After decades of less than stellar Batman video games, Batman: Arkham Asylum exploded onto consoles to critical and popular acclaim by delivering the Batman experience that fans wanted. The game featured a slew of villains from the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery but intriguingly, teased over a dozen more from The Penguin to Prometheus with small references to those characters scattered about.
With the highly anticipated sequel looming, the Batman: Arkham City comic has hit shelves to pave its way and tease even more details. As the mini-series builds to its climax, Newsarama recently sat down with Batman: Arkham City game and comic artist Carlos D'Anda, about what fans of both should expect.
Newsarama: Carlos, can you start by hinting at what gamers and comic fans going to see as the Arkham City comic progresses that they might not get from just playing either game?
Carlos D'Anda: The comic book will bridge the story of what happens between Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Batman: Arkham City, and all the 'behind the scenes' and Gotham City drama of how the facilities in Arkham City came to be, so for any fan of Arkham Asylum, I think this book will provide a pretty cool 'prequel' to the upcoming game.
Nrama: Would you say that one needs to have played Batman: Arkham Asylum to understand the Arkham City comic?
D'Anda: I think the story could stand on its own, but knowing the 'universe' of Batman: Arkham Asylum makes it much more 'alive' I think... if you've played the game, you have that awesome game experience ingrained in your memory, from the creepy interiors of Arkham, the 'cinema sequences' from the game, the soundtrack etc. So as I draw on these issues, I am hoping to add to that specific universe, and the flavor that the first game created so amazingly.
Nrama: You also had input on the artwork and character design for Batman: Arkham City, what was it like transitioning your art from the 2D page to the 3D game world?
D'Anda: It is really not that different, it tends to be more of a 'rendering difference.' When you are designing for a game, it is usually done in a more 'painterly style', for the practical purpose that the 3D modeler needs to be able to translate a concept into a 3D sculpture, and for this, seeing painted ‘tones’ is more practical and clear than line art or crosshatching, BUT other than that, you are just trying to draw something that looks cool and fun, whether it's for a comic book page, or a video game.
Nrama: The new game¹s locale has moved from the Asylum and its grounds to this new city-prison, how has this affected the designs of existing characters?
D'Anda: Some of the characters seen in the first game have 'evolved' their look some, but it still needs to fit into the tone established by Batman: Arkham Asylum, and the initial character designs. In the first game, the 'mandate' I had for myself was to make the outfits look like they could take a massive beating. Nothing is fragile, everything is utilitarian and ‘kinda' mean looking and heavy. There is nothing nice about Arkham Asylum, and the designs needed to feel the same, and for the second game, I had to stay in that same 'mode.' [There is] nothing nice about Arkham City either, those that live there, or those that choose to go in there better be prepared for a very harsh world.
Nrama: How would you rate the challenge of revamping so many Batman villains at once? Was there a balance you had to strike between making them recognizable and at the same time original?
D'Anda: Batman: Arkham Asylum was actually a little bit easier when it came to the bad guys, and that was basically because their outfits were different by necessity and the limitations of what they could get from the prison. With the exception of The Joker and Harley, all the other characters had to 'cannibalize' prison outfits and make them their own. For Arkham City, the big challenge was trying to strike the balance between the 'collective memory' of what these Villains look like, BUT at the same time, making them fit into the amazing world that [developer] Rocksteady made. Again, my own mandate was "make everything heavier and meaner".
Nrama: Detective Vision was such large and popular feature of the original game, will we see it depicted in the comic? If so, was it challenging to render some of Batman’s foes down to skeletal detail?
D'Anda: It will be featured in the comic book, and so far, I still haven't had to draw humans, so I haven't had to draw the skeletal detail quite yet... for that, if it comes, we'll just have to use my best friend Mr. Photoshop!
Nrama: Paul Dini is the author of both the game and comic versions of Batman: Arkham City, how was it working with a writer who’s now on his second revamp of the entire Batman franchise?
D'Anda: I really couldn't ask for more... Paul has been breathing and eating Batman for so many years... he KNOWS these characters inside and out, and really, who better to write Harley? I am having a blast working with Mr. Dini!