Why Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale returned to Batman: The Long Halloween for new sequel comic
As one of the most popular superheroes ever created, Batman has been the subject of many, many comic books over the years. But amidst that decades-long deluge, a few landmarks of storytelling stand out. Batman: The Long Halloween is one such story, a 12-issue holiday-themed murder mystery by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale.
Originally published in 1996, The Long Halloween has cast a large influence over subsequent Batman stories such as Christopher Nolan's movie adaptations — Batman Begins cast Tom Wilkinson as The Long Halloween's gangster villain Carmine Falcone, while The Dark Knight's story about Harvey Dent/Two-Face took a lot from the comic's portrayal of the character. This summer, Warner Bros. released a two-part animated film version of Batman: The Long Halloween (you can watch EW's roundtable with the voice cast above). Now, Loeb and Sale themselves are getting in on the action with a new one-shot sequel comic, Batman: The Long Halloween Special, out this week from DC Comics.
"It's certainly been very present throughout the years," Loeb tells EW. "People like Chris Nolan and David Goyer were very kind talking about it with the Dark Knight trilogy, and then Matt Reeves has been talking about it for his new Batman movie, and obviously the animated movie just came out and it lives on without us. So it just felt like, 25 years later, there were still some secrets that we purposely left there, because who doesn't love a great secret? This was an opportunity to sort of go back and pull on that thread and hope that people who've been so kind as to talk about the book for 25 years will enjoy this epilogue."
Loeb and Sale continued to work together prolifically in the years following The Long Halloween, both for DC (in sequels Batman: Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome, as well as Superman for All Seasons) and Marvel (Hulk: Gray, Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, and Captain America: White). Their work together even stretched into other media, with Sale providing the art seen on the NBC superhero show Heroes, which Loeb wrote for and executive produced.
"Jeph had never written a comic before we worked together. He came from movies and TV, where he wrote and was a producer," Sale recalls. "But as we worked together, we found that we're about the same age and have so many of the same cultural touchpoints: What made us laugh, what worked for us in comics and movies and TV. So we had an instant shorthand in a way. There was an awful lot of back-and-forth and getting to know each other and learning the craft together so that by the time we got to the first Halloween special, we were just talking on the phone constantly about each page and what we were going to do. I would say 'like when Neal Adams did this...' or 'remember in The Thin Man when this happened...?' That kind of stuff. We just went from there."
Loeb has a ready comparison to other media: "It's important that we talk because of how detailed my scripts are. I write them like movie scripts, and I see Tim as the director and cinematographer. I have to be very clear in terms of what I want, but Tim has his own gifts as a storyteller, and I want to respect that. He's taught me an enormous amount about setting the scene and how important that is."
Two of the major figures in The Long Halloween, the holiday-themed supervillain Calendar Man and Two-Face's wife Gilda Dent, weren't created by Loeb or Sale but were given their definitive spotlight in their story. So you can bet they both return in the new special.
"Gilda was a character that nobody knew anything about," Loeb says. "In fact, if you go back to the early '60s comics, Harvey was married to both Grace and Gilda. I mean, that's how much time she was given: Nobody even remembered what her name was. There was also only Carmine Falcone, so we had the idea of creating a whole family around him. Sal Maroni had thrown the acid in Harvey's face, but how did the acid get in the courtroom? Being able to tell a story that took place over a year, those little moments became things that Tim and I could really enjoy, and in some ways, own as our story."
Batman: The Long Halloween Special is out this week from DC Comics.