BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN Interview: Writer Tim Sheridan On Adapting The Story, Favorite Villains, & More

Batman: The Long Halloween writer Tim Sheridan talks to us about adapting the iconic storyline, the villains he most enjoyed bringing to life, and how he made Gotham City a character in its own right here.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One arrives on Digital & Blu-ray on June 22 from Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Inspired by the classic story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the movie begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham's young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city's only two uncorrupt lawmen (Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent) in order to take down The Roman.

However, when more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that instead of ordinary gang violence orchestrated by the head of the notorious Falcone Crime Family, they're also dealing with a serial killer - the identity of whom, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to discern.

Last week, we caught up with writer Tim Sheridan to discuss the immense amount of work that went into bringing this story to life. Talking specifically about Part One (which we'll be sharing our review of tomorrow), Tim took us on a deep dive into the challenges that came with turning the comic book into a two-part animated feature, his love of the source material, and the villains he most enjoyed writing.

He also sheds some spoiler-free light on finding the right place to end Part One, ahead of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two being released on July 22 on Digital and August 10 on Blu-ray!
 

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After putting a fresh spin on Superman for this new iteration on the DC Animated Universe with Man of Tomorrow, was it quite daunting to then be tasked with adapting a storyline as iconic as The Long Halloween?

What’s interesting is I actually wrote The Long Halloween before Man of Tomorrow! I came straight into the project from the first one of these movies I did, Reign of the Supermen, so it certainly was [daunting]. This is an iconic story and to be given the keys to that car, or this particular Batmobile, certainly felt like there was more of a weight of responsibility. I know how beloved it is to fans because I’m a fan and it’s a beloved story to me. I think that was kind of freeing too because right out of the gate, Butch Lukic, our supervising producer, when we started talking about The Long Halloween, we were on the same page. We wanted to make something that really was faithful to the story of the book. It’s a difficult task. A graphic novel or comic book is not a movie. We experience them differently, so they’re inherently going to be different. Knowing that was our goal actually made it very easy with how to proceed and hopefully, fans will feel we’ve done good service to the story. 

Is it important to you, as a writer, to be able to bring some new ideas to the table rather than having to just do a straightforward adaptation as if this were a motion comic...all while hitting the familiar notes fans expect?

You can’t write something without bringing a little bit of yourself to it. You always look for opportunities to mould and craft the story in such a way that makes sense when you’re the one telling it. That’s typically what I would say I want to do, but in the case of an adaptation like this, more than anything, my guiding principle was, ‘What can I do to translate this story on screen’ and, where possible, ‘How can I take some of the themes that I think are important in the book that could maybe work cinematically and be more fleshed out cinematically?’ It was less about inserting my own point of view, but rather listening as a reader to what the pieces were that I could interpret. The Long Halloween, the book, is a great work of art. In graphic format, it’s a different experience. As the reader, it’s more interactive because you fill in panels between panels in your brain and pages between pages and issues between issues. You’re part of the storytelling in a way that we don’t necessarily have the opportunity for in TV and film. For me, the key thing was finding a place where this cinematic version of the story could help flesh out the themes and ideas that I felt were important in the book and deserve to be put up on screen to help tell the story in a, like I said, cinematic way.

The nature of a story like The Long Halloween means you get to write some iconic heroes and a lot of great villains; which of those did you most enjoy delving into here?

Well, I was very fortunate in that the way we sat down and structured how Part One and Part Two were going to work, the lion’s share of villains were going to be, and if you know the story you’ll know why this was always going to be the case, in Part Two. I got to put the training wheels on for Part One and got to explore a few iconic villains. For me, the two...it’s hard to pick something that was most exciting, but Carmine Falcone is a character that deserves more attention in the canon. Getting to look at him as a character and flesh out a little bit of who he is and why he does what he does and has done what he’s done, was a really exciting thing for me.
 

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Then, there’s The Joker. Who doesn’t want to write The Joker? He’s so well-written in the book, and there’s something about the words he uses as you’re writing them that means you can hear great actors, like Troy Baker who voices The Joker for us, you can hear it in your head. The thrill and excitement of writing them and going into the studio and listening to Troy deliver something so akin to what I was imagining and then adding more to it, is the thrill of a lifetime for a nerd like me. I would be remiss not to say that in the underserved villains department, getting to write stuff for Calendar Man was thrilling and David Dastmalchian knocked it out of the park as far as I was concerned. I hope people really enjoy what he does as Calendar Man. 

The film does such a great job of catching the essence and darkness of Gotham, but what about exploring Batman’s world excited you most while making the city a character in its own right?

There are two angles on this. One of them is the art which I had nothing to do with except what I suggested in the script about how something might look. That’s Butch Lukic and his team, and I think they did a spectacular job really giving Gotham City its character and making it caught in a time warp so that it looks old and decaying, but also very imposing and huge and exciting. From my perspective, in terms of scripting it, where Gotham City really came into play was when it became the first character I really thought about when I sat down to write.

One of the great scenes I found in the book, and I don’t know if everybody finds this, is the idea of what service to Gotham City does to the families who serve it. When you think about it, we’re talking about a family of mobsters versus a family of philanthropists and the people who built Gotham City between the Falcones and the Waynes, and then the people trying to keep it alive like the Gordons and the Dents. Seeing all these aspects of what their service to Gotham has done to their families and what it’s taken from them, for me, that was key to the entire story. That was where Gotham City came in right off the gate as a central character to the story and the way it affects how these families interact with each other and also the city itself. 

When it comes to splitting a story like this in two, what would you say is the most difficult thing as a writer to find the right point to end the story and keep fans hooked so they come back for that second chapter?

Honestly, that bit was not hard at all! I don’t want to give too much away, but what’s interesting is that I think the split comes at an unexpected time in terms of where you would crack the book open [Laughs]. I think when you think about it in terms of story, it just made absolute sense to break where we did. When I came into this, the idea originally was to do this as one animated movie. I sat down to re-read the story and the first day, I said ‘I just can’t do this as one movie and be faithful to the book. I need to at least do it as two.’ I went to the producers and they said, ‘We agree. We’re on board’ so they went to Warner Bros. Animation and DC and everybody said 'Thumbs up, let’s do two if you think you can do it as two.' I’m glad we were able to have that real estate to be able to do justice to The Long Halloween. 
 

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