When the Batman Beyond TV series launched back in 1999, one of the biggest thrills for viewers was trying to figure out the mystery of, well... what happened to make things this way in the future?
As Kyle Higgins takes over the Batman Beyond comic book series, he's hoping to add that type of mystery back into the story. So the first thing he's doing is moving the story into the future a year.
In Higgins' first issue of Batman Beyond, several things have drastically changed. Terry and Dana aren't together. And Bruce and Terry? Well, something big has happened there as well.
It kicks off in August's digital-first issue of Batman Beyond, as Higgins and artist Thony Silas take over after the departure of long-time series team Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle (see our interview with the departing scribe here).
Based on the animated series of the same name, Batman Beyond takes place in the future of the DCU, when a young hero named Terry McGinnis takes on the Batman identity under the mentorship of an aged Bruce Wayne. Since the digital comic version of Batman Beyond was launched last year, there have been several spin-offs, and they're all collected in a monthly print comic called Batman Beyond Unlimited.
The digital comic isn't the only Batman-related job right now for Higgins. He's currently the writer on the DC title Nightwing, having guided the book since it relaunched in 2011.
In the first part of our interview (check back soon for our Nightwing discussion), Newsarama talked to Higgins about what he's hoping to do for Batman Beyond.
Newsarama: Kyle, are you a big Batman Beyond fan?
Kyle Higgins: Yeah. I actually watched the premier back in 1999. I remember watching the pilot with my dad. I'd been a big fan of the [Batman] animated series before that, and then when the pilot for Beyond came out, obviously there were a lot of questions that were raised. What happened to Bruce, what happened to Gordon, what happened to Joker, and what happened to the world of Batman that I had come to know and love in the animated series? So I was hooked from the first couple minutes.
Nrama: How did this opportunity come about to write this series? Did someone know you were a fan?
Higgins: Yeah, it came from Alex Antone, who's the editor on the Beyond series, both Justice League Beyond and Batman Beyond. He and I had talked at some point about characters we both liked, and I had told him that the animated universe was something I was very fond of. And a lot of my take on different characters in the DC Universe actually comes from their animated counterparts. And I told him that Batman Beyond in particular was something I loved. Return of the Joker might be my favorite Batman film that they've ever made.
So just in the course of conversation, Alex got a sense that I was a fan of the character.
So months later, he reached out and said that there were going to be some changes coming on the book. And he had been reading my Nightwing and thought I'd be a good fit for it. And would I be interested? And I said, "Of course!"
I had been really digging what Adam Beechen had been writing. The 10,000 Clowns arc in particular was something I was a really big fan of. I thought it was such a great new take on the Joker, and a continuation of the Joker's Clown Gang idea that had been developed in the animated series.
And so I was pretty up-to-date on what was going on with the book. So that was the genesis of it.
I worked up a pitch on what I would do. And that part took me a little while, because I wanted to do something different. I wanted to try to do something that was kind of a shocking first issue.
Nrama: Let's talk about that first issue. Batman Beyond has been immersed in this 10,000 Clowns storyline for awhile, and we've had a certain direction from former writer Adam Beechen. What are your plans for the title as you take over in August?
Higgins: First, let me say, I'm a big fan of Adam, and I'm a big fan of everything he's done on the book. He's been the torchbearer for the last three years for the Beyond Universe. He brought the Beyond Universe to comics. And without him, I don't know that we'd have the continuing stories of Terry and Bruce and the introduction of Dick Grayson in the Beyond Universe. So I'm not looking to change anything.
That said, I did want to really do something in the first issue that would grab readers. I'm not changing what has come before, but what I'm doing is bringing a little bit of a mystery back into the series, as far as what happened in the past.
In order to do that, I'm actually advancing time by a year. So Terry is in college when our first issue hits. And he and Dana are no longer together. And the dynamics between him and other characters are different.
There's a question as to what happened during the time between the end of Adam's run and the start of mine. And those are questions that are going to create the atmosphere for the book going forward, much in the way the animated series induced questions of what happened between Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond to create the atmosphere for the show.
Nrama: So this mystery is part of your goal for the comic overall?
Higgins: Yes, but I have a specific trajectory that I can't actually talk about too much because I don't want to give away the story. The first issue will make it more clear what we're doing.
There is a plan, and the first arc is already written. I'm writing the second arc now, and we already have plans for a third and fourth arc.
It's all big, world-building stuff.
Nrama: Can we expect your writing style to be like what we see in Nightwing, or are you changing it up a bit for Batman Beyond?
Higgins: It's a little bit different from the way I write Nightwing. It's a little bit closer to what I consider my natural writing style. What I mean by that is, there's no voiceover. It's all dialogue. It's closer to the show in that model.
Nrama: You're working with Thony Silas. What's his background?
Higgins: He's an artist out of Brazil who's been working on Venom for Marvel. So that's where I knew his stuff from.
He's got a really nice, dynamic, clean style that fits really well with the book and with the universe that's based on the animated show.
He's been a blast to work with. He's super fast as well. So he's more than halfway done with the first arc, and we still have another month before it comes out. So that's really exciting. We've been able to get a few issues in the can, and that's an opportunity that I haven't had before in comics. You're usually chasing deadlines, so it feels good on this project that we're all fortunate enough to have enough head start to really plan things out and make sure we're meticulous. And it gives Thony enough time to get a bunch under his belt, and it helps everyone down the line, from coloring to lettering to production.
And then Andy Elder is staying on to color our new run. He was the colorist for, I think, all of Adam's digital run. And he's fantastic. We're changing up the palette a little bit. It looks closer to, like, The Return of the Joker.
But the pages I've seen so far have been a real joy.
Nrama: Does this tie into, at all, the Batgirl Beyond story we're going to see soon?
Higgins: I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that there will certainly be opportunities to incorporate the new Batgirl down the line.
And then there is Justice League Beyond that Chris Gage is writing. And we're coordinating with each other.
That's a lot of the fun, actually, for me, is working with other guys on a shared universe. Of course, I've been working within a shared universe in the DCU, but the Beyond Universe is a shared universe that's small, in terms of how many people are involved in it. It makes me think of how Bendis and Millar started the Ultimate line. It must have been similar in that there were two guys spearheading the entire universe and tying into each other's books when it makes sense. It creates a really nice reading experience when you have the opportunity to do that.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batman Beyond?
Higgins: It's something that I'm incredibly proud of. It's a story and a run that involves characters I really love, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write it. I really hope people check it out. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I wish it were out already.