Way back in the late 1990s Batman fans everywhere watched with anticipation as a futuristic new chapter in the story of the Dark Knight unfolded before them on their television screens with the premiere of the ‘Batman Beyond’ animated series. Quickly becoming a fan favorite, ‘Batman Beyond’ tells the story of teenager Terry McGinnis as he takes on the Batman mantle in the future world of Neo-Gotham. The animated series lasted three seasons before coming to a close and allowing the ‘Batman Beyond’ franchise to lay dormant for the better part of a decade until 2010 when DC Comics brought new life to the ‘Beyond’ world with a new comic book miniseries that led into an ongoing series that ran up until the beginning of ‘DC Universe: Futures End’ which began last fall.
‘Futures End’ saw the integration of Terry McGinnis and Batman Beyond into the proper DC Universe continuity for the first time in series history! Without giving too much away, by the end of ‘Futures End’ we are left with a very different kind of ‘Batman Beyond’ than the one we are used to, and now this new ‘Batman Beyond’ is set to begin an all new ongoing series simply called ‘Batman Beyond’! With the first issue having dropped last week, it’s an exciting time to be a ‘Batman Beyond’ fan!
We recently sat down with the new ‘Batman Beyond’ creative team of Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang to talk about the new ongoing title and where they plan on taking these characters in this new futuristic world the book is set in! *SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains heavy spoilers for both ‘Futures End’ and ‘Batman Beyond’ #1*
Dan Jurgens (DJ): ‘Batman Beyond’ takes three elements of the DC Universe- the present, because we have Tim Drake; the ‘great disaster’ future storyline, which you can see represented on the cover to issue #1 with Kamandi and Ben Boxer and OMAC; and the ‘Batman Beyond’ future timeline, which we also saw on the cover through the Justice League! So we’re taking those three elements and putting htem all together into one great series.
SF: So we know this book has a very different tone to it than most of the previous ‘Batman Beyond’ books, what can fans of those previous titles expect from this new version? Does this version carry over much of the previous ‘Batman Beyond’ mythos, or is it more of a brand new start?
DJ: It’s very much a brand new start in that, well, obviously we don’t have Terry McGinnis. We do however have Tim Drake, and he is very much the Batman in this future world! I think at the end of this you’ll see a lot of elements that you recognize, like we see Max and we see Terry’s younger brother Matt McGinnis. At the end of the first issue we even see Barbara Gordon! So fans will definitely see elements of this world, but we’re building new storylines out of that with some very fun and rather exciting changes for some of these characters!
SF: It’s funny you mention characters like Max and Matt now, because I was just about to ask just how much say you guys have in the use of familiar ‘Batman Beyond’ characters like that? I mean with Terry gone is seems like it would be really easy to just say ‘start fresh’. Were you able to use all of the characters from the ‘Batman Beyond’ world that you wanted to use, and where there any characters you were told that you can’t touch?
DJ: No one has said no to me on anything like that yet, and my understanding is that whatever we can cook up, we can do!
Bernard Chang (BC): There’s only one character we can’t really use, and that’s because the only guy who is dead so far is Terry McGinnis!
SF; So does that mean we can expect to see some of the iconic ‘Batman Beyond’ villains turning up? I mean Batman Beyond probably has one of the best rogues galleries around besides that of the original Batman!
DJ: Oh absolutely! We’ve already shown the cover for issue #2 in solicitations and it’s pretty obvious that we’re about to have Inque show up already! Batman Beyond has a great rogues gallery, and when you go down the list whether it’s Shriek or Spellbinder or one of the so many others, we would be fools not to use some of that!
SF: And this is the first ‘Batman Beyond’ story being told that it considered a part of the proper DC Universe, and it’s also very different from the ‘Batman Beyond’ that people are used to! It seems to be tonally vastly different, and even in the setting of this world it seems like a completely new place from what people have been reading over the years in ’Batman Beyond’ titles. Did you guys pitch this book as something very different, almost like a post apocalyptic ’Batman Beyond’, or did DC come to you with the idea? What went into this decision to do something so different versus doing something like zapping Tim into Terry’s regular timeline?
DJ: Oh yes, this is definitely how we pitched the book! The world was going to be a very different place. It wasn’t going to be all like ‘light Gotham’. Some places will have that post-apocalyptic feel to it, while other places like Gotham itself, will feel almost like they are from farther into the future than the thirty-five years later that this story is taking place. I always told Kyle Higgins, “man, you wrote an awesome ‘Batman Beyond’ series, and there is no reason for me to even try and do what you were doing”. A strong part of it is connecting it to what the current DC Universe is. And we can do that with Tim Drake, as well as with some of the other elements I mentioned earlier!
SF: Which is a great point, because Tim Drake seems like a great fit for this book! Tim is a great character and up until ‘Futures End’ recently he hasn’t had a whole lot to do in the DC Universe in a while! This book feels very much like a direct follow up or continuation of ‘Futures End’ in a sense, did you know signing in to this book what Terry’s ultimate fate in that series would be?
DJ: Well as one of the writers on ‘Futures End’, yeah, I certainly knew how that was going to end for him! I always look at it and say that if you saw the last page of ‘Futures End’, that book and that story and the arch for those characters came to and end. This is not a sequel in a regular sense, although it does follow some of those characters, most notably Tim Drake. But it very much stands on it’s own!
SF: And what are your personal thoughts on this ‘future Tim’ taking up the Batman Beyond mantle?
BC: I think that this question actually plays out in the story itself! You have a lot of these characters who knew Terry and Tim is constantly being questioned. Like how valid is Tim as the new Batman? What gives him the right? There are people like Terry’s brother Matt who question Tim’s version of what happened to his brother, and in some respects he feels like maybe this is a legacy and HE should be the next Batman. I think it’s kind of interesting to see how this question all plays out in the storyline itself with some of the characters.
SF: Can we expect to see some of these characters like Matt or Max showing up throughout the series?
DJ: Very much so! I think it’s very important actually, one of dynamics we have going is… well one of the reasons that Matt is older in this series than we would traditionally think of him from the cartoon, is that we see this new world through Tim Drake’s eyes, but then we are seeing Tim Drake through Matt’s eyes. I think it’s important to have that viewpoint. It will show the same doubt that Matt is feeling about Tim, is very much the doubt that readers are feeling about Tim in a way. It all comes together and that is how the series is structured, so yes, we will see more of Matt, of Max, and even Barbara at some points!
SF: That sounds great! Now, you guys might not be the ones to ask about this but we really wanted to clear something up for readers. This is ‘Futures End’ Tim, so this is technically Tim from five years into the future of the current DC Universe, which places him in his early twenties, which is the age we’re used to reading characters like Nightwing and even Terry before his demise. So do we still have regular teenage Tim Drake running around the current DC Universe, or has this sort of decided his fate in that he gets zapped into the future when he hits his early twenties and that’s that for him?
DJ: No! The character is still in the regular DC Universe as well as a part of the Teen Titans.
SF: With the way everything is going to play out, we’ve got Tim zapped into a whole new world and a whole new timeline where everything is different yet familiar. Like he immediately recognized that Gotham was Gotham, but it was also a very different kind of place. Is any of this story going to deal with Tim as a man out of his own time?
DJ: It might have a little bit of that feel to it, but I think it’s going to be less about that he is a man out of time, and more because we are telling the story of a very different world. The world itself has changed a lot! It may only be thirty-five years from now, but it’s a very different place. Whether it’s the Neo-Gotham that we’ve already seen, which is quite advanced, or the New York we’ve seen, which is all but destroyed! But it’s going to be about this very advanced and different world and how it unfolds in front of him.
SF: Which sounds like it’s going to be a really fun ride! I know we keep asking about what characters we’ll see, and that you’ve said we’ll see Max, Matt, Barbara, and some of the iconic ‘Batman Beyond’ villains… but what about some of the bigger name supporting cast members like the Justice League Beyond, Dick Grayson, and of course the big question on everybody’s mind… Bruce Wayne? Is Bruce still around in this version of the future?
DJ: We certainly have plans as to how all of this is going to unfold, and when we will start to play around and introduce some of these different concepts, I’d say that everything is coming at it’s own pace, it’s own way and in it’s own time. I think right now the idea is that we can’t really throw that entire laundry list of characters and concepts at readers right away, and we’ve got to focus on Tim and some of the things we’ve seen! But we’ve got long range plans and kind of know how that’s going to unfold.
SF: With the art style on this book, it feels familiar to ‘Batman Beyond’ yet feels different than most of the other books all at once. The world itself is very different, did you decide that with your pitch for the book?
BC: I think that Each project you take on, you need to find a balance, especially when it’s one with an extensive history and a good number of passionate fans that have followed this series previously. So now they’re looking at this new version of their beloved characters, so there’s a balance of what came before but also what we want this book to be in the new version moving forward. I don’t want to recreate things that have already been done before, but we do want to pay respect to a lot of that. We really want to tackle some new stories and new directions with these characters, these new versions of these characters, that we’ve all come to love or hate before. And that’s the exciting aspect, to come up with a new direction without rehashing the things that have already been done. There’s a sort of nostalgic aspect that we all look into, but there’s also a lot of an “oh wow what are we going to do next” so that we can’t wait to turn the page and see how things have developed and changed and moved forward.
SF: Oh definitely! It’s definitely a new book with a new direction and even a new Batman! You have to just come into this looking at this book as it’s own thing rather than a follow up to the original ‘Batman Beyond’. Like it’s very much a sequel, but definitely stands alone as it’s own thing.
BC: There are a lot of things that are very similar to the original, when you pick up the first or second issue, and you’ll see things that are very familiar. But there are different twists to them, so they’re also very different. I think that with the world that Dan is crafting, it’s going to be very interesting for readers to stick around to see.
SF: Well yeah, you guys put out a hell of a first issue! As someone who has been following the ‘Batman Beyond’ storyline from the original animated series to the more recent comics, it definitely fits in with that world and feels like a solid continuation of that story. So now the big question for you… why is your new ‘Batman Beyond’ THE book to read? Why should people be checking this new title out?
DJ: I think it’s the book to read because… just think of it like a triangle. At one point is the DCU present timeline, in another is the ‘Futures End’ timeline, and the third corner is the ‘Batman Beyond’ timeline, and they are all coming together to form one complete consistent connected future of the DC Universe. In the middle of that triangle is Tim Drake as Batman Beyond, and Tim is an incredibly strong and worthwhile character in his own right! And he’s in this world that is very compelling, very different, and full of action and adventure, and we’re pulling that to tell his story and prove why he’s the right guy to be Batman.
BC: I want to read THAT book! I think that from the scripts I’ve read so far, there are a lot of jems and jewels in there. I only hope that I can do the fans service, and Dan service, to translate that to images. There are a lot of great points as to the emotional context of where the characters are at. Comics are a very unique medium, and the scripts have definitely been on point as to the direction of where the characters are at, and I feel like fans are really going to enjoy seeing how things play out.