What would you do if you knew you only had 22 minutes to live? And as if that wasn’t bad enough, what if you also had to spend those minutes trapped on a strange island full of freaky psycho-cartoons trying to kill you? Let’s be real, most of us would probably try waking ourselves up or finding a nice quiet rock to hide under.
But most of us aren’t Batman.
If you’re wondering what Batman would do in that situation, you’re about to find out as the debut issue of Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point—the first crossover comic to be set within the world of the internationally popular videogame—hits stands today. Written by Christos Gage, drawn by Reilly Brown and featuring concepts and story consultation from Epic Games Chief Creative Officer Donald Mustard, Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point is a six-issue miniseries that not only brings characters from the DC Universe to Fortnite Island, but also expands the game’s lore in profound and lasting ways, giving us a deeper look at many of the people operating within the world of Fortnite.
For Fortnite players, Zero Point is an absolute must-read, but it’s also a pretty great Batman story that sees the Dark Knight forced to operate well outside his comfort zone as he mixes things up with Fortnite characters like Fishstick, Ruckus and Cuddle Team Leader. Every 22 minutes, he dies and is reset from the very beginning and just like everyone else on the island, he’s unable to talk. Oh, and did we mention that Batman’s also forgotten everything about who he is?
Yes, solving the mystery of Fortnite Island will take all of the skill, intelligence and plain old will that the World’s Greatest Detective possesses. So, to make sure he’s up to it, we sat down for a lively chat with both Gage and Brown about fitting Batman into Fortnite’s world, fleshing out some of the game’s crazy characters and figuring out just how many times the Dark Knight gives up the ghost throughout the course of the story.
So, what's it like fitting Batman into the world of Fortnite? I mean, Fortnite is all about running around, picking up guns and shooting people, and obviously, that's not a natural match for Batman. How did you thread that needle creatively?
Christos Gage: Well, in terms of the guns, at some point, Batman does come up with his own Fortnite weapon, and it's not a gun exactly. Guns aren't the only weapons in Fortnite. It was really more about coming up with ways to keep Batman true to his character, coming up with a weapon for him to use that was very Batman, but also fits into the Fortnite world. Plus, Batman is the World's Greatest Detective, so he figures out fairly quickly that death is not permanent in this world for the people who fall in battle.
For me, the exciting thing about the storyline that Donald Mustard brought to us was that you take the World's Greatest Detective and you put him into a situation where he can't remember. Every 22 minutes, his memory resets. He doesn't remember who he is, he doesn't remember where he comes from, he can't talk and he's got to figure out a way out of this trap.
He figures out that inanimate objects don't reset, so he starts leaving himself messages and other clues, and that's how he figures it out. But as far as the gun thing, it really wasn't that big a concern. There was never any discussion of, "Hey, what if Batman starts using a gun?" Because we all know that's not his character.
What challenges on the writing or art side of things did you run into in bringing Batman into the world of Fortnite?
Gage: For me, the challenge was once Batman finds himself in the loop and time and his memory resets every 22 minutes, how do you get out of that? It took some creative thinking, but he is Batman and he's probably going to find a way out. One of the biggest challenges for me was to figure out what elements of Fortnite we should focus on and what we should just put aside. For example, in the game, building structures is a big mechanic, and I just did not see a way that it would work to have Batman suddenly go, "I'm going to build a tower three-stories high and climb up and fight somebody." It just wasn't going to work. We did reference the building mechanic in it when Batman builds himself a sort of 'Batcave.' So, there's some side references to it, but it's not a big part of the story.
There were some things that it was better to shy away from and then there were other aspects that were cool to lean into. One of the things that I thought was cool is the characters that are clearly not human. What about some of the wackier characters and some of the wackier things that they do? I thought it would be fun to put them in there and have Batman have to face them, because, let's face it, this is a guy who regularly battles people who dress up like clowns, killer moths and crocodiles, so it's not all that bizarre. That part was fun. But I would say, the early decisions about which game mechanics are we going to put in the story was one of the bigger, more challenging questions.
Reilly Brown: Probably the biggest game mechanic that we use in the story is the storm itself, which is a major plot point for the first three issues. The 22-minute loop is obviously a huge part of it, too. I put a lot of references in the background to the players building things. I use those materials and those structures as background elements a lot because it's a part of the game and it's kind of a fun part. I didn't want to leave that out. So, that is in there. Although, yeah, like Christos said, we don't see Batman just suddenly building a three-story building in like ten seconds the way you can in the game. That might be pushing it a little bit.
This comic will provide answers to some of the game's big questions. Will these answers be brought to the game more directly, somehow, for the fans who don't read the comics?
Gage: I think that's probably more of a question for Donald Mustard, but I believe that once the answers are revealed, that's out there and I'm guessing that there will be more... The gamers probably saw the recent cinematic between Agent Jones and the Foundation. There may be more like that, that reference some of the secrets that Batman and his allies and enemies uncover. But I don't think it's going to be a direct recap. I think that people who want to know the details or the answers should really pick up the book because it'll all be in there. But, as I understand it, once the secrets are revealed, that's now part of the Fortnite universe and how it'll be referenced going further.
That's what I thought was so cool about this. It's not just for fun. It's not just like, "Let's throw Batman on Fortnite Island and have him fight some Fortnite characters." We're actually revealing some really interesting stuff about how the entire world works.
Considering all the options, how did you decide which Fortnite characters to include in the comic?
Gage: I know that Reilly's spoken about how he picks characters for fight scenes because a lot of times, I won't specify. I'll say, "Reilly go ahead and pick whoever you think is coolest." Then there are other situations where there were characters that Donald suggested we use for one reason or another. And then there are characters that I thought were cool and said, "Hey, can we use...?"
I thought Fishstick was an interesting character to use because I thought we should have some characters who very clearly aren't human. Batman figures out pretty quickly that this is not where he comes from and that they all don't come from the same place.
Brown: One of the fun parts about working on the comic is picking the different Fortnite characters to throw in there for Batman, Catwoman and everybody to fight. The first three issues are pretty much like the cinematic trailer for the new season of Fortnite—it’s just all the characters battling. It’s fun picking which ridiculous characters to put in there. I like picking the guys that look like they really come from different universes, different dimensions, different worlds, from Batman and Catwoman. Just throwing the inter-dimensional aspect of the game into it and all these wild people that come from different locations.
One thing is a lot of people are saying from the previews, "Oh, it looks like the Fortnite characters are just going to be punching bags for Batman." And that's true. During the first few issues, they're playing the game just like you are, so Batman doesn't know anything more about who the characters are or their personalities than the average player would.
In issues #4 and #5, we definitely get more into the personalities of some of them. So, if you want more backstory on the characters, definitely hold out for issues #4 and #5, because that's all coming.
How much time did you put into playing Fortnite? And what were some of your biggest takeaways?
Gage: My two biggest takeaways are that I'm terrible at the game and, when I play it, I find I'm really fascinated by the island, so I'm just as likely to just go off to the side, instead of fighting people, and explore and see if I can find a vehicle or something to experiment with, or to go fishing or whatever. Truthfully, I think that I'm probably one of the worst Fortnite players on the planet, but I have fun. Reilly, how about you?
Brown: It does always feel bad when you're playing the game and someone kills you and you hear the little squeaky voice of a six-year-old on the other side of the screen, but I've played it a little bit. I probably play it for maybe an hour or two a week, on the weekends. I'll plug it in after everyone's gone to bed. I use it mostly for taking photo reference, or at least, that's what I tell my wife when she's asking me why I'm playing videogames when I'm supposed to be working. It's a lot of fun. I also love exploring the island. There's just so much cool stuff in it. When I'm walking around, I'm mostly just looking for locations to draw into the comic book. Christos, I think you and I should play together sometime. I think that would be fun.
Gate: Yeah, that would be fun because it would be like two really, really old men trying to box each other.
Christos, how familiar were you with the ongoing, but very confusing Fortnite lore before writing this story?
Gage: I was not familiar with it at all and I think that was a good thing because then I was able to come to it fresh. Donald Mustard was very obliging with answering questions and describing things that have not yet been revealed, but will be in the comic. And some that will not be revealed in the comic, but are still canon that I now know and luckily, have not accidentally revealed to anybody yet.
I think it helped that I was not aware of the mythology because I didn't have any preconceived notions about things. For example, one of the earliest questions I asked was, "Okay, so memories reset after 22 minutes, the people on the island don't remember things, but what about emotions? And what about basic personalities? For example, If the Joker went onto Fortnite Island and his memory was wiped, would he still be crazy?"
Questions like that led to some very productive and creative collaborative discussions that benefited the story, which had I come in with a bunch of preconceived notions about the game, that might not have happened. So, I'm glad it worked out the way it did.
We’ve mentioned him a few times, but how involved was Donald Mustard with the narrative of the comic? And what was the collaborative process of working with him like?
Gage: Oh, he was tremendously involved. He brought the basic storyline to us. He's also a longtime comic book fan, so he was very into making calls when we would ask about things that maybe hadn't necessarily been decided yet. I can't really mention any without major spoilers.
Actually, one of them would be what I referenced before, which is, do emotions carry over and to what extent? That was something that led to fairly involved discussions over Zoom between me, Donald and Katie Kubert, our editor. He's been tremendously involved. He's even drawing variant covers for every issue. So, he could not be more involved or passionate about this.
There are caption boxes, but there's almost no dialogue between characters in the first three issues. How hard is it writing a comic that way? And Reilly, do you find it puts extra pressure on you to convey things like feelings and emotions between the characters?
Gage: For me, it did present a challenge in that there is the tried and true comic book device of narrative captions, which convey the inner thoughts of the characters, but I also felt that with the third issue, we needed to try something different. So, that one is told from the point of view of someone who works for the organization that controls Fortnite Island and is sending interoffice memos throughout the organization talking about Batman and what he's doing.
That was a challenge, but also a lot of fun to come up with that approach and implement it, which I think gives readers an interesting insight into that organization. And then, this may be a spoiler, but eventually the characters will be able to talk to each other. It just doesn't happen for much of the first three issues. They can talk when they're in Gotham at the beginning of issue #1, but once they're on Fortnite Island, the characters in the loop can't talk.
Brown: Personally, it didn't affect me too much because usually, when I draw a comic, I try to make it easy and clear enough to read that, even if there wasn't any text, you'd still know what's going on. That part wasn't that difficult. The dialogue, that's where you get the character's emotions and thoughts, so since we didn't have that, I had to play around a lot with facial expressions and things to make sure that I'm able to communicate what's going on inside the characters’ heads. Normally, that's something that would go on in the dialogue.
Obviously, not being able to talk is a plot point. So that's something that Batman has to deal with rather specifically in trying to communicate with Catwoman, or in the first issue, Ruckus. And just seeing his attempts to do that are very interesting, as well.
So, how many times does Batman die in this series?
Brown: He dies a lot.
Brown: I don't know if Christos has a more exact...
Gage: I have not actually counted it up, but I mean, doesn't everyone die when the storm covers the entire island?
Brown: He dies every 22 minutes.
Brown: So, it depends how long he's in there.
Brown: If you pay attention to his facial hair, you could see how long he's in there. He's definitely in there for at least a week. So, I don't know how many times 22 minutes happens in a week, but that's how many times. So, if we figured out exactly how long he's in the loop, we could figure out exactly how many times he died. The real question is, is it guys like Ruckus and Vendetta and Big Mouth that are killing him or is it the storm? Who has the most kill points racked up on Batman? That's the real question.
Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #1 by Christos Gage, Reilly Brown, Donald Mustard, Nelson Faro DeCastro and John Kalisz is now available through comic shops, digital retailers and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. For more on the series, including information on each issue's redeemable Fortnite code, be sure to check out our FAQ.