In 1996, the Batman mythos was changed forever with the release of “Batman: The Long Halloween”. Originally written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, the 13-issue limited series has gone on to become one of the most iconic Batman stories of all time. The story picks up shortly after the events of Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, which finds the Dark Knight still early in his career. A mysterious new killer has emerged in the Gotham underbelly known only as “Holiday”. Known for killing their victims only on holidays, this new assailant tests the sanity of not only our hero but also Police Commissioner James Gordon and recently elected District Attorney, Harvey Dent. As popular as the story is, it seems odd that it’s taken so long finally receive a proper adaptation.
Much like the animated film adaptation of “The Dark Knight Returns”, “The Long Halloween” is separated into two separate parts. One could argue that this is simply an easy cash-grab for WB, but the duality lends itself well to the story. In fact, even some character arcs are fleshed out even more than the original graphic novel. Unlike most films in the DC Animated Universe, this film is set in its own separate continuity. This is established right from the start with composer Michael Gatt’s eerie, dark, and brooding score. It’s made clear that this story will not be one of a superheroic adventure, but rather, one of great tragedy.
The film begins exactly as does in the comic, with notorious crime-boss Johnny Viti murdered by Holiday on Halloween. Viti was the nephew of Carmine Falcone, the so-called “Godfather of Gotham” (interestingly enough, the character is drawn bearing a strong resemblance to Marlon Brando). Viti had been set to testify against Falcone in court, and so the Dark Knight (voiced by Jensen Ackles) is summoned by Gordon (Billy Burke) and Dent (Josh Duhamel) to investigate. Batman enlists the help of Catwoman, voiced by Naya Rivera in her final film role. Each month, on every major holiday, a new victim with ties to the Falcone family is murdered by Holiday, testing the patience and sanity of not only our heroes but our villains as well. Nearly every major Batman villain makes an appearance including Joker, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and it goes without saying that by the end of part two we are introduced to Two-Face.
While the screenplay and performances for both films were top-notch, I couldn’t help but be thrown off a bit by the animation. Some of the illustrations are seamlessly replicated from the original comic, but the character’s movements are so stiff and one-dimensional it makes the animation look like a cheap, 60’s-era Saturday morning cartoon (Super-Friends, anyone?). Regardless, both films have garnered a very positive response and a combined Director’s Cut edition is set to be released sometime in 2022. I did find it intriguing to watch the story unfold at this day in age, seeing very similar scenes having unfolded in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 live-action epic, “The Dark Knight”. While not a direct adaptation, “The Dark Knight” borrowed very heavily from this series, especially when it came to depicting the origin of Two-Face. I would encourage any DC fan to pick this up for their home library, although I would probably wait until it’s released as a combined edition.