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Writer, producer, and story editor for The Batman, Duane Capizzi has jumped headfirst into the dark world of Gotham. In 2004 he launched a bold new vision of the Dark Knight, a vision that divided an audience who still had Bruce Timm's interpretation fresh in their minds. Working alongside designer Jeff Matsuda, this new version of Batman became a huge hit for Kids'WB!, spawning a new season of episodes and a direct-to-video feature. Capizzi sat down with The World’s Finest to discuss this popular, yet controversial, animated series.

The World’s Finest (WF): What did it feel like taking on this series, given the rich animated legacy Batman has?

Duane Capizzi (DC): It was pretty daunting, since so much has been done with the character and property -- and done well. With so many years of comics and a hundred plus episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, were there any stories left to tell? And mostly, how do we follow in the footsteps of the towering achievement that is B:TAS?

Ultimately, the more I revisited favorite Batman works, in both B:TAS and the comic books, the more I reminded myself that how the story is told is as important as the story itself -- after all, B:TAS did a lot of tweaking and reinventing of classic characters and stories, to make them "make sense" for the version of the mythology they were telling. The task for any writer and artist team who comes to a classic property like Batman is to freshen it enough to keep it interesting for fans who are familiar with it, but obviously not so different that it's no longer true to its source. It's not unlike jazz: riffing on motifs and themes, recombining familiar elements in hopefully fresh ways -- while keeping the melody intact.

That said, the idea which really gave form to the task at hand was the "Year Three" concept. Unlike B:TAS, we thus had the opportunity to unfold an epic saga which charts Batman's course from vigilante, to working covertly with members of Gotham P.D., to being publicly accepted as Gotham's hero and responding to the Bat-Signal, to gaining new alliances and beyond. So, we could "re-tell" Batman's history in a sequential order, more or less paralleling the years of Batman mythology -- and hopefully find interesting ways to introduce a new audience to classic scenarios.

WF: Explain what the goal is with this animated series. I know we have the press release stating it’s the hip new reinvention of the character, but in your own words...what are the goals and intentions of this animated series?

DC: First and foremost, the show was intended for children. Our job as the creative team is to make it work for the Network and the audience, but also make the show true to Batman and its fans: obviously, cartoons that become classics work on more than one level, and we're concerned with satisfying all fans of Batman. It's a balancing act.

The intention was certainly to give this series a different look from B:TAS, and to keep the action quotient high. From a storytelling standpoint, we wanted to tell the stories less from the villains' point of view and more from Bruce Wayne's. Because we wanted our sympathies to be with Bruce, to experience his various dilemmas as he grows to become a better Batman, we made the decision to avoid pathos with the bad guys (at least, on a regular basis; there are notable exceptions, of course). Also, we consciously made The Batman more of a "superhero" show. We hit the ground running by having Batman meet his future arch-villains for the first time -- a bigger-than-life gallery of grotesques worthy of rising to the Dark Knight's challenge. The decision was made to keep the villains out of suits and ties, and keep them in colorful costumes and personalities; weaponry would also be more fantastical. We also wanted to invoke some of the retro fun feel from the 60's comics -- elaborate deathtraps and such -- but without getting campy.

WF: What kind of challenge is it to work on The Batman while Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Animated Series are still on the air and readily available? Does it cause any problems while adapting these characters?

DC: Mostly, as a result of both JLU and Teen Titans being in first run, we were conscious of telling types of stories that would be unique to The Batman, to set our show apart: most notably, we avoid the more "sci-fi" realm that those shows regularly explore. I view our show more as "Detective Comics" -- we've hermetically sealed our Gotham from reference to other superheroes (and 'not-of-this-world' superpowers). It's still "year three," and The Batman hasn't made their acquaintances -- at least not yet.

In the case of B:TAS, as I earlier alluded, we weren't interested in simply retelling the same stories the same ways -- what would be the point, with B:TAS within arm's reach on DVD? So, aware that fans of B:TAS would be tuning in, the biggest challenge was how to satisfy both them and a brand new audience. The approach we took was to throw in enough fresh twists and turns to hopefully keep things interesting.

WF: Can you explain a little bit of the process in writing the pilot episode “The Bat in the Belfry”?

DC: We didn't want to bog down in too much explanation or back story, as it needed to be entertaining as a "typical episode" in its own right. That said, we had to keep a new audience in mind who might not be familiar with Batman, so there was a lot of introductory ground to cover: setting the scene in Gotham (Batman wiping out the last of the 'old school' crime lords), introducing Batman who is in turn Bruce Wayne, introducing Bruce Wayne's function in Gotham society, meeting Alfred, Joker, Detectives Yin and Bennett, Chief Rojas -- and make sure we've hit our marks with enough action set pieces, all in 22 minutes! (there was even a "laughing fish" homage that was actually animated which sadly had to be cut for time, in the event anyone wondered if there was an outcome to Joker's gas being dumped into Gotham Bay).

WF: Nachos and techno music. Some fans actually got offended with this being in the series. Are little bits of info like Bruce’s favorite food and having him listen to music an attempt to show us a new side to his character we’ve never seen before? Do you think you’ve been successful in bringing that out?

DC: It just seemed natural that if Alfred is going to serve Bruce a snack in the BatCave, it's going to be nachos or peanut butter sandwiches or the like -- not foie gras! I think that in our collective memory, Bruce Wayne is a dashing guy in a tuxedo who drives a fast car. I wanted to make explicit that the swinging bachelor part of Bruce's personality is an act that he puts on, in order to cover any suspicions that he might be The Batman. Therefore, Bruce eats caviar when he's putting on a show for the public eye, but I don't think it's his choice of snack when at home.

As for the "techno" (presumably you're referring to what was playing at Bruce's party in "Call of the Cobblepot"?), again, that would fall into the category of the persona Bruce puts on for the public. He's a young billionaire: when HE throws parties they're not going to be black tie affairs with polite company; rather, he's going to throw a rave and invite the Hollywood crowd.

WF: Can you explain The Batman’s approach to showcasing the bad guys?

DC: In the case of classic rogues, we stayed true to their conceptions while giving them "makeovers." In the case of more obscure villains (e.g., Cluemaster, Ragdoll, etc.), we took more leeway in reimagining them.

For the most part, we wanted to focus on what the villains DO -- not necessarily where they came from. Simply put, we avoided telling "origin" stories, unless we had compelling enough reason to. Our Mr. Freeze is, of course, a good example. 'Heart of Ice' from B:TAS is such a masterpiece, why try to top it? And it would be futile to remake it. So, we chose to turn Victor Fries from a hot-headed thug to a cold-hearted monster, an emotionless mutant. More than Freeze himself, what made the story interesting, in my opinion, was Batman's reaction to Freeze -- we were able to explore Batman's feelings of guilt and doubt: was he responsible for creating Freeze?

In the case of Penguin, we provided him with a true back story without having to tell a literal origin: you pretty much learn all you need to know about him as Bruce/Batman learns it, in the course of the episode (a structural device we also utilized for Cluemaster and Ventriloquist, for instance). I feel we really conjured one of the more interesting depictions of Cobblepot -- he's the anti-Bruce, since he sees himself as handsome and wealthy but is in actuality homely and his family fortune has long since fallen into a state of decay to match Ms. Haversham's. Coupled with connecting his past to the Pennyworth family, Penguin's now as inextricably linked to Bruce Wayne as Joker is to The Batman! (note that in the sequel, 'Bird of Prey,' Penguin's out for revenge against Bruce Wayne, not Batman).

Joker's past may currently be an enigma of sorts, but if you follow our Joker's trajectory in series, we're trying to make him as "dangerous" as we can: starting with Bennett, Joker is responsible for harming those closest to Bruce/Batman.

However, as with Clayface, there will be exceptions to the 'avoid origin stories' rule: for example, we will be telling a compelling "real time" origin story for Poison Ivy, in our two-part Season Premiere on Sept 17.

WF: What spawned the idea to turn Ethan Bennet into Clayface? Was that an idea placed since day one of the series?

DC: Yes, it was there from day one. We knew there would be an exception or two to the "save the pathos for Bruce Wayne" mission statement. So, in the case of Clayface, we "snuck" his origin by the audience without them knowing, little by little, all season long. Judging by fan response, apparently it worked! The two-parter served a lot of purposes: not only did Batman lose a friend but gain an ally at Season's end, the episode positioned Joker as Batman's true nemesis -- their conflict deepened, because of the loss inflicted to Batman.

WF: Both seasons have ended on status quo changing notes. The first season ended with Bennet becoming Clayface, the second with the introduction of Gordon. Is this done to keep the series from getting stale? Why?

DC: We aren't concerned about the series "getting stale" -- not with so much more Bat-mythology to draw from! Rather, I refer back to the "saga" aspect of our series: while all our episodes (with the exception of the two-parters) are "stand-alone," there IS an arc running throughout, which charts Batman's progress from vigilante (Season One) to covertly working with a trusted silent partner in Gotham P.D. (Season Two) to being Gotham's hero and gaining new alliances (Season Three and beyond). It's natural to use Season Finales as "special event" episodes, to both close the book on a particular chapter of Batman's development and begin another. We used the Season 2 finale, 'Night and the City,' to tie up loose ends with Yin, Rojas et al, while introducing Gordon and paving the way for the Bat-Signal and Batgirl.

WF: Anything to say to the fans who have been around since day one, and even the new ones who jumped on with season two? What can we expect in the upcoming season of The Batman? How do you plan to bring viewers back in?

DC: I think you'll enjoy what lies ahead as our characters continue to grow. Of course it's no secret by now that we'll be introducing Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara, and thus Batgirl, in our compelling two-part season opener. And I'm convinced you will LOVE how we handle Poison Ivy, and the ways we link her to Batgirl -- it was definitely one "origin" story worth telling! As with the other classic rogues, Ivy will be different, yet the same. If anything, her powers are way more INTENSE!

You'll be seeing some of our original villain creations this season: Temblor, Cosmo Krank, and Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind, "Dave.” There will also be re-imaginings of Maxie Zeus and Gearhead, things will kick up to the next level between Batman and Hugo Strange, and our "double-headers" will continue to be interesting as Catwoman meets Joker, and Penguin meets Freeze. So tune in!

WF: Take us through the current production state, why the show isn’t cancelled, waiting for episode pick-up, and just what it means for The Batman.

DC: I think fans of Batman will love 'The Batman vs. Dracula' Direct-To-Video feature (due to hit the shelves in mid-October, just in time for Halloween). I promise that there is at least one sequence that will blow your minds! We are now in post-production on our 3rd set of 13 episodes of The Batman.

I hope this was an informative glimpse into our creative process on The Batman, and hope you enjoy our upcoming season and DTV feature.

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