BATMAN & Family Face '10,000' JOKERZ in Future of Beyond
In the current Batman Beyond comic, a character called the Joker King has taken up the mantle of The Joker and is giving "Neo" Gotham City all kinds of trouble in a storyline titled "10,000 Clowns."
Batman Beyond, written by Adam Beechen with art by Norm Breyfogle, takes place in the future of the New 52 DCU. Based on the animated series of the same name, Batman Beyond focuses on a young hero named Terry McGinnis who takes on the Batman identity under the mentorship of an aged Bruce Wayne.
In the DCU future, there are still a few of the old folks around, but a lot of new, futuristic superhero characters rounding out the Batman Beyond comic as well. For example, the current storyline features aged versions of former Robins Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, who are working together with Terry to take down a new Joker King and the gang of Jokerz who follow him.
The current Batman Beyond series was launched by DC as a digital comic, but it was successful enough that the company added two more digital comics based in the "Beyond" universe: Justice League Beyond and Superman Beyond. The three series rotate new 10-page digital chapters on various DC digital channels, then are collected monthly in the Batman Beyond Unlimited print comic.
Now that "10,000 Clowns" is finishing up, Newsarama talked to Beechen about what comes next in the series and find out more about the video commentaries that accompanies the stories.
Newsarama: Adam, this series is getting some great reviews, along with the other "Beyond" series. What's been the response from fans and how much does their feedback influence what you guys are doing?
Adam Beechen: Batman Beyond and its universe has such passionate fans, that it's been very gratifying to know that many of them have taken to the stories we've been telling, and viewing them as an extension of the original, animated television series. That's a high standard to uphold, but we do our best and we take it very seriously, because we're fans, too.
As for the influence of feedback, I love when readers suggest characters for us to use, and sometimes, if it's organic to the overall story, it's something we'll consider. For example, fans really responded when it seemed like Mad Stan had perhaps been killed in the "Hush Beyond" arc. I knew fans liked the character — I sure did — but wasn't aware of just how much. I knew we had left an avenue by which Mad Stan could return, and I thought of a way it could play into our overall story, so we did a short arc centered on him that turned into a lot of fun.
But for the most part, we're just trying to tell the best stories we can and hoping for the best, as far as fan response goes.
Beechen: It's something we've been working towards all along, back to "Hush Beyond," the sense that gradually Bruce is "putting the Bat-Family back together." Not all the characters are necessarily thrilled with the idea, but as Bruce confronts his mortality and his legacy, as well as what he wants for Gotham, it's happening.
The places the animated series left a lot of characters makes for some great emotional conflict, and we'd be foolish not to jump at that for stories. It's hopefully a treat for longtime fans to see these characters pop up and become meaningful, and a good way to broaden the cast for all of our readers.
Nrama: Since the series launched, you've been building out the supporting cast, including the aforementioned former Robins, other costumed characters, and of course Dana and her brother, who are playing central roles in the current storyline. What's your approach as you start to add new characters to the story in Batman Beyond, and how do you think the cast is working out?
Beechen: I think the larger cast has paid real dividends. It gives us more characters to play off of, more potential for conflicts, more chances to create greater depth for the characters we already know, just more of everything. The trick is to keep everything revolving around Terry and Bruce, because they're the stars, and what readers are ultimately paying to see.
But the comic gives us more chances to really explore characters like Dana and Max, as well as to create new, important characters like Jake Chill, the new Vigilante, and take what the animated series gave us to the next level.
Nrama: Have any of the characters you're writing now become personal favorites?
Beechne: Bruce. Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. He's so much fun to write, particularly at this age. He's a character that doesn't say much, if he can help it, isn't emotional when it can be avoided, doesn't express affection well, and doesn't like to explain his actions. It's been fun bringing out his feelings for the supporting cast, and his desire to re-create a family for himself...and expand Terry's...as he approaches the end of his life, without having him say any of it. As a writer, it's a chance to do a different kind of character work on the page, and it's been a blast, as well as an education.
Nrama: Who among the supporting cast has been the most challenging to write?
So we had her break up with Terry almost immediately -- and really mean it. It made her tougher, stronger and more of an individual.
Then, when former editor Chris Conroy suggested we give Dana a brother, perhaps one that had been in prison, it gave us an opportunity to look into her family dynamic, and there was all kinds of stuff in there to exploit.
As "10,000 Clowns" comes to its end, Dana will really step forward as a major player for us.
Then there's a short solo story for her afterwards that changes her dynamic with Terry forever, and cements her place in the BBU universe.
Nrama: Since we're talking about the universe.. how much do you coordinate with the other writers involved in the "Beyond" universe? Can you give any examples of ways you've worked together to strengthen your stories while fleshing out this world you share?
Beechen: We honestly haven't communicated much, other than to say, "Great story, guys!" And I think it's been to everyone's benefit. The natural tendency is to cross everyone over as soon as possible, but I'm really glad DC has resisted that impulse, because it's allowed each of us — JT Krul, Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen and myself — to stake out territory and storytelling style that's different from the others.
Batman Beyond has been very much a Gotham story so far, while Justice League Beyond has taken a more cosmic scope, and Superman Beyond has been a deep character study loaded with Metropolis-centered action.
Each of us has used the other's characters when it's been organic to our stories, but we haven't banged our heads together over where everything has fallen in continuity.
We do, however, work in concert with the editorial department to make sure we don't outright contradict each other in terms of character depiction. Superman's not suddenly going to develop an allergy to mushrooms in Batman Beyond, then be shown eating a plate of them in Superman Beyond, as a silly example.
Nrama: How much does the artist on your stories influence your approach to the comic's style? Or is the style more based upon the animated Batman Beyond?
Beechen: Norm Breyfogle's style is so fluid, it's practically animation in and of itself. He's a master storyteller, and knows how to make his art play like the animated series did, while still putting his own distinctive imprint on it.
I write pretty specific scene and staging descriptions, but I trust Norm 100 percent if he knows that staging something differently will work better. We have a great, collaborative relationship, and he's as passionate about the book and the characters as I am. I'm very fortunate to be having this opportunity to work with him.
Nrama: Now that you're finishing up the "10,000 Clowns" storyline, can you describe what the next storyline will bring to the characters?
The storyline also introduces some great longtime DC characters into this universe for the first time...Perhaps the most unexpected characters we could come up with. But we've found a cool, organic way to make them part of this continuity, and hopefully they'll be around in it for a long time to come, playing important roles.
Nrama: Any more of the "Beyond" characters you'd like to see get "screen time" in the future in your stories?
Beechen: Beyond that, I'd love to see a little more focus given to Terry's brother Matt and his mom Mary. Maybe even explore the notion of their extended family — relatives that live outside of Gotham.
In general, I'd like to see more of the world outside Gotham. How are other cities different from Gotham City in this future? Who are their heroes and villains? What is the overall world like in this day and age, not just the immediate world around our characters?
Nrama: Sounds like a great idea for the future. But looking at the plans you have in place, how would you describe the plans you have for 2013 in Batman Beyond?
Beechen: I'd describe them as very exciting, at least to me! The book, and the story, just keeps growing, going new and interesting places. We've gotten to the point where the characters are, in large part, dictating the action, and I'm anxious to see what twists and turns they throw at us.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Adam, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batman Beyond?
Beechen: I'd tell new fans not to be daunted by coming in in the middle of a story. Thanks to our digital release, it's very easy to go back and catch up without spending a fortune. And I'd thank longtime fans for their incredibly vocal support. Telling a couple people to try the book, even if only one of them ultimately does, means everything. We value every reader. There's a lot of things people could spend their money on, and if they choose Batman Beyond, we want to give them the best experience we can.
I'd also like to say that, for those that don't know, we do a video commentary on every printed issue. It's sort of like a director's commentary track on a DVD, where I walk readers through an issue, spotlighting scenes, characters, moments, art, coloring or lettering to let the reader know what goes on behind the scenes, what we're thinking, how the book comes together. Readers can even send in questions that I try to answer, either on the videocast, or in a return e-mail. When I started out reading comics, I wanted nothing more than to sit down with the people who made them to find out how they did it. Now we've got the technology to do that, in our own way. Hopefully, it makes the experience of reading our book a little more personal and accessible. We're trying to be the friendliest comic we can be!
Fans interested in checking out the video commentaries can go to YouTube and search for the Wayne Incorporated channel. Fans wanting to ask questions -- about anything -- the characters, working in comics, whatever -- can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. And I talk about Batman Beyond frequently in my Twitter feed, which is @sonnova. I hope folks will drop by and share in as much of the Batman Beyond experience as they'd like.