This week's Batman Beyond #18, by Dan Jurgens and Phil Hester, introduced what many regular readers of the monthly comic book have been expecting: Matthew McGinnis is his brother's new Robin.
The cover of Batman Beyond #18 already teased what lies inside the issue, as it featured Matt breaking the glass encasing Damian Wayne's old Robin costume.
That scene actually happened in the issue, and surprisingly, Bruce Wayne was OK with the development, allowing Matt to wear the Robin costume for the first time. By the end of the issue, Matt had left the Batcave to help his brother in the fight against the villain Payback.
Matt McGinnis was introduced in the Batman Beyond television series as Terry's younger brother, but in the comic book by the same name, the character has aged to a teenager. Matt recently moved into Bruce Wayne's home with his brother in the title, giving him access to the Batcave and other Robin-training materials.
The story in recent months has emphasized that Matt wants to wear the Robin mantle so he can help Terry in his adventures as the Batman of the future.
Newsarama talked to Jurgens about the development and why he thinks it's a natural progression for Batman Beyond to add Matt McGinnis as the new "Robin Beyond."
Newsarama: Dan, the moment that most Batman Beyond fans have been anticipating happens in this week's issue — Matt dons the Robin suit. It's quite the moment, and it feels like it's been a long time coming! Of course, that's probably on purpose, as you prepared fans for this change. Have you been anticipating this as much as fans?
Dan Jurgens: I have probably anticipated this every bit as much as fans because I’ve been laying the groundwork for this for almost two years now.
It’s been something of a slow build as it had to be a logical progression for Matt.
Nrama: Take us back to the idea of Matt wanting to become Robin. It sounds like this has been on your mind awhile?
Jurgens: I actually first had the thought some time ago, back when Tim Drake was functioning as Batman.
Once we brought Terry back in the book as part of the "Rebirth" effort, it became a natural way to go.
Nrama: What was the thinking it?
Jurgens: There were a few things that made this a fun development.
First of all, there really aren’t that many siblings that function as superhero partners. The idea of Batman having a kid brother as a Robin felt fresh — certainly different than Bruce taking a young person off the street and giving them a costume.
Secondly, it forces Terry McGinnis to be somewhat protective as Batman. That’s a bit counter to being a hero, right? Most heroes are supposed charge into battle in selfless fashion.
Suddenly, we have Terry who, as legal guardian of his brother, is bound to be protective of him.
Nrama: Do you think this development makes sense with the history of Batman Beyond that people are familiar with from the TV show?
Jurgens: If they accept the idea that Terry and Matt have both aged a few years, I think it’s perfectly consistent with what the show established.
Nrama: The story right now in this series features a villain who's seeking revenge, and it's linked very strongly to a young person. Was the choice of that villain's story on purpose, as you involved a young person like Matt as a hero?\
Jurgens: I was absolutely going for a sense of duality here.
Our villain, Payback, was established by the show to be a young boy masquerading as an adult. We then play with the question of his fate a few years down the road.
What happened to him? Given his crimes, what might his penalty have been?
I think it bonds well with the arcs of Matt and Terry McGinnis.
Nrama: Bruce has lived through a lot of Robins over the years. What's he feeling as Matt dons the Robin suit, and how will his perspective influence what comes next in the story?
Jurgens: I think Bruce and Terry would have very different reactions to this.
For Bruce, it’s a bit familiar. Certainly, the idea of guiding a young man into the “family business” is something he’s done before. For him, it’s all about proper training and mentoring.
For Terry, it’s different. He hasn’t really done that. It’s an alien concept.
After all, even though he made the decision to be Batman, he was older than Matt when he did so. Plus, as older brother, he will always see Matt as somewhat younger than he really is.
Nrama: It's been made clear that Terry is not going to be a fan of this development. How does that play out over the next few issues?
Jurgens: Let’s just say it won’t be the instant “Dynamic Duo” that people might expect. There are bound to be growing pains here.
Nrama: Each of the Robins has their individual strengths. What do you think are Matt's strengths?
Jurgens: Unbridled enthusiasm.
One of the fun things about Robins in general is that they aren’t getting caught up in adult drama. As Terry’s life gets more complicated, Matt becomes something of what Terry used to be.
Nrama: What else is coming up in the next few issues of Batman Beyond?
Jurgens: We bring the Payback arc to a close with issue #19 and then move on to a new story and villain. We’ll continue to build the drama on that front while also playing with the new dynamic of a future Batman and Robin.
Nrama: It'll be fun to see Matt develop — and the team develop as well. Anything else you want to tell fans?
Jurgens: I’d like to think people will have as much fun reading as I’ve had writing.
The nice thing about Batman Beyond as a series is that it has plenty of familiar elements, while also featuring its own identity as a book that exists in its own world. Playing in the world of a future Batman is a great place to be as we combine new and different concepts with those that previously existed.