NYCC: Beechen Takes Batman "Beyond"

For a TV series that ended nine years ago, the concepts at the center of "Batman Beyond" are still alive and well and are thriving in the minds and hearts of fans. With the DC Comics miniseries inspired by the animated series currently awaiting the arrival of its penultimate fifth issue, the publisher officially announced yesterday that the expected ongoing "Beyond" series would indeed be appearing, bringing with it mini's creative team of Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin and company.

Spinning a new adventure in the life of Terry McGinnis - the young adult tapped to take on the role of Batman from an aging Bruce Wayne - the series to date has involved not only the original villains and cast members created for the TV show but also a number of new and established DC Comics characters, from C-list Bat Rogues to the new "Hush" who may or may not be Dick Grayson. Its this connection between classic continuity and the established animation world that have helped transform "Beyond's" finite storyline into a regular monthly comic.

CBR News spoke with Beechen after the announcement hit to learn how his conception of the title will change in the ongoing format, what twists and turns lie ahead for the current "Hush Beyond" arc, his plans for Terry's large supporting cast and the special way he's formatting his new series to include the entire world of Batman and beyond.

CBR News: Adam, we touched on the possibility of a "Batman Beyond" ongoing last time we spoke about the miniseries, but now that the full story can be told, what was your first reaction when DC said the book had sold well enough to warrant an ongoing?

Adam Beechen: Obviously, I was really honored. We're very pleased with how well the book has done. It's a testament to the fans and how much they support the character and the book. We're delighted to keep going. We had some high hopes after the first issue came out and went to a second printing that there really was a market for the book. Sales have remained strong and people have remained interested in the story and the way we're telling it, so we're just psyched to keep it going. We have a lot of stories we want to tell.

Before we get into the new series, let's return to the big reveal fans saw in issue #4 of the mini when Dick Grayson unmasked himself as the "Hush" villain at the heart of the arc. What does that move mean for the conclusion of this story and for the way the world of "Batman Beyond" will be shaped now that this vital character from Batman's history has stepped into the book?

Well, there's two Dick Grayson's running around. There's the one who's adopted the identity of - or at least has been branded by the media as - Hush, and then there's the older Dick Grayson who had the falling out with Bruce Wayne. Either way, it's going to change the dynamic of the universe. One of them is obviously not the real Dick Grayson. One of them is a bad guy while the other is sort of a mystery character for now. I'd say the major change in this version of Batman Beyond is that we now know what happened to Dick Grayson, which was never explained in the animated series. It's his first appearance in the world of this series, and we'll have to see, based on the outcome of the miniseries, how he sticks around and the part he plays in the dynamic of Bruce and Terry and the whole world of "Batman Beyond."

I'm assuming the news of the ongoing reached you while you were still working on the mini. Did the idea that you'd carry on at all effect how you wrapped the story, or had it been crafted with more adventures in mind?

Actually, word of the continuation of the book didn't come until right when I was finishing the script for issue #6. It was very late in the process, and we already knew how we wanted to end the miniseries. Luckily, word of the ongoing coming didn't change anything, and we were able to continue on the path we had and then start fresh with "issue #7" which is now issue #1.

Last time, we talked about making the mini a series where the continuity of the modern Batman comics could sit right next to what had come in the animated series. Is that a thread you'll continue to develop in the ongoing?

My idea is to continue tying existing Batman continuity to what we're doing with "Batman Beyond" as much as we're able to do. I want to throw nuggets in that longtime Batman comic book readers will be familiar with while still respecting the future that's been created by the "Batman Beyond" animated series. It's a bit of a challenge to do that - trying to reconcile those two ideas - but it's also part of the fun of writing this book. We make sure that all the potential audiences get something out of it in order to turn it into one big audience.

The mini was formatted as one epic arc because you and Ryan had only six issues to work with. As you move forward, are you looking to do another big arc, or are you going to break up the format a bit now that you've got more room to play?

One thing we haven't touched on as much as I would've liked in the six issues is a lot of the supporting cast of "Batman Beyond." We haven't seen a lot of [Terry's] family and friends, and that's something I want to rectify early. The first storyline we're doing in the ongoing features pretty prominently Terry's mother and brother. It's a shorter arc than in the miniseries, which is not to say we're not going to do longer arcs at all, but we wanted to get readers involved in the new series with something a little quicker and faster paced that explains to you who the entire supporting cast is going to be because we didn't have that chance with the way the Hush story played out.

Will that supporting cast expand out to include folks like the new Catwoman and Dick Grayson? Are you going to carry over those threads from the mini?

I'd absolutely love to. That's my goal. These characters are now established in the universe, and we want them popping up much like any character can pop up in any Bat-book. One of our goals is between story arcs of the new ongoing to do stand-alone stories that spotlight a different character every time. Much in the same way that James Robinson in "Starman" would break up the bigger stories with "Times Past" issues, we want to resurrect the notion of "Legends of the Dark Knight" and do single-issue stories that focus on Batman from another character's point of view, whether that's one of our regular cast members or a denizen of Gotham or perhaps a supervillain or even Ace the Bathound. [Laughs] We want to take a different perspective on our lead character and in that way flesh out the supporting cast. We'll have lots of opportunities to explore this world. I'm pretty excited about that "Legends of the Dark Knight" notion, actually, because that was one of my favorite books. The chance to bring that back - albeit in a different context - is pretty exciting.

The last thing to look at here is the fact that it's not just you but the entire creative team that will be continuing on. Ryan Benjamin has changed his style up to be a mix of modern comic book art and something incorporating the animated series look. How has working with him over the course of the mini changed what you think of when looking at an ongoing, if it has at all?

I don't think anything's going to change about how Ryan, David [Baron, colorist], John [Stanisci, inker] and I work together. They've all done brilliant work on this book. If anything, what I've learned is that there's not a lot these guys can't do. You can send them "soaring over the Gotham rooftops" and what they'll send back is an incredibly dizzying angle that'll make you nauseous to look at as a reader - and not nauseous in a bad way but nauseous in an "Oh my God, I'm actually there" way. You can take them down into the alleyways and have them do the grittiest stuff imaginable on the street level. I go into the ongoing with extreme confidence knowing that Ryan and John and David know how to interpret the scripts and can give us back something that's 100 times better than what's on the written page. One of the great things about working with guys like this is that you never get entirely what you expect from an artist when you send off a script, but when I send something off to these guys I know I'm going to get something better back. They're great to work with, and we all chat and talk about the stories as we go along. Ryan's called me a couple of times to say, "How about this?" and I love that aspect of the collaboration. Our editor, Chris Conroy, has really encouraged that, so it's a great team and I'm fortunate to work with these guys who are all pros' pros.

"Batman Beyond" #5 - the penultimate issue of the miniseries - hits comic shops on October 20. The ongoing "Batman Beyond" series launches this January from DC Comics.

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