It's been 25 years since Batman: The Long Halloween was released, and in the time since, it's become a Halloween tradition for many fans, as well as an inspiration behind Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, Matt Reeves' upcoming film The Batman, and even its own animated adaptation. Now, on the story's silver anniversary, its creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are reuniting to tell a new story set in the same continuity, in Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1, on sale October 26 - just in time for its namesake holiday.
A quarter-century on from their initial team-up, Loeb and Sale are reigniting their creative partnership, and moreover, their friendship, via a continuation of the same tale that first brought them together.
"After spending almost the last 10 years apart, since we did Captain America: White, reconnecting with Jeph both in the work and talking every day as friends, rekindling that, finding that friendship and creative partnership again, it's just been glorious," artist Sale tells Newsarama. "That's the single best part that came out of doing a new Long Halloween story, is that our friendship is now stronger in many ways than it's ever been."
"We're just older, you know, two old bulls sitting up on the hill," he jokes.
For writer Loeb, being an "old bull" means no longer having to lock horns with anxiety over whether fans will connect with his and Sale's take on Batman and Gotham City. At the time of the original story, Loeb's background in television had him concerned the story would be canceled before it could be finished.
"Shows come out and people watch the first few episodes and go, 'Yeah, it's okay. I don't think I'm going to watch it'," Loeb explains.
But the creative legacy of the Long Halloween has borne out the power of Loeb and Sale's unique vision of a Gotham City so haunted by Batman that it sparks a full evolution from the old days of organized crime to a new world populated by costumed criminals such as Two-Face and the Joker.
"For it to have been accepted so widely, and to have filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and David Goyer talk about how it affected the Dark Knight Trilogy, and to have The Batman director Matt Reeves talk about how it influenced the new movie, and then for them to make the animated film adaptation - it really is quite flattering, and amazing," Loeb states. "And we're very, very grateful to the fans because as I often say, I can't do what I do unless they do what they do. So it's a real partnership in that way."
Getting back into the spirit of the season with The Long Halloween Special also has Loeb and Sale thinking ahead to what might come next - including the possibility of more follow-ups to their classic story and its sequel, Batman: Dark Victory.
What's more, Loeb confesses that there are more than a few tricks stuffed in The Long Halloween Special's bag of treats - including a few possible glimpses at what a future sequel could look like.
"In every mystery, there are secrets. And so there are some secrets leftover from the original story that are revealed, and then there are some new secrets left when the new story is done," Loeb teases. "So if you want to continue to play The Long Halloween game after this story, so to speak, we hope to be able to do that, but it's DC's decision."
"And obviously that decision may come down to how readers respond to the new story," Loeb concludes - making the need for fans to voice their desire for further continuations clear. "But we certainly know that there's a lot more story to tell. It's a very rich time in Batman's life."
For those fans who already know Batman: The Long Halloween by heart, Loeb promises the key players from the story will be revisited in the new special - which he also states lives up to the original's level of visual storytelling.
"All of the main characters, Gordon and Harvey Dent, are in the story, along with a few surprises. We just hope that people enjoy the read," Loeb promises. "And I can tell you that from an artwork point of view, I think it's some of Tim's best stuff, period."
Sale credits some of the strength of the art to the inclusion of colorist Brennan Wagner, who joins Loeb and Sale for the first time on The Long Halloween special.
"We both worked pretty heavily with Brennan, who I've known, uh, well, since he was born, since I'm friends with his dad, [Grendel creator] Matt Wagner," Sale laughs.
"I had worked with Brennan on a lot of the covers for Batman: Rebirth that I did, and that was a couple of years worth of work together - but that's very different than working on interiors. And so we worked pretty closely with him," he continues. "He's obviously very, very, very talented - and I'm colorblind. So I could talk about mood and shapes and approaches, but Jeph was the guy who was talking about differences in color."
As keen as the duo are to continue working together, especially with the possibility of more Long Halloween stories, neither Loeb nor Sale has a particular character they'd like to add to the list of superheroes they've tackled over the years in stories such as Superman For All Seasons, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Grey, and others.
"It really comes down to the story. I don't think it was ever about having a desire to tell a Batman story or a Spider-Man story, or what have you - which a lot of people have, and I really respect," Loeb explains. "For me, it was that there were stories that would occur to me, and then as I fleshed them out, they'd feel like a Batman story."
There is one character Loeb loves who he hasn't written yet - but he also states he doesn't have any plans to at the moment.
"I do have some favorite characters, Deadman being among them. I just don't have a Deadman story," Loeb says. "Someday maybe I will, but there have been so many other stories - all drawn by Neal Adams - that are just so good, I don't know. I think I'm a little intimidated by that."
To whet your appetite before Batman: The Long Halloween Special hits shelves later this month, here's a gallery with even more interior pages and covers:
Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1 is just a short time away - but there's a lot more where that came from. Stay on top of all DC's planned Batman-centric stories with our listing of all the new Batman comics coming in 2021 and beyond.