So large in fact, that there are several different ways to interpret it. From the comic, to the movies, to the video games, we've seen Batman's story told in several different ways.
Often times, these stories are told by the writers and creators behind the Batman. But sometimes, some exceptionally talented fans take the story of the Dark Knight into their own hands!
This is the case with Demon in the Dark, and all new Batman fan film that pits the Caped Crusader against the Secret Six— a group of villains who made the mistake of visiting Gotham City at night! Check out the film below!
After checking out the film, I got the chance to ask the cast and crew a few questions about it. They all sat down at a table and gave me some really grat answers. Check out the questions, and their answers, below!
AG: To start off, what made you want to make this film? Are you a big fan of Batman and the mythology?
MATT (Writer / “Blake”): We had been working on a small web series called BROKEN TOY and were looking to take what we had learned and apply it to something more mainstream.
BRIAN (“Lawton”): At the time, Batman’s 75th anniversary was around the corner and we had strong love, not just for Batman, but for his villains as well.
LETIA (Director): I read SON OF THE DEMON when I was in middle school and was hooked. And Michael Keaton's Batman was my favorite. I loved his insanity which seems completely sane. Batman is just interesting to me— here’s a “superhero” who, in his first appearance, didn’t vow to save innocents or fight for truth and justice. He focused 100% on damaging bad guys, physically and mentally.
MATT: Batman is a traumatized kid who dresses like a monster to terrorize the people who hurt Mommy and Daddy. And now he attacks people with his bare hands, sending them to a jail/asylum that he KNOWS they will get out of. And why? Because he then gets to mercilessly brutalize them over and over again. It’s just so twisted. And don’t get me started on Alfred. The only real reason Robin is going into these dangerous scenarios is because Alfred knows, deep down, that Bruce Wayne is on a suicide run. And having a vulnerable sidekick with him, a CHILD who is painted brightly, forces Bruce to be more cautious. It’s incredibly deranged. And… awesome.
CHRISTIAN (Producer): It's so much fun to play with a character that, through sheer force of will, transformed himself from "normal human guy" to "mythological being". We wanted to play with that, and show how these Gotham rogues are terrified of him.
AG: There have been several incarnations of the DC Comics team, the Secret Six. How did you decide which members you wanted on the team for the film?
LETIA: We wanted a group of villains to be picked off one by one but we didn’t have the money or skills to make elaborate costumes. It worked out well because I try to avoid too much exposition—I like [to let] the audience put the pieces together on their own. So I didn’t want characters who overtly revealed who they were until it came time to power up. I wanted characters who looked “normal” and Gail Simone’s run on SECRET SIX seemed like a perfect fit.
MATT: We first looked for characters that could pass as human and walk unnoticed through NY. So characters like King Shark or Parademon were out. Then we focused on members who I knew I could do justice to VFX-wise. And then finally, we chose characters who both had interesting motivations and that Batman could pick off in clever and satisfying ways.
CHRISTIAN: And even when Blake is smart enough to realize that “the demon” is actually just a normal human guy, we wanted to show that Batman is the smarter character, and was one step ahead the whole time.
BRIAN: We really went over the cast of characters with a fine-toothed comb. We all made suggestions and then evaluated who would best contribute to the story. But I loved seeing Matt’s fanboy rage when I threw in names like Mumm-Ra, Serpentor, and Green Goblin.
AG: Despite being titled 'Batman vs. The Secret Six', you managed to fit in a pretty awesome showdown between Green Lantern and Black Adam! Tell us a little about that inclusion.
MATT: The notorious battle.
LETIA: Alex Ross had this great [comics] miniseries, MARVELS, with a man-on-the-street perspective. And we didn’t have fancy gear like cranes or dollies and no ability to get shots from high angles, so this type of storytelling perspective really worked for us— showing how people on the street would see and react to a battle going on above them.
BRIAN: Matty called me up in the middle of the night saying, “Picture a choo choo train smashing the Jumbotron in Times Square but like the fight in SUPERMAN II!” And then he hung up.
MATT: A staple of these movies is often an out-of-nowhere, devastating battle with little regard to the people on the streets. It’s fun to watch but usually counterintuitive to what the heroes are trying to accomplish. After running through it, Blake and Lawton say, “That was violent…seemed excessive.” I’d love to seem erudite and declare it a social commentary, but, honestly, I just wanted to see Green Lantern and Black Adam fight. And I really like the idea that running through a battle like this is preferable to facing the monster chasing them.
LETIA: It’s been fun seeing the audience reaction to this scene—responses have been either, “That was awesome” or “Where did that come from???”
AG: From the aforementioned Green Lantern scene, to Giganta's transformation, there were a lot of super-power effects in this film! Can you tell me a bit about the effects-making process?
BRIAN: Yeah, Matty.
MARCELO CHOW (Producer): VFX are Matt’s domain.
MATT: I have, what doctors call, “Moronic ambition.” I say “yes” to everything. So when we’re walking around the city and they ask, “Can Banshee be carrying a cement truck?” and “Can you erase all these people in Grand Central?”… I say OKAY!!! Weeks later, when I’m alone at my computer at 2am, I’m cursing myself.
CHRIS BURGON (Cinematographer): Letia and I were able to find the shots we liked most and Matt knew he could integrate his "magic" into them. In fact, I was often let loose to grab shots in Times Square or around Grand Central station and Matt would find ways to use them later in post. Batman often lurking above our characters was the end result of grabbing fun plates on location, green screen in LA , and Matt's VFX talents.
MATT: On BROKEN TOY we used practical effects mainly, models and puppets with very little computer effects. We actually animated a lot frame by frame. Because I’m a masochist. But with DEMON it became clear we needed to learn VFX if we were going to tell the story we wanted to tell. So I started watching video tutorials. Hours and hours of video tutorials and a ton of coffee.
Some effects were trickier than others. Jon Stewart is military so tanks and guns were a given but how that much energy would swirl around him and how he built constructs took a few tries. Same with Giganta growing—her powers are based in magic so there is no real set look and we didn’t want to go full Ultraman on her.
Our Bane was already a Clydesdale of a man but we did add some subtle Venom swelling. Banshee and Scandal were done in post, tracking their faces. We wanted Deadshot’s helmet to be true to the comic and had made a practical helmet Brian wore on set. But having it come on was tricky. We first did a very MAN OF STEEL style helmet, as if it were stolen Kryptonian tech. But in the end we used a more Stark type. The biggest challenge, however, was toning down Thomas Blake’s sexiness. Honestly, it was at an 11 and we needed to bring it way, way down.
MARCELO: To be honest, I never actually know what he’s saying when he’s talking VFX, because to me, it sounds like he’s speaking in Zatanna’s reverse magic language (which I’m not entirely convinced he’s not), so when there are words in there that I do comprehend like “Green Screen,” and “Day”, I feel accomplished and jump immediately on making it happen
AG: The "Demon in the Dark" that the title is referencing is Batman, who for practically the whole short lurks in the shadows. The Secret Six see him as some sort of creature. What made you want to take this approach with the Dark Knight? Was it always the plan to keep Batman in the shadows?
LETIA: Bruce Wayne says, “…my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible...” So we wanted to embrace this boogeyman aspect, prowling the shadows and picking off prey like an apex predator. Having Batman prancing around Gotham showing his ass isn't going to scare anyone into submission.
MATT: I personally believe that the moment Batman stops being a monster and becomes a celebrity in the eyes of Gotham…he’s a dead man. So he has to stay in the shadows. Cinematically, getting dark shadows is easy. But with no budget, having deep dark shadows while the rest of the cast is properly exposed? Not always easy.
CHRIS BURGON: We spent 2 nights scouting NYC for locations that provided both compelling architectural light & sufficient ambient light that were appropriate for the story. Fortunately, deep shadows & high contrast were indeed appropriate for the story. Shooting on a Magic Lantern-hacked Canon 60D with Rokinon Cine prime lenses helped to make this challenge possible. Letia's understanding of our technical limitations and her ability to embrace them in a way that further developed the story is a huge reason this short came together so well.
AG: Were you inspired by any famous incarnations of Batman or famous Batman stories when making this story?
MATT: We wanted to do something true to the comics but still fit within the canon of the DC cinematic universe. In BATMAN BEGINS, the only time people really see Batman is after the Scarecrow releases his fear toxin. So at that point Batman is, at the most, a myth or a monster. But then in THE DARK KNIGHT, the citizens of Gotham seem to all know Batman is human and call for him to unmask on TV. That’s a pretty big jump so this story falls between the two films. Blake and these other disposable agents are sent by “Mockingbird” to find out if this Bat is an alien, a monster or just a maniac in a suit.
LETIA: I loved the dark tone THE COURT OF OWLS and DEATH OF THE FAMILY. And visually, we were obviously inspired by THE LONG HALLOWEEN and YEAR ONE but also by the Hulk’s rampage through NY in THE ULTIMATES.
MATT: VFX-wise I went a lot with of Jim Lee’s visuals in HUSH and Capullo’s Batcave.
LETIA: We also drew from a lot of movies like PREDATOR and JEEPERS CREEPERS. I also appreciate films that mix action and scares with humor, like GOONIES and POLTERGEIST. We have an homage to GHOSTBUSTERS with Giganta walking through the streets.
AG: Were there any heroes or villains that you were planning to put in the film, that didn't make the cut?
LETIA: Haaaa Robin. Poor Robin. Always getting the shaft.
CHRISTIAN: We went back and forth for a long time on one particular scene. Deadshot and Blake are running down a darkened alley when, out of nowhere, a shorter fellow in a cape springs down from a fire escape, swinging a staff. Blake reflexively punches him in the face and they just continue running.
MATT: Deadshot starts yelling, “You just punched a little kid!” and Blake keeps insisting it was just a short dude in a cape.
CHRISTIAN: We thought it would be a fun scene, but could never quite make it work.
LETIA: We were already pushing the runtime at this point. And had some trouble finding a teen with Bo Staff skills. So it didn’t make the cut.
MARCELO: We also had a great Ragdoll [actor] who had to drop out to go to a wine tasting. We then agreed on Bane. The challenge: find a great actor, who is over 6’0 tall (at least) and built like a bull, in 24hrs, willing to work for pizza. Shon Lange, who had a scheduling conflict he switched around to accommodate us, became the best Bane we could have hoped for.
BRIAN: I would have loved to see the Joker even as a cameo. We went through a lot of names and characters. I also really wanted to see Bronze Tiger, Flagg, or Sgt. Rock. If you look closely, you'll see Sgt. Rock on a theatre poster.
AG: Related to the previous question, was there anything else that you had to cut? Whether because of budget or time, or any other reason?
MARCELO: I was unable to go to NY. Which meant I had to schedule and coordinate locations I had never seen before, for what was essentially a stunt rampage through the city on a budget with absolutely no wiggle room for mistakes. We HAD to make our days.
MATT: With a tight time frame, you want every line to matter. Which made it very hard to cut lines later on. But we had Banshee hitting on Deadshot saying, “I like you…you smell like death.” We also wanted to explore Bane more. Bane doesn’t care about the money. He’s in Gotham solely to check out this bat creature.
BRIAN: I really wanted Mumm-Ra.
AG: Are there any plans to continue the story, perhaps with a Demon in the Dark 2? There are a lot of plot points that need wrapping up!
BRIAN: I like the idea that it ended like a comic book! But if the demand is there and people want to see it, I'd like to see Catman get his revenge!
MATT: We’ve been talking about what to do next, but doing a sequel would be fun. When you’re learning as you go, by the time you get to the end of a project, you basically look back at your starting point and cringe. There were a lot of effects I felt I was just getting the hang of that I would love to reincorporate again. Particularly Giganta. I love, love, love giant monsters. Love them. So if we were to do another I would love to keep her.
LETIA: And apparently, people love giant women.
MATT: YES! You would be surprised how many comments we get from people who are very open about their giant woman fetish.
AG: Catman being in this film was pretty hilarious and unexpected! What made you want to do the origin story of such a strange and obscure Batman rogue?
LETIA: Catman is great. He has no real powers although he tells people he has heightened senses. But he’s cunning and an excellent hunter. So it made sense the whole situation would be one elaborate mousetrap.
CHRISTIAN: I love the idea that Batman is responsible for the creation of the very evil that necessitates his existence. That having a mythological force for good in a bat costume running around this fundamentally broken city caused evil to respond with mythological forces of its own, like the Joker. We had a lot of fun playing with this idea by showing how Batman could also be responsible for the creation of one of his silliest rivals.
MATT: I think we can all agree that Catman is one of, if not the, most provocative and charismatic characters in the DC universe. He simply hadn’t made it to screen due to a lack of actors capable of pulling off his subtle ferocity and overwhelming charm.
LETIA: Matty hates cats too.
MATT: They steal SOULS! That’s just science.
CHRISTIAN: Catman is such a terrific character because on the surface he's so patently ridiculous.
LETIA: Blake is a rich son of Gotham who blew his parents money on gambling. He’s Bruce Wayne without the tragedy.
MATT: If Batman chose a dark outfit to terrify from the shadows, what does that say about an adversary dressed similarly… but in yellow and orange? And if you forget about the time period he was created in and look for a modern reason for choosing something so visually offensive, the logical reason would be that he’s intentionally being visually offensive. And he’s doing it out of spite.
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