When Kyle Higgins started writing DC's digital-first Batman Beyond 2.0 comic last year, his first issue surprised fans by jumping a year later, where many mysterious changes had taken place.
Ever since then, readers have wondered about what happened during that missing year, when Terry McGinnis and Bruce Wayne stopped working together? What brought about all the changes?
Now the series is jumping back to that missing year, as Batman Beyond 2.0 also just started coming out every week. With the change to a weekly schedule, Higgins is working with Alec Siegel — his co-writer on the Image series C.O.W.L..
And for fans of the animated universe, perhaps the most exciting news is that Phantasm is part of the current flashback story — titled "Mark of the Phantasm" — and with the first two digital issues in the flashback story (chapters #25 and #26), there were plenty of surprises and guest stars, including a shocking revelation about Jake Chill.
Based on the Batman Beyond animated series, the new 2.0 comic takes place in the future of the DC Animated Universe, when a young hero named Terry McGinnis takes on the Batman identity under the mentorship of an aged Bruce Wayne. After each chapter gets a digital release, it eventually is collected into a monthly print comic, Batman Beyond Universe.
(Of course, all this shouldn't be confused with the Batman Beyond character who's currently appearing in The New 52: Futures End, DC's weekly series set in a possible future of the regular DCU. That weekly is based on a character who, although very similar, is not part of the same continuity as Batman Beyond 2.0.)
Batman Beyond 2.0 just finished an alternate-world-hopping adventure that featured the Justice Lords. But Higgins says that the current, flashback story is the "big one" he's been "keeping under his hat." Newsarama talked to Higgins and Siegel to find out more, and got an exclusive preview of this week's all-new chapter.
Newsarama: Kyle and Alec, now that you're doing Batman Beyond weekly, has that changed your approach and will it play into the pacing and length of the storyline you're telling?
Kyle Higgins: It hasn’t changed the pacing or the structure of the story, but it has changed our style of working. As soon as Alex Antone [DC editor] gave us the word about the schedule, we knew we were going to have to work with a second artist in order to bank some issues.
Luckily, we were able to get [artists] Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur onboard, who have done an incredible job on our big Phantasm arc, but this also meant writing the next arc concurrently for Thony [Silas]. We’ve had experience working with multiple artists — out of order — on disparate parts of a storyline before, and it’s become more and more common in the industry due to double shipping and the like, but it requires quite a bit more planning. Especially with something like Batman Beyond, where I’ve been planting seeds for over a year and have quite a bit of my own continuity to track, in addition to lower page counts and faster pacing. But, it’s been a blast. And I’m super proud of the stories.
Nrama: Was it always the plan, when you jumped forward in time, to go back and tell that missing story?
Higgins: Oh, yeah. Definitely. In fact, this "Phantasm" story is the first thing I pitched when Alex brought me onboard. The chapter coming up next week — chapter #28 — is the big one that I’ve been keeping under my hat for a year and a half now. Only seven more days and I can finally talk about it. And trust me… it’s going to be a big talking point.
Nrama: A lot of fans are pleased to see the return of the Phantasm. What were your thoughts about bringing that character into this storyline for Batman Beyond 2.0?
Alec Siegel: You know, Andrea has a pretty interesting connection to the world of Batman Beyond. As we saw in one of the final Justice League episodes, "Epilogue," Andrea was hired by Amanda Waller to kill 10-year-old Terry’s parents, in the hopes of setting him on the path to becoming Batman. But, Andrea couldn’t do it. As much as she agreed with Waller that the world always needed a Batman, she couldn’t resort to killing in order to create him. So, with that in mind — plus the reveal from Adam Beechen’s run that the Vigilante actually worked for Mr. Fixx’s hit squad that killed Terry’s father — we had a pretty strong motivation for her to come back.
Higgins: Plus, with the flashback reveals we’re getting into during this arc… it felt right. Andrea was there for the start of Bruce’s career — in many ways, she was the last chance he had at a normal life, before he ultimately donned the cape and cowl. Now, she — assuming it’s actually Andrea — is here trying to save Terry’s life.
Nrama: Yeah, is this Andrea? I mean, the character's previous appearances in the animated universe call into question who's under that mask, since it's so far in the future and she was already getting up there in years. When will we find out more about the this version of the character?
Siegel: Chapter #29!
Nrama: At the end of last week's issue, we found out a surprise about Jake Chill. How does this fit within what we already know about the death of Terry's father in the Batman Beyond universe?
Higgins: Well, all the Jake Chill stuff is actually from Adam Beechen’s run. The idea that, as a member of Mr. Fixx’s secret Wayne Powers hit squad, Jake was the one who pulled the trigger on Warren McGinnis, is really the crux of our story.
Did Bruce know Jake Chill worked for Wayne Powers?
Siegel: I mean, he is a Chill descendent. It’s a pretty huge coincidence that he’d even be working at Wayne Powers without Bruce knowing. Has Bruce been keeping this from Terry this whole time? What other secrets has Bruce kept over the years?
Nrama: It sounds like this is a big part of the story then.
Higgins: Yeah, it’s big. It’s the catalyst for what happens between Bruce and Terry, and their breakup.
Siegel: At its core, this is a story about the people we choose to trust. The parents and mentors we put our faith in. And what happens when the things we think we know about those people may not be fully accurate.
Higgins: When you learn about who someone used to be, and the mistakes they made, you have to examine whether those mistakes were ones that sparked growth, or were just part of a track record that they've never learned from. By the end of this story, Terry is going to have some difficult choices to make.
Nrama: What else can you tell us about the storyline we're going to see over the coming months? Any characters you can tease, or situations you can hint about?
Higgins: "Mark of the Phantasm" is the closest thing to "Return of the Joker" that we’ll ever get to do. After that, we’re bringing in a familiar Beyond villain that I haven’t gotten to play with much yet, as well as exploring Terry and Melanie’s relationship.
Nrama: So then, are there plans in place to jump back forward to the timeline we just left (at the end of the Justice Lords story)?
Siegel: Yes, totally. And we have plans for that other Justice Lords’ timeline, too.