If you want to know how Alan Burnett wound up working on Batman: Gotham Knight, the answer is simple. They asked him.
“We needed a writer for this one particular segment, and they said ‘Do you want to do it?’ My answer was yeah,” he says casually. “I was strictly hired as a writer on this one. I don’t have a producing credit or anything like that, although I did a little story editing on it. The people over me wanted to have a little more connectiveness than there originally was. So I did a little bit of that. As little as I could, honestly, because I wanted the stories to stand on their own.”
Having Burnett as part of the Gotham Knight team is a nice touch. Many of the other writers were still in their training shoes when he first started working on Batman, which was in 1983 on the Super Friends series. After leaving Hanna-Barbera, he moved on to Warner Brothers and Batman: The Animated Series in 1991, where he’s pretty much been ever since. Among the series and movies he’s written, edited and/or produced in the following 17 years have been Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Superman, Batman Beyond, Return of the Joker, Mystery of the Batwoman and, most recently, the recently finished The Batman series. One could say having him on board was insurance that this treatment of the Caped Crusader would ground the other five writers on the project.
“I thought it was important to keep the integrity of each writer’s words,” Burnett said. “The writers all pretty much had the same voice for Batman, so I had to change very little dialogue – just small fixes to tie up loose ends, and reinforce transitions and connections between the stories. But I did as little editing as I could because I respected what the writers wrote, and I thought it was important that their voice was heard. Just as the artists made their segments their own, so should the writers.”
As for the six different Japanese directors, Burnett is all for it.
“Basically, when I first heard of the project, I thought it was a tremendous idea,” he said. “I like anime very much. I also loved the idea of doing a series of short Batman stories. Also, I thought it was a great idea to have all these different writers doing Batman stories. I honestly hope this will let us to do more of these.
“From a visual point of view, this is the most stylized Batman that’s come out of Warner Bros. -- what they’ve done is really eye-catching, and it truly expands his world. Their visualization of Gotham City is stunning, and it’s very interesting to see how they’ve envisioned Batman, his environment and his action and movements”
Then there is his own segment, which features the character Deadshot. Usually, when one thinks of DC assassins, the name Slade usually comes to mind, but Burnett thought different.
“I did pick Deadshot,” he said. “They weren’t quite sure what they wanted with the last segment, so I suggested him. One of the reasons is we’ve never been able to do Deadshot on television because he uses guns. Kids television actually frowns on them, you know. He just struck me before Slade. Deadshot is a man of the world. Ultimately, he’s a coward too. He caved in real fast when Batman did get to him, didn’t he? He doesn’t like being banged around.”
He’s also quite pleased with the final production, which was from Japan’s incredible Madhouse studio.
“I think I worked with them before,” said Burnett. “but I don’t know from what. I’m sure I’ve done other things with them in the past. I’ve got to admit, there’s a lot of eye candy in this. For my segment, I think the first Deadshot murder is quite good. The artists added fireworks and balloons and a lot of interesting elements to what ultimately is a cold-blooded murder. “
“I like the short-form for Batman, because it feels almost like a 22-page comic book story. In short form, the stakes are elevated from the beginning, and it gives you a chance to really heighten the action quickly – so you can make your points hard and fast and get out.”
As for the future of superhero animation, Burnett sees it as quite rosy.
“I thought it was something that was just waiting to happen. When the first Batman made bushels and bushels of money, I was honestly not surprised whatsoever. It was such a natural thing. There’s much more time to work on something and more money than the days when I did Super Friends. They are investing in the production.
“I’d love to see what the Japanese would do with Superman. I truly would. Also, just talking off the top of my head, I would love to see something like a buffet with six different Justice League characters outside of Batman and Superman. I would really love to see what the Japanese would do with them.”
In the meantime, Burnett is hard at work on more projects for the DCAU.
“I’m working on stuff I can’t announce,” he said, “but I guess I can say I’m working on a DVD. It’s just about to start going into production soon, so it will happen. I’m also working on some internet material. So they keep me busy around here. The only difference is I’m constantly scrambling between two different places on the Warner Brothers lot.”