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Vision of the Future of Gotham with Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang on “Batman Beyond”


Batman Beyond #1 CoverIn 1999, Warner Bros. Animation blasted off into the future of Gotham City with Batman Beyond, turning Bruce Wayne into a bitter old man who takes in young Terry McGinnis as his protege in crime-fighting, with Terry donning a powered super-suit to become the new Batman. The series was extremely popular during its three-season run, and its reputation has not dimmed in the years since. DC Comics continued the adventures of Terry McGinnis in several different Batman Beyond comic book series, but the DC’s Future’s End and Convergence limited series events have brought the Batman Beyond universe into the main DC Universe fold.

Tapped to bring these two different worlds together are writer Dan Jurgens and artist Bernard Chang. Dan Jurgens began his comics career in the 1980’s, coming to prominence as a writer and penciller for The Adventures of Superman comics in the 1990’s and creating Superman villain Doomsday and the hero Booster Gold. Other prominent runs include on Marvel’s The Spectacular Spider-Man and Captain America; Image/Top Cow’s Tomb Raider; and DC’s Titans/Legion of Super-Heroes: Universe Ablaze, Tangent: Superman’s Reign, and the 2011 relaunch of Justice League International. Most recently, he was co-writer with Keith Giffen, Jeff Lemire, and Brian Azzarello on The New 52: Future’s End.

Bernard Chang’s comics career began in the early 1990’s, as he penciled comics for Valiant under the tutelage of Bob Layton. Within his first year of pro comics work, Mr. Chang was voted onto Wizard magazine’s “Top Ten Artists List” for his work on The Second Life of Doctor Mirage. From Valiant, he went on to numerous comics for DC and Marvel illustrating books including Wonder Woman, Superman, Supergirl, The New Mutants, X-Men, and Deadpool. Other notable work includes a contribution to the Prince of Persia: Before the Sandstorm graphic novel for Disney Press, and four years spent as a Walt Disney Imagineer working on “blue sky” designs for the next theme park rides and attractions, which ultimately included the Animation Pavillion in the California Adventure park and Millenium Village at Epcot Center.

Toonzone News got a chance to talk with Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang on the phone about the directions they want to take the new comic and what we can expect in upcoming issues.

Note that there are some minor spoilers in the interview for issue #1.

Batman Beyond #1 Page 1TOONZONE NEWS: My first question is about the cover, because it’s split between the Beyond characters on the right, and DC Future universe characters on the left, like OMAC and Kamandi and an Atomic Knight with his giant Dalmatian. Is that a hint? Is that a sneak peek of the characters we’ll be getting in the comic going forward?

DAN JURGENS: It is a very accurate representation of what we are trying to do with this book. We want to take Kamandi and Ben Boxer and OMAC and those other things, which has long has been acknowledged as the DC future timeline, and combine it with the Batman Beyond animated future to put it into one consistent timeline. We certainly dropped hints about that. We’ve already introduced a female character by the name of Nora Boxer into the series, who is both in the short 8-page story as well as issue #1, and that’s serves to take us towards Kamandi. She also mentions the Global Peace Agency, which ties us to OMAC. At the same time, there are obvious other elements to Batman Beyond that are becoming a part of this as well.

TOONZONE NEWS: Dan, you’re associated with one particular “DC Future” character. Is there any chance that we’re going to see Booster Gold showing up in this new comic?

DAN JURGENS: I will never say never to anything, but I will say that right now that we have so many characters and so many things going on that I really want to concentrate on Tim Drake, what that future world is, how he relates to it, and how that world relates to him.

TOONZONE NEWS: Bernard, I read an interview with you where you mentioned that your background is actually in architecture. Gotham is almost a character in itself in a lot of modern Batman media, so I was wondering if there was something in this comic where you really got to stretch those muscles or exploit that training to create the comic as we have it in our hands now?

BERNARD CHANG: Yes, I went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, so I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture, and stories like Batman Beyond are a lot of fun because I really get to flex my design muscles in designing new places. I also used to work as a Walt Disney Imagineer, designing rides for the theme parks. Sometimes I have to stop myself from designing and draw the actual pages. Environments are a whole character of their own in the story. I think that all too much today in comics, that gets glossed over. In Batman Beyond, readers will see that it plays an integral part of the storytelling process.

We’ve only tackled a few locations in the first few issues, and as the story progresses we’ve got a whole world to explore. Not all of it will be as decimated as New York, which you see in issue #1. I got to hang out with Dan a little bit a few months ago, and he was shooting a bunch of ideas at my head about particular artists and illustrators and designers to explore. We want to have a little bit of a mix in there, but part of the fun is making a world 35 years out in the future. Things can be fairly different, but should also be some representation of existing architecture. It’s like if you were to walk around a street today in New York or anywhere else, you’ll see very high-tech and futuristic modern architecture mixed in with stuff that’s been around for a couple hundred years or so.

Batman Beyond #1 Pages 2-3TOONZONE NEWS: You mentioned that you got to work together face to face, which doesn’t always happen in making comic books. What exactly happened there? Was that something that you deliberately arranged, or did the stars just align so you’d be in the same place at the same time?

DAN JURGENS: Well, I have wanted to work with Bernard for a long time, and first approached him on an entirely different sort of thing, maybe a year and a half or two years ago. That didn’t work out, but as we started to pull Batman Beyond together, I was asked, “Who do you want to get to draw this?” Bernard was really the first name that I had put on the table, because Bernard’s stuff is very, very stylized. He’s a great storyteller and he can really build a world This gets back to your earlier question and your discussion with him regarding architecture. We’re not just telling a story of characters, here. We’re building a world at the same time, and that makes Bernard perfect for this.

BERNARD CHANG: And we hung out at the DC Comics Conference. We had a couple brainstorming sessions together. All I did was just ask Dan a bunch of questions, and I think at some point he kind of got annoyed that I was asking too many questions (laughter). It’s also a continuing process. We haven’t just stopped. As we continue to work on the future issues, there’s a continuing dialogue. Comics is very much a team sport. You have to work together and it’s a team effort.

Also the colorist Marcello and I have been working together for 3 or 4 years now, going back to Demon Knights and most recently on Green Lantern Corps. He and I have also built up a good rapport in knowing what to expect from each other, and building and challenging each other at the same time. I know that his talent has continued to change and grow in each of the books that we’ve worked on, and in each issue, there’s stuff in there that just generates a lot of enthusiasm for me to push forward in the line art and the storytelling.

Batman Beyond #1 Page 4TOONZONE NEWS: You guys were interviewed a few times already about this series, and I read one where the very first reader comment was somebody declaring, “If it’s not Terry McGinnis, I’m not going to buy this comic.” Are you aware of those sentiments, and is there anything that you’d want to say to people who have that opinion?

DAN JURGENS: I don’t know if I saw that specific comment, but I’m certainly aware of that sentiment. And I totally get it. Batman Beyond was a popular show and Terry McGinnis was a very popular character. That having been said, I think Tim Drake is a great character in and of his own right, and what we’re doing is taking the opportunity to build a DC future timeline that includes the elements of both the Batman Beyond world and the DC timeline, and see that through the eyes of Tim Drake. That gives us context into the DC universe of today, so we’re not just building the future, but we are building the connections to the present at the same time. And we get to see it all through Tim’s eyes.

A lot of the elements in the Batman Beyond world are going to be in this book. We have seen that with Max Gibson and Terry’s younger brother Matt. We have seen that with Barbara Gordon, and there are a lot more to come. Part of what we’re doing is taking the best and strongest elements from different places and putting them all together. We really do have a good, strong story to tell.

BERNARD CHANG: Yeah. There are a lot of very passionate Batman Beyond fans out there, and I think the story that we’re crafting is one that they will enjoy. In one of the next issues, Matt kind of questions if Tim is the rightful heir to the Batman suit. Matt probably feels that he should be the one, if anyone else besides Terry should be wearing the suit. There’s a lot of great character explorations and dynamics going on, and I really do hope that some of the fans of Batman Beyond who were saying that they only accept Terry McGinnis as Batman 35 years from now give this book a read. I’m sure that they will be converted to the path that we’re walking down.

Batman Beyond #1 Page 5TOONZONE NEWS: I think that there are more fans of the show who don’t read the comics than there are fans of the comics who didn’t watch the show, but is the split between those audiences on your minds? Did you find that there was anything that was hard to choose between those two in some creative decision you guys were making?

DAN JURGENS: I think that its really hard to get into that concept of “are we keeping some aspect of readers or fans in mind,” and I say that on any project. Ultimately, a writer and an artist and an editor have to get together and tell the story that feels right to them, and in this case, the idea is to take Tim Drake and make him the really compelling character he once was. There was a long time when Tim Drake was an incredibly popular character for DC. The idea is to make him compelling again and make his life interesting, and to take the world around him and make that interesting so that the entire story becomes something that someone wants to read because they like that story and that book. That’s really our job. And I think that’s what were really trying to put together here.

BERNARD CHANG: I echo those sentiments as well. Visually, there’s always a respect to what has come before, but at the same time, as creators, we want to be able to pave a new path. There’s going to be some people who are going to be very locked into what they’re familiar with. That has happened before. But we also want to let them know that a lot of elements that they enjoyed are incorporated into this new series. We want them to also come along for the ride, which I think is going to be very exciting and a lot of fun.

Toonzone News would like to thank Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang for taking the time to talk with us, as well as DC Comics’ PR team and Marissa Cohnen at Bender/Helper Impact for arranging the interview. Batman Beyond #1 is available now from your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop or digitally via comiXology.com (which also has the 8-page preview for free). You can follow Dan Jurgens via his official website, and Bernard Chang via his official website and his Twitter feed.

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Last pup of a dying planet, a young German Shepherd is rocketed to Earth, where he is bombarded by cosmic gamma rays emitted by a radioactive spider. Crash-landing in the forgotten land of Hubba Hubba, he is discovered by the Who-You-Callin'-Ancient One and his lovely wife Pookie. Instilled with their traditional American values, he spends his young adulthood roaming the globe, learning all the secrets of Comic-Fu. Donning battle armor fashioned from spilled chemicals splashed by lightning, he becomes the Sensational Shield of Sequential Art ACE THE BATHOUND! Look, it sounds a lot better than the truth. Born in Brooklyn, moved to Queens at 3 and then New Jersey at 10. Throughout high school, college, grad school, and gainful employment, two things have remained constant: 1) I am a colossal nerd, and 2) I have spent far too much time reading comics, and then reading and writing about them. Currently working as a financial programmer in New York City, while continuing to discover all the wonderful little surprises (and expenses) of owning your a home in the suburbs. Shares the above with a beautiful, wonderful, and incredibly understanding wife named Frances (who, thankfully, participates in most of my silly hobbies) and a large furry dog named Brownie (who, sadly, does not). Comics, toys, Apple Macintosh computers, video games, and eBay