Batman stories can embrace fantasy and whimsy, but they have to have some bite as well.
Paul Dini, the writer of Arkham City, thinks that Batman stories work for the same reason that fairy tales do: they combine whimsical elements with a truly credible threat. Dini can be considered something of a Batman expert, having worked on award-winning projects like Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond.
Dini said that a real threat of danger was crucial, as without it the story would fall flat; indeed, without a fearsome ogre or a deadly dragon, you didn't really have much of a story at all. "You can have villains like the Penguin, who struts around in a tuxedo with an umbrella," he said, "and Poison Ivy and all of the fantastic stuff she does, but unless there's a bit of a human in there and unless there's a credible threat, then Batman himself doesn't work."
Fortunately for Batman fans, there 's no shortage of credible threat in Arkham City, with lunatics and criminals of all stripes roaming the streets of the urban prison and carving out little kingdoms for themselves. Beyond the immediate dangers, there is the threat of Quincy Sharp, the former Arkham Asylum warden, and the current mayor of Gotham - whose story will be a big part of what pushes Arkham City forward - and Hugo Strange, who is pulling the strings from the shadows.
Batman's rogue gallery is a pretty fantastical bunch, made up on the aforementioned hardened criminals and lunatics. With that in mind, treating Batman stories like fairy tales sounds like a pretty good way to handle the character. There are differences, of course - Batman tends to play a much more active role in his stories than Snow White or Cinderella - but that core of fantasy and danger remains the same in both.
Batman: Arkham City comes out for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on October 18th.