Writer Peter J. Tomasi Talks ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ Vol.1! MSTARS EXCLUSIVE

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By Jorge Solis (j.solis@mstarsnews.com) | Jul 21, 2015 03:00 PM EDT

Based on the popular videogame by Rocksteady Studios, DC Entertainment takes readers on action-packed journey in Batman: Arkham Knight Vol. 1 as the Dark Knight finds Gotham City in turmoil. Writer Peter J. Tomasi dishes to MStars News about the rising popularity of Suicide Squad member Harley Quinn and the emergence of Arkham Knight.

In the prequel comic, set prior to the events of Batman: Arkham Knight, the caped crusader finds himself questioning his own after the death of the clown prince of crime. With The Joker gone, believed to be dead, does the city need a Batman anymore? A new terror emerges from the shadows, waiting to strike, that not even Batman alone can alone.

The Batman: Arkham Knight writer talks to MStars about working on the videogame adaptation, keeping the identity of Arkham Knight shrouded in mystery, and his favorite villain in the rogues gallery.
MStars News: Was it a challenge adapting the videogame into an original narrative?

Peter Tomasi: No, actually it wasn’t at all. Because the way the story has worked, Alex at DC had given me the outline from Rocksteady on the game. Basically they said, “We want to do a prequel. We want to do a great story with Arkham Knight in it and building up to the game.” I wasn’t given much except aside from, “Hey, what do you want to do, Peter?” I said, “Well, how about this, this or this?”

They approved it and I was able to construct a really good Batman story for anybody. They don’t have to be into the game, into the comics, or they can be into both. It’s an easy access entry point for anybody for who likes one or both of the them. I think with the artists I’ve been given to work with, they’ve been doing a great job.

It’s an easy book to write and it’s also an easy book for people to step right up without having to know any kind of continuity. At the same time, if you play the game, you’re going to see things I pulled from all the games. Your enjoyment factor will actually be that much higher. When you write something like this, you write for both worlds. You write for new readers and readers that enjoy that world you’re working in.

MS: What aspects of the game did you want to translate into the comic book? Was it the fighting or the use of the Batmobile?

PT: No, it was really the characters themselves. For me, the story isn’t very good if the characters aren’t very good. Rocksteady has been good at character development and character design. And the villains look great! That’s been a real blast to work with! All the tech they built into the world is a lot of fun to play with! All the elements are there to sort of really have a lot of fun with. I’m just happy to be able to do it.

MS: Tell about building the relationships within the Batman Family, such as James Gordon, and Alfred Pennyworth.

PT: It’s usually one of those things that some writers get it; maybe you have to work a little bit harder. That relationship between Bruce, Alfred, and Gordon has been a natural one for me. I always loved writing those characters. I hear them easily in my head. You’ll hear writers say some characters really speak to them and others might be harder to pull the dialogue out. They’re easy; the dialogue pops right out. In terms of characterization, they’re really three-dimensional in my own head. To play with the inter-personal stuff is a real blast!

I can easily write books just on those guys just talking to each other, or an Alfred miniseries. [Laughs] It’s always a lot of fun to work on those characters! They’re iconic in their own way now, through the games, movies, and the comics. It’s a lot of fun and it’s also something I don’t take for granted.

MS: What made the story stand out to me was the witty brand of humor between Bruce and the rest of the Batman Family. Tell me about building on the comic relief.

PT: To me, that’s always been one of my favorite parts. If Batman stays too dark, it just gets too much for me. I’ve always liked Batman when he has some levity to him. A little more humor, not burdened so much with darkness, or a dark cloud constantly raining down on him. I like a Bruce or Batman who has a sense of humor. It just seems natural to me to write a character in that way, especially the dry humor between Bruce and Alfred, the underlining humor between Batman and Gordon. If he’s just a vigilante, he becomes just robotic. There’s nothing interesting about a one-note dark character. The more shadings you can put on him the better!

MS: Tell me about Harley Quinn, who has an integral subplot in the first volume.

PT: Harley is one of those iconic characters that wasn’t created 70 years ago. I think she was created 20 years ago. She’s a character that stood the test of time. It has its own fanbase. There is a real group of readers that enjoy seeing her on a regular monthly basis. And the stuff Rocksteady did with her was really good! I hadn’t played with her in any of the monthly books I’m working on. For it was nice to take her out of the box so to speak and put her through the motions, have her interact with Batman, and obviously with Penguin, which is coming up. It’s been a lot of fun!

She’s a great character and visually, she’s obviously a lot of fun fun too! Rocksteady did a great job on her design. And of course with the movie coming out, the Suicide Squad film, she’ll be seen by a lot more people than ever! It’s been a blast to wok on her!

MS: Tell me about Arkham Knight. There’a mysterious vibe to the character and yet there’s an appealing element where readers want to know more as well.

PT: That sort has been the key to what we’ve been doing. It’s been a slow-burn for Arkham Knight, in regards to the story. If we revealed everything real fast, obviously it would step on the toes of the game. Rocksteady didn’t want that to happen either. It was the question of putting Arkham Knight in there and slowly starting to peel away who this person is and what he’s doing in this world. We’ll find out more about him once the game launches.

The one thing Rocksteady and DC didn’t want to do was where we blow the mystery out of the water before the game gets a chance to do it. Once the game comes out, and everything gets revealed, then we’ll be able to show you guys the book a lot more, especially with the announced book of Arkham Knight – Genesis miniseries. You’ll see how the Arkham Knight came to be. A lot of reveals in the months to come!

MS: Penguin, Harley Quinn, and Killer Croc from Batman’s rogue gallery. Who was you favorite to write for?

PT: That’s a good question! I would say, right now, I actually really liked working on Tweedledee and Tweedledum. And of course, anyone who’s read the books, Tweedledie! [Laughs] That was fun to come up with and add something to it. Penguin’s always a lot of fun too! Like I said before, Harley’s been a blast!

Sometimes, you start working on a character you may not have a lot of affinity for but then, all of a sudden, you’re working on it and then it starts to feed into your story more. You start to peel away layers of the character. You enjoy the character more than you can ever imagine! There’s a really a lot, so I don’t know if I have a favorite in terms of the villains. I’m really enjoying a lot of them!

MS: What projects are you working on now?

PT: Right now, I’m working on Superman/Wonder Woman. Obviously, Batman: Arkham Knight. I’ll be doing a Detective Comics arc in the coming months. And there’s another special project I’m working on the moment. I can’t really much more about.

Out in stores now, highly recommended, get your hands on Batman: Arkham Knight Vol.1!