THE LONG HALLOWEEN’s Tim Sheridan on Adapting a Batman Epic

Along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween is one of the most celebrated stories in the Caped Crusader’s canon. In fact, this 13 part 1996-1997 series, later collected as a graphic novel, was a huge influence on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Now, DC and Warner Animation are doing a proper animated adaptation, told in two parts.

The writer they tapped to adapt this behemoth of a story is Tim Sheridan, author of the current (and wonderful) Teen Titans Academy series, as well as one of the writers on the upcoming Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Nerdist got the chance to chat with Sheridan about adapting such a legendary story, about the Dark Knight’s earliest days defending Gotham. One centered around a murder mystery that begins on Halloween, and continuing with killings that take place on each month’s respective holiday.

Batman, as he appears in the animated film The Long Halloween.

Warner Bros. Animation 

Although adapting a beloved classic is a daunting task, Sheridan told us DC and Warner Animation did give him one big gift with this project. “The fact that I had two movies to do it, made everything a lot easier. There was no way to tell this story in one movie, and really feel like you were having the experience you had when you were reading the book. Of course, a scene might be a little bit longer in the comic, then it might be a little shorter in the movie. It all proved to be an interesting challenge.”

Instead of taking too much out of the original story, Sheridan tried to go “between the panels” of the classic comic. “We really tried to be additive instead of subtractive” Sheridan said. “In comic books, there are things that happen between issues. Would seeing those scenes service our story? There’s a real action-packed scene in the movie, that takes place between issues two and three of the book. So we had those unique opportunities, which were fantastic.”

Gilda Dent, wife of future villain Two-Face, from the Long Halloween.

Warner Bros. Animation 

Making sure every holiday represented in each chapter of the story had a specific mood was also a challenge, but one Sheridan was up for. According to the writer. “I made sure that when we’re experiencing something on a particular holiday in the movie, as in the book, we’re watching a story play out that directly relates to the deeper meaning of that particular holiday. We couldn’t give anything short shrift.”

But with such a monster of a story, there had to be certain changes regardless. We asked if there was one aspect of the original graphic novel that he wished he could have found a way to make work in the movie. And one specific thing stood out. “The narration. The omniscient narrator” Sheridan told us. “In the beginning, I really wanted to try to make the comic’s narration work. It’s just a hard thing to sell really in animation, without making it funny. And there’s nothing really that’s funny about The Long Halloween. It’s a pretty serious story. It’s a fun ride, but it’s not, really something to laugh about.”

Carmine Falcone, Gotham's Godfather, in The Long Halloween animated film.

Warner Bros. Animation 

Although he missed the noir-narration, Sheridan still captured the feeling of the comic regardless. “I wished we could do that narration, because we want to get inside the head of our characters. But in the end, we do get into the minds of the characters. But through their dialogue and through their actions. And the visuals. But in the classic detective noir sense, I would have loved hearing that framing device. And while it would be great to have that, there was no way I could make it work.”

Much like the original graphic novel, The Godfather was a heavy influence on this story. Although we thought the visual reference to the Francis Ford Coppola classic seemed dialed down somewhat, Sheridan believed in some way, the references were even more overt. “There was a way in which we didn’t dial it down,” Sheridan told us. “I didn’t do this, but (Warner Animation’s) Butch Lukic said, “Hey, I want some of these people to refer to Carmine Falcone as “Godfather.” So we did it. We definitely wanted to make sure that we had the feeling of who [The Falcone] crime family is.  Having that is definitely more important to me than doing any sort of referencing on of a classic film.”

Calendar Man, one of the many villains in Batman: The Long Halloween.

Warner Bros. Animation 

The Long Halloween is something of a smorgasbord of great Batman rogues. Especially since the story chronicles the fall of the traditional mob in Gotham City, and the rise of the freaks. So with all those great villains in play, who was Sheridan’s favorite to write for? It was one who was not a freak, Sheridan said. “Carmine Falcone.” He didn’t miss a beat telling us the Gotham City crimelord was his favorite to write for. But he had other favorites as well.

One of Batman’s more obscure adversaries gets an important role in this story, and the Calendar Man was also a blast for Sheridan to write for too. Having The Dark Knight’s David Dastmalchian doing his voice was the cherry on top. “Getting to write Calendar Man, and hearing David voice him, was amazing,” Sheridan said. “Hearing guys like Titus Welliver (Falcone) and Troy Baker, who was the Joker, and then David? It was exactly like when I heard the lines I wrote in my head, and I was just so thrilled, hearing those words. Hearing Troy Baker’s Joker delivering lines from the original The Long Halloween was a huge treat.”

Batman and Catwoman, as they appear in The Long Halloween, Part One.

Warner Bros. Animation

Although Batman The Long Halloween, Part Two is arriving imminently, the original graphic novel has a somewhat lesser-known sequel. Called Dark Victory, it deals with the aftermath of The Long Halloween. And it’s the origin story of Robin. So we had to ask, if DC and WB approached him, would Sheridan write an animated adaptation of Dark Victory as well? “No question,” Sheridan told us. “And I know exactly how I would do it. But this experience on The Long Halloween, I think it was maybe lightning in a bottle.” Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. But in Gotham City, anything is possible.

Written by Tim Sheridan and directed by Chris Palmer, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One stars the voices of Jensen Ackles, Naya Rivera, Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, and Jack Quaid. It arrives on Digital and Blu-ray on June 22.

Featured Image: Warner Bros. Animation 

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