Bruce is Dying and the Robins Return in BATMAN BEYOND

 

In the world of the digital series Batman Beyond, anything can happen — including the death of Bruce Wayne.

In the current Batman Beyond storyline by writer Adam Beechen and artist Norm Breyfogle, Bruce Wayne is dying. And a couple former, aged Robins have joined with Terry McGinnis to save the world from a new iteration of the Joker.

Batman Beyond takes place in the future of the 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.

The current storyline, "10,000 Clowns," is one of the most ambitious and involved arcs attempted so far in the digital-to-print stories being released by DC online. But the end of the story — the final online chapter of "10,000 Clowns" — will be released this weekend, and it promises to shake up the world of Batman Beyond.

 

The series is one of three digital-first "Beyond" comics: Justice League Beyond, Superman Beyond and Batman Beyond. The three series rotate new 10-page digital chapters each week on the various DC digital channels, and then are released each month in the Batman Beyond Unlimited collection for print.

Newsarama talked to Beechen about Batman Beyond, how the Bruce Wayne of the future differs from current day, and why the former Robins have turned out the way they are.

Newsarama: Adam, while the "regular" DCU is knee-deep in Joker stories, you've got a related story going on in the future. Can you explain what the premise of this storyline, "10,000 Clowns," has been about in Batman Beyond?

Adam Beechen: Our story has followed the Terry McGinnis Batman through his greatest crisis, as a demented follower of the original Joker has organized the individual worldwide street gangs of Jokerz, collections of relatively harmless mischief-makers who do their thing as a way to "honor" the first Clown Prince, into a hypnotized army bent on blowing themselves up all over Gotham in the Joker's name. And Terry, for all his skills and all his allies, can't be everywhere at once to keep innocent people from dying.

At the same time, the price of Bruce Wayne's life of crimefighting has finally come due. After all the punches, kicks, bullets, lasers and painkillers he's taken over the years, he's dying of liver failure, a foe he can't knock out. So in addition to the very real physical threat of the Jokerz and the Joker King, Terry is also dealing with loss, failure, and the questions of what he envisions for himself down the road. Does he want a life where there are more nights like this one, in which the city burns around him and there's nothing he can do about it? Does he want a future where he could wind up like Bruce? It's big stuff, character-defining stuff that hopefully is hitting readers on a lot of levels.

Nrama: You've had the chance to write the future version of a lot of Bat-family characters during this storyline, as Bruce seems to be slowly putting them back together with Terry. What do you think is the strength of the Bat-family, and how does Terry fit into that?

Beechen: I think the strength of the Bat-family is the trust they know they can have in one another. Bruce was able, for a long time, and then for long stretches of time, to operate completely alone. It was his personality to do so, and when he trusted anyone with any of his secrets, it was always very reluctantly, and it took a long time for that trust to become complete. Now, I think he's in a position of looking back and wondering what things might have been like if he'd done them a little differently. If he'd trusted more, put more people around him, could he have fought crime more efficiently? More importantly, would he have felt less alone?

 

As for Terry, he's not like Bruce. They're similar in some important ways, but not the same. Terry's loss came later in life, and he was fortunate to still have one living parent. He's not as filled with anger as Bruce. Nor is he as single-minded. He likes being Batman, he likes helping people, he's aware of the good that he does, and he's also aware of the responsibility. Protecting a city by yourself — as an 18-year-old, that's big. Does he want that responsibility for the rest of his days? Does it make more sense to find others with the same sense of commitment and desire to help and share some of that responsibility?

Terry, as Terry, has a strong family around him. To me, it makes sense that, as Batman, he'd want the same thing.

Nrama: What were some of your favorite moments between these characters as they met up again in the future, and what was it like bringing it all together?

Beechen: The best moments are the ones between Bruce and the rest of the cast. The challenge is to play Bruce as gruff and seemingly remote as ever, while still conveying the sense that he's reaching out, in his own way.

It's also fun to show the effects these people have felt over the years from their interaction with Bruce/Batman. Some are very, very bitter. Dick Grayson, for example, has become so bitter that he's turned out more like Bruce Wayne than he'd ever want to admit. Tim Drake has tried to forget everything in his life that had to do with Batman, just shove it away somewhere dark and private behind a locked door, only to find that, because of his values, which were nurtured and strengthened by Bruce, he can't simply turn away from helping people the way he was trained. The scene where he returns to the Batcave is a favorite, as is the scene where Terry finds out Bruce is dying.

Nrama: I know Batman Beyond is about to hit the ending of "10,000 Clowns." How would you describe the effect this ending will have on the Batman Beyond universe?

Beechen: The effect will be huge, I hope. Because while the physical threat of the Joker King and the Jokerz will have been dealt with, the questions the experience will have raised won't have been. Many of the characters will have new things to think about as a result of "10,000 Clowns," and I hope those will resonate in the book for a long time.

Nrama: You've written both "current day" Bruce Wayne and now this future Bruce Wayne. Last time we talked about Batman Beyond, you indicated that your favorite character to write now in the Beyond Universe has been future Bruce Wayne. How does he compare to current Bruce? How has he evolved?

Beechen: Future Bruce has his whole life to look back upon. And because he's a perfectionist, he sees the mistakes he's made most of all. For many years before he met Terry, all he could do was live with those mistakes, and it drove him into seclusion. Now, with Terry continuing the mission of Bruce's life, Bruce can try to set some of his mistakes right. And the personal ones are the hardest for him, because he's not very good at dealing with people. Or emotions. Bruce changing his approach to interpersonal relations at his age is like trying to turn an aircraft carrier. It's going to take a while, and there might be icebergs and sandbars in the way.

Nrama: As we come to the end of "10,000 Clowns," what will it mean for the Terry and Dana's relationship?

Beechen: Big, important changes, which you'll see in the epilogue to "10,000 Clowns," a spotlight on Dana.

Nrama: Let's talk about the art on this comic. Are you still working with Norm for the foreseeable future on Batman Beyond? What has he brought to the stories?

Beechen: Right now, Norm and I are hard at work on the next major storyline, "Undercloud," which brings Max Gibson back to the stage.

 

Norm is a pro's pro. He's incorporated the look of the animated series into the art on this book without losing any of his individual style and all the incredible energy that brings. His art is amazingly fluid. He's a genius at directing the reader's eye and leading you to the moment of greatest impact and drama. Working with him is like taking a master class each month. I've learned so much. And it's a pleasure. Norm is easy to work with, we get along great, and he goes the extra mile every single time.

The same is true for the rest of our team, colorist Andrew Elder and letterer Saida Temofonte, who are also working on the new storyline with us. We've all worked pretty closely together, and I think that cohesion shows in the stories we've been telling.

Nrama: Where does Batman Beyond go next? Where is Terry going after "10,000 Clowns" ends?

Beechen: To bed.

Nrama: Good point!

Beechen: He's got to be exhausted!

No, seriously, it's time for Terry to really look into where Max Gibson has been all this time. And the answer will not only bring another major threat to Gotham, it'll introduce some favorite DC characters into the Beyond continuity for the first time, as well as connect to a landmark DC storyline from years ago.

Nrama: Sounds intriguing. Then to finish up, Adam, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batman Beyond?

Beechen: Just that I think the fun we're having putting the book together shows up on each page, so hopefully it's as much fun for the readers already with us. So we encourage you to join the party if you're not already along for the ride. Not only do characters punch and kick and things go boom, we're getting deep inside the heads of our heroes and villains to really try and understand what makes them tick. We hope it makes for a more full comics-reading experience.

 

Also, doing a comic that sometimes (because of the digital/print release relationship) comes out monthly in 10-page increments can make it hard to come into a book in the middle of a story. We get that. Luckily, we can be accessible in other ways, and we try to take full advantage of that. Every chapter of our book is available digitally at readdcentertainment.com and elsewhere, fairly inexpensively, so it's easy to catch up.

And every month, I do a short video commentary on the most recent chapters, taking readers "behind the scenes" and walking them through the pages to give them an idea of what we're thinking as we put the book together. Sometimes, it's straight-up about the action on the page, sometimes I'll digress into thoughts about the concept of Batman, sometimes we'll throw in bonus features like a look at Norm's pencils or character designs. It's all part of trying to make the experience of the book worth even more than what readers pay for it online or in the shops, if there's a way we can do it. The commentaries can be found online on the "Wayne Incorporated" channel of You Tube. And readers can send me questions or comments directly at batmanbeyondcommentary@gmail.com. I try to answer every email personally, and occasionally answer some in the video commentaries themselves.

We're trying very hard to be a fan's book. Not just the hardcore, years-in-service fan, but also the more casual, "I want to see what Batman Beyond is like and have an enjoyable couple of minutes reading a comic" fan. Hopefully, we're accomplishing that!

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