Before Batman: Arkham City video game came out, DC released a five issue miniseries taking place six months after Arkham Asylum. There were some digital chapters as well and the premise for Arkham City was set up. For those that have played Arkham City, you know the game has a surprising beginning that caught many off guard.
With BATMAN: ARKHAM UNHINGED digitally available (you can purchase them on the DC app from comiXology), we will get to find out what lead up to the game as well as discover more about the Arkhamverse. We asked writer Derek Fridolfs some questions about ARKHAM UNHINGED.
Comic Vine: How did you get involved with writing Arkham Unhinged.
Derek Fridolfs: It started back during the ARKHAM CITY comics. DC had decided to do some Digital Exclusive chapters and deadlines were a bit tight with Paul Dini writing both, along with other projects he was busy with. So it was decided to bring on someone to help script off his plots. Paul recommended me, I believe, which was an extremely nice gesture. We had been working together on DETECTIVE COMICS and STREETS OF GOTHAM, including co-scripting a couple issues of the latter. So I was definitely excited to come onboard to help script and write. It originally started as 5 chapters but then got extended to 7. And then when the idea for an ongoing weekly series came about, they asked if I wanted to write it.
Paul has always been the greatest of inspirations for me, dating back to the original Batman: The Animated Series. That hit at a time when I was entering college and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It wasn't until after I graduated that I began pursuing getting into animation and comics. And I pinch myself that many years later, I'd get the chance to work with Paul on long satisfying runs on the comics. His scripts are always a treat to read, and his plots always had exactly enough information to get me started.== TEASER ==
CV: Did you get the full script to the game before writing? If so, does that 'ruin' your gaming experience (if you had plans to play Arkham City).
DF: It's a funny thing with this. I used to be a gamer ever since the Atari 2600 days and up through the first 8-bit Nintendo (definitely aging myself here). But I found that my ambitions to break into comics were greater on my list of goals, and decided to stop with the games and really devote my time to finishing college and pursuing art and getting into comics. Did the whole convention and submission route for a solid 5 years before getting in. And even after working regularly in comics, I just never fell back into gaming, not because I didn't like it, but because it can be a time killing distraction for getting work done. Up until getting this job! ha
When I found out I'd be involved writing in the Arkhamverse, I dove in by getting myself a PS3 and cramming through the first Arkham Asylum in about a week or two. Then with that experience under my belt, I went out to DC Digital's offices in Burbank for a visit and spent the entire day playing Arkham City before it came out. The fine folks over there (shout outs to Shawn Kittelsen, John Morgan, and Victoria Setian) alternated spending time doing their regular workload and meetings, and coming in and showing me the ropes to the game as I got to see much of the story and gameplay for the entire game in a day, being able to jump around various levels and scenes, as they helped rush me through it and overload my brain taking it all in.
On the one hand, I was privy to most of everything before it came out. But you put aside feeling ruined or spoiled for the greater good of wanting to know as much about the game and story as possible, which can only help provide inspiration and reference to write stories. And since then, I got my copy of the game and have devoted a lot of time to playing through it and discovering more things I didn't get the chance to check out ahead of time. Playing games as part of "research"…I can't complain!
CV: Were you given a certain point where characters needed to end up. Will Arkham Unhinged lead up to the opening of Arkham City?
DF: There's a certain continuity timeline present for the Arkhamverse, starting with the first Arkham Asylum game, then the Arkham City mini-series and digital exclusive comics that lead up to the opening of Arkham City. UNHINGED takes place after Arkham City is open, with the first couple of story arcs dealing with events leading up to the very beginning of the game. And from there, future story arcs will consist mainly during the Arkham City game itself (one long night for Batman) while also having flashbacks and story points that date back to Arkham Asylum and even earlier than that. It'll help cover a lot of where certain rivalries started between the villains.
A lot of where characters were before they got into Arkham City as well as what are their continued motivations after they're inside. And with the idea that the longer this series runs (weekly with no end in sight currently), that we'll be able to get to stories that happen after the game ends. Without spoiling it, there's a lot of room to see where things go with a lot of characters and how they were left off in the game or barely mentioned. Now's our chance to flesh more of those out and give some a chance to have a bigger spotlight. It's a very ambitious plan to do more stories in the Arkhamverse that's been set up, and entirely rewarding to get into a lot of these characters' heads.
CV: The focus in the first four issues has been on Catwoman and Two-Face. Will we be seeing other Bat-characters featured in later issues?
DF: Definitely. The Arkhamverse is very villain oriented, that covers a range of Batman's rogues gallery. So there will be a huge focus on telling their stories. But obviously it has "Batman" in the title, so it's about how he deals with all these foes or how their lives are affected by him being in there with them. And we'll also get a chance to see Batman's extended family (Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, Alfred) and what they're up to as Batman has a full plate to deal with on his own.
I think the point I like to make on this, is I almost consider this an ongoing anthology. There are story threads that will tie over from previous stories, as this ongoing weekly series continues. But also, these are story arcs that will jump around featuring different characters, their motivations, histories, and how a lot of them crossover into one another. Some arcs will be short 1 chapter vignettes, maybe tackling one character, while others will run much longer and cover a range of characters. And each arc will feature a different artist that draws it, so half the fun is seeing a range of styles brought to these stories.
CV: Hugo Strange has had different origins and portrayals in the comics. Was his 'origin' in issue #4 determined from the beginning or did you tweak it to fit in your vision of the story?
DF: I believe the work of DC, Rocksteady, and Paul Dini, all had some idea of Hugo's large involvement in the Arkhamverse. Maybe not too specific, but that there was a lot of things going on leading up to his arrival in the Arkham City game. And then it was up to me to creatively introduce just how far back his ties to everything started. I think it's a nice way to incorporate both games together to see how much Hugo was involved behind-the-scenes before he was revealed to the public in Gotham.
One of the nice things on working on such an established property like this, is that I not only get a lot of material about the characters in the game, but also when I pitch ideas and write outlines and draft scripts, I get a range of notes from DC and Rocksteady. All to make sure that things fit as seamlessly as they can into the overall continuity of the Arkhamverse. There's a lot of open leeway to tell stories, but also making sure how certain things all fit in as well.
CV: Looking at how the story process works in the game, do you think other characters, Nightwing, Robin or even non-Bat-related characters, could carry their own Arkham City-style game?
DF: It's always possible. I mean, Batman will always be the center of attention on something like this, but he has an extended cast of characters. Whether any of them ever get a chance to carry their own game remains to be seen. But I'm sure fans are interested to see their roles expand. Having the DLC characters for challenge modes is a nice start. And I like to think that the Unhinged comics go the next step in having some stories extend to them, since they might not have gotten as much screen time in the game. Now we get to see what they've been up to and how they factor in to the larger story going on.
Be sure to check out the BATMAN: ARKHAM UNHINGED comic through DC's comiXology storeeach week.