It's been a busy last few months juggling a lot of things, that I sort of neglected my blog. So now on the eve of our very last story for Batman: Li'l Gotham, I figured I should go back and share some thoughts on all the previous issues I haven't covered here yet. Provide a little insight for how some of these stories came about
SAINT PATRICK'S DAY (DIGITAL ISSUE #7) = Some of the stories based around the holidays were pretty easy to pair up with certain villains. Anything winter would go to Mr.Freeze. Thanksgiving has a turkey so any bird related stories could have Penguin. With this one, all I could think of was the color green for the holiday, and Riddler wears green. Sometimes it's as simple as that. Now Riddler, as I'm sure most writers and fans would say, is probably one of the toughest characters to write stories for. He's a genius, so already he's smarter than well all of us. And trying to work in the riddle or puzzle aspect to his crimes can also rack the brain trying to come up with something. But this was a fun one to have Batman go detective trying to solve the crimes, and get a chance to see a lot of the heroes and villains. Having old-school Lobo in this (my favorite version of the character) was from me. And the large backseat in the batmobile gag pure Dustin. What I'll remember most about this story is Dustin drawing pages in the hotel at Seattle's Emerald City Con. We were already putting out two stories a month, and with no time to spare, he would be at the convention all day, and in the hotel drawing these all night. Not enough gets said for his commitment putting out a monthly painted book. It's not easily done.
EASTER (DIGITAL ISSUE #8) = I think this one came about because of the white rabbit being associated with both Alice In Wonderland and Easter. So it would be a Mad Hatter story by default. I was always looking for ways to make these stories fun for Dustin to draw (and for me and the readers to see), so having stuff like the pixelated video game Damian was playing were things always being added in. Same with different art styles and color schemes that would come into play in later stories. Having Damian tackle the Easter Bunny and fight off mind controlled zombunny kids just your normal type stuff we'd giggle putting into these stories. And even though it's implied that Hatter ate the egg bomb at the end of the story, I always felt they were playing a joke on him and he didn't really eat it. The bomb's ticking sound was all in his mind. We'd always try to skirt the line between implied or fun fights and not gory violence.
APRIL SHOWERS (DIGITAL ISSUE #9) = This was always intended to be a 2-part story. "April Showers" being the first part with Mr.Freeze, and the follow up issue would be "May Flowers" with Poison Ivy in an overgrown Gotham from the rain and the plants. What we didn't see coming was Dustin just being overworked with the schedule never allowing time for him to breathe once we started doing two stories a month. So we ended up having a break so he could get caught up, but we'd lose one of the stories this month. So the 2-parter got shortened to 1 issue, which is why Ivy's release from Arkham and quick re-arrest only hinted at what the second issue would've been. One of the aspects I loved most about writing Li'l Gotham was being able to write in familiar nursery rhymes and songs, but adjust them to fit in the story. I got one in here and in other issues as well. Mr.Freeze is probably my favorite Batman villain. Forever always our Charlie Brown in Li'l Gotham, with good intentions but never getting what he wants. And the thank you card at the end of the story, I believe, was drawn in crayon by Dustin's daughter.
CINCO DE MADNESS (DIGITAL ISSUE #10) = This issue was spearheaded by Dustin. When we could, we'd sort of divide up stories. He ran with this one and I came in for any additional dialogue or scenes after he finished his first draft. I know Dustin always liked the idea of a Gotham Boys & Girls Club, having a chance to draw Damian, Colin, Tim and the others. The younger kids away from the adults. So this was their chance to shine. Stuff like the scrabble game and taco challenge, again pure Dustin.
MOTHER'S DAY MANIA (DIGITAL ISSUE #11) = We begin with a Paul Dini cameo. Dustin and I loved working with him on Detective and Streets Of Gotham, and it felt like a fun nod he'd be in a scene in an issue with his creations (Harley Quinn and Colin Wilkes "Abuse"). I apologize for the bad pun dialogue I gave him. The more we wrote these issues, the more we wanted to keep putting Damian in them. He's a good obnoxious comedy foil for anyone around him. And I admit, I patterned a lot of him after me (right down to his favorite sandwich from a previous issue, choice of pizza toppings in this one, and that I played the trumpet throughout high school and college). It was very easy to vicariously write through him. Most don't know this, but had we continued to work on Streets Of Gotham if it didn't get cancelled, Dini was planning on doing more with Abuse. Including him having his own costume that would be a unique design variation on Batman. Which is why I thought it would be fun to have that show up in this story when he changes into the new costume. I grew to really love doing this sentimental stories. There's really no space for them in current darker books, but we found they fit perfectly in our Li'l universe.
FATHER'S DAY FUN (DIGITAL ISSUE #12) = You can't have a Mother's Day without a Father's Day, so this was sort of a paired two-part story. My original influence for this was the episode of Seinfeld where they couldn't get a table at the Chinese restaurant. With that in mind, I thought putting the two opposing families on opposite sides of the same table would lead to some fun heated dialogue. I think having all the boys cooking for Alfred in the kitchen was Dustin's idea. So goofy yet perfectly fitting for this type of story.
MINAZUKI (DIGITAL ISSUE #13) = For the longest time, Dustin wanted to write and draw this issue. The ocean provides for a very colorful visual with all the sea life and Aquaman. That it happened to have giant robots fighting monsters at the same time that Pacific Rim came out, wasn't intentional but a fun coincidence (as we had pitched this story a long time back). I think I was always aware for us not to fall into having a lot of guest staring stories (but cameos yes). I think I wanted to keep the brand very focused on Batman and his family of characters, and I didn't think it would be ideal for it to turn into a Brave And The Bold or JLA book. Especially since there was some thought at one time about doing a separate title with the rest of the DC characters. Still, this was a fun one to do.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (DIGITAL ISSUE #14) = I think out of all the stories we did, this one we had the least idea about. When we pitched a year's worth of stories, before it doubled up, we picked out all the main holidays with loose descriptions of what they'd be about. I think we left this one pretty vague in the pitch about bbqs, beach, and fireworks. So when it came time to write it, it was a bit slapdash trying to figure out what the story would be. I think as the stories continued along, I got tired of seeing the same villains in every story. That it would help to space them out so characters wouldn't reappear so often. And also have a chance to rotate in lesser known characters which is why we get a chance to have Roxy Rocket, Firefly, and Solomon Grundy. Also I'm guilty of these stories being very villain focused. They're so much fun to write, that sometimes it was easy to forget to put Batman and the good guys in them. The "Batdad" line, was sort of my influence of the tv show Alias, where it was very common for Victor Garber's character to be nicknamed "Spydaddy".
GOTHAM COMICCON (DIGITAL ISSUE #15) = This was another idea that Dustin had very early in our pitch. To do a story to come out around San Diego Comicon (perfect cross promotion). And Gotham's version of that would poke fun at so many of the things we've experienced in the years going to that show (I can't believe I've gone to San Diego Con 19 years in a row you see a lot in that amount of time). It would provide a chance for us to actually cameo in our own comic. A chance to have the Grey Ghost show up briefly (no surprise that Li'l Gotham is heavily influenced by Batman: TAS). And ultimately a chance to make a statement and begin the healing process of how fans feel towards comics. We all have favorite characters, creators, and runs. And whenever they stop, we're disappointed, saddened, and angered. But our story would be a reminder that just because the version you like isn't happening; that you shouldn't let that stop you from enjoying those old stories.
TROPICAL GETAWAY (DIGITAL ISSUE #16) = Finally we'd have a chance to do a real 2-part story. In the first part we'd have Batman and Catwoman off on their pirate adventure, and the second part would see what the rest of the heroes and villains did while they were away. And anytime Dustin gets to design a new Batman uniform, he always jumps at the chance. This one turned into a bit of an Iron Man (Iron Bat?) design, with the uniform in the suitcase and boot jets. Sort of like Batman Beyond as well.
BIRD WATCHING (DIGITAL ISSUE #17) = With Batman away, it was up to the rest of the heroes to band together. I know originally, Dustin and I just thought of this story as having all the different Robins get together in their clubhouse to protect Gotham. But with so many of the heroes having a bird theme (Birds Of Prey, Hawk & Dove), it was fun to extend the cast in this one. Same goes for the underused villains. This story was top heavy and out of control with the cast of characters, and I'm guilty of packing it with as many as I could think of just to see Dustin draw them. I always liked Penguin's Iceberg Lounge, and wanted to feature it more in one of these stories. And having the heroes arrive as part of the jazzy swing band seemed a great visual (I didn't even realize the Birds Of Prey already had appeared as singers in an episode of The Brave And The Bold, so this ended up being an unintentional nod).
LABOR DAY (digital issue #18) = I think no one loves the Carpenter more than Paul Dini, Dustin, and I. Created by Paul in Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham, I always love these sort of fun quirky characters. I also felt this story might be a risk having it center around her, even if the holiday matched up perfectly. She's not as known as many of the villains. But it gave me a chance to show all the villains that she's worked with building their hideouts. It has a very children's book quality to the gag and payoff through the issue, as she's constantly interrupted on the phone. And fun to see Dustin once again, draw a range of characters. I thought it would be fun to give her a Boston Terrier, which is the same type of dog that Paul and his wife own. Hush finally made a longer appearance here to do a riff on the "Who's On First?" gag.
IVY IN THE FALL (DIGITAL ISSUE #19) = Another of the stories that Dustin was clamoring to write and paint. Ivy is his favorite character and this became a tour-de-force for his art. To show her in different seasons. Probably the most beautifully painted story he did on our run. We also always liked the Gotham City Sirens, so any time we could do stories that had the three of them together, we'd jump at. This story I probably had the least amount to do. The draft that Dustin provided was so pitch perfect, aside from maybe any grammar corrections or some added dialogue, it was good to go.
HORROR STORIES (DIGITAL ISSUE #20) = This was another one that Dustin headlined. And one that actually caught me by surprise. I didn't know he had planned to paint all of the kids' separate ghost stories in a different style. It really made the whole thing very special. I know as it got closer for this story to be worked on, the original idea was to see if we could have Scooby Doo and the gang in there, either as part of the story or even a short cameo with the Mystery Machine in the background. But I think they're so particular on how those characters look and are portrayed (needing to be almost animation on-model all the time), that it was decided against using them here. Also I think since they were going to have Batman & Robin crossover with Scooby in another comic, it might be confusing or steal that thunder. Regardless, this was a ton of fun to work on, as we really played up their exaggerated horror stories.
ALL SAINTS DAY (digital issue #21) = Since we were now getting close to our full year on the book, we didn't want to fall into the habit of revisiting the same holidays over again. So technically while still a spooky issue, this isn't Halloween but All Saints Day. And keeping with that religious theme, it seemed one of the perfect places to have Azrael show up. Also I think after the nice unexpected reception to Damian's family Halloween (of fighting off reanimated corpses from the Lazarus Pit in issue #1), I was looking to do a much longer zombie story. And I'm such a fan of Talia and Ra's it made for one of the more offbeat shared custody holidays in the comic. I wasn't sure if my playful dig at the New52 being Damian's dehydrated hallucination would fly but it was all in good fun. Same goes for the 1-900 Kill Robin death call joke (Dustin has a morbid sense of humor which I fully endorse and enable).
TIME TROUBLE (digital issue #22) = The Clock King is another one of my favorite villains during his time in Batman: The Animated Series. He rarely gets used in comics but doing a Daylight Savings Time story was the perfect excuse for him here. Also maybe a little too late in our run, I was feeling that Batman wasn't getting as much time in our stories. So I thought here was a chance to not have him partnered up with anyone other than himself. Lots of Batmen. A fun way to use various Elseworlds versions of the characters (or entirely new like Fruit Batman). I know had we done another year of stories, Dustin and I would've gotten around to doing some in the future with Batman Beyond. Instead, we had to find a way to fit in Old Bruce and Terry near the end of our run.
SANDWICH DAY (DIGITAL ISSUE #23) = Sometimes these issues write themselves. Seriously! Not wanting to repeat another Thanksgiving story, it just so happens that November has a sandwich related holiday. So who better than the Condiment King to show up to be angry at the more popular Thanksgiving holiday. Again, the longer we were into our run, the more fun I was having dusting off the more offbeat villains. Also I thought it worked well to have the story about a missing pet; something I think younger readers might sadly relate to. And this quite possibly has the most puns used in any of our stories. Dustin and I would go back and forth in drafts, one-upping each other and adding more puns to the story. The brand new villain, The Zookeeper, was my nod towards the ending of Pixar's The Incredibles (Batman, Damian, and Jerry all ready to jump into action). At one point in the script, I even had Jerry wearing his own mask here at the end, but Dustin didn't draw it in. Probably for the best. heh
WHEW!!! That's all of them or almost all of them. Our very last issue of Li'l Gotham goes on sale digitally tomorrow. And I'll be back with my final thoughts after that.