Long Halloween screenwriter explains adaptation changes
25 years since Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale released their iconic comic book series Batman: Along Halloween, the story is being adapted into a two-part DC Universe animated original film of the same name. Written by Tim Sheridan and directed by Chris Palmer, the animated films are set during Batman’s early years as a crime fighter in Gotham City. Similar to the history of comics, Batman: Along Halloween follows a serial killer who targets victims on different vacations each month as the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery grows bolder.
In an exclusive interview with CBR, Sheridan details the decision to split the next animated adaptation into two feature films, emphasizes the importance of staying true to the spirit and themes of the source material, and explains why the film adaptations change several elements of the film. classic DC comic book history for the sake of time.
CBR: Batman: Along Halloween is my favorite Batman story of all time. How did it go to adapt it into two films?
Tim Sheridan: The idea was originally to do it in one movie and I said, “Hell no! We’re going to have to give ourselves a little more clue here to be true to the ideas and themes of the book.” We could have done it [as a single feature film] but, to be true to the book, I felt that it really took two films and everyone felt the same. Our supervising producer Butch Lukic and producer Jim Krieg and everyone at Warner Bros. Animation and DC felt this was the way to go.
I’m dancing between spoilers but what made the breakpoint here the logical conclusion to this part of the story?
We knew right away that it wasn’t really something we had to figure out or think about. The point where we end Part 1 looks like a monumental beat in the story, and as of this point in the book, it’s a runaway train and a mad rush. I think it’s something you’ll see when you watch Part 2: They are two very different films and the pace of Part 2 it is very different. The idea for me was that these films are two sides of the same coin. This side is the blank and untouched side of the coin and, once the events of the end of Part 1 happen, we flip the piece back to the faster, more aggressive, and dangerous story that moves at a very different pace – with the flip of the piece obviously being appropriate for the story! [laughs]
One of the big changes is the ethnicity of the gang. Instead of being Irish mobsters, it’s a Chinese gang. How did this change happen?
There were two reasons why the Irish crowd was changed to be the Chinese triad. One of the reasons was that we were looking for opportunities to have more diversity in our cast, so that seemed like a place we could do that. When you look at the original book, there aren’t many examples of diversity like that, so we thought it was a good thing to do.
More importantly, around the time the book was written and published, we looked at Irish gangs much differently then; we were in a different political situation, with things like the history of the IRA, which were very relevant and topical. When Jeph and Tim wrote the book about how we viewed the Irish back then, it’s not as relevant today. Today, I think the idea of Chinese Mafiosi is fresh and on our minds now and more like a reality today. It’s as much as a calculation that went into it and I think it works. The only thing I regret is that the original guy from the book is Nicky Sullivan and I wanted to make him Nicky Sun and just cut out some of the letters from his name but it wasn’t legal for some reason, then you meet him as Nicky Chen.
It’s been 25 years since the original comic was first published. As a screenwriter on this, what other things did you want to update for modern sensibilities?
There were a lot of things inherent in the book that I wanted to flesh out and felt we needed to flesh out to make it work like a movie, but it wasn’t difficult. The great thing about a work of art is that it depends a lot on the interpretation, so a lot of what you enter Along Halloween this is how Butch, Jim and I interpret Along Halloween. I wanted to make sure that we made the women in the story as complete and complete as the characters as the men in the story. I believe this is a story about Gotham City and what it does to the families who serve Gotham City. As much as men, women are a big part of this story.
It was important to me, but also the way we look at mental illness in this story. I think times have changed, so have the way we view the bad guys and the motivations of things and the way we view mental illness in general. There were opportunities here to look at the characters and be more thoughtful about how we approach these things than we might have been if we had made the movie in the 90s; what better time than now?
One of the things I love about history is the influence of classic cinema and the noir genre. How did you want to highlight these elements in the script?
One of the things that I was sad about was that I went there really early and thought if it was a black detective people would accept and expect a narration. omniscient of Batman. I sat down and tried to make it work but this is something that doesn’t really work in animation for a lot of technical reasons. One of the big changes we had to make is that a lot of the things we learn in the book from omniscient storytelling we have to do in dialogue or visually in the story.
That was a key point in the adaptation and the way we adapt all of these movies, the comics often lean on the omniscient narrator, but the animation is so delicate it can feel like a fun parody. Along Halloween is a heavy story on great adult themes and it was important to maintain it and unfortunately we weren’t able to make the storytelling work.
Why cut the summer wedding at the start of the comic story?
When people watch the movie, some will wonder why their favorite part of the story is cut off or is spending less time on screen. Like I said, the book is a work of art, so people are going to like different things about it. For us, it was about having little time to even tell the story with two films, especially without the convenience of storytelling. We read comics differently from the way we watch movies, when we read comics we put panels and pages where there are no panels and pages. We can’t really do that with a movie and jump from one thing to another and feel like it’s a cinematic experience, it would look like a mishmash collage of Along Halloween.
There were some things that had to go and, as far as the opening of the movie goes, I think the first scene is the most faithful scene to the book and that was really important to me. I wanted everyone to know that we put a lot of thought and attention into it. When you get away from the dialogue and the situations here and there, I hope people understand that you are trying to translate something, if not visually, then thematically. I think it’s important that we did that first scene like we did. There is no marriage, but all the important beats of that moment in the book are all present in this first scene: the relationship between Bruce Wayne, Falcone and Gotham City is well on display and I think it’s the heart. Of which Along Halloween Part 1 is.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One stars Jensen Ackles as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Naya Rivera as Catwoman / Selina Kyle, Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke as James Gordon, Titus Welliver as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchian as Calendar Man , Troy Baker as Joker, Amy Landecker as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore as Solomon Grundy and Alastair Duncan as Alfred, as well as Frances Callier, Greg Chun, Gary Leroi Gray and Jim Pirri. The film is slated for release on June 22. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two hits digital July 27 and Blu-ray August 10.
KEEP READING: Batman: The Long Halloween Kicks Off Jensen Ackles’ Bruce Wayne Scene 1
How Constantine’s forgotten secret ending turns his saddest death into a tease sequel
About the Author