In 2009, Rocksteady Studios and Warner Brothers Interactive blew fans away with the first ever Batman video game that actually made you feel like you really were Batman, ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’! In 2011, they blew our minds again with the sequel, ‘Batman: Arkham City’, which took the adventure out into the open world streets of Gotham for what was easily one of the best video games of the last decade. This year they’ve released the third and supposedly final game in the series ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’, to close out the ‘Arkham’ Trilogy of games and close out this era of the Dark Knight’s history. But it’s been a while since ‘Arkham City’, so what has Batman been up to in the meantime? That’s where Peter Tomasi comes in with his awesome new book ‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’!
‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’ takes place during the yearlong gap between ‘Arkham City’s ending and ‘Arkham Knight’s beginning, filling you in on all of the happenings going on in Gothem during this time. Series writer Peter Tomasi was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss his latest book, and give fans the inside scoop on ‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’! Check out the full interview below!
Science Fiction (SF): So we’re here today to talk about your exciting new book, ‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’, can you tell us a little about the book right off the bat?
Peter Tomasi (PT): ‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’ is a prequel to the trilogy finale of Rock steady’s ‘Arkham’ video game series which is closing with ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’! This book is going to act as a bridge to the new game. It’s a project that can be perceived as a thing in-of-itself, because it’s a great ‘Batman’ book, but it can also be looked at as something for people that have enjoyed this game series to plug into and enjoy!
SF: Which is great, because Rocksteady has worked a great story out of the ‘Arkham’ game series so far, so we can only imagine how much better it’s going to feel with all the world building in a book like this! Just to clarify, this book is both a prequel to ‘Arkham Knight’, and a direct continuation of the story from ‘Arkham City’? And it’s officially in continuity?
PT: Yes! This is a direct prequel to the new game. So when we wrap up what I think is ‘Chapter 39’, it will be right where the game begins!
SF: But the book starts up right where the last game left off? With The Joker dead (sorry for a SPOILER to a four year old video game), and Arkham City shut down, only for Batman to realize that the Joker had one more trick up his sleeve in order to get one final posthumous laugh in?
PT: Yes! It was important to me that we did that, and Rocksteady and DC agreed. I felt like we really needed that emotional destruction and devastation of all The Joker has brought to Gotham and Bruce. So it was a nice way to begin the story- from the ashes. Then to watch both Bruce and Batman and how he reacts to that, and what it’s like for him to approach Gotham from another angle. Maybe this time he can help it better by being Bruce Wayne along with being Batman.
SF: In a lot of ways it also feels like it gives some real sense of closure to The Joker’s storyline, with this really being the story of Batman’s final run in with the Clown Prince of Crime?
PT: I thought that was important, that people who have been playing these games can see that The Joker really is dead. This stuff is happening, and these guys aren’t going to come back. The Joker dies in the game, and The Joker dies in this book, and that is IT. It’s finite, and we wanted that to be clear to readers.
SF: Where would you say you found the inspiration for your story here? Because again, this really is the final tale of ‘Batman Vs. The Joker’ being told.
PT: There was a lot of latitude, and surprisingly so! When you’re working with so many different people who all work on different aspects of things in the company, and then somebody like Rocksteady who has built this amazing game series, you feel like you want to make sure they are happy and obviously you want to make sure there isn’t going to be anything they don’t want to incorporate in their story. Nobody likes speedbumps, so it’s really more like “play nice”. But really, it has been great! Rocksteady has been a pleasure to work with and it has been completely smooth sailing the whole time. I gave them my plot, and the ideas that I had for the broad outlines of what I wanted to do, and it was all approved really quickly! Scripts were approved quickly as well. There were only minor changes from my original plans, and I mean really minor! I think I’ve written something like thirty chapters of this book so far, and I have had maybe two or three requests for a change at all, and each of those changes were very minor! So it’s been great working with them!
SF: So you’ve been given a lot of leeway as far as what you can do with the story?
PT: Yes a lot of latitude!
SF: And with this book acting as both a sequel to ‘Arkham City’ and a prequel to ‘Arkham Knight’, you’re the first person to really introduce the world to this new Arkham Knight villain from the upcoming game! Was there a lot of pressure involved with finding the right take on a character that people hadn’t even had the chance to experience yet?
PT: Oddly, no! There really wasn’t, which is still really weird because it’s almost like there was no drama to this. It’s all been smooth sailing! Once I knew who the Arkham Knight was, it was just a question of seeing and hearing what Rocksteady was doing with the character, and then it actually really fit into the way that I like to approach stories to begin with, which is character first. It gives the story more of an emotional spine, so that just played wonderfully into the story that I wanted to build. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be Arkham Knight under the mask fro my story.
SF: Well with your writing history the character certainly seems like a good fit!
PT: Definitely! And I always like to make sure there is a real heartbeat to the story. I love writing action stuff, and it’s always a blast to see artists go to town and draw these great cool action sequences! But I could write Bruce and Alfred for six issues straight.
SF: Not to give too much away because spoilers are frowned upon, but I’m sure we are both aware of just who the Arkham Knight is under the mask. How did you feel when you found out the big reveal of just who the Arkham Knight really was?
PT: It was a nice surprise! As a writer, and as someone who has played the games, it was like “Oh wow!”. It felt organic, and having played the game it just felt like a really natural fit for the way that Rocksteady built the story, which in turn really just allowed me to build up the drama in my own story from Bruce Wayne’s perspective and how he deals with Arkham Knight. Especially once he knows who it is! I think it’s great for Batman fans of both the comics and the games, and as a writer it was a great reveal that I could have a lot of fun with! Rocksteady was really great about it too, once they told me who it was it was like “here’s who it is, do what you want to do with him. Go to town, have fun!”
SF: You mention that you’ve been playing the games, have you been playing them for very long before you got this project, or was this more of a recent development?
PT: Yes! I have been happy to have the Geoff Johns Christmas gifts to my son appear at the door every year! We had gotten the games a while back, so we had been playing them for probably two or three years prior to this. It’s been great playing them and sort of waiting for the new ones! If I had a nickel for every time my son would say ‘when is the new game coming?” I’d be rich! So finally it hit the doorstep, we ran downstairs, plugged it in, and it was a blast! The new game is awesome! Those guys at Rocksteady built something really amazing, and I can’t wait to get home so I can plug it in and dive even deeper into it!
SF: And the new game’s world is huge! Bigger even than ‘Arkham City’, which was quite sizeable!
PT: I don’t think I expected it to be even bigger, and it’s awesome! It’s almost like “hey come on guys, you can’t stop doing these now! You have to keep making them!”
SF: Unfortunately they’re saying this is the last one, so we’ll just have to hope that the team at Rocksteady changes their minds! Back to the book, we know the story is chock full of villains! We’ve got harley, we’ve got Penguin, Scarecrow, and obviously notes of The Joker, but we noticed that the book is kind of light on the sidekicks that have been gradually moving to the forefront of these games as they evolved. Did you get a lot of say as to which characters you were able to use for this story, or was it all predetermined before you took on this project?
PT: It was a sort of thing where we all just got on the phone together and came up with a list of who we wanted to use, and who we can’t use based on what they were planning in the game. I didn’t want to step on any toes, and they didn’t want to step on any toes, so I tried to come up with villains that could work well in the world that they built, and play with them and explore them some more. There really wasn’t much of a problem with that, mostly the key to it was getting everyone on the phone at the same time and determining what villains we could have, and what villains we couldn’t. Even with the sidekicks, as you’ll see going forward, there will be more attention on the sidekicks. We’ve got a great Robin story coming up, and a really great arc for the first two issues of the ‘Arkham Knight Genesis’ series that looks awesome! It’s really beautiful stuff! I can’t wait for readers and gamers to check out those books, because they really go into the origins of the Arkham Knight and show how he came to be.
SF: So you’re saying ‘Arkham Knight Genesis’ is a story just based around the Arkham Knight himself?
PT: Yes! It should be hitting shelves this August!
SF: And earlier you mentioned that Chapter #39 is where the book meets with the beginning of the game, is that going to be the end of the series?
PT: The book’s story goes up to Chapter #39, but after that we’ve got some big plans to follow up with. I think that DC has been happy with the ‘Arkham’ universe, and the way that it’s been coming along in the book and the games, so I don’t see any reason not to keep playing in this big world that Rocksteady built. As long as DC keeps letting me play in the sandbox, I’ll happily keep jumping in.
SF: So once the book catches up to the game, that isn’t really the end> for the series? So we might see this book continue onwards after the ending of the ‘Arkham Knight’ game‘s story?
PT: That’s definitely a big hope! We’re looking at that right now, but we’ve got some big plans!
The Trade Paperback of ‘Batman Arkham Knight Volume 1’ and the Video Game of ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ are in stores now! ‘Arkham Knight Genesis’ is set to hit stores on August 26th!