[INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

From 'Road to Arkham', through the Arkham City mini-series, digital exclusives and 'Arkham Unhinged', discuss the Arkhamverse EU here.

[INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Red_Robin » Jun 29th, 2013, 11:07 pm



Around this time two years ago, we were treated to the first issue of a mini-series that tied into Arkham City. This mini was written by the writer of Arkham Asylum and City, Paul Dini, but the accompanying digital exclusive issues was written by a man who was more famously known for his inking work, Derek Fridolfs.

After the mini and the exclusives were wrapped up and the game was released, Arkham Unhinged was announced. Unhinged was a digital-first comic book that saw ten pages of story released every week. The success of Arkham Unhinged essentially launched DC Comics' current slate of digital weekly releases and the series has since been released as print issues and due to be fully collected in hardcover trades.

We've had the fantastic opportunity to speak to the writer of Arkham Unhinged, Derek Fridolfs, about the series and Arkhamverse.


Without further ado, we pass over to the gentleman himself:

Arkhamverse.com: Could you tell us a little about how the concept of Arkham Unhinged developed?

Derek Fridolfs: I was approached during the middle of the Arkham City comic mini-series run. DC's digital division had the idea to offer digital first exclusive short stories in addition to that series. And I think it was going to be too much for Paul Dini to work on, in addition to working on the mini and other projects he was involved in. They had an idea of bringing on someone to script off of his story plots, and asked if if there was anyone he could recommend. It was very flattering to hear him recommend me. I think it might've just been the timing of it, as I had helped script a couple issues of the Batman: Streets Of Gotham comic over his plots. And that turned out fun. So this was a welcome surprise to continue that collaboration. And out of these digital stories, DC decided to launch an ongoing digital series. Paul was moving onto other things and DC seemed happy with my previous work, so they gave me Unhinged, and I hit the ground running.


What was it like to work with Paul Dini on the AC mini and digital exclusives?

I've been a huge fan of Paul's ever since the debut of Batman: The Animated Series. That show, and all the shows that continued in its continuity (Superman, Batman Beyond, JL & JLU), were insanely influential in my desire to work in comics and animation. I went to art school for about a year in Los Angeles, in order to build up my portfolio, and shop it around to animation studios. I'd take storyboarding tests for shows. Had friends I went to school with that continued into animation. But for me, comics came calling first.

I've been working in comics for 14 years as an inker, but writing was always the direction I was most interested in, yet one of the hardest ones to achieve. I sort of got my foot in the door on the art side of things, with the idea that I'd always look for the chance to pitch story ideas to editors and try to get work as a writer.

I was fortunate to work on a few years run on Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham with Dini as the writer. It was like a dream come true, for someone that was a huge fan of his writing style and episodes he'd worked on. And out of that came Arkham Unhinged.

The thing I've always loved best about Paul's work is he finds a way to juggle humorous characters as well as telling very dramatic and dark stories when it calls for it. He puts his heart and soul into his work, and it comes as no surprise that fans connect to that. Because of him, I think anytime I write anything Batman related, I always think of it in terms of the animated shows. I hear the actors voices, feel the beats of the story play out, and try to provide just the right amount of action, pathos, and meaning to what I want to achieve. And I feel that Paul has provided that inspiration to me over the years, both as a fan of his and as a collaborator.

Every now and then, I'll get an email out of the blue where he'll send over a short comment that he liked something I've worked on (most recently with the Batman Li'l Gotham stories that Dustin Nguyen and I are doing). And it's just a quick note, but it's such a creative boost to hear that from someone I greatly respect.


Which is your favourite arc and why?

As a writer, there are favorite things you try to find in every story that you do. Stories or characters you've always wanted to tell, artists you've asked to work with or are pleasantly surprised by, and even how fans react. So it's probably tough for most writers to come out and say what their favorite is, only because each one holds some meaning.

I will say that End Game might've been one of the highlights though. There were a lot of things working against it (a tight timetable to write it, finding an artist that would have to hurry to stay on deadline, the expectations of telling something that would happen after the end of the story in the game itself). And yet I was extremely happy with the results. I've gone into it more in depth on my blog, about how the story idea developed and my feelings towards what I wanted to achieve with it. But I think the proudest thing I can say about that comic, is that I wrote it with the idea of telling a story that any fan of Batman or Joker would like to read. Not just someone that had played the game. I think most comics that are adapted from video games get a stigma of being lesser than other comics or stories. But I never approached End Game or Unhinged with that idea. They happen to be related to the game universe, but they're still stories I was interested in telling.


The best thing to come out of End Game is that I'm working with the artist again, Jason Shawn Alexander. In fact, as timing would have it, that project just debuted this week. It's a 3-part story for Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight. It starts with digital chapter #56. And eventually it'll be collected into print. It's another very dark story. End Game he got to show us his visually disturbing Joker. On this new story, he gets to show his fractured take on Two-Face. (You can find the Two-Face issue here. -Red_Robin)


Were there any changes that you had to make to fit in with the story?

Working on stories that adapt from the source material of a game, will always lend itself to having to make changes to fit. You end up working for two masters calling the shots, both DC Comics and Rocksteady, in order for everything to fit within the timeline of the game. Anything that didn't fit correctly, they'd be the first ones to send over notes and ask for changes. But it's all a part of the process. You're probably looking for something specific, but nothing really stands out at the moment.

Was there anyone that you wanted to bring into the series who had previously been unseen in the Arkhamverse?

Batman has such a vast history in the comics before these games ever came out, obviously. So I was always looking at trying to bring in elements of characters or flashbacks that didn't necessarily happen or show up in the games themselves. I think they were always keen on wanting to stick to what was in the game universe. But when I could, I did a few stories that had the Carpenter, Ventriloquist, and Firefly (to name a few). I always felt it might get boring to the audience if you were just rereading the same characters from the game in the Unhinged comics. So I always wanted to provide a different focus. Even smaller villain focused stories or minor characters, to give them more room to shine.


How was the relationship with Rocksteady? How did the writng/approval process work?

You have to remember that during the time that Unhinged was being prepared and worked on, was before the Arkham City game was even released. Rocksteady was busy getting that all ready to launch, at the same time that DC was getting these comics ready to launch. So I'd turn in scripts, and then wait to hear back with notes from both sides. From there I'd work on a rewrite, turn it in, and then the artist would start. Pretty formulaic. Other than that, I found working with Rocksteady to be very easy.

We have seen alot of playing around with the timeline of the game, fitting things inbetween the cracks so to speak; did you have to replay the game to work out how it all fit?

Quite a bit. Early in the process, I made a trip to DC offices and got to see a walkthrough of many of the key moments of the game, the characters, and story cutscenes, all before the game came out. Just one of the perks of working on a comic like this. And then once the game came out, I was playing it nonstop and wearing out the "pause" button on the controller, as I'd make notes along the way for anything that stood out that sparked an idea. For a year, I felt I was living the game. Such a cool job to have and it would provide endless ideas each time I turned it on to play. I have a few notebooks worth of story notes I scribbled down for ideas; most of which never got the chance to happen. But it's a good place to be in as a writer. No "writer's block" here.

If you could tell just one more Arkhamverse story; what would it be?

That's tough because you never know what might happen. I was always thinking far enough ahead of after the game, if I would've got to continue. A lot of different directions for all of the characters. So I'm not going to spoil any of those ideas here.

I will say one idea that I pitched but was considered too dark, was the idea of doing a story based off of the fake ending to the game. You know the one…where Catwoman decides to leave Arkham City with her recovered and stolen goods, leaving Batman's fate to die. The game ends, we hear Barbara Gordon's radio transmission pleas for help after Gotham is in ruins and the Joker has won. That sort of "Elseworlds" or what if type of ending, of course, rewinds and never happens. But I always thought that would make for a real compelling extended story arc. To see how Gotham fell apart and if there were even a ray of hope of it turning around with everyone dead.

We know that the writer change was completely unexpected. Shortly after the change, Unhinged went on 'hiatus'. Have you heard anything about the future of the series since?

No idea. After my time on Unhinged, I moved onto other projects, and haven't worked for that office anymore.


With the announcement of Arkham Origins, the field is now open to use Unhinged to explore the Arkhamverse from Batman's second year right up to Arkham Asylum. Would you be interested in returning to the Arkhamverse and, if so, would you prefer to explore the years between the games or stick to the time periods that have already been established?

Well DC has already announced plans for stories related to Arkham Origins, but I'm not involved nor do I know anything about it. But of course I'd love to return to the Arkhamverse. I had a lot of fun cutting my teeth writing my first solo ongoing series. I feel I learned a lot in that time, and would enjoy a return trip.

In the meantime, I've been keeping busy on a range of projects. One of which is writing Detective Comics #23.1 for DC's "Villains Month" in September. My issue focuses on Poison Ivy, and I got to come up with with her origin in the New52. We get to see Ivy confront her demons as she relates it to her past, how she grew up and became the eco-terrorist villain we all know. It's a one-shot story, and is perfect for any fans of the character without needing anything else to tie-in to it.

Lastly I'd like to thank all the people that picked up the games and the comics. It's been a great ride and it was always a blast hearing the enthusiasm from the readers. Continue to check out my blog, where I posted the last of my thoughts working on specific issues of Unhinged, as well as updated to other projects I'm working on: http://dfridolfs.blogspot.com

Thanks, Derek!

What do you think of Derek's "Elseworld's" tale? What were your favourite issues of Unhinged?

DISCUSS
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Harvey Bullock » Jun 30th, 2013, 5:21 pm

Fantastic interview. Derek Fridolfs is someone who I feel deserves a lot more praise than they already receive, and his work on Streets of Gotham, Unhinged and currently L'il Gotham is truly fantastic.

Seriously though, that Elseworlds story sounds fantastic! I'd be so happy if we got to see the repercussions of that alternate ending through a comic, seeing how Gotham and the different members of the Bat-Family react in the process.

But yeah, I enjoyed the interview. Nice to see some big names in the industry on the site. :adam:
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby themaddoc » Jun 30th, 2013, 6:04 pm

Great to hear someone who got into TAS ended up doing a job like this.

Enjoyed reading this and I really wish they hadn't blocked that elseworlds thing he wanted, sounded awesome.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Maultest » Jun 30th, 2013, 6:40 pm

It's create to see an interview of such a great style comic series. Really looking forward To seeing his future works I might even pick up the poision Ivy issue now, The way he discribed it sounds cool. I Also would LOVED to see his take on the Alternate Ending. Damn you DC I wanted to see that.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Serenity of Ashes » Jul 2nd, 2013, 1:35 am

Really great interview, guys, good work. It's always interesting to hear how the industry works from a veteran himself.
And jeez, that alternate ending story arc sounds like it could have been really awesome. Kind of disappointed now, haha. (Good fanfic material, though. :adam: )
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby TFDutchman » Jul 2nd, 2013, 10:43 am

I'm still waiting for all of Arkham Unhinged to be collected into hardcover releases. So far it's just the one containing the first five issues so far. I wanna get the whole series collected into hardcovers.

Either way, great review and hope to see more interviews like this in the future :adam:
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Chob » Jul 8th, 2013, 6:31 am

Why am I just now getting around to reading this?
TFDutchman wrote:I'm still waiting for all of Arkham Unhinged to be collected into hardcover releases. So far it's just the one containing the first five issues so far. I wanna get the whole series collected into hardcovers.

Either way, great review and hope to see more interviews like this in the future :adam:

Yeah I typically like reading arcs in a few sittings in a trade. I'm hoping End Game is collected in print too.

As for the tale based on the alternate ending, it's no surprise someone who was heavily influenced by BTAS would like his own shot at a story like "Over the Edge." Too bad it never panned out.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby johnsyggel » Jul 8th, 2013, 1:35 pm

Does anyone know which issue is the second pic from?The one with Batman and Robin discussing.The art is fantastic.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Red_Robin » Jul 8th, 2013, 2:21 pm

johnsyggel wrote:Does anyone know which issue is the second pic from?The one with Batman and Robin discussing.The art is fantastic.


I believe that I took it from #16.

Run down of issues here: http://comics.arkhamverse.com/
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby johnsyggel » Jul 8th, 2013, 4:30 pm

Red_Robin wrote:
johnsyggel wrote:Does anyone know which issue is the second pic from?The one with Batman and Robin discussing.The art is fantastic.


I believe that I took it from #16.

Run down of issues here: http://comics.arkhamverse.com/

Thanks,mate. :joker2:
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby jifw52 » Jul 16th, 2013, 4:10 am

Chob wrote:I'm hoping End Game is collected in print too.

End Game has already been released in print.
http://www.dccomics.com/comics/batman-arkham-city-%E2%80%94-end-game-2012/batman-arkham-city-%E2%80%94-end-game-1
So far, Arkham Unhinged has had 16 issues printed. with #16 starting Karen Traviss's story arc.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby TheJester » Jul 17th, 2013, 11:35 am

Excellent interview; from what I read of Arkham Unhinged, and particularly End Game, he is a fantastic writer, and I hope he gets to return for an AO tie in. Also looking forward to what he can come up with for Poison Ivy in the New 52.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby Because I'm Batman » Sep 27th, 2013, 8:18 pm

I could read Arkham unhinged until number 30, and it was a good enterteining after completing the game many times. Of course that where somo weird things but it was good to know some thing about characters that cuoldn't have more presence in the game.

-- Sep 27th, 2013, 8:18 pm --

I could read Arkham unhinged until number 30, and it was a good enterteining after completing the game many times. Of course that where somo weird things but it was good to know some thing about characters that cuoldn't have more presence in the game.
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Re: [INTERVIEW] We UNHINGED Derek Fridolfs

Postby ViniciusXP » Sep 29th, 2013, 12:17 am

Just a question: They will release a comic book after Arkham Origins is released?
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