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July 22, 2016 at 09:33 PM EDT

Paul Dini dealt with one of the most traumatic moments of his life in the way he knew best: writing a graphic novel

The accomplished writer discussed his most recent work with DC/Vertigo, Dark Night: A True Batman Story, with EW’s Tim Leong during Con-X on Friday. Dark Night is the story of a 1993 mugging that threatened Dini’s life, leaving him with a half-broken face and feeling lost.

“I had to limp home and, the next day, take myself to the hospital,” he told Leong on Friday during EW’s free fan confab in downtown San Diego. “At that point, I had to examine my life: What kind of life am I living here, where I go home and there’s a room full of geek stuff, animation cells, but there’s nobody there to say, ‘Oh my god, are you all right?’ It forced me to say, ‘No, I’m not all right. I got to change my life in some ways.'”

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Dini’s credits are as impressive as they are diverse. He wrote for Batman: The Animated Series in the early ’90s and co-created Harley Quinn — a character that overcame initial skepticism to become an iconic part of the DC universe.

“It’s interesting to see your character go off and become a part of popular culture like that,” Dini said. “What’s also gratifying is seeing other creators embrace the character and take her in different directions. They all seem to have gotten in line with the spirit of what Harley is and have made her their own, and I think that’s really great. Not only is she a fun character, she’s a fun idea that you can play with.”

The comic book writer also co-created the animated series Freakazoid! and penned a handful of Batman comics, as well as working on Star Wars: The Clones Wars episodes and the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City video games. He’s currently working on the new Justice League Action, due this fall on Cartoon Network.

Con-X is a four-day getaway in Embarcadero Marina Park North in downtown San Diego. Created for fans, Con-X allows anyone to get a taste of San Diego’s Comic-Con for free with panels, Q&A, trivia, music, screenings and more. Con-X runs Thursday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. PT.

Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at San Diego Comic-Con. Go inside with all our coverage, available here.

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