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Welcome To Countdown: Arena
Three Batmen Walk In, One Batman Walks Out...

Who is master of Bartertown?

Friday night at WizardWorld, DC honcho Dan DiDio announced a new mini-series tying into Countdown -- Countdown: Arena.

In the mini-series, the megalomaniacal Monarch will gather the greatest heroes of several alternate Earths and pit them against each other. The purpose? To find the truly greatest superheroes and convince them to destroy the Monitors.

Perhaps most captivating of all -- in September, fans will have a chance to vote on some of the outcomes!

It sounds pretty hardcore, and let's face it, ridiculously fun. Art chores are being handled by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, a team well-suited for heroes beating up on each other. Covers will be by Andy Kubert.

And the writer? A guy we know by the name of Keith Champagne. He took some time out of his Sunday to answer a few cogent and a few stupid questions about this huge December event...

Derek McCaw: How much freedom do you get dropped in the middle of a crossover like this?

Keith Champagne: Much more than you might imagine. Aside from a couple of "suggestions" from DC editorial, I was given completely free reign in choosing (or creating) the three versions of each character, as well as the direction of the overall story and outcome of the various battles. There were only a couple of things that I was told 'needed' to happen over the course of the series but overall, I was pretty much left alone to do whatever I wanted.

ARENA was the opposite of World War III in that way. WWIII was a laundry list of dots that somehow needed to be connected to the war against Black Adam. This was more about just going off and having fun, while making sure ARENA still connected to the bigger picture.

Derek McCaw: Do you get to sit in a room arguing the merits of Red Rain Batman vs. Gotham By Gaslight Batman?

Keith Champagne: Only by myself, and I'm happy to say that I won that argument. And, for the record, the three Batmen features are Batman (Red Rain), The Bat (Liberty Files) and Batman (Gotham By Gaslight).

Derek McCaw: Is it your experience as a fan of PRIDE fighting that makes you the man for this job?

Keith Champagne: Sakuraba will never die!!

Oh, if only he could sneak in...
Derek McCaw: What's the weirdest alternate Earth character you get to use?

Keith Champagne: Some of them are more strange than others. The first couple that popped into mind were The Scarab, the Blue Beetle of Captain Carrot's world, and Christopher Kent, who is a Superman of a different flavor than we might be used to seeing.

Derek McCaw: How much research into Armageddon 2001 have you had to do to capture
the character of Monarch?

Keith Champagne: Zero percent research into Armageddon 2001. I know who and what Monarch is, and what his current motivations are. From there, it was just a matter of making sure he stayed true to himself.

I actually think this is the smartest, most well-organized and ruthless version of Monarch we'll have seen to date.

Derek McCaw: If we could put Adam West Batman in the Arena, how would he do?

Keith Champagne: I love Adam West but he wouldn't even survive the journey into the Arena, let alone five seconds of combat.

Derek McCaw: Which characters do you think belong in this mini-series but haven't found a place?

Keith Champagne: I think Superman (Kingdom Come) would have been a nice fit but that version of the character is going to be busy in Justice Society. I always would have liked to get to play with The Dark Knight Returns but no one wanted to disrespect Frank Miller by using his character. Which isn't to say that maybe another character or two from the Miller-verse didn't make the cut.

Derek McCaw: So we get this in December, right?

Keith Champagne: Four issues. Weekly in December. 38 story pages per issue.

ARENA is so much more than you might first imagine. Anyone who reads the first issue is not going to be able to skip the rest.

Derek McCaw

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