From the beginning of his run on DC Comics' "Batman Beyond 2.0," writer Kyle Higgins has worked to place the series within the world of the famed DC Animated Universe. From the Man-Bat arc that harkened back to "Batman: The Animated Series" pilot "On Leather Wings" to a reality-spanning crossover with several animated incarnations of the Justice League, the book knows its roots. But now that Higgins is preparing to pen the finale of his run, the focus is 100% back on the future of Terry McGinnis.
Higgins spoke to CBR News about the journey of his series (alongside artists like Thony Silas and recently Phil Hester), and the writer revealed that the arc focusing on Animated Universe villain the Phantasm works as a way to push his story into its final phase.
"It's been pretty structured and planned out for a long time," Higgins told CBR News. "The Phantasm stuff and how it relates to Terry and Bruce's relationship as well as Dick and Barbara's past relationship -- those were all threads I'd planned when I initially pitched the series. So it's funny that the structure kind of worked out to kind of jump from one thing to another inspired by the animated series. But I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing. We wrapped up our Man-Bat arc and then jumped right into Justice Lords, but I also got to tell a smaller story within the alternate timeline where Terry meets a cautionary version of himself. That was a lot of fun."
But since returning from the Justice League war, the tone of the book took a serious turn as The Phantasm -- AKA Bruce Wayne's college love Andrea Beaumont -- returned to the picture. The character was last seen on the small screen teaming with Amanda Waller to assassinate Terry in the Batman Beyond-themed "Justice League Unlimited" episode "Epilogue." But Higgins' story in "Beyond 2.0" tied the villain back to some long simmering threads in Terry's world -- particularly the true identity of the future hero called Vigilante as Jake Chill.
"The whole reason why the Phantasm came after Jake Chill is because Andrea knew he's the one who killed Terry's father. She wanted to kill Jake before Terry could find out. She wanted to protect him and ensure that he didn't do something he'd regret. He's come too far as Batman to regress like that and have that temptation," Higgins explained.
"This leads to the question of whether or not Bruce knew this whole time that Jake -- the Vigilante -- had been a security guard/private security force at Wayne Powers at the time when Terry's dad was killed. And the fact that Jake is a descendent of Joe Chill makes it an awfully big coincidence that Bruce would not know that."
But the revelations didn't stop with Terry's own understanding of his tragic connection to the Chill legacy. A whole new box of twists was opened up in response as the writer explored a heretofore unseen love triangle between Bruce Wayne and his former sidekicks with tragic implications. "It all spirals to lead Terry to ask Dick Grayson what really happened between him and Bruce. As Terry wasn't trusting Bruce very much at this point, Dick confirmed his suspicions by telling the story of what happened between him, Bruce and Barbara," Higgins said.
Fans looking for the full story can catch the print issues of the Phantasm story -- "Batman Beyond Universe" #13 and 14Â on sale now -- but for Higgins, the fallout from that arc pushes Terry into a whole new place in the "Batman Beyond" digital serial. And it's one where he has to go it alone.
"The Phantasm arc was really the thing we've been building to for so long," the writer said. "Bringing Andrea back in as the one person who knew Bruce before he was Batman -- it felt very poetic to have her be the catalyst for Terry learning the truth about Bruce and making a huge decision about treading down that same path. Terry sees what knowing Bruce has done to Barbara and Dick and Tim, so he decides that he doesn't want to put himself in that situation. Now he's cutting ties with Bruce, which has been where this entire series has really been building to."
The final stories are currently rolling out as part of DC's weekly digital comics releases, and the will be published in print across October and November. Higgins promised that these final adventures in his Terry McGinnis run will put the focus back on the original "Beyond" animated world. "With where we knew the book wanted to go before its end, we had to jump in Phantasm when we did, but the stuff that comes after has a lot more to do with the 'Batman Beyond' cartoon than with any of the original animated series stuff," he said. "We're bringing back Inque. We're bringing back the Royal Flush gang. We're bringing back Davis, AKA Rewire, who I created at the beginning of this run. It's all building to our finale -- the ultimate story for Terry.
"It's been a pretty fantastic experience," the writer concluded. "I can't say enough about Thony Silas and Alex Antone, our editor. Alex in particular has pushed me to really explore things that I wasn't sure we were going to be able to do. And when it came along, the book became a creative godsend for me. I'm glad people have enjoyed it, and it's cool that we've been able to go for as long as we have been."
"Batman Beyond" updates weekly on the DC Comics digital app. "Batman Beyond Universe" #15 -- the penultimate print issue -- ships October 22.