Novel Thoughts: A conversation with author Gary Collinson

Trevor Hogg chats with author Gary Collinson about his debut book, Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen…

“I’d spend hours reading and writing little short stories when I was young,” states British author Gary Collinson when recalling his childhood.” I always knew I’d like to be a writer and by my teens I’d developed a huge interest in film so my ambitions shifted towards screenwriting.” The second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy left a lasting impression. “For as long as I can remember, The Empire Strikes Back [1980] has been my favourite movie; I’ve never grown tired of it, particularly the opening Battle of Hoth and the Cloud City showdown between Luke and Darth Vader which I could watch over and over again.” Deciding not to leave the North East of England for London, the resident of South Shields drifted from his initial aspiration. “After leaving school I spent a few years working in various office jobs and found myself writing less and less.” Collinson sought to assist young talented musicians who were being ignored by the local venues. “A few friends and I got together and started to promote gigs in our spare time, which then led to us setting up a small independent record label and promotions company. It was moderately successful but music has never been as much of a passion of mine as film. After a while I started to regret not exploring my own ambitions; I decided to quit my job and enroll on a media production degree at university.” To keep active with his writing, the graduate began composing film reviews; this led him to establish the UK movie blog Flickering Myth “as a place for me to collect together these reviews and other pieces, but it quickly grew into much more than that.”

“I guess like many people my introduction to Batman probably came through the old Adam West television series, which even at a young age all seemed a bit comical to me,” says Gary Collinson who was drawn towards Transformers and G.I. Joe (which was called Action Force in the UK) comic books. “By the late 1980s, everyone was starting to get excited for Tim Burton’s Batman [1989] movie. I remember my dad coming home one day with a copy of Batman: The Killing Joke he’d bought for me; it immediately opened my eyes to this much darker side of the character than what I was used to on television.” The discovery led Collison to read other tales featuring Gotham City’s famous crime fighter such as Year One, The Dark Knight Returns and A Death in the Family. “I remember being a little underwhelmed by Burton’s Batman when it finally arrived, but a few years later came Knightfall and Batman: The Animated Series [Fox, 1992 to 1995], which for my money remains the definitive screen version of the character.”

“I had written an article on the Batman franchise for Flickering Myth a couple of years back and as I was writing it, I felt there was so much more I could say about the history of the character on screen,” reveals Gary Collinson as to the origins of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen. “I’d never attempted to write anything quite as long as a book before.” The key was to find a topic which could hold interest of the author from start to finish. “There are some great books about Batman out there, such as Tales of the Dark Knight and Batman Animated; while I’d never presume to suggest Holy Franchise should be up there with those titles, I’m not aware of any book that covers every aspect of the various TV, movie and animated adaptations, from the very first movie serials right through to Christopher Nolan’s movie series and beyond. I suppose in that sense it’s quite unique, and will hopefully provide the reader with an interesting overview of Batman’s screen adventures.”

“From a movie standpoint, my favourite [Batman moment] has to be the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight [2008], which features some fantastic interaction between Christian Bale and Heath Ledger,” remarks Collinson. “In terms of the comic books, I’ve always been fond of the climax of Year One, when an unmasked Bruce Wayne saves Gordon’s baby and Gordon responds by telling him he can’t see clearly without his glasses. It’s a great little line that really adds something to their relationship.” He adds, “Although Batman: Mask of the Phantasm [1993] comes close, I’d have to say that my favourite Batman movie is The Dark Knight; although I’m hoping Christopher Nolan will manage to top that with The Dark Knight Rises [2012] . As for Batman’s small screen adventures, I doubt anyone will ever better Batman: The Animated Series. In terms of comic book stories, I’ve always thought that The Killing Joke is exceptional. I’d love to see it adapted as an animated movie one day, but sadly the content might be a little too strong for that.”

“The biggest challenge in writing the book was sifting through the near seventy year screen history of the character and trying to work my way through all of the conflicting information,” explains Gary Collinson. “It helped that I’d already written the Holy Franchise article, which served as a basic outline for the book. I was a little naïve about how much more research was needed to ensure I covered everything, especially considering the tight time-frame I was working to with the publisher. Fortunately, my girlfriend was on hand to assist me with the research, and it helped that she’s also a fan of the character, although probably not so much by the time the book was finished!” The looming deadline altered the content of the publication. “Originally, I’d planned to include episode guides for both the 1960s show and Batman: The Animated Series. Unfortunately, due to time and space constraints, Batman: TAS was the one that had to go.”

“Christopher Nolan’s movies have been so influential on the entire superhero movie genre, to the point now where every new film seems to be adopting the same dark, realistic approach,” observes Gary Collinson. “Obviously, after The Dark Knight Rises we’ll be getting a new ‘reboot.’ I imagine the studio will be looking to continue down the same path. There’s also the animated adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns [2012] and the new CG Beware the Batman [Cartoon Network, 2013] series to look forward to next year. At the moment, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing a return to the colourful, camp-style Caped Crusader any time soon, but you never know.” In regards to his creative accomplishment of turning his three-part feature into a 256-page publication, Collinson remarks, “I’ve already achieved more than I could have hoped by getting a book published, especially with the way things are in the publishing industry at the moment. To be able to walk into a shop and see a book I’ve written sitting on the shelf is something that I’d dreamed about when I was young; I’m very grateful to the people at Robert Hale for helping me to fulfill that ambition. Obviously, I don’t expect my name to be popping up on the New York Times bestseller list any time soon. Hopefully, anyone who picks up a copy of the book will enjoy it and maybe discover a few things they don’t already know about the character, which would make all of the hard work worthwhile!”

Many thanks to Gary Collinson for taking the time for this interview.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.
  • Luke Owen

    Great interview with some wonderful insights.<br /><br />While I appreciate the greatness of the Nolan Batman franchise, I do worry that you are correct with your thoughts, &quot;to the point now where every new film seems to be adopting the same dark, realistic approach&quot;. I do feel that not every comic book character needs to have this approach and should just be their own movies rather

  • HolyFranchiseBatman!

    Thanks Luke! <br /><br />A &#39;dark and realistic&#39; approach has worked wonders for Batman (after Batman &amp; Robin, it&#39;s the only way Batman should be done), but it&#39;s certainly not needed for every character. Man of Steel being &#39;edgy like the Dark Knight&#39; really isn&#39;t necessary, and something like a Saving Private Ryan-esque Captain America would have just sucked the fun

  • Anghus

    Nice piece. Looking forward to reading the book. <br /><br />For one of my first college screenwriting projects i did a teleplay for Batman: the animated series. I still have it in my office and read it whenever i need a laugh.