Comic writer Dan Abnett is no stranger to world-building, but in the new Infinite Crisis digital comic that launched this week, he's building multiple worlds, with the potential for an almost infinite number of DC-based characters on 52 different alternate Earths.
The Infinite Crisis comic is the latest DC video game tie-in story — this time set inside the world of the multiplayer online battle arena game of the same name, Infinite Crisis, which recently went into Open Beta. The story of Infinite Crisis deals with different universes merging together, featuring alternate versions of some of DC's most popular characters.
Abnett is best known for his space-based adventures at Marvel and DC, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of Super-Heroes, often working with co-writer Andy Lanning. Known for world-building in those types of comics, the writer will put those skills to use with Infinite Crisis, which will feature characters like Nightmare Robin and Gaslight Catwoman, as well as alternate Earths called Mecha, Arcane, and Atomic.
"Of course, they want me to show and explore the things that they've already got in the game, to increase awareness of that and show how exciting it is," Abnett said. "But I'm also introducing new characters, and there are even things I'm doing that they're putting into the game after they were designed for the comic.
"Even when I'm going to a world that's in the game, obviously the game experience is different from the comic, so I have to deliver more, in terms of world-building and character development," he said. "So yes, there's quite a bit of world-building, and also remodeling, in terms of adding stuff and developing things that are there."
The story of the Infinite Crisis comic starts on what DC calls its Prime Earth, where readers see Batman discovering that there are alternate Earths. "We see where Batman encounters the multiverse for the first time," Abnett said. "So we sort of learn through him what is going on.
"Batman starts out as the primary guy, but he essentially becomes part of a team, the team being made up of Elseworlds characters," Abnett said.
"We have Atomic Wonder Woman, who's the Wonder Woman from the post-apocalypse Earth; we have Arcane Green Lantern, who's the Green Lantern from a mystical, fantasy world; and we have Gaslight Catwoman, who's obviously from the Gotham by Gaslight iteration of the multiverse.
"And quite wonderful, a character called Nightmare Robin, who's from a sort of demonic world, where Batman is a threat. So being on a team with a 'good' Batman makes for some very interesting character clashes," Abnett said with a laugh.
"We'll also go back to Prime Earth and have some of the classic Prime characters, who are looking for Batman, and they'll get pulled into it as well," he said. "And then you'll have two groups moving through the multiverse, hopefully moving to some kind of connection later on. And also later on, I'll bring more new characters in who will join up eventually. So the momentum builds."
Because the digital publication is weekly, Abnett said he's able to juggle different storylines, alternate settings and various characters while still keeping Prime Earth Batman at the center of the story.
"There's a fast turnaround of chapters. It's one of those things where if we see what Batman's doing one week, I can step away for a week and introduce other characters coming into the story from a different direction," the writer explained. "So throughout the run, there will be two or three stories happening simultaneously.
"So rather there being story arcs, there is a great arc we're building, where paths begin to cross and storylines begin to intersect," he said. "So I think you can imagine it a bit like a tree. You start off with a single straight trunk, to keep it simple, but then the branches begin to sprout and interweave with each other. So not starting too complex, but building there once we get comfortable with what's going on and the true scale of what's going on."
Abnett said that although there are parts of the comic that "set-up" what happens in the game, the comic doesn't necessarily fit the description "prequel." While there is "prefacing material and prologue," Abnett said the comic will eventually serve as one part of the world portrayed by the game.
"As Batman follows his adventures, it's almost like this is one version of how you could play the game, depending on which character you've chosen and which characters you're meeting."
Abnett said he's been given a lot of freedom — more than he expected, working with a video game property. "If I had any reservations at all about producing a comic that is based on a game, it was the sense that it might be contained a bit and I'd have to play it very safe, but the game developer was so keen to make this a very robust story," he said. "When I realized that, I saw that it was a great opportunity, to work with not only characters in the DC universe, but all the characters in the DC 52 multiverse, which is just a terrific thing."
The writer also emphasized that the comic can be enjoyed even by people who don't play the video game.
"I'm writing this comic on the understanding that if you play the game, you'll really enjoy the comic because you'll understand what's going on, but if you don't play the game, it's a good comic in its own right and doesn't rely on your knowledge of anything else," he said. "I'm making sure that it's a dynamic story without requiring you to know a lot about what's going on in the game.
Abnett said he's about "10 or 11 episodes" into writing the series, which will be released monthly in print, beginning in June. "I'm further than that, in terms of planning," he said.