Despite the fact that it won't be released for over a year, anticipation for the "Batman: Arkham City" video game (the sequel to the very well-received "Arkham Asylum") is building fast, thanks to the new information and art in an upcoming issue of "GameInformer."

But today, we not only have more details about the both the "Arkham City" storyline and gameplay, but also the revelation that concept art for the sequel has been available to fans for almost a full year -- they just didn't know it.According to Crave Online, the game will in fact see Quincy Sharp as the mayor of Gotham City walling off a section to build a super-prison that replaces both Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary, in which Two-Face has risen to prominence as a gang leader. More than anything else, this sounds reminiscent of "No Man's Land," the 1999 story arc where an earthquake-ravaged Gotham was cut off from the rest of the country, essentially giving Batman a year of "post-Apocalyptic" style stories, and I have to admit that it makes a pretty good setup for a video game.

Another key element of the storyline? With Sharp as Mayor, Arkham City will apparently be under the direction of Hugo Strange:

"Detective Comics" #471

Strange, a Golden Age character who was revived by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers in the '70s, is a psychiatrist obsessed with both stripping Batman of his secret identity and assuming the role of Batman himself, and if you're going to set your story in a super-asylum, you could do a lot worse than casting Strange as your villain.

One of my few gripes about the original "Arkham Asylum" game was that it was very combat-oriented, but the Joker is a far more mental villain who doesn't present much of a physical challenge to Batman. It seems like something the game's makers realized, too, leading to the.. well, "video gamey" nature of the last boss battle. Strange, though, is a villain that can challenge Batman both psychologically and physically:

"Batman" #356

Plus, his history of making "Monster Men" means that the makers of "Arkham City" will have plenty of opportunity to throw those roided-up "Titan" inmates that they loved so much in the original at you.

As for Gameplay, the only big reveal is that Batman actually starts the game with all of the equipment that he got over the course of "Arkham Asylum," thus proving that unlike Mega Man, Batman doesn't assume that he'll never have these same problems again. Probably a good call.

But equally interesting is a video GameInformer posted yesterday showing an especially well-hidden area of the game: Quincy Sharp's secret office, which contains both concept art and blueprints for Arkham City.

According to GI's Dan Ryckert, who shows players how to access the hidden area in a video, the blueprints for Arkham City -- which are labeled with area names like "Steel Plant," "Psychiatric" and "Penitentiary" -- aren't quite the final layout that will be appearing in the game. It's worth noting, however, that they do show a bridge that connects Arkham City with the first game's Arkham Island, which gives me the idea that there may have been plans at one time to revisit the first game's setting in the sequel. But again, these are early designs, so who knows if they'll end up doing it.

I probably shoudn't be surprised by it, but I've got to confess that it's pretty interesting to see how much groundwork they were laying for the "Arkhamverse" (as they're calling it) in that first game. Setting up Quincy Sharp as a mastermind and having Hugo Strange's biography as an unlockable are one thing, but actually going so far as to include concept art for the sequel in a hidden area? That's planning ahead.