The year is 1993 and acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series is making waves in the animation world, but how many of you have heard of Paul Dini? Something of a big deal in the early '90s, the DC animator was not only a driving force behind the Emmy-Award-winning show, but a co-creator of Harley Quinn. Arguably without Dini, the Batman world would have missed out on some serious history and Margot Robbie would be short on at least one major film role. Dini was living a life not dissimilar to that of Bruce Wayne - fast cars, fast women, and buying anything he wanted. It was one tragic night in 1993 that the animator's life changed forever. When walking home, Dini came under attack from two men; the animator was mugged and had his skull partially fractured, as well as 'powdered'. Whilst recovering from his injuries, Dini dived deeper into the Batman world than any of us should ever go - this is that story!
Dini releases a tell-all book that combines elements of a memoir and a comic book in a truly unique style. His book Dark Night: A True Batman Story tells the tale of attack and the aftermath, in one of the best autobiographies you will ever read. Dini plunges his time in recovery and beyond, unsure whether he could return to writing about a world of good vs. evil after his attack. During the novel Bruce narrates the story like a mentor, whilst darkness is always around the corner. Batman's parental skills bring life back to Dini and the Joker tells Dini to give up one more time! Dini tells The Hollywood Reporter:
I’m not saying I talk to cartoon characters all the time, but the characters are very real to me...In a very non-insane way.
The original graphic novel is joined by the various foes of Batman's rogues gallery over its 121 pages. The Penguin makes Dini turn to drink, Scarecrow encapsulates his fears, whilst Clayface and Killer Croc provide the muscle. Expect a starring role too for Harley Quinn, as Dini told The Wall Street Journal, his life parallels that of his own creation:
There was a time I was willing to be a clown for people who I felt were the perfect person for me...I’ll always have the scars of those incidents, and I’ll always have the memories of how I behaved at that time, but it mitigated in time.
As we follow the familiar faces, Dark Night is elevated by the amazing artwork of Eduardo Risso - the acclaimed artist of Vertigo's 100 Bullets series. Dini's strict instructions were for Risso to avoid drawing the characters as their Animated Series counterparts, which manages to distance the book from just another BTAS knock-off. The pages come to life as the Joker and co. sneer at Dini's plight, and the dark blues and black hark back to Dini's days on the show. Often working without a complete script, Risso seemingly weaves his own unique take into the world of Dini's imagination.
Whilst a harrowing layer of the world of DC's heroes and villains, Dark Night is a surprising read to say the least. Spending its entirety inside the imagination of someone else, the end result is something that is fulfilling and gripping - much like a Batman issue. Hey, even Mark Hamill loves it:
Dark Night: A True Batman Story is riveting from start to finish: so revealing, so poignant, so insightful...a masterpiece!
Be warned, the content is more than a little graphic, but if you want to give it a go, pick up a copy. Dark Night: A True Batman Story is available now!