At last it can be told…the secrets behind the Finally Announced Secret Project.In February 2006, at the New York Comic-Con, it was mentioned to me by Random House exec Scott Shannon that my name had just come up in relation to a project they were discussing with DC Comics. I eagerly awaited word, heard from DC’s Steve Korte that something was cooking and I should be patient.On September 28, I was formally offered the chance to write the The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, an A-Z updating of Michael Fleisher’s original Batman Encyclopedia, released in 1976. Unlike Michael’s book, which covers Batman, Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics from 1939 to more or less 1966, this book would cover every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe from 1939 through 2007. The entries would differentiate between the various parallel worlds in addition to changes resulting from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.Of course I said yes.I spent the next few weeks assembling a Master List and wrote a few samples for my editor, Emily Lerner, to get a feel for the best approach. She and Keith Clayton, her counterpart at Random House, asked for some tweaks to the list. I was finally given the go ahead to start the serious researching and writing in December. Initially, Emily asked that I finish the manuscript on June 15 which, silly me, thought was doable while handling a day job and family.In February, Emily said that an internal shift at DC meant she was handing the book, and me, over to my pal Chris Cerasi. I kept writing and delivering and then in June was asked to come in for a meeting which was essentially sitting down with Chris, fellow editor John Morgan and Steve Korte for some course corrections. It was a substantive and productive meeting. At that point, the deadline was formalized as a more realistic August 31.That same month, I warned Chris and Keith that keeping the manuscript to 200,000 words was going to prove nigh unto impossible. They pumped up the page count so it’s now 494 pages long with two 16-page color sections.On August 31, I delivered the final entry, Batman himself, and the final word count weighed in at 316, 933.Now, let me tell you, there’s no way this could have been done if I didn’t have the month of August without a day job. That bit of timing proved painful but providential. The entire book is with a copy editor and I look forward to seeing what happens next, especially as we begin the graphics selections.I plundered my collection, I plundered illegally scanned comics I did not own, I scanned websites to check facts and interpretations. Most of all, I relied on the master of the facts, John Wells. With his meticulous character lists, I was able to check where people appeared in addition to their varying interpretations. On some of the most difficult to reconcile entries, I showed him drafts and he turned them around with lightning speed. The final week, he helped me make Bruce Wayne and Batman coherent and allowed me to deliver on deadline.I cannot thank John enough so let me sing his praises here. La, la, la!The book is set for a June 10, 2008 release, with The Dark Knight opening in July, it’s a nice bit of timing. Can’t wait to actually hold a printed copy in my hand.