Jurgens & Chang Send "Batman Beyond" into a "Grittier" Version of DC's Future

After DC Comics' weekly series "The New 52: Futures End" wraps in a few weeks with April's issue #48, Batman Beyond is set to return to his home timeline of 35 years in the future. And this time, DC is making it clear that it's "the" future of the DC Universe.

A new "Batman Beyond" solo series is set to launch in June from the creative team of writer Dan Jurgens and artist Bernard Chang. The solicitation text reads, "At last, Batman Beyond gets his own ongoing series in THE definitive future of the DCU" -- "the" in capital letter emphasis on DC's part. Given how hesitant superhero publishers usually are to provide an "official" a version of the fictional future, that automatically makes "Batman Beyond" a unique series -- though Jurgens and Chang are quick to point out that this version of DC's future will be a little less clean and a little more gritty than the one presented in the 1999-2001 animated series that first introduced the young future Batman, Terry McGinnis.

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CBR News spoke with both Jurgens and Chang last month during a press event at DC's Burbank offices, to hear about the future of the futuristic Batman, embracing what worked about the animated series while doing something new, the potential in depicting 35-years-later DC heroes, capturing the book's far-off -- but not too far-off -- setting; plus Jurgens' thoughts, from his perspective as a longtime DC Comics veteran, on the new publishing initiative set to launch in June, aiming to bring more accessibility and inclusion to DC's line.

CBR News: So what can we talk about at this point with "Batman Beyond"? It's still early, and the series appears to be tied into the end of "Futures End," which Batman Beyond has been a part of. What's the starting point of this new series?

Dan Jurgens: With "Futures End," we obviously started to integrate Batman Beyond into the DCU continuity as we know it. This is going to accelerate that process. As we come out of "Futures End," we're going to pick up on his story. He's going to return to the future. So we're going back to the world 35 years from now, and we're going to really begin to integrate that future, and Batman Beyond, into the DC continuity.

Will there be changes made to the character? Is it effectively still the same Terry McGinnis fans recognize?

Jurgens: Stay tuned. We are going to make some changes, in everything. It is not going to be a straight re-telling of what the animated series was.

Bernard Chang: We have a great library of work with the animated series right now, but we also have an opportunity to build upon that, and re-envision some of the world through the events of "Futures End." We had a discussion earlier today about how close stylistically [it will be] -- am I drawing it more like the animated version, or am I going more fully rendered, how is that working? We get to have our own take on this world. While we want to be beholden to the fans of the current series, we want them to embrace some changes we might be throwing in there, as well.

In general, DC's making it clear that they're really trying to encourage more creative freedom, and bring creators' own takes to its series. With "Batman Beyond" being set in the future, that seems to be an inherent advantage when it comes to freedom -- is it a lot of world-building, exploring for you in this series?

Jurgens: Sure it is. What it does do is open things up for you quite a bit, as a writer and as an artist. You start to build it the way you envision is, while also having context within the DCU. That's both in the ways that you write the characters, the stories and what they're about, and how the world overall is going to look.

Interested to hear from both of you about the enduring popularity of "Batman Beyond" -- the show is about 15 years old at this point, and though the character has made comic book appearances, it hasn't been until the last few years. Now we see him getting more and more integrated into the DC Universe. What do you think it is about this take on the Batman concept that has endured -- and started life as one thing, but now is a different thing within comics?

Jurgens: I think it's a couple things. We always set Batman up with Robins, for the most part -- there was always the debate of "who becomes Batman when he's done," is it going to be Dick Grayson, whomever. Terry McGinnis started out by being a young Batman. I think you take that as a bit of a foundation -- he was a young Batman, with a high-tech suit, where they took a lot of concepts, like "the Jokerz," from the Joker, and made it into something relevant at that time. It was always fun, and it was sort of fanciful, and it was just a different look at what the mythology of Batman is. For us, we're trying to figure out what the most important aspects of that might be, and blend it into the series.

Chang: Visually, it's a great chance to re-design this universe 35 years out. You think about us now, 35 years before now, the world looks very different. Design, technology, increases exponentially as we move forward. 35 years from now, while it's not "Star Trek," there's still a lot of room for us to play with. We've been talking about the costume design -- while initially we're going to stay fairly close to what it is now, there's also going to be room for growth.

Bernard, you're coming off of doing a lot of Green Lantern work, as the artist on "Green Lantern Corps" -- this is also sci-fi, but a different type of sci-fi.

Chang: It's very sci-fi. It's Earth-based science fiction, whereas Green Lantern, you're dealing with alien planets, alien cultures, here we're dealing with Earth. It's a little bit more with humans and civilization as we know it. With "Corps," I'm spending a lot of time thinking about the whole history of an alien race, and they might only appear in one or two pages. Here, there's a little bit more of a foundation that I can build off of, and then really get to take my limited amount of time, and apply that to other aspects of the design work. I think you'll see a lot more stuff, even more fleshed out.

Jurgens: And it's just cool because it's a Batman that can fly. With the wings -- he has a great look. It's a great silhouette to play with.

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Dan, you've been a near-constant figure at DC Comics for a while now, and seen the company through a lot of different phases. What's exciting for you in where's DC's at right now -- and the increased push to release different types of books and reach a little bit of a different audience?

Jurgens: In a way, it reminds me a little bit of the way the business used to work, even before I was a creator. If I think back to the stuff I liked as a kid, where I'd be sitting there, and all of a sudden Marvel was doing a book like "Warlock," or "Captain Marvel" by Jim Starlin, or "Howard the Duck," "Master of Kung Fu," anything like that, it always felt very much a business that had properties and concepts grow from the ground up. It didn't necessarily come from a editorial meeting where they just said, "We need a duck that talks." It grew from the ground up. There was much of a personal expression, I think, that we saw, coming out of Marvel and DC in some ways back then.

This reminds me somewhat of that. I think this is allowing creators to walk in and say, "I have this vision, and I want to find a way to explore this. I want to talk about this. I want to write about this." I think that's what you're seeing in DC now in this June wave of books. It's a lot of different voices, it's a lot of different opinion -- and by "opinion," I'm not talking about political opinion, I'm talking about opinion about what a comic can be, and what a good story can be, and what the visual language of comics might be. I think there's an awful lot of that happening. It's very exciting.

Chang: All of the people that have been coming through here today, it's a huge mix. I don't think we've ever seen this wide mix of creators before. Young, old, male, female, different ethnic backgrounds. That in itself creates an opportunity to tell newer stories that we never maybe even had the opportunity to. I think it's very exciting. Especially for me -- sitting in the room with Dan, and all these other guys and girls, just listening to them talk, and sharing experience, and sharing stories, is really, really exciting from our standpoint. I hope that translates through our work, to the readers, as well.

It's clearly significant to the series that Batman Beyond in now the DC Universe -- the one that we all know -- but 35 years in the future. What can you share about that setting -- what the DC of 35 years from now looks like, and how it setting shapes this take on the character?

Jurgens: I think that's part of the magic of the book. It is not necessarily going to be exactly like we saw it in the animated version, because I think we have to make it a little grittier than that. I've talked to Bernard about that -- one of the first questions he asked me was just asked about the general look and feel of it. I talked about the design work of Syd Mead and Ralph McQuarrie, yet if you splice something like "Blade Runner," where it was a dirtier, more realistic, concrete and still brick kind of future, mixing that all together -- I think that's part of what it has to be. It is going to have definitely a different look than the animated series.

Chang: Gotham, or the Batman family itself, as an artist, stands out from every other book or every other family. Being able to throw a 35-year future look at it is a challenge, but also exciting. As artists, you want challenges. You want to be able to have mountains to climb. It's a good task that we all want to tackle.

Jurgens: The animated show, in a way, almost felt a little like "Legion of Super-Heroes," design-wise. It was 35 years later, but it looked like 250 years. If we think where we were 35 years ago, we know what the differences are, and they're not stretched to that magnanimous point. As I've talked to Bernard, yeah, it's 35 years from now -- we need to find the visual language that makes sense.

So, like in the animated series, will we see 35-years older versions of DC characters?

Jurgens: We're going to, in our very first story, introduce someone from Terry's world, which I think is very important, just to help establish the fact that yeah, this is where we are, and this is the Batman universe of the future. Obviously, we are not going to ignore the potential of older DC characters that are potentially around at that point. That's too good. I'm not going to leave that one out.

"Batman Beyond" #1 is scheduled for release on June 3.

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