As producer Butch Lukic revealed in previous interviews the release of Batman: The Long Halloween, the animated adaptation of the Eisner-award winning miniseries from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, was pushed back due to various factors outside of his control. To quote a famous proverb, “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Indeed, translating the seminal storyline, which sees the Caped Crusader racing against the calendar stop the mysterious Holiday Killer plaguing Gotham City’s mob underworld, involved a number of challenges in order to do the original source material justice. Even despite splitting Long Halloween into two separate films, there were an embarrassment of riches that unfortunately never made the final cut.
Ahead of the release of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 which arrives on Digital tomorrow, I had to chance to chat with Butch Lukic about his original plans to produce bonus animated shorts from the story elements they inevitably cut from the original comic. Plus Lukic teases how Long Halloween leads into his next DC animated project and reveals more about the adaptation process.
Taimur Dar: I knew or at least had a strong feeling that the Riddler and his encounter with the Holiday Killer on April Fools’ Day weren’t going to be featured in the film. I went back and read the issue and while it works great for the comic and I can see why you would cut him since it’s not really essential for the story you’re telling. Was cutting the Riddler from the adaptation always the plan or did you ever try to fit him in?
Butch Lukic: We originally weren’t trying to fit him in. All the other characters we had to make sure were in because I couldn’t get rid of Poison Ivy. Scarecrow was a definite. Initially the script was too long and we weren’t able to do that [Riddler] bit. But we did have plans to do it as a side 10-15 short. And also a Catwoman [short]. We ran out of funds for that. Also when we got held back for a release for a year, that money wasn’t there and we were already doing a couple of other movies. So no one had time or the ability to be able to go back and do that Riddler section and place it later as a Blu-ray extra.
Dar: One of the things that you do different visually from the graphic novel is actually show the Holiday Killer as a full figure albeit hidden whereas the comic only partially depicts Holiday through close-ups. What was the inspiration for that cinematic choice?
Lukic: The real reason is cinematically from a panels point-of-view in a comic, you could easily get away with it. The worst part of doing it animated is you have to show how the person escapes. You have to show these things. You can’t keep showing just legs running or the face moving away. It wasn’t going to work considering that you’re dealing with Batman and other characters. So the issue was we might as well show the character [of Holiday]. You can’t shoot a gun like that from a long, long distance so we had to leave it as a real possible distance that someone could make that shot.
Dar: There’s a sequence in the film that takes place in the past with young Bruce Wayne seeing his father save Carmine Falcone’s life. It’s also in the original comic with a subtle shift in the Tim Sale art and the colors. Likewise, there’s a change in the animation for the adaptation to distinguish it from the rest of the film. I was wondering if you could describe how you animated that sequence differently than the rest of the film?
Lukic: It wasn’t animated differently. It was animated by the same studio. But I did go with a different color scheme to make it look like we were going into a flashback. We tried to change the color so it has a different feel to it like an older time. It’s a slight difference to give you that impression.
Taimur Dar: In Part 1 whenever a murder occurs there’s text that appears on the screen indicating the specific holiday. You continue that in Part 2 at least in the beginning but it eventually gets abandoned. I just wanted to know the reason for discontinuing the holiday text?
Lukic: I think once we get further in, it’s being said instead of established by the words and the iconography. It’s being said what day it is so there was no reason to add those [words]. Everyone at that point in the storyline who’s watching it as an audience knows what day and holiday it is.
Dar: It’s always a challenge when adapting an acclaimed mystery story how faithful you remain to the original ending but also twist expectations. It reminds me of what the filmmakers encountered with the Murder on the Orient Express adaptation a few years ago. What was the creative process of preserving the essential conclusion and still remaining true to the spirit of the source material while simultaneously subverting expectations?
Lukic: Me and Jim [Krieg] and Tim [Sheridan] were working out story ideas and conflicts within the book as far as why these characters know each other and don’t know each other. [We realized] we needed a connection to why this murderer is doing what they’re doing. I don’t think the book really was clear all the way on that. We did find that if we did more of this as far as the connection that kind of still keeps it relevant to the original book but with an added emphasis.
Dar: I know in previous interviews for Part 1, you mentioned you had in mind adapting the Dark Victory sequel but that was put by the wayside. Long Halloween also spawned another miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Catwoman: When in Rome. This Long Halloween animated movie actually sets up that potential story so is When in Rome something you’d have interest in adapting if this movie does well?
Lukic: We were kind of going to adapt 2-3 shorts that we were going to add to the Blu-ray. One of them was going to be a little bit of that Catwomen: When in Rome. The others were going to be the missing elements we couldn’t get to in the whole movie of Long Halloween Parts 1 and 2. It was the bits that we weren’t able to put in relevant to one of the rogues gallery and also her [Catwoman]. Again, because we ended up delaying the release of these and we were already onto two other movies we didn’t have the time to then go back and produce those [shorts].
Dar: Regarding potentially adapting the Dark Victory sequel, there’s a major character who plays a big role in Dark Victory who’s taken off the board in this animated adaptation. Obviously, that presents a big challenge for any potential sequel. Is that missing element something you’ve taken into account?
Lukic: We went that way because we needed to be clear on The Long Halloween. If we were heading into Dark Victory that character probably would be there at that point. We would have to re-adapt Dark Victory to suit what we did in Part 1 of this Long Halloween movie.
Dar: Finally, there’s a post-credits scene I won’t give away. But I’m just curious how it came about.
Lukic: Mainly because we already finished Justice Society: World War II. Since Long Halloween was different than it was originally placed we might as well put in that extra [post-credits scene]. Originally it was there to lead into Justice Society: World War II. But now it leads into another movie that we’re doing that is coming down the road.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 arrives on Digital tomorrow and on Blu-ray on August 10, 2021.