Since it launched in January, the new Batman Beyond ongoing series has been referencing elements of the DC Universe, bringing the stars of the former animated series into a future of the current DC Comics universe.
Adam Beechen, the writer behind the comic, has said all along that this is a "possible future" for today's DCU, but fans have been intrigued by the incorporation of current concepts into a futuristic Batman series.
The original Batman Beyond cartoon was a creation of DC animation gurus Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. It starred a young hero named Terry McGinnis, who was mentored by an aging Bruce Wayne to be a new Batman.
In 2010, former DC publisher and legendary writer Paul Levitz brought Terry into the DCU with a story in the Superman/Batman Annual, and Beechen continued with a six-issue mini-series. The stories proved popular enough that DC gave Batman Beyond its own ongoing series this year.
As the comic heads into a new storyline starting next month, Newsarama talked with Beechen about some of the concepts that have been introduced and found out there are a lot more references to the current Bat-universe to come.
Newsarama: Adam, you've been mixing elements of the current day DCU into your run on the new Batman Beyond ongoing. What's the thought behind the way you're using the animated characters, but within the DCU?
Adam Beechen: My feeling is that a number of years have passed between what's happening now in the DCU and the timeframe of Batman Beyond, so any number of developments may have happened in that gap that we as readers of the current DCU don't know about.
That gives me, as a writer, a lot of freedom as far as creating storylines and proposing what might have happened to certain characters in that time. Whether or not those storylines and character directions go on to become canon remains to be seen, but it's there if anyone wants it to be. Mostly, the gap is a license for us to really have fun with ideas and possibilities -- and come up with cool stories for Terry to dive into.
Nrama: This last issue mentioned things like Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. concept and the "Unternet" from the current Red Robin run. Will we continue to see those types of things in the Batman Beyond universe? And are you working through the Bat-office to pick up on what's happening in current continuity?
Beechen: Most definitely. We coordinate with Editor Mike Marts in the DC Editorial Batcave to make sure what we're doing doesn't directly contradict what's happening in the Batman books. We'd like to drop references to Bat-History (as Terry would consider it) into the book whenever possible and appropriate, as a way of acknowledging Bruce's prior career and as a way to give fans an extra layer of fun, so they can point to these little nuggets and say, "Ah-ha!"
Nrama: We've seen other stories showing Damian Wayne working with Terry. Is that just another "possible" future? A different Earth? Or is that taken into consideration in your run?
Beechen: Damian's a pretty tricky continuity element, as far as Batman Beyond is concerned. That's not to say he won't appear at some time, but if he does, it means that a lot of discussions have taken place on an editorial level about how to best do it (and I'm not saying those discussions might not have already happened). It would be a big deal.
Nrama: The last issue, Batman Beyond #4, highlighted the future rift between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne that exists in this comic. Is this going to be a continuing story element?
Beechen: Now that, as of the "Hush Beyond" mini-series, Dick has been introduced into our little continuity, he's definitely going to be a continuing presence. Maybe not in every issue, but I certainly consider him part of our supporting cast.
Nrama: The last issue also really focused on Maxine Gibson, who was a fan-favorite character from the animated series. Will we continue to see characters from the cartoon show up in this series?Beechen: Yes, absolutely. The animated series created some amazing characters, and we'd be foolish to ignore them. We have some big things planned for Max, Dana, etc. Issue #8 is another stand-alone issue that focuses on another character, not yet seen in our book, that readers have been wondering about since the mini-series kicked off last year.
Nrama: Batman Beyond #5 begins a new storyline called "Industrial Revolution." What can you tell us about the story?
Beechen: Aside from bringing back a key villain from the animated series, it's a step forward in something I really wanted to do with the new comic series. It's a chance to explore the world of Batman Beyond a little more past just the good guy-bad guy conflicts and make this seem like a real place, with a lot more going on. For instance, this storyline really highlights Wayne-Powers' place in Gotham and, to some degree, the larger world.
Going further than that, the animated series showed that the Gotham of this future was heavily divided on class lines. "Industrial Revolution" might hit on the corporate component of this world, but future storylines will hit on how the world functions sociologically, politically, and so on. We're going to build out on what the animated series gave us, and make this as full a world as we possibly can. All wrapped up in action-packed, high-stakes, good guy-bad guy slugfests, of course!
Nrama: Where did you get the idea for "Undercloud?" And is there anything you can tell us about the villain's role in upcoming stories?
Beechen: Undercloud comes out of all the paranoia about privacy in these times, the sense that with so much data just floating around "out there" somewhere, people might know a lot more about you and me than we'd like them to. That seemed like a pretty potent setup for an antagonist, especially in a world like Terry's, where technology has evolved beyond where it is now. And, may I say, there's a lot more to Undercloud than meets the eye, much more than we've seen in #4.Nrama: Will we see more development of the relationship between Dana and Terry?
Beechen: Yes. Very soon.
Nrama: Will we see more of the future Justice League you highlighted in previous issues?
Nrama: Now that he's a member, I don't see why not. And I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be just as many heroes (and villains) in Terry's time as there are in the current DCU, so there's probably a bunch we haven't even met yet!
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about the series?
Beechen: Just that penciler Ryan Benjamin, inker John Stanisci, colorist David Baron, our terrific letterers, cover artist Dustin Nguyen, and editor Chris Conroy and I, not to mention our occasional guest artists, are pouring our hearts and souls into this book, and we could not be more appreciative of the positive response we've enjoyed thus far! We want to keep the book accessible to new readers while not slowing our stories down, and we want to keep it fun and unpredictable for everyone. If you're not reading it, we hope you'll check it out, and if you are reading it and liking it, we hope you'll tell your friends!