Exclusive: Christos Gage and Reilly Brown Take Us Inside Batman/Fortnite
Batman/Fortnite is a doozy of a book. Not only did it offer readers unique codes they could use to access in-game Fortnite goodies, but it also presented Batman with one of his biggest challenges to date. The Dark Knight was forcefully removed from his familiar haunts in Gotham City. Writer Christos Gage and artist Reilly Brown threw readers headfirst into Fortnite‘s signature brand of island brutality, with a forgetful Batman as the only link to what audiences think they know about DC. Now, with its sixth and final issue hitting shelves this week, we’re all wondering: how will the creative team tie everything together?
Superhero Hype recently caught up with Gage and Brown to shed some light on the book’s biggest mysteries.
Batman and Fortnite are both wildly popular franchises. When you first started working on the book, did DC step in and set any parameters for where the story could or should go? Or did you have free reign?
Christos Gage: It was really more Donald Mustard and Epic. What was really shocking and exciting for me was when Donald said to us, “We’re gonna be revealing all these secrets about how the island works.” And I was like, “Wow! You’re not saving this for the game?” He said that in the game it was really important to them that the player had the agency. If they want to get into the lore, they can. But if they want to just go around and fight, that’s good too. We really want it to the be the player’s call. He felt that the revelations were better in a narrative situation. And he’s a huge comic book fan and was like, “Let’s go for it.”
It was more a question of what is acceptable to reveal, what is acceptable to not say definitively, and that sort of thing. With Batman, there were conversations around the character-specific guns in Fortnite, but Batman doesn’t like guns. He doesn’t shoot. And that would probably carry over if he lost his memory. That’s where his holster with the batarang on the end came from. There were a lot of agreements about things, so it wasn’t a particularly rocky process.
Forcing comic book Batman to abide by video game rules was an ingenious move. It sounds like the plan from the beginning was to throw Batman into the Fortnite universe rather than throwing the Fortnite universe into Gotham. How do you think setting it in Gotham rather than on the island would have changed the book?
Gage: It’s interesting you say that because there was some talk of cutting back and forth, maybe to other members of the Batman family back in Gotham, then maybe some Fortnite characters get through the rift the other way. Ultimately, we felt like the story being told was…there wasn’t room for more story than Batman on the island. Frankly, that was the one that seemed more interesting to me, because you’ve got the World’s Greatest Detective in a situation where he loses his memory every 20 minutes. That’s like the ultimate challenge.
From a writer’s standpoint, it was a great character challenge to put your character through. So there was never really any discussion about going the other way. It was always, from the start, Batman on Fortnite island. Like I said, there was some discussion about maybe having some things going on in Gotham, but we didn’t have the room. That’s not to say we couldn’t in the future.
Reilly Brown: I think it would be really cool and interesting to see the Fortnite characters interacting with various Gotham City landmarks and stuff like that. Like, who would join the various factions in Gotham? Who would join Two-Face or the Penguin?
What other aspects of Batman’s character worked here? What do you feel made him most compatible with Fortnite’s appeal?
Brown: One thing for the basic story itself, like Christos mentioned, the idea of Batman having to solve a mystery when he has no memory for longer than 20 minutes if pretty awesome. That wouldn’t be quite as compelling with another character because you don’t have that detective aspect. While drawing it, I kind of started to realize that while Fortnite seems like it’s filled with all these goofy characters, drawing Batman and Catwoman isn’t that much different. It’s fun to get these characters together.
You’ve previously discussed the narrative challenges of placing Batman on a Fortnite map. Did these challenges remain consistent? Did anything unexpected pop up during the process of making the book?
Gage: For me, it was knowing that Batman and the other characters wouldn’t be able to talk for the almost three issues. We figured people were probably gonna get tired of Batman’s internal monologues and issue three was where I decided to do it from the point of view of middle management at the Imagined Order. That ended up working well, and it was fun. It was an interesting way for people to look at the dialogue for clues about how it operates. Challenge-wise, other than that, it was just figuring out how to get Batman out of this. And it kind of got to the core of who these characters are.
One of the things I enjoy about the book is that when the first issue came out, there was talk about the code that came with it. That’s appealing to the gamers, but it also speaks to the overlap between video game players and comic readers. Was that intentional? Was the goal ever to make that overlap bigger?
Gage: We definitely wanted to try to bring gamers into comics and let them see how cool they are. And we also wanted to bring people who read comics to Fortnite. I mean, it’s funny. With the Snake Eyes crossover issue, we wanted to bring in another IP. There was some question about who it would be, but I think with Snake Eyes it worked out perfectly. I know a lot of people who are my age and are like, “I don’t play Fortnite. I’m not into Fortnite. I wasn’t gonna buy the series, but I’ve gotta see Batman fighting Snake Eyes.” I’ve wanted to see this since the mid-80s.
One of my favorite things is looking through social media on release day and seeing a lot of parents saying that this is my kid’s first comic and we read this together. Or people who work at comic stores and are saying how kids are coming in and are excited for the story and not just the code. They’re looking at other comics. They’re asking what else would be good for them to read.
Brown: It would be awesome if, in 20 years, I have young creators coming up and saying how they found their first comic book store because they were looking for Fortnite comics. That would just be fantastic. And then they’ll be like, “We don’t have any work for you, Reilly. Your style is kind of outdated.” [Laughs]
Out of all the characters you got to draw for this, who was your favorite (besides Batman or Catwoman)?
Brown: There were a bunch I found myself gravitating to. I really liked Tricera Ops. But I don’t know, there are so many awesome characters in Fortnite that are a lot of fun to draw. Any one of them was pretty great.
And I know Batman isn’t in his Bat-garb for long. He dresses up like the rest, and gets his own Fortnite outfit. Did you collaborate with Christos and Donald about that?
Brown: It was designed by the guys at Epic Games, but I did have lots of input on it. We had a big group email chain where they would put in some design and ask for feedback. And one of my things with those was like, “Less details! Don’t make this character the most difficult character in the whole book to draw because I’m gonna have to draw him five times per page.” So we went with a simplified version.
And that brings up an interesting aspect of comic script writing. The original comic script is really more for the artist than it is for the audience. At least initially. The writer is describing things in a way that your artist can then translate to the finished page, which readers will then see.
Gage: Absolutely. It’s a conversation between you and the artist. And everybody involved in making the book, honestly. But hopefully, you want to write it in a way that’s easy to read and not dry and boring. That’s exactly right, though. [The script] is not meant to be read as a piece of entertainment by itself.
As someone who grew up reading comics in the ’80s, I think one of the mistakes new writers make is going, “I’ll look at an Alan Moore script!” Alan Moore wrote great comics, and he is known for writing incredibly detailed panel descriptions. It’s one thing, when you’re Alan Moore, you can do that. But I mean, the artist is the visual expert and storyteller. I try to let them do their thing as much as possible. It’s really more of a suggestion. If they have a better way of doing it, I say go for it.
Brown: There’s a lot of back and forth. There were a few times where I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna add an extra panel here” and Christos will go, “You don’t even need to ask me. Just go for it!” And I found Epic very easy to work with, which was great.
So back to Batman/Fortnite: you’ve mentioned before that there is strong potential for a follow-up. Have there been any serious discussions since?
Gage: I mean, if you look at the last page of the miniseries, it’s pretty clear that the story isn’t over. The question now is just “When? In what form?”
Batman/Fortnite Zero Point #6 is out now. You can pick up the hardcover collection when it drops on September 7.
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