"Batman: Arkham City" was one of the most anticipated games of 2011 and Batman fans have already sunk their teeth deep into the title's immersive experience -- but what happens when you've collected that last Riddler Trophy and heard Calendar Man's final holiday tale? Just ask writer Derek Fridolfs.
Known best for his work as an inker on numerous DC Comics titles, Fridolfs recently added comics writing to his resume, most recently working with Paul Dini on the "Arkham City" digital preview stories. Now, Fridolfs is taking things solo with "Batman: Arkham Unhinged," a new, weekly digital exclusive that aims to flesh out the story behind the game. Available exclusively through DC's comiXology store, "Arkham Unhinged" takes the toys in the video game and gives readers a new perspective and better idea of the moving parts that the player doesn't get to see.
CBR News spoke with Fridolfs about "Arkham Unhinged," how it follows in the spirit of the game, the writer's plans for the immense cast of characters gamers interact with throughout "Arkham City" and how the series follows the original digital exclusives while teasing an upcoming DC Comics project with artist Dustin Nguyen.
This interview contains minor spoilers for the events of "Arkham City."
CBR News: Derek, tell us about "Arkham Unhinged." What's the general plot and how does it connect with the "Arkham City" video game?
Derek Fridolfs: For those unfamiliar with the game, the idea is that the new mayor, Mayor Sharp, in association with Hugo Strange, has sectioned off an old part of Gotham with walls in order to house-in criminals from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison, following some major riots and destruction that happened in the first "Arkham Asylum" game. It's a chance to contain all of the criminals in one specific area [allowing them] to run free, as long as they don't try to escape. It keeps Gotham safer that way -- at least, that's their intent when explaining this to the public. Bruce Wayne thinks otherwise, and decides to see for himself from inside the walls. So it's one long night inside Arkham City as Batman investigates what's really going on while trying to stop various things from happening.
"Arkham Unhinged" is complimentary to the Arkham City game. Now that the game is up and running, this is an ongoing, weekly, digital title that will have stories that are about what is going on in the game as well as backstories, motivations and further exploits in the Arkhamverse. It's a chance to flesh out things maybe hinted at or not covered in the game, as well as focus on brand new stories off the beaten path and follow these characters more closely.
Anyone that's played the game knows there's a main storyline being told as well as side missions with various characters. There's a whole lot there to play with, and this ongoing is a chance to leave no stone unturned. To get in there and play with all the villains as well as tell what is up with Batman and his family of heroes as the game takes place.
Within the timeline of the game, when does the book take place?
The previous "Arkham City" five-issue miniseries and the seven digital chapters [took place] in the months leading up to the opening of "Arkham City." It helped lay the foundation for what happened following the Arkham Asylum breakout at the end of the first game, and show some of the characters who were involved leading up to the formation of a walled off section of Gotham called Arkham City. "Arkham Unhinged" takes place after that.
Judging by what we've seen so far, this book aims to really flesh out the conflict between Two-Face and Catwoman. Does it simply give a more detailed telling of the Arkham City story between the two characters that can be unlocked in the game, or is this something completely different?
[The "Arkham City"story] leads off the first storyline of "Unhinged." The first few chapters actually give a bit of backstory about how Catwoman and Two-Face arrived in Arkham City, leading up to the confrontation that kicks off the opening scene in the game. From there, we'll feature all sorts of other stories inside (and out) of Arkham City and what people are up to. Some might relate or tie-in to certain continuities of the game, but most are a chance to tell other stories and unique ideas and confrontations that don't occur in the game.
Folks who have powered through the game know the motivation for Hugo Strange's agenda. How does "Arkham Unhinged" help develop Strange's character and further reveal the steps toward that motivation?
It's a bit of a balancing act, working on this comic, as we're trying not to spoil any major events that take place in the game -- at least at first. You want to be able to allow game players and readers a chance to have some time to play the game and experience what is going on there without spoiling it in the comic. But in the months after the game has been out, we'll be able to start delving deeper into the main story of the game and further flesh out Strange and what his main motivation is. You will find out he didn't just come out of nowhere for "Arkham City," that he's been doing things behind-the-scenes since during the "Arkham Asylum" game and even before that.
One of the great things about "Arkham City" is the inclusion of so many characters from the Batman mythos. Can readers expect a similar cast of characters for "Unhinged?"
Oh, definitely. That really is one of the best things, that I get a full toybox to play with. Most of Batman's rogues gallery are in the game, and we're going to have a chance to go through and have stories that cover most, if not all of them. There's a lot of crossover as well, with rivalries and vendettas. It's no surprise that after Arkham City opens, most of the villains have splintered off into their own sections of town and their own gangs. Some are interested in acquiring more power and territory, some are just trying to survive, some want to break out and some are happier now that they're inside and left alone. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on as many of them as possible, whether they were heavily featured in the game or not.
You were also responsible for some of the digital exclusives that released in anticipation of the game this summer. How did that experience help develop the story you're telling now?
It was a lot of fun getting a chance to work with Paul Dini on those. He was gracious enough to allow me to come aboard and work off of his plots for me to script. I also got to write one of them, as well. Dini has had his hands all over both Batman games with Rocksteady, and is obviously a huge architect for Batman in general, dating back to the first animated series. The previous digital chapters and now the ongoing is my chance to continue with what Dini, Rocksteady and DC have set up with the Arkhamverse.
Those previous digital chapters weren't just throwaway stories, either. I do plan on referencing certain things that happened in those as we continue the stories of some of those characters.
"Arkham Unhinged" is being released exclusively through the comiXology digital platform. Why do you think this is a good way to reach readers that might be interested in continuing the "Arkham City" storyline?
The game reaches a lot of fans, both in gaming and fans of Batman in general. These are people used to their entertainment being digital, so I think it only makes sense to tap into that market and maybe introduce those fans to comics by way of this game. The fans of the game have been anticipating "Arkham City's" release for quite some time, and are really invested in it, eating up as much info as they can and chatting about it on message boards. The digital comics (as well as the hardcover release) have been very successful for that audience. "Unhinged" is a way to continue that, for people to read more about the Arkhamverse as they continue to play and discover the game. And for fans of comics, maybe even those that have yet to try digital, we hope this is enticing. 10 page chapters, released weekly, for 99 cents each. By today's standards, it's a real bargain, and we hope people will come back each week to get their fix.
The earlier Digital Exclusives were later collected into a single print issue offered as a preorder bonus for the game from Amazon.com. At present, are there plans for a similar collection for "Arkham Unhinged?"
Don't forget, most of the digital exclusives were also collected into the hardcover of the "Arkham City" miniseries collection. As far as collecting "Unhinged," at this point it's digital. I leave it up to DC to decide where it goes from there. But with most of these things, if it's popular enough, it'll eventually get collected in some form or another.
You mentioned in your deviantArt bio that you're "writing/inking a new title for DC yet to be announced." Dustin Nguyen has also confirmed through his DA that you'll be working on a project together. Is there anything that you can tell us about this unannounced book or any other future projects coming down the line?
It's funny how things sort of take off after people read various comments and start to guess. I'm thankful that people show interest, especially since [Dustin and I have] both sort of been absent from the racks on a regular basis following a fairly nonstop run that went from "Detective" to "Streets Of Gotham" and then "Batgirl."
Needless to say, we've been very busy and have a lot of stuff working behind-the-scenes, so when the time comes to announce it, content will be coming out in rapid succession. It's just that waiting game for it to be announced. We're just as anxious for people to know as well -- rest assured, there's more great Dustin content to come, and I'll be tagging along for the fun!