alternately, is like, "Look, you don't know what it's been like, for the first time in forever I'm not afraid to wear the badge."
As a result of needing to go to the Narrows to drop this guy off at Arkham, they find themselves caught in a firefight... and it wouldn't be a Batman story if he didn't show up.
Does your story intertwine with the other stories in "Batman: Gotham Knight," or does it stand alone?
In the overall continuity, it carries forth off Josh [Olson's] opening. Sort of takes the guy that's revealed in Josh's opening, moves him into the next stage of the story. The story loosely tracks in a certain way after that. There are basically two major story themes. "Crossfire" sort of leads into the first one.
You've never worked in animation before, was that a challenge? Or was this an easy story for you to write?
Yeah, actually, it was easy. Kind of scary. I was asked to write characters I've been writing for years and I know really well. That wasn't the heard part for me. The hard part for me was that I had to change the way I was thinking about it. Because these characters are characters I write on comic pages, for the most part, and you obviously can't write an animated script the same way. It required some modifications.
At the same time it was a learning experience for me. This was the first animated anything I'd written. I wrote dialogue that for me, sounded pretty clear in my head and aloud. And when delivered, because the way these things are paced -- the pace was very different. That was a learning experience for me.
How was the pace different?
The delivery was different. You can't control that. When you read something somebody has written, I can't control how you read it, but ideally you will have gathered a sense of that give and take, the interplay in the conversation -- if the dialogue evokes that. Well, you put a script in front of an actor, they've got to interpret those lines. They may interpret them exactly as you wrote them. Then the director has got to make sure those lines are delivered to match his direction. And that means that if you have a quick interplay with the characters, but a long slow shot of a car winding along a road -- those are in conflict. The way the director is going to get around that is by slowing... the dialogue... down. That's in the delivery. It often seems intense. And that's neither good nor bad, it's just different.
I've written comics for over 10 years now and one thing I had to learn real early is no matter how I saw the page in my mind's eye when I was writing the script, the page I was going to get in front of me was never going to be what I saw in my head, ever. That's just the way it is. These are collaborative processes. I can't animate, I can't draw. I'm not a triple-threat, I'm a writer, a reasonably good one. In a collaborative process, you put out your material, other people are going to take it and they're going to work it, and when everything is brilliant, you get something that is greater than the sum of its parts. That's what you always hope for.
We don't know if you've ever watched someone read one of your comics, but fans here at Wizard World Chicago are going to watch this movie together. Are you nervous? How does it feel knowing that here in a few minutes, you're going to watch, along with 700 fans, something that you wrote?
Terrifying. Oh yeah. I'm nervous. I mean, lets' see, you've got ["Gotham Knight" writers] Brian Azzarello, Josh [Olson], and [Alan] Burnett. Look who you got [on this project]. Yeah, that's rare company to keep, as far as this goes. You want to know what's even more intimidating? Kevin Conroy spoke the Batman lines! Alright? Kevin Conroy is so closely identifying as Batman to me, personally, just because of my affections. It's both intimidating and incredibly flattering to be included in that company.
"Batman: Gotham Knight" comes with a PG-13 rating, a first for a Batman cartoon. Is it your segment that's exceptionally violent?
In "Crossfire," there is a sequence of exceptional violence. But at the same time, it ain't "Akira." It's two rival gangs opening fire on one another in a very stylized way. It's not John Woo. It's a hail of fire. It's literally a hail of fire, it's people going, "boom, boom, boom, boom, boom." Not a whole lot of people diving for cover. You know, it's old school. It's an old school killing. As opposed to new school trying to save your life.
You were asked to write a "Gotham Central" piece -- do you prefer writing these stories about the supporting characters around the superheroes, or is that just a niche you find yourself filling?
My interests, while I love those [main] characters, are not with them as much. You know, I'd love to see them do something more with "Gotham Central." But that's my taste. I like writing stories about how Batman looks to the guy who is working 9 to 5. I like the stories about how Superman looks to the 12-year-old out playing ball in the street. Those are the things that have always been magical to me. We tell these stories from the superhero's point of view. We're always inside the Batcave, you know what it looks like. We're in the Batmobile. We're with Superman when he's flying. We forget what it would honestly be like, what the honest human emotion we'd get if we went outside tonight, there was a guy ten feet in front of us, stopped, turned, crouched, leapt in the air and then flew away. I don't care how many times you see that if you live in Metropolis -- it's still going to blow your fricking mind! When we forget those things, we forget the power of the character -- we take it for granted. We get older and we get jaded, and we know people can't fly... but you've got to remember that wonder.
Batman isn't scary if you're always in the Batcave with him, and he's sitting there going, "ho-dee-do-dee-do, I'm working on the computer, I'm fixing the car," but dammit, he's terrifying when you can't see him. And that Batman you don't trust. Take that the other way around, if you're a cop in Gotham, you are seeing an opportunity to do good finally, and you got a boss you can finally trust. And yet there's always this shadow in that office. And it comes in and you never see it enter, and it disappears and you never see it leave. And then the boss says, "come in here," and you go in there and there's a prisoner in there who didn't come in through a door! You'd kind of go, "You know what, I gotta tell you, I ain't square with this guy, there's something a little off here." That is a legitimate concern, there's a trust that has to be earned. They don't know who he is. They don't know if he's a killer.
That's the other thing you've got to remember: they don't know if he's a killer. They don't know if he's going to knife somebody. We know, because we come to the world knowing he's a hero. We forget that not everybody knows that. Especially in the world Nolan's created, there's no reason in the world to believe [Batman] is going to be good. Not in that Gotham -- no way.
There was one good cop in "Batman Begins!" And he didn't do a whole lot, did he? Frankly, Gordon was ineffectual the whole movie. Now you've got the cops saying "No, no, the bad guy, the guy dressed up as the monster -- at least, I think he's dressing up as a monster, I'm not too sure, I haven't gotten a good look yet." And there's the thing with the tank-car thing. You're going to be like, "Yeah, he sounds like a psycho, he doesn't sound like a hero.'
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