DC Comics expands superhero universe to online gaming

Not content to rule the big screen, The Dark Knight has his sights set on cyberspace.

Having wrestled the box-office title from Spider-Man with a $158.4 million opening, Batman, as well as the Man of Steel and the rest of DC Comics' storied league of superheroes, want you to join them in DC Universe Online — a living, evolving virtual world being developed by DC Comics and Sony Online Entertainment (EverQuest).

You create your own superhero or villain to team up with or battle superheroes such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and The Flash, with tens of thousands of other players, in the 3-D world, being made for Sony's PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs.

"You chose your physique, your name and your power base and based on (that), you have a tree of powers that you can develop," says top DC Comics artist Jim Lee (All Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder), executive creative director on the game. "You can be a speedster, or fly fast, or be one of these characters who swims."

DC staffers have been working on the game for nearly three years, along with Sony, the developer behind popular massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing games EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies.

After making a teaser appearance at last week's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Lee and Sony will supply more details at the three-day Comic-Con, starting Thursday in San Diego. When will the game be finished? Lee invokes a response made famous by id Software, makers of Doom and Quake: "When it's ready." "They really haven't cut any corners, and are really putting all the resources in to make an awesome game," he says.

Settings will include Metropolis and Gotham City, and the premise will fit neatly into DC's complicated timelines and alternate universes, Lee says. Comics will introduce what is happening in the game and tie into ongoing online plots. "When the game starts, there's going to be all these superheroes and supervillains, and they are not just ignoring the fact that everything has changed in the DC Universe," Lee says.