DC has released several movies since they reset the universe in the dramatic conclusion to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War and they have all been original stories until now. This summer Warner Bros. Animation, DC, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment delivers the first retelling of a classic DC story in the new universe, and it is one that has affected comics and movie scripts ever since. Leaping from the pages of the iconic mid-1990s DC story written by Jeph Loeb (Batman: Hush, Hulk: Gray) and Tim Sale (Batman: Dark Victory, Daredevil: Yellow), Batman: The Long Halloween is a cornerstone of Batman lore. At the center of our tale is the triumvirate of crime fighters – Batman/Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles), Police Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) – as they try to solve the mystery of the Holiday Killer. In anticipation of the Blu- Ray and Digital release on June 22, the man behind turning those comics into a screenplay, Tim Sheridan (Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Reign of the Supermen), join's Bleeding Cool's Jimmy Leszczynski for a one on one chat. Tim shares his excitement for the cast, which Batman gave him an appreciation for the multiverse, and the challenges of adapting such an iconic story.
With such a murder' row of talent, did you write anything specific for any actor?
Tim Sheridan: Let me tell you, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Sons of Anarchy) and David Dashmelchian (Ant-Man The Dark Knight) are, among the rest of this amazing cast, are incredible. The whole cast just knocks it out of the park. But also Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Batman: Under the Red Hood). Jensen Ackles is a huge Batman fan and is somebody who was just born to play Batman. So to get to hear him do this just gave me chills. David Dashmalchin was a delight and is a delight, and he was so thrilled and excited to be here. As was, you know, the late Naya Rivera (Glee, Step Up Highwater) who just really brings a whole new dimension to Selyna Kyle, Catwoman, in these movies. We are just so lucky we got to work with her.
How important is Batman: The Long Halloween as a story, or where would you rank it as far as Batman or DC stories go?
TS: This is a trap question. How dare you. How would I rank it? I will say that it is among the most influential books in the DC canon and in all of graphic literature, so I hold it in very high regard. I think very much because so much of the book is left to interpretation because of the way that we interact with comics versus the way we interact with other media. (In) comics, we get to fill in the pieces in our brain between panels and pages, and so it becomes like any great work of art, something that we can interpret. So the challenge ends up being when you're adapting something to another medium, like cinema, how do you try to remain true to the story but also how do you make sure that you're telling a story that everyone feels how they felt when they read the book and the experience they felt when they read the book. And not just a very particular niche sort of way in which you would interpret it. Luckily we had a whole team of people. You know, Butch (Lukic, Supervising Producer) and I, we were fans of the material, and we were so excited to get to try over the course of two movies to get to be faithful to the essence of what the book is.
You worked on Reign of the Supermen, and similar to that, you have over a year's worth of comics content to break down into two hours. Can you tell me the process of breaking down the comic story and jamming it into two hours?
TS: In terms of the experience of making these movies, it could not have been more different. Reign of the Supermen had a lot of challenges. Chief among them was the fact that it was a story taking place within a larger story that James Tucker (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman: Hush) was telling through his canon of movies at DC and Warners. So, with The Long Halloween, we were able to come in; it was the first thing we worked on, Butch and I, before we did (Superman)Man of Tomorrow… We didn't have to fit it into some other created canon that was going on. So that was very freeing for us, and it meant that it aligned with our sensibilities which were – Well, let's try as best we can to make a movie version of that is still a satisfying movie experience that gives you the feeling when you read the book the first time—so very different types of processes in terms of Reign of the Supermen and Long Halloween.
In Reign of the Supermen, you had to adapt that story, and the iterations of those characters, into the 'Tuckerverse.' What 'verse' would you say this story is set in? Is it the same as Superman Man of Tomorrow?
TS: I don't know any of that stuff. I know that, again, we had done The Long Halloween first, and it was it's own; it was its own story. It exists in its own place in the multiverse. Even in the great canon of DC comics, I think today, how this fits into the canon? All we really thought about was how do we tell this story and how do we do it in a movie format which was a completely different experience than reading it in a comic book. As much as people think that it's the same because characters are drawn, it's a completely different thing. It's as different as a live-action movie is from an animated movie. The difference between an animated movie and a comic book. That was really what the main focus was.
You have to do a lot of editing on the story to condense it into the time frame. What did you add, leave-in, take out, and why?
TS: Condensing is a tough way to put it. It is more a matter of elevating the stuff that is going to help us move the story cinematically and give us the experience that we got in the book. Then sort of maybe trying to be really thoughtful of the things, there were things that were so visually exciting and interesting or just story points that were exciting and interesting from the book. But if we wanted them in the movie, we were going to have to have a twenty-hour movie. So you definitely have to find clever ways to get that story point in without just throwing something out as if it never happened or it doesn't exist. So our goal was, we didn't want to negate stuff that happens in the book if it didn't happen in the same way as the movie. We didn't want to negate anything; we just wanted to be additive and say, well, this is something that, here's a little piece of the puzzle that is going to help in terms of pacing for the movie and is a scene that maybe takes place between issues one and two, or three and four. And use that scene to enhance the larger narrative of the movie. Those were the challenges… I hope that people watch the movie and know that it was made by fans, but also fans that are professionals.
I think the fan part shines through in the work. It's really a labor of love; I don't want to speak for you. Maybe distilling the story is a better way to put it.
TS: You can because that's exactly how it felt. It was a labor of love for everybody; Distilling is probably the better way to say it. Not really crunching and trying to make things fit into where they go… I want it to be as close as an adaptation possible… And this is the way the story plays out in our corner of the multiverse. You'll always have the book to go back to and read how it played out in that corner of the multiverse. And enjoy both of them. I think that these things, like Reign of the Supermen and its comic book equivalent, they get to live alongside each other in the great canon of the multiverse of DC, and they don't have to take away from each other. They can add to each other and add to the experience and the love that we feel for these great works of art. I'm referring to the books, not my script.
Well, I'll say that. At least Part One, which I have seen, definitely shines through. I heard how much you enjoyed Jensen Ackles's performance as Batman, But I want to ask you about my favorite Batman. Did you ever get a chance to meet Adam West?
TS: No, It is a great disappointment for me. I was not there when we were recording him for (The Return of) the Caped Crusaders at Warner Animation. It is one of the things I would happily do if I could turn back the clock. I would love to meet that guy. As a kid, of course, that was one of my very first experiences with Batman was the show. I couldn't make heads or tails of it, by the way. I was like, I don't understand. Is this funny? Because I was reading the comics too, and I was like, these are not funny. Reading Denny O'neil stories. I was like, what's going on here? I think that's probably- to reference around for you – that's probably where my appreciation for the multiverse comes from. When I was a kid, I was watching Batman Adam West doing some campy stuff, and I was reading Death in the Family. But those things, it made sense to me. They are different areas of the multiverse, and that Batman story is a little bit different from every angle, so I could appreciate all of them. And I think that's the way we approach all of these things. I hope we all do.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, is currently available on Digital and Blu-ray.
The all-star cast includes Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Smallville) as Batman/ Bruce Wayne, Naya Rivera (Glee) as Catwoman Selina Kyle⁷, Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Las Vegas) as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke (Twilight, Revolution, Zoo) as James Gordon, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Deadwood, The Town) as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Ant- Man, Dune, The Dark Knight) as Calendar Man, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Knight) as Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor, Transparent) as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid (The Boys, The Hunger Games) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (American Dad!, Family Guy) as Solomon Grundy, Jim Pirri (World of Warcraft franchise) as Sal Maroni, and Alastair Duncan (The Batman, Batman Unlimited franchise) as Alfred. Additional voices provided by Frances Callier, Greg Chun, and Gary Leroi Gray.
Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) directs Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One from a screenplay by Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen, Superman: Man of Tomorrow). Produced by Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Kimberly S. Moreau (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Supervising Producer Butch Lukic (Justice Society: World War II, Superman: Man of Tomorrow) and Executive Producers are Michael Uslan and Sam Register