You can only imagine the pressure writer Tim Sheridan faced when adapting the seminal comic storyline Batman: The Long Halloween, from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, into animation even with the added benefit of splitting the story into two separate films. An unenviable task but if the phenomenal Rotten Tomatoes review scores are any indication Sheridan clearly knocked it out of the park.
It’s not hyperbolic to say it’s a monumental year right now for the career of writer Tim Sheridan. Strangely enough so many of his different projects are being released right around the same time this summer. In fact, when I had the chance to chat with him about the second part of The Long Halloween, Collector’s Paradise comic shop had just hosted Sheridan’s first EVER comic book signing the day before for the release of his new Shazam miniseries.
Tim Sheridan has come a long way since being appearing in the the Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope documentary as a mere toy collector more than a decade ago, so he has no complaints. During our chat, Sheridan revealed more about the processing of translating the acclaimed comic into animation as well as the prospect of potentially adapting the comic book sequel Batman: Dark Victory in the near future.
Taimur Dar: Really excited to chat with you, Tim! It’s a pretty exciting time for you right now. You not only have the release of Batman: The Long Haloween, Part 2 but you also had your first comic store signing for Shazam #1 at Collector’s Paradise plus Masters of the Universe: Revelation on Netflix!
Tim Sheridan: And Transformers: War for Cybertron next week too. It’s insane! It’s the weirdest time for me right now with so many things coming out. You won’t hear a peep out of me, I promise, for next year!
Dar: [Laughs]. I pretty much anticipated before I watched the film that the Riddler was going to be cut due to time constraints and various other reasons. But what I didn’t know and learned after interviewing Butch Lukic was that there were plans to produce shorts with Riddler and some other characters. I’m really curious how far along those developed and if it went as far as you actually writing scripts for them?
Sheridan: I did! I’m so glad you asked that because that’s a great question. Given the choice, I wouldn’t want to cut any sequence or any character from anything. There were two reasons that stuff is dealt with differently in the movie. One of them is we were always going to have to change that part of the story because that issue happens in the middle of the series when the books had been coming out every month. It serves as a great reminder of who the suspects are. It’s a very functional issue in that way. It’s a fun way of presenting some expository information of catching everybody up. In the context of the film, we didn’t really need that. It just has different pace if you’re watching it within a couple of hours. If you’re watching Part 1 and Part 2, you’re not waiting a month for the next book to come out. And it hasn’t been six months since you talked about who the suspects are. So we knew there were going to have to be some changes with that.
What made it so much easier to make the changes we made was the idea that we were going to produce shorts that are part of the story that are lifted out of the movie but could be inserted into the film. I had pitches are some other holidays and some other things as well. Some things that we never really got in the book but I thought would have been interesting stories to have served alongside. Like you said and like Butch told you, that just never worked out. It made it easier to make the changes we made when writing the screenplay while producing the movie. But now in retrospect, I don’t know I would have made any different choices. I still think that sequence wouldn’t have worked cinematically for us so we would have had to change it anyway. I’m sad that we won’t get that short. I did write a script for it. It’s sitting there at Warner Bros. and maybe someday they’ll produce that April Fools’ issue [short].
Dar: I definitely hope it sees the light of day! Obviously, there are some major twists and reveals that I have no intention of spoiling, but I am rather curious to see the reactions from both people who haven’t read the original graphic novel and those who have. It reminds me of the Batman: Hush animated adaptation which garnered some strong reactions from comic purists. As fans ourselves, I think we get where they’re coming from. But if you look at other adaptations like A Clockwork Orange, Doctor Strangelove, The Shining, or Jurassic Park I don’t see audiences complaining about how the filmmakers changed the endings for those movies.
As both a comic fan and a writer did the prospect of deviating from the source material or anticipating the audience reaction worry you in any way?
Tim Sheridan: The Long Halloween is a very different mystery with a very different sort of solution than, say, Hush. We knew when we first sat down, we said, “Look, we’re not going to completely out of left field change the solution to this mystery.” But the way the story plays out in the book, and I’ve told people this before, when I first started I talked to some real super fans of the book and my only question was, “Who is Holiday?” Everybody gave me a different answer. I don’t know if that’s the best way to do the movie version of this. I think we need to streamline and refine it a little bit so that we get a real clearer picture of who the Holiday Killer is. That was how we approached it. Once I got that word from the folks I talked to and once I understood there were a lot of conflicting opinions about the solution to the mystery, I knew that’s what we had to do. We all agreed the version that takes place in this cinematic version corner of the multiverse, let’s be real clear about who is the Holiday Killer.
Dar: I’ve always thought that Harvey Dent/Two-Dent was the central character in The Long Halloween comic and in the animated adaptation I’d go far as to say he’s actually the hero. It reminded me at the end of end of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight but instead, Harvey Dent willingly condemns himself and Batman has to hide the truth just like Jim Gordon does in the Nolan film. What was the inspiration for this reinterpretation of the end of Long Halloween?
Tim Sheridan: You’re absolutely right that Christopher Nolan, no secret, was heavily inspired by The Long Halloween. So some of the things that you see him do with Two-Face and Batman are entirely inspired by stuff in the book. It’s hard to say we were inspired by what the movie did that was inspired by the book. Try to wrap your head around that one! [Laughs]. The Long Halloween has been a book that has been referenced over and over again because it’s so good at getting at the meat of who these characters are and their struggle. And what that means for Gotham City and how they fit into the game that is Gotham City. Nolan did a fantastic job with that. The book obviously does a fantastic job with it. Our job was to land that as best we could based on our interpretation on how things worked in the book.
Dar: Obviously Long Halloween takes its cues from classic crime films like The Godfather. But I think more recent crime genre work like The Sopranos does a phenomenal job of humanizing these “deplorable” mobsters. For the criminals in Long Halloween, like Carmine Falcone or Sofia, was finding their humanity a goal?
Sheridan: Carmine for me became a very interesting character as I began the writing process. I just understood him more and more as we progressed through the story. He becomes sort of a proxy parental figure for Bruce which is sort of an interesting different way of looking at it. He represents the generation that came before and with Bruce not having a tangible life connection to his parents, maybe one of the closest things he has is his relationship with Carmine Falcone. In order to try to understand his parents better, he has to understand Carmine. It’s not just about taking him down. It’s about getting a real picture of who he [Carmine] is so that he can get real picture of who his parents were and ultimately then get a picture of who he himself is.
I think that was all stuff we discovered as we went through the process. It made Carmine a richer more interesting villain because there’s never anything interesting about a mustache-twirling evil guy. It’s always far more interesting when you can get under their skin a little bit and understand them. Now Carmine does terrible things, don’t get me wrong. But the complicated thing about him is he thinks he’s doing them for the right reasons. He’s also done a little bit of good. The fact is he’s that sort of dictator in a country where when you take them out the question is what’s going to rise up in their place. Maybe they were terrible but were they as terrible as what’s going to happen now? That’s ultimately where the Long Halloween book and movie ends. What’s Gotham City going to be without the influence of someone like “The Roman?” That’s not a spoiler because that is something that everybody knows. We know how things are going to go in Gotham City. This is just the story of what got us there.
Dar: In previous interviews for Part 1, you mentioned that you’d love the opportunity to tackle adapting the sequel comic Batman: Dark Victory. If you were to pick up directly from this continuity, it would really be interesting to see particularly since there’s a character who is no longer on the board who plays a major role in Dark Victory. Does that potential challenge something that concerns you or perhaps excites you as a writer?
Sheridan: [Laughs]. Well, listen, nobody has talked to me about adapting anything so I don’t know if that would ever come to pass. Speaking in complete hypotheticals, there’s no question! When I was working on this I said, “Well, this really complicates how we go about doing Dark Victory if we do Dark Victory. Having said that, just having that thought ended up spawning a whole bunch of other thoughts about the right way to deal with that. We’re being real terrible here by not trying to spoil too much. But I think that my version of Dark Victory would be closer to the book than you might guess. I’ll just say that!
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 is available now on Digital and arrives on Blu-ray on August 10, 2021.