I have to admit that I went into Batman/Fortnite expecting a cash-in with little substance and tons of mindless action. I’m man enough to admit that I was 100% wrong. Yes, the story’s action-packed, but there’s a wealth of heart and character in there too. The best part for fans of the Dark Knight is that Batman’s analytical mind stands at the forefront of the story.
When DC publicity asked whether Dark Knight News would be interested in interviewing Christos Gage and Reilly Brown, the writer and artist behind this huge crossover event, Adam and I jumped at the chance.
Christos Gage is an American screen and comic book writer. He’s known for his work on the TV series Daredevil, Hawaii 5-0, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Numbers, plus the films The Breed and Teenage Caveman.
For comics, he’s written Marvel’s Civil War event series Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War, a Deadshot mini-series and more for DC.
Reilly Brown is an American comic book artist and writer. He’s drawn various comics for Marvel, including The Amazing Spider-Man, New Warriors and the digital comic Avengers v X-Men (AvX). He was also the writer AND artist on Deadpool & Cable and he’s the creator of the character Shiklah, Deadpool’s vampiric ex-wife.
Warning. This interview contains mild spoilers for
Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #3 and #4
Writer Christos Gage on what happened in Batman/Fortnite issues #1-#2:
In issue #1 a rift opened in the sky above Gotham City, causing all kinds of energy disruptions. Batman went to investigate. He saw Harley Quinn there complaining about “some others” who had gone through. They fought and she leaped into the rift. Batman tried to analyze it, but he got sucked in and found himself waking up on Fortnite Island with no memory of who he was.
He soon discovered he couldn’t speak; he’d retained his skills and muscle memory, but he quickly found out that he was stuck on an island with a bunch of crazy people, all wanting to fight and kill him. He also realized that there was a storm that covered the island every 22 minutes before time would reset. Of course, Batman doesn’t know that time resets, because he wakes up, once again with no memory.
Being the World’s Greatest Detective he left himself clues and messages.
He came to (understand) that this had all happened before, even though he (couldn’t) remember it, and because inanimate objects don’t change, he’s able to leave himself messages. He builds a makeshift Batcave and also realizes that there’s someone on the island, namely Catwoman, that he feels an affinity to. So, while memories don’t endure, emotions do, on some level.
Batman Works It Out
Issue #2 essentially showed a bunch of different loops, in which Batman and Catwoman were figuring things out about the island. One thing they realized was that there was a way to escape the loop, which was to be at the exact center of the storm when it covered the island. This would be in a different location each time, but Batman calculated it. The catch is it only works if there’s only one person left, so Catwoman had to kill Batman – at his urging – so she could escape.
He was supposed to follow, because anyone who dies re-spawns, so as we ended issue #2 Batman woke up again and he had this nagging feeling that there was something he had to remember. Before he could really think about it he was attacked by a crazy Fortnite person and was left with the open question of, will he remember that he’s supposed to follow Catwoman and how to do it, or will he just be stuck on Fortnite Island forever?
Batman In A New Setting
Batman/Fortnite #3 was interesting in that I basically felt like, OK… we’ve done an issue and a half of Batman’s internal monologue, so maybe we should try a different narrative approach. I pitched telling it from the point of view of a bunch of internal office memos from someone who works for IO – the Imagined Order – which is the organization (that) controls Fortnite Island.
The great thing about working with Donald Mustard (the man behind Epic Games and Fortnite) is that I asked him if this would be OK and he said “I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, but I trust you. Go to it”, and I said, “Of course if you don’t like it, I’ll change it”, but he really liked it and he even made suggestions that made it a lot better.
So, that’s the narrative we’re seeing in (Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #3). Batman’s getting uncomfortably close to figuring out how to get out of the loop and quicker than IO would like him to, so they search about for another warrior on the level of Batman, who can stop him. That happens to be Snake Eyes, so we get this fight that I personally have been wanting to see since the 80s, and somebody – I forget the name of the guy who drew the comic… because, y’ know… does he really matter? – but Reilly utterly killed it and just did such an amazing job.
I remember being a kid, going into a toy store and finding the giant treasury edition sized Batman Vs (The Incredible) Hulk comic and just being blown away. I hope that what we’ve done will make somebody feel that way today. It’s also a little bit of a love letter to 80s action movies. I feel like Johnny Lawrence of Kobra-Kai would enjoy Batman/Fortnite.
Reilly, what would you have to say about it? You did such an amazing job. With every page that would come in, Donald would be like, “This is just amazing!”
The Artist – Reilly Brown:
Batman/Fortnite #3 in particular was a lot of fun. A lot of time when people work on comic books they talk about playing with the toys in the toy box, but this literally felt like that. I bought a Snake Eyes action figure to use as a reference, so it really was. Then I had my son’s Batman action figure which I sometimes steal and use at my desk for reference, so it really was just me playing with two toys then drawing the adventures on the page. It was a lot of fun.
It really did bring me back to the 80s and make me feel like a kid again, so that was kind of a blast. One of my favorite parts of the issue is the beginning, before Snake Eyes show up, because there’s this intensity to Batman, he’s a man on a mission. There’s this one shot that I love where it’s just him staring at the camera as the storm washes over him and disintegrates him. That’s pretty badass.
Dark Knight News: Both of you are no strangers to events with multiple characters, was this helpful going into making Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point?
Christos: It was very helpful for me because I don’t have to draw them, so I just put all kinds of characters on the page and it didn’t take me any longer than no characters on the page.
Reilly: A lot of the fight scenes were just “Batman fights a ton of Fortnite guys, you pick which ones go in there”, but I do love doing these, I call them “character clusters”, where it’s just kind of a big knot of characters all fighting each other at the same time, I have a lot of fun with those. I really had a blast with this.
The Fortnite characters all have such awesome designs. They create such unique characters and one of the things I’m thinking as I’m drawing them is – because we don’t have much back-story for any of them – what’s this person like when they’re on their own world? That was fun to think about. Interacting with Batman, Snake Eyes, Catwoman and Harley Quinn was a lot of fun also.
DKN: Batman and Fortnite are two of the most popular fandoms on Earth. Was there any pressure on you to do them justice?
Christos: There’s always pressure to do anything justice when you know that there are people who care passionately about it, but at the end of the day you have to put that aside. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that any time you’re trying to just do fan service it usually feels fake and forced, and doesn’t work. Not that the very concept of Batman fighting Snake Eyes isn’t some degree of fan service, we’re all fans.
I think that it’s important to just let go and say, “Alright, I think this is a good story and I believe in it, I know Reily’s gonna draw the hell out of it, and John (Kalisz) is gonna color the hell out of it, and everybody’s gonna do a great job”. You know that you’re not gonna please all the people all of the time, you just hope the majority of the people who are fans of these properties feel that you did a good job.
Reilly: For me, I never go into something thinking about pleasing the fans, I think more about being true to the characters. If they’re fans of the characters, hopefully, I get it right and they appreciate that. I really hope to give the fans something they didn’t even know they wanted, stuff they hadn’t even thought about before. That’s always my approach, trying to be as true to the characters as I can.
Fundamentally me and Chris are both creators, so we’re gonna do it in our own way, and hopefully, that’s different from the way that other people would. Whatever we do together is gonna be unique. As long as you’re true to the characters and true to the lore and everything, then the fans will be on board.
Supply and Demand
DKN: Were the two of you surprised that the supply for issue #1 didn’t meet the demand of the book and that it had to back to second print so quickly?
Reilly: I’m always surprised when books I work on don’t go to second print, so I wasn’t surprised at all. I was talking to Donald Mustard before this came out and he was like, “Man, I keep telling DC to print more, they don’t know what’s coming their way!”, so I had a little bit of an inside scoop on that. So I told the guys at the comic book stores in my neighborhood, “I don’t know what your orders are for this, but you wanna bump them up a little bit because I expect that this is gonna be a little bigger than people think it will be.”
Christos: I wasn’t surprised that it exceeded, but I was surprised by just how big the demand was and that it was sold out literally within the first day… or sometimes before the store even opened. People were calling and saying, “Please could you put this aside for me”, or, “I want to add this to my pull list”.
When you think about the number of people that play Fortnite, which is in the millions, then this is unlike other tie-ins that have come before, in that you get a skin or accessory for the game from the comic, but also we’re revealing secrets about the lore of the game that have never been revealed before and are gonna be part of the canon.
I thought that it would exceed what most people would think was going to be the expected demand. That’s a good thing as long as people are still going to be able to read the story; which they are because there are further printings coming out, which still have the codes in them.
Obviously, there’s going to be a collected edition coming out in September which is already doing incredibly well in the sales charts. I was not as surprised as a lot of people, but I was still surprised.
Reilly: I don’t think that anybody expected it to be as big as it’s been, because people can’t keep it in stock. I was talking to a comic store about doing a signing, “What day should I come in?”, “You’d better come in the Tuesday, as these things sell out within a couple of hours”. “Well… OK!”
Batman: Detective or Warrior
DKN: Batman sees through the illusion of where he is almost immediately. Do you both see Batman as much as a detective as he is a warrior?
Christos: I think even more. People say Batman could beat Godzilla if you gave him enough time and it’s not because he could kick Godzilla’s @$$ hand to hand, it’s because he’s so smart. He’s a brilliant tactician and a great detective. When I write Batman I find myself gravitating towards the World’s Greatest Detective aspect of him.
The first thing I did, which was probably 15 years ago now – my wife and I had been writing for Law and Order: SVU – was to do, almost a procedural with Batman; it did turn out that the villain was Mr. Freeze and they had a big fight, which of course was awesome, but I love that aspect of the character.
When I heard Donald’s ideas and the hook for the series to take the World’s Greatest Detective and put him in a situation where he doesn’t remember anything and loses his memory every 22 minutes; how does he escape? How do you resist that?
Reilly: I think whether Batmans’a a detective or a warrior, it’s really just about overcoming the challenges he’s presented with. So, if he’s fighting Godzilla or Fortnite Island itself, he’s gonna figure out a way to overcome that challenge.
The Batman/Fortnite Future
DKN: What are the chances of a sequel, or another crossover?
Christos: I think the chances are probably strong, knowing just how big a fan of comics Donald Mustard is. For anyone who’s been paying attention to the game, we’ve had everyone from John Wick, to Ripley from Aliens, the Street-Fighter characters in there. I think that the sky’s really the limit.
Reilly: Donald Mustard’s a huge comic book fan. A lot of the crossovers he does happen just because the passion he has for all these various properties is so strong. He just wants to make it happen and he pursues them like a fan. It would be cool.
I’d love to see more DC characters interact with Fortnite characters; I’d love to see the Fortnite characters on their own, explore a little more about who they are.
The answer is, I don’t know… but I hope so.
Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #3 is out today – Tuesday, May 18th, 2021 and it’s fantastic!
Pick it up wherever comics are sold.
As an added treat, here’s a sneak peek at the covers for issue #4!
Images, and Interview Opportunity Courtesy of DC Entertainment and B/HI / 42West