EXCLUSIVE: Gage, Higgins Take "Batman Beyond" Weekly, Welcome Artist Phil Hester

DC Comics' digital realm has been home to the continuing stories of "Batman Beyond's" Terry McGinnis, his "Justice League Beyond" and the Animated DC Universe for the past three years. First written by Adam Beechen ("Batman Beyond") and Derek Fridolfs ("Justice League Beyond"), last year the Beyond comics relaunched with writer Christos Gage tackling the world of "Justice League Beyond 2.0" while Kyle Higgins guided Terry in the "Batman Beyond 2.0" comic.

RELATED: Higgins & Gage Shift the Status Quo in "Batman Beyond Universe"

The digital-first titles are republished monthly in DC's "Batman Beyond Universe" print series, and this year each half will find itself involved in the "Justice Lords Beyond" crossover, bringing the two digital series together for the first time. Using the Justice Lords, characters from the "A Better World" episode of the 2003 "Justice League" animated series, Gage and Higgins sent Terry into the alternate Justice Lord world while bringing the Lords into the Beyond Universe, pitting their heroes against their amoral doppelgängers for the event.

Speaking about the crossover and what else they have in store for the Beyond Universe, Gage and Higgins discussed their books -- and gave CBR News an exclusive scoop about the digital "Batman Beyond 2.0" going weekly as well as a new artist and a new co-writer joining Higgins on the title.

CBR News: While your "Justice Lords" arc is coming to a close in the digital-first comics, let's start off here with the basics: what was the genesis for this story? Why did you two want to bring in the Justice Lords to the "Beyond" comics universe?

Christos Gage: From the time we started working in the Beyond Universe, we knew we wanted to do a crossover, but it had to be something special. Looking back at the history of the DC Animated Universe, the Justice Lords seemed like a subject that was not only big enough, but wouldn't just be nostalgia, it would serve as an interesting vehicle to examine what's going on in our (future) present day.

Kyle Higgins: When we started talking with [editor] Alex Antone about relaunching the series, the alternating structure of the digital releases -- plus the shared print release -- made the idea of a crossover super appealing. Since Chris and I are the only two writers working on these characters, it was super easy to coordinate. That said, we wanted to make sure we had a story significant enough to warrant a crossover. The return of Wonder Woman and the dark JL inversions that are the Justice Lords work really well. It also allowed me to tell a side of the story in the Justice Lords' world.

THE BAT SIGNAL: Higgins Strikes with "Secret Origins," "Batman: Eternal" & "Batman Beyond"

Christos, over on your side of the Justice Lords arc we're seeing the actual Lords fighting the League. With such a League-heavy story and fight, did you find yourself going back to watch the original "Justice League" Justice Lords episodes for reference or inspiration?

Gage: Oh yeah, Kyle and I watched them together during a planning session. The thing that struck me the most was that the Justice Lords were not the cliched "evil twins," they were only a few steps away from the characters we know and love. And I wanted to keep that.

On that note, Kyle, in your section of the story we have our Terry and blonde Terry running from the Jokerz and the Lords. While the Beyond Universe Wonder Woman thought those in the Lords universe could rehabilitate, does the same hold true for Lords-verse Terry? Or is he beyond hope?

Higgins: Well that's certainly the question, isn't it? There's a line in Chapter 20 that sums Terry's feelings up pretty well -- he tells T that he always thought, even if he hadn't become Batman, that he would have turned out as a good person. "But I guess now we know that's not true."

Beyond the Beyond Universe, an alternate version of Terry is involved in the "New 52: Future's End" weekly series. Though taking place in a different universe, will "Future's End" affect you guys moving forward?

Higgins: Nah, not really. It's a different version of Terry and a different continuity -- we're continuing the Animated Universe.

Along those lines, does having a New 52 version of Terry and an animated universe version of Terry change the way you two approach writing your comics? Does it change the types of stories you're able to tell with him and the "Beyond" universe?

Gage: I think that was more a concern for Kyle than me.

Higgins: It doesn't affect us at all, actually. Like I said -- we're in the Animated Universe.

Then to your minds, what is it about the Beyond Universe and Terry that is still so appealing to fans, and helped them successfully make the jump from TV to the comics page?

Gage: Like all the best sci-fi, the Beyond Universe explores universal truths about us in an unfamiliar setting. That's what made the animated series so memorable, and what we've tried to preserve with the comics.

Though you two have been writing concurrently in a shared universe, with the Justice Lords you are working much more closely to tell one full story, filling in details where the other left off. How did you go about deciding who tells which part of your larger story, and will this closer collaboration continue after the "Justice Lords" ends? What comes next for each of you as writers?

Gage: We worked it out from the start that we would connect most directly at the beginning and end, and in between tell stories set on separate Earths -- but at the same time, we wanted to keep the feel of a weekly serial, so we planned it so that the reader would learn things each week that would shed light on the bigger picture. We knew that Kyle wanted to tell a more personal story while I had a bigger cast and more epic scale, but hopefully both feel equally powerful in their own way. As for what comes next, I'm actually regretfully stepping away from the Beyond Universe to do some work in television, but I know Kyle has some big things planned!

Higgins: My side takes place in the Justice Lords' timeline. That was always the idea -- Terry would head over to the Justice Lords' timeline and try to figure out what happened to Lord Batman, then meet himself, see what could have been, etc. It made things pretty easy to split up.

Something else that's pretty exciting -- which we're announcing here -- is that starting with chapter 25, "Batman Beyond 2.0" is going weekly. We'll be diving into the missing year and showing what happened to split up Bruce and Terry. I think the cover for chapter 25 speaks for itself -- it's a big, emotional story with a flashback sequence that's ridiculously chilling. I've spoken before about how much I love "Return Of The Joker" -- that was a big inspiration for this next arc. This is the story I've been building towards for the last year, and the thing I pitched to DC in order to get the job in the first place. My whole run has been building toward it. I'm excited we're finally able to talk about it!

On the creative side, we've got two more announcements -- Alec Siegel, one of my best friends and a super talented writer in his own right, is coming on board to co-write with me. With the weekly schedule, I wanted to bring on someone I trust to help me out. Alec and I are co-writing "C.O.W.L." right now, and the DC Animated Universe has always been a favorite of his so it's a great fit and I couldn't be happier to have him.

On the art side, I'm also pretty thrilled to announce that Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur are coming on for this next arc. I've been a big fan of Phil's since his "Green Arrow" run, and always thought his style would fit so well with the Beyond Universe. And yeah, just wait until you see his Phantasm.

Finally, with regards to that big flashback sequence I mentioned: Eric Wight is coming back to illustrate. For those who don't know, Eric's first job out of college was as a character designer on the "Batman Beyond" cartoon, and he joined us a few months back for a big Dick/Barbara chapter. So, this is all a big circle for him, and us.

I know I'm biased, but I think it's a pretty great time to be "Batman Beyond" fan. 

"Batman Beyond Universe" #10, containing the latest chapters of the "Justice Lords Beyond" crossover, hits physical shelves May 21; "Batman Beyond 2.0" and "Justice League Beyond 2.0" are available via comiXology and the DC Comics App.

DC's Birds of Prey Canceled, Resolicited as Mature Readers Black Label Title

More in Comics