Like headstones in a cemetery, the streets of Gotham City are a logbook of past tragedy and loss. History won’t stay buried in Gotham, and that makes the far-future especially tantalizing to storytellers like Kyle Higgins.
Higgins, best known for his work on Nightwing, visits that future in Batman Beyond 2.0 (now on sale), the digital series that revisits the mythology of Batman Beyond, which aired for 52 episodes (1999-2001) on The WB and presented a future where young Terry McGinnis wears the mask and the aging Bruce Wayne is (like Gotham herself) the stone-faced monument that never forgets the painful past. We caught up with Higgins by email:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Batman Beyond began on TV as an animated series, but it has since put down roots in the comics world through the sheer ingenuity of its ideas. What’s your sense of the place it holds now, and does it still need to “win over” DC readers?
KYLE HIGGINS: That’s a great question. First, as it relates to Batman Beyond 2.0, we’re actually continuing Terry’s adventures from the animated series. So all the continuity of the cartoon stands, and I’m doing my best to make the book feel like it’s nothing less than a lost season of the show. We’re not connected to the New 52 in any way.
I say that, because it’s a question I’ve gotten a lot since we announced the book. To me, that speaks of the passion that fans have for Terry McGinnis and his Gotham City. I may be wrong, but I feel like a lot of DC readers presume — and embrace — that Bruce’s story will one day lead to some a version of Batman Beyond. A couple months ago, Scott (Snyder) had a scene in the Wayne Enterprises trash compactor that featured Bruce putting on a “scrapped prototype” suit in order to escape. It was jet black, and had a big red bat on the chest. From what Scott and Greg (Capullo) said, fans really dug it. As a fan myself, that made me quite happy to hear.
The Batman Beyond series is built on such a fantastic concept, world, and group of characters that the whole thing feels like it’s been a part of the Bat mythos — and comics — from the beginning. In my opinion, that doesn’t happen too often. The other big ones I can think of are Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze’s origin, and the Anton Furst-designed Gotham City. So, Beyond isn’t in too bad of company.
Your work on Nightwing has really evoked a distinctive voice for the character and a sense of purpose outside Gotham and “beyond Batman,” to use a topical phrase. How different are Nightwing and Terry? And what are some things that bond them?
The biggest differences probably stem from circumstances more than anything — especially in the Animated Series continuity. Bruce brought Dick Grayson into the Batman world at a pretty young age, after an unspeakable tragedy. Because of Dick’s age, as well as the fact that Bruce was in his prime, Dick was a “sidekick” for quite a long time. Compare that to Terry, who also came to Bruce after an unspeakable tragedy, but who was a bit older and who took over the mantle of Batman from the start.
That said, both men have been through very similar situations. I think they have a lot in common, especially on the personality side. They both crack jokes, they’re both pretty hard on themselves, and they’re both looking to build an identity of their own. That last part is what makes writing old Dick Grayson so much fun. While Bruce can impart crime-fighting experience to Terry, Dick can impart “working with Bruce” experience. More specifically, “working in Bruce’s shadow.”
The relationship between Dick and Terry is something I’m definitely interested in exploring more.
I’d love to see a Batman Beyond movie. I think it could be a great solution to the “how do we follow The Dark Knight/Nolan.” Challenge Warner Bros. with a Minority Report or Tron Legacy version of Gotham and Michael Douglas or even Clint Eastwood as Bruce Wayne. Is that crazy talk?
OH MY GOD YES. I’ve actually been thinking about that since The Dark Knight! In fact, I toyed around with cutting a sizzle reel/fake trailer for such a thing using footage from Tron, Minority Report, 1989 Batman, and The Company.
I know they’d never do this, since it connects too heavily to the “old” films, but Michael Keaton as Old Man Wayne would be incredible. Check out pictures from the new Robocop — he could totally pull it off. For Terry McGinnis, that’s a bit trickier. I’m honestly not sure. Maybe Anton Yelchin? I would have said Andrew Garfield before Amazing Spider-Man.
On the directing side, can I say me? [Laughs.] Okay, if not me then Rian Johnson. But only if he lets me shoot second unit.
Seriously though, a Batman Beyond movie would would be amazing.
Do the animation roots change the way you approach storytelling either in craft or philosophy?
They do, actually, in two ways. First, every line I write goes on the page with Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Stockard Channing, Loren Lester, etc. in mind. Their character voices are so clear in my head, I don’t think I could stop doing it if I wanted to.
The other change also deals with dialogue. For Batman Beyond, I’m not writing any voice-over. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, as it’s much closer to my natural writing style, and since the book is a continuation of the show, it makes sense to do everything through dialogue.
Are there some new characters that you can talk about even in broad strokes?
We’re launching the series with a new villain named Rewire, designed by Sean Murphy. He’s an electricity villain, and someone whose story should work quite nicely with the new direction. We’ve also got the return of some old characters, all of which should be pretty fun to explore in the Beyond-verse!