Split into two parts and based on Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s 13-issue miniseries, Batman: The Long Halloween is the latest addition to the DC Animated Universe and sees Batman desperately trying to discover the identity of the killer known as Holiday, who is murdering high-profile gang members on every holiday season. Will Batman solve the mystery before Gotham is plunged into a full on gang-war?
If you haven’t already heard, we’re so excited about the release of Part One and Two of Batman: The Long Halloween that we’re hosting a watchalong of the film on Twitter at 6.30pm BST on 10 August using the hashtag #BatmanLongHallowatchalong. Find out more here.
To celebrate the watchalong, we sat down with producer Butch Lukic to discuss his long-time love of the Caped Crusader and take a look behind the curtain on how some big decisions are made over at Warner Bros…
What made you decide that The Long Halloween would be the next storyline adapted for the DC Animated Universe?
For one, it’s the comic book that most fans were interested in seeing adapted. Also I read the book when it came out way back when and I always felt we could certainly make an animated series or something. But what ended up happening over the years was that guys were using some of the story ideas for other things. So I ended up in a meeting three years ago with Warner Brothers and we had a roundtable discussion and the others were saying ‘we’ve already mined from The Long Halloween’ [but] Warner Home Video definitely wanted it because it was number one on their list and I just said ‘screw it, I’ll do it then!’ That’s how it kind of came about, a lot of people really didn’t want to do it so I thought I’d have a crack at it since I’ve loved the material for the last 15 years.
What was the main element from the books that you wanted to include in the movie?
We’re pretty faithful to the books all the way, luckily, getting to do it in two parts we’re holding more to the book than anything else. What we really wanted was the dynamic between Harvey Dent and Batman and obviously Harvey Dent’s troubles as he goes deeper into the dark side of his being. So all of that was in, plus it’s inherently a Catwoman story and the Falcones are a big part of it, so everything that we needed that were full elements from the books is what we have. Then the mystery of the Holiday killer on top of everything else…
Is there any pressure to take on such an iconic storyline?
I don’t feel any because I’ve been doing it for 20 plus years. I’ve been doing Batman in and out for that long so I really didn’t feel any kind of feeling.
While being a fan of the books too, I also knew as a fan what needed to be in it. Myself and [producer] Jim Krieg knew what elements we definitely needed to keep from the books to make it as close as we could to fulfil that vision.
I started way back in Batman: The Animated Series and I was a fan before, since I was kid. So I knew all the versions of Batman, and the versions I liked. When we got to Batman: The Animated Series and when Bruce [Timm], Alan [Burnett] and [Paul] Dini really came up with the Batman that we all grew up with, that’s the one we always wanted to see on screen. So I think anything after that it’s kind of like, well, we know what to do. It’s kind of a no brainer.
What is it about Batman that creates long-lasting fans such as yourself?
I think you generally see yourself in Batman more than most other superheroes. He isn’t superpowered. He has to get by mostly on his wits and gadgets. This Batman from The Long Halloween is a ‘year two’ Batman, so he’s still a little bit raw in the detective work, and a few other things as far as what he’s capable of yet. So he isn’t fully Batman yet at this point which is kind of where we were at with Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond – he’s learning, so this is kind of going back towards that sense of Batman.
The Long Halloween’s look is similar to artist Tim Sale’s visual styles of the original comic book, was that always going to be the case?
Yeah. Initially I wanted to go closer to what Tim Sale’s style was but because we had to do the shared universe I had to change course and do something slightly different that would fit with the Justice Society: World War II and moving on into Superman: Man of Tomorrow. But the Gotham City and the lighting were based on what’s in the books. Falcone [also] looks like the Tim Sale version, and a few of the other characters but just in varying degrees.
But, Catwoman doesn’t. We didn’t go with that look of hers from the books because I thought it was probably a little outdated. So we went with this version which is a more classic Catwoman look designed by Otto Schmidt. He went for that more classic catwoman from the Nineties, that sleeker look.
You have worked on a variety of movies in the DCAU – comedies, tragedies, action-adventures – is there any particular style of movie you prefer working on?
I just want to make these DC animated universe things like we’re doing an actual film. So instead of it being like ‘it’s going to be a light hearted animation’ or ‘a dark storyline’, I think we put both together, and it’s more what I would do if I wanted to do something cinematic, which is what we’re trying to do also with a lot of the shots. The acting, the cuts, and the storytelling should fit the same as if it was a full blown live action film.
What do you think it is about the DCAU films that make them so popular?
What we do differently from most other animated studios is the writer starts off the production with the script but then the designers and artists take over for how the final [movie] should look, sound and how the story should work.
It’s probably a little bit more that it ends with the artists to do the finished product, whereas other productions, the Marvel TV stuff, it’s generally very writer-driven, so you have a lot of dialogue going on. Not that our writers over-write dialogue but we have to cut lines or we adapt the lines to where it fits the picture because sometimes, visually, things that are written down just don’t work.
What can we expect next from the DCAU?
I mean the only thing that is beyond where we’re going or where we’ve been, is we’re just expanding out more so… wherever that takes us. That’s all I can really say!
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One is available now. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two is available now on Digital and on DVD, Blu-ray™ & Blu-ray™ steelbook August 9.