Right now, the future of the entire DC Comics Universe is in a state of flux as fans wait to find out where their favorite heroes will land, but the far future has much in store too as the universe of “Batman Beyond” grows bigger with each month.
Aside from the ongoing series by Adam Beechen and Ryan Benjamin which as recently seen Terry McGinnis join the future’s Justice League, DC is planning a brand new one-shot for “Superman Beyond” by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. To dig deeper into the former, CBR News shines the light of its regular Batman column THE BAT SIGNAL back on Beechen for a look inside the current “Industrial Revolution” arc (whose second part hit last week with issue #6) of his series and…well, beyond!
Below, the writer explains how growing the world of the future past the boundaries of the TV series that inspired it was vital to the book’s success, how the one-shot “Legends of the Dark Knight” issues play into the big picture plan he has for the book, what the return of original Beyond nemesis Blight means for the life of Bruce Wayne and how he’s ready to take the series into September and much, much further.
And in the course of doing that, one of the things we’re going to hit on are parts of the DC Universe – things as they relate to the world of “Batman Beyond” now. We’ll have a chance to show a lot of different things. We have a chance here to broaden the scope of what the animated series provided us.
One thing that the new arc springs to mind – particularly in Max’s intrigue with the mysterious hacker Undercloud – is how much “Batman Beyond” has always trafficked in a William Gibsony, cyberpunk kind of tone. As you’ve ratcheted up the corporate intrigue, how much have those broader sci-fi influences affected your thinking?
You know, I haven’t been reading of it lately, but I’m sure the stuff I’ve read in the past has been an influence. And just thinking about what the world of the future will be like influences my thinking quite a bit. One of the key’s to Max’s character is that she is very gifted with computers, so in order to deal with her as a character we need to deal with what she’s good at. It makes me think of what that world is like and how she can get involved with what Terry does naturally. That’s where that story grows out of. And the whole idea now of cloud computing and the information being in the airwaves with no permanent home or existing between servers somewhere…that’s a scary notion. It seems like a natural fit for Max to get involved in something like that.
The other important turn in the core cast is the introduction of Dana’s brother Doug. I don’t recall there being an awful lot in the show about Dana’s own background beyond her serving as Terry’s girlfriend. What were you looking to explore on that front now that you’ve got the chance?
Well, Chris Conroy – our editor – and I talked a lot about Dana and how to make her more relevant to the comic that she had been to the animated series where she was the girl who was always getting brushed off and then threatening to break up with Terry and then breaking up with Terry and then getting back with Terry. We wanted her to be more than that and to show more depth to her character. One way to do that is to show what her family is all about. We don’t know a lot about her, and so it’s entirely possible that Terry doesn’t know so much about her. Terry has taken her for granted for much of their relationship, so it’s possible he didn’t ask a lot of important questions. Notice he didn’t even know that she had a brother. There’s potentially a lot going on in Dana’s life and family that we didn’t know about, and that’s going to be fun to explore.
The big news of this story is the return of Blight who was largely the first supervillain built specifically for Terry’s Batman. What’s the attraction to bringing him back into the fore after he had a diminished role in the later seasons of the show?
Well, he was the first “Batman Beyond” villain. He’s the guy who made the whole concept of Batman in the future possible since he’s directly responsible for Terry’s father’s death. And he received his powers in the pilot episode and was a major, major player in the series. When you get into “Who is Batman Beyond’s greatest villain? Who is his arch enemy?” I think you start with Blight and go on from there. We wanted to bring in the big guns as early as possible because fans of the animated series have been clamoring for it and wanted to see more of the Batman Beyond villains, and if we were going to show them, we wanted to start at the very top.
But things have changed quite a bit for him as well from an attempt on the life of his own son to a new armor with some potentially different powers. What kinds of twists did you think important to bring to the character and the world?
Well, if I told you what kind of twists to expect, they wouldn’t be twists. [Laughs] There is more to Blight’s plan than we’ve seen. It is an elaborate plan. We know that he’s been able to get his son Paxton out of prison, and that serves as a cover for the labor unrest stuff since he’s put Paxton in the position to look like the one behind it. So it’s safe to say that Blight is on his way back to regaining control of the empire he lost.
Everyone loves the episode of “Batman Beyond” where he reveals that in his own mind, he calls himself Batman, but in this world he really does function differently because he is Bruce Wayne all of the time. Whether he’s dealing with the rabble rouser Godfrey or Wayne Powers as a company, there’s a different role for him to play as a corporate shark. What did you want to bring out of the original Batman?
Bruce can’t be Batman anymore. He’s a very smart, shrewd man, and we don’t want him to just be the guy sitting in front of the computer yelling at Terry. So one of the avenues left for us to explore with him is the corporate angle. There’s a big empire that he built, and he had to have some business savvy in order to do that. Going forward, you can bet that he’s not going to be happy with the fact that his business was threatened – especially since he just recently got it back – and he’s going to devote time and energy to that. Having written more of those scenes in issues yet to come, I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun to write. It’s a lot of fun to see Bruce be more proactive. It’s a lot of fun to have him interact with other people and bring that shrewdness, that intimidation factor and that gravitas that he had as Batman to the corporate world where we really haven’t seen it before. He’s beyond being Batman and he’s beyond being a playboy at this point, so what he’s got are the skills to bat people down in the boardroom. That’s a lot of fun to show.
The next “Legends of the Dark Knight” story in the series will be issue #8, which is the origin of Inque, and Chris Batista will be drawing that, right?
Yeah! Chris and I have worked together one time before on “Teen Titans” during my short run there. He drew one issue, which was actually the only issue I got to plot, and we had a great time working together. We’ve wanted to work together on something else ever since, and I’m thrilled that this is the project. I think he’s got the perfect style for it.
He spoke with this column during “Return of Bruce Wayne” about how important atmosphere and shadow can be to Batman’s world, and that has to be doubly important for a villain like Inque. How have you been working on the script to play to those strengths?
I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of color, I think, than I have in terms of pen and ink graphics. As good as Chris is going to do with the line art – and he’s going to absolutely knock it out of the park – this is going to be a showcase for David Baron, our colorist. Inque is all about deep levels of deep blue and black, and her origin story mirrors that visually and emotionally. So a large part of that is going to fall on David’s shoulders. Anybody who has seen David’s work over the years knows it’s going to be a great-looking issue. I haven’t seen any of the art yet, and I feel 100% comfortable saying it’s going to be a great looking issue with Chris and David working on it.
Looking further into the future, we know there’s a “Superman Beyond” #0 story on the way from Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, which comes on the heels of a similar story from Paul Levitz in “Superman/Batman.” How much have you been coordinating with these other writers to shape the whole “DC Beyond” universe?
As a funny coincidence, I didn’t even know Paul Levtiz was working on a “Batman Beyond” story, and then it came out a month ahead of the mini series. I was kind of praying that it wouldn’t contradict anything we said or did, and it didn’t! It actually played in really perfectly. We haven’t had a whole lot of discussion about the future yet, but I believe that we will. I do know about plans for the Justice League coming up and a little bit about the broader plans, but as far as a “Beyond Universe” sit down, we haven’t had one yet.
The other big question hanging is that there’s a major relaunch hitting in September, and we haven’t heard about the status of “Beyond” just yet. What can you tell us about the future of the series amongst all this change?
I do know what our next arc is going to be, but I can’t talk about it yet. I’m in the process of plotting it out, and I even know what the next arc after that will be as well as our next “Legends of the Dark Knight” issue. We’re in a pretty good place about what’s ahead of us, and if all goes according to plan, we’re pretty well set for the next bit of time. And we’re going to keep the team in tact as long as we can and keep trying to crank out good stuff.
“Batman Beyond” #6 is in stores now. Stay tuned to CBR for more on the future of the DC Universe.