Spoiler Alert: The following article discusses some events and plot points from the "Batman: Gotham Knight" DVD.
It was a recipe for success: a star-studded panel of creators and a world premiere of DC's newest DVD video - "Batman: Gotham Knight," available to the rest of the free world on July 8th.
The premiere was held in the Steve Gerber room at WizardWorld Chicago, and the room was packed with fans. Tickets were required for the showing and there was not an empty seat in the house.
DC Comics Senior VP of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck welcomed the crowd and introduced what they were about to see. "Batman: Gotham Knight" is six vignettes featuring the "Batman Begins" version of Batman, drawn in an anime style. Each story is about 12 minutes long.
The individual vignettes are:
- "Have I Got A Story For You" (written by Josh Olson, screenwriter of "A History Of Violence")
- "Crossfire" (written by comics scribe Greg Rucka)
- "Field Test" (written by Jordan Goldberg, producer of "The Prestige" and an assistant on "Dark Knight")
- "In Darkness Dwells" (written by David S. Goyer, writer of "The Dark Knight" and producer of "Ghost Rider")
- "Working Through Pain" (written by comic book scribe Brian Azzarello)
- "Deadshot" (written by Alan Burnett, "Smurfs," "Batman Beyond")
Panelists included Bruce Timm, executive producer, Rucka, Burnett, Olson and Azzarello. The panel was moderated by Noveck, who kept reminding the crowd that the anthology would be available on DVD, Blue-Ray and for download on July 8th.
Scenes in the movie included three different kids recalling seeing Batman on the same day ("Have I Got A Story For You"), Bruce Wayne learning how to tolerate pain ("Working Through Pain") and a battle with Killer Croc and Scarecrow ("In Darkness Dwells"). After every story, the crowd reacted with boisterous applause. "In Darkness Dwells" may have earned the biggest reaction, with one fan shouting "wow!" at the dramatic conclusion.
Once the screening ended, Burnett talked about being able to have more violence in this incarnation of Batman. "We used to have guns and bullets on "Batman: The Animated Series,"" Burnett said. "But we haven't done that for a long time...so we pushed the limits."
Olson talked about letting the Japanese studios have free reign on what each scene should contain. "I made a point: 'Animators, go nuts,'" Olson said about his script. "If you let people follow their passion, you'll get their best work."
Fans were then allowed to start firing off the questions. A young boy who simply didn't quite get the first segment, where three children all have different recollections of what Batman looked like, asked the panel to help clear up his confusion.
"(Batman's) a robot, then a shadow?" asked the boy.
The segment's writer, Olson, did not fail to see the irony in a younger fan being confused by that particular scene. "The idea is it's kids telling stories," Olson said. "Your reflection of our exchange will be very different from mine tomorrow...because you'll be hungover," he laughed. "You're not seeing what happened - you're seeing what they perceived happened."
In Olson's scene, Batman chops off a bad guy's head. Of course, again, this was a perception of a child, not what actually happened.
"I told them I was going to have Batman cut off a head," Olson said. "They were like, 'have you ever read 'Batman?''"
Timm was asked how this process was different, working with a Japanese studio and letting them have so much control of the way the film looked.
"It was definitely a new way of working," he said. "The whole methodology was just totally different. It's like handing your child over to a babysitter - you just don't know what's going to happen. I didn't want this to be my vision, I wanted it to be their vision. I saw stuff in the pre-production stages...I didn't know if it was going to work. I just crossed my fingers, and it did (work)."
A fan thought the musical score sounded like an homage to previous Batman animated projects, and wanted to know if that was the case.
"I made a point of telling the composers not to use any of the previous themes," Timm said, but then said that sometimes a superhero movie just has a familiar sound.
A fan asked if there would be any direct crossover with "The Dark Knight" movie. Noveck said that the idea was to keep it consistent with the universe Christopher Nolan had created for Batman. "There's background, you just have to figure out what it is."
A fan asked if Noveck could describe each writer's storytelling structure.
"They're all really fucking good," Noveck said. "With the exception of Alan, these guys have never worked in animation. We wanted to offer (the studios) latitude. We minimized the action descriptions. So in some cases, you have rows of guys shooting at each other," he laughed, referencing a scene in "Crossfire" where two rival gangs shoot at each other standing shoulder-to-shoulder, like they were fighting in the American Revolution.
In Rucka's "Crossfire" vignette, the story is a "Gotham Knights" story, but instead of Renee Montoya, the character is named Anna. Rucka was asked why this was, and he said they couldn't use the name Montoya, and he could not say why, but fans would know after seeing "The Dark Knight."
Olson was asked if his segment was a tribute to an episode of "Batman: The Animated Series." He said it was more based on a comic book story by Denny O'Neil and Frank Robbins. "There are three kids sitting around the camp fire, and Bruce Wayne comes out in costume," Olson explained. "The kids all laugh, and then they tell him how Batman really looks.
"The first time it's stealing, the second time it's borrowing, the third time you're creating a genre," Olson laughed. "If you're gonna steal (a story), you've got to do something to make it your own. Mine was a nod to Chris Nolan and "Momento," I tell the story backwards."
A fan said that he loved Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, but was any consideration given to having Christian Bale do the voice?
"What a great idea, why didn't we think of that?" Olson chided. Timm then stepped in and said, "We did try to get the movie cast. They're literally so busy. The day Bale wrapped on "Dark Knight," he was on a different continent shooting a different movie."
With the six different stories, a fan wanted to know if there was an effort to sync up the stories.
Burnett said that there was a common thread. "If you pay close attention, you might be able to see it. The whole thing has an arc of the police being unsure about Batman. By the end they're working with him."
The fan asked once again for the common thematic thread.
"Buy it and watch it again," Olson said.
Burnett said he hoped they do another movie like "Gotham Knight." "It was like writing a tight comic book," he said.
A fan asked if each panelists could tell the crowd who their favorite Batman villain was. Their answers:
Burnett said Two-Face, even though you can tell more stories with the Joker
Timm said Joker, because he was versatile
Olson joked, "the dude in black with the jet-pack," referencing the villain in his segment. He then settled on Scarface.
Azzarello said he didn't have a favorite
Rucka said Harvey and Poison Ivy
Noveck said his "favorite Batman villain is the gun."
One fan tried to see if the panelists would all autograph a piece of memorabilia he had with him. Timm said they could not, because that would be unfair to everyone else, but he was welcomed to stop by their signing tomorrow at the convention.
"I'm sure I'll wait for 12 hours," the fan groaned.
"Enjoy yourself," Rucka chided.
Another fan wondered if Nolan put any limitations on the movie?
Timm said that Killer Croc originally had a tail, and when Nolan saw that, he said he didn't want the character to have a tail. "They wanted to keep it grounded in some reality," he said. The topic came up again later. "For the most part they left us alone except for the Killer Croc thing," he said.
Timm was asked a question that led him to comment to the crowd about the new Batman cartoon coming this fall, "Batman: Brave and the Bold." The cartoon will be geared to younger audiences.
A fan asked Azzarello and Rucka to do a "Wonder Woman"/"100 Bullets" 'mash-up.' Rucka joked, "That ends really fast!" and then waved around fake Wonder Woman bracelets to deflect imaginary bullets.
Olson was asked about the language the kids used, and how he made them all sound different. "It's sort of the job. You don't make them all sound the same, or you don't get hired again."
Olson then started talking about the descriptive action words that one of his characters used to describe Batman's fight. "Flurb" was one of the words.
"I only used sound effects from the 60s show. I found a site on the Web that had all the sound effects - 'flurb' was one of the words."
The panel was asked to name their favorite Batman supporting characters. The most memorable answer went to Rucka.
"Gordon. Gordon's his surrogate dad," he said.
"Isn't Alfred his surrogate dad?" a panelist asked.
"No. Alfred's his mom."
The panel wrapped up, and as fans left, they were handed "Batman: Gotham Knight" keychain flashlights.
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