Friday, June 8, 2012


Before I broke into comics, animation was an equal love. And when Batman: The Animated Series debuted, I was in my senior year of high school. The designs, the moody darkness of Gotham and its characters, and the writing; all top notch. It was the beginning of my obsession with the show. And from there it grew into more animated series with Superman, a return to Batman, Batman Beyond, and the Justice League shows. This great long continuity that they were able to establish. It was something I wanted to be a part of.

So with portfolio in hand, I not only was trying to break into comics but also animation. I'd go with friends to the WonderCon conventions (at that time, held in Oakland) in order to sit in on portfolio reviews, most of them centered around Warner Brothers. I went to art school for a year in Los Angeles, taking life drawing, storyboarding, and animation clean-up classes. I was just bound and determined to get my foot in the door if I could. Driving around to every animation studio in the greater LA area to drop off my portfolio and get tested on some shows. But with all things creative, it was a tough go. And while I got to test on a few of them (the last one I'd test on would end up being Batman Beyond coincidentally), it never worked out. But comics came along and nabbed me. But I always thought, one a these days, it would be fun to revisit those shows I had loved. The way they told their stories was a huge influence on how I wanted to craft my own writing.

Fast forward to many years later. I'd get the chance to ink Dustin Nguyen at DC on two projects that would involve some of those writers/producers I had admired so greatly at WB. Alan Burnett wrote a run of Superman/Batman that started Dustin and I off on the paths we would take throughout Gotham at DC. And from there, we'd get a chance to work on stories written by Paul Dini on our run of Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham. But I couldn't help but have that itch to do more. To write in addition to inking.

Our editor knew this and gave us the chance. When the opportunity presented itself, Dustin and I were able to pitch in on a couple issues of Streets Of Gotham. Deadlines were catching up with all of us, and it was a matter of seeing if we'd be able to script off of Dini's outlines. It was one of the most fun but hectic few months we'd have. Probably a milestone in how much we managed to juggle. Not only was Dustin drawing (and I inking) the Streets Of Gotham issues, but we'd be scripting them, and finding the time to do the art for a larger sized Detective Comics issue written by Denny O'Neil (Dustin provided pencil breakdowns and I was doing ink finishes to try to alternate between the current look we'd been achieving and then a more animated throwback style to the flashback in the story). And against all odds, we managed to get everything in on time. Kudos to our editor, Mike Marts, for sticking in our corner and not having any doubts.

After that the talks continued. We wanted to write and do the art for a project all ourselves. Streets Of Gotham was wrapping up and Batman Beyond had already launched and was a success. They were looking towards continuing that. But the real trick was, how that might happen. There was talks of us taking over Batman Beyond, or making a Beyond Brave & The Bold style book. But eventually it resulted in us doing Justice League Beyond which is sort of the nice way of blending all of that. You have Batman on that team, but then get to flesh out the future Justice League from what was presented in the show, and eventually add to it. And so, that's what's happening right now. Justice League Beyond starts out as a digital release and then is collected into print with Batman Beyond Unlimited.

When we pitched Justice League Beyond, I was ambitious. I didn't want to just come up with one large story, I wanted to plan out a few years worth. Even if all of it couldn't happen, they could see the scope and how things are setup. We could always insert new ideas or rearrange things. But I wanted a plan going in so if things were successful, we wouldn't be scrambling. Especially on a series that as it would turn out (and we didn't know at the time) would evolve into a weekly release sort of comic. By the time the very first digital chapter came out, Dustin had already finished drawing the entire 120 page opening arc. And I was on the last issue of inks. This in addition to the Beyond: Origins that would be interspersed in the arc itself.

And that's where things stand. I'll be covering more about Justice League Beyond as we move along, especially since that and the Arkham stuff have been keeping me busy. Planted firmly in Gotham, present and future.


  1. I am absolutely loving your Beyond work, but there was something I was hoping you could clear up publicly, perhaps in a blog post separate from this one. There is some confusion surrounding the issue of continuity:

    Pre-New DCU reboot, when the initial Batman Beyond limited series launched it was said that the story took place in a future that was similar to the one portrayed in the Batman Beyond animated series (and DCAU), but grounded in DC comics history and continuity. Rather than a true continuation of the animated property that spawned it, it was the Beyond future of New Earth, essentially.

    Post-reboot, based on the Beyond Origins series and interviews with yourself, it appears that the Beyond line has shifted to be a direct continuation of the DC animated universe (Which is a personal favorite of mine as well). Could you clarify as to which future this line is supposed to represent?

    There are fans who are chomping at the bit for a true continuation of the DCAU, and many others, I'm sure, who were fascinated by the idea of the main DC line having a similar future. If it's the former I would personally be overjoyed.

  2. I think it comes down to taste and a blending of both depending on the writers involved.

    I believe Beechen is gearing his more towards a mixture of the show, but bringing in current elements from the comics that weren't in the show. Myself and Dustin, we tend to gear it more towards the show itself. That's not to say we won't be introducing new characters and elements to it. But our thought is that the show has it's own continuity separate from the comics, and we'd rather continue that continuity using the shows as our starting point.

    If people want more of a continuity or a justification that this is the one true future of the DCU (which I always feel any futures are just that...possible futures and not set in stone), then they'll be disappointed in Justice League Beyond. There's always the new52 for them to get their fix. But if they're looking for stories that continue out of the Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited shows...then we're your ticket!

    Thanks for your interest!

  3. One ticket, please! It's great to know that there are capable figures in the industry that hold a level of reverence for the DCAU work of Timm, Dini and in my opinion, the late Dwayne McDuffie. Among any number of other contributors who don't get their due.

    Although both camps of fans I mentioned above may have different overall goals, I think it can be said that they find some comfort in the idea of continuity bookends. One of the truly brilliant things about Batman Beyond and, later, Justice League Unlimited, was the interconnectivity. Knowing the end result in Beyond made all the allusions and direct references that built that future during JLU seem like constant love letters from the writers and producers involved. What's truly fascinating is that the idea of a set future didn't turn people off, because they were curious as to how they would get there. It's rare to see both the journey and the destination at play in a singular, cohesive fiction.

    As for the DC animated universe continuity itself, I believe one of the draws (beyond the quality and being one of the first large shared media universes) was the streamlined reality. As an example: instead of three - four notable Flash identities, there was a singular character who embodied traits of all of them. Nowhere is this truer than in Clayface, who has backstory and character elements from each of the four or five unique Clayface incarnations. It's a practice DC seems to be adopting today with the new 52; less clutter and more unity. The core difference being that the animated programs had the benefit of building that reality from the outset.

    It's as fascinating as a subject as it is as a series, so I'm thrilled to see those concepts continued!

  4. If there's anything I've wanted to do for the longest time, is to find a way to bring the storytelling mindset of animation into comics. The animated shows have figured out, they only have 20-22 minutes an episode to tell their story. To fit in all the action and character development they can in that half-hour slot, and tell their story, without the benefit of having another episode or season (even though most do). The idea is that you should be able to turn on the tv and get enough out of that one episode generally without having had seen the rest of the series. They did this best in Batman: TAS and Superman:TAS, and as they went along, it started to build its own continuity throughout the other shows. So you'd still have this long continuity set up, if you were following all along. But if you were a casual watcher, you could come in and still be entertained for one episode. And I love that. It rewards both audiences. That was something that I think comics used to do many decades before (with the mentality that "every issue can be someone's first issue"), but then things get congested and too tied into everything else that it becomes more of a chore for the reader to figure where this book fits into the greater scheme. As if they're assembling a cataloguing list to fit every comic into a perfect order. And they lose the greater picture of…was this story entertaining on its own.

    Of course the irony here, is this is a juggle with how Justice League Beyond is being presented for comics. It's definitely aimed at the nostalgic audience that grew up watching all the DCAU shows (or those young enough currently watching them on repeat for the first time on the Hub or elsewhere). So there is definitely some continuity in play, as we'll have certain call back aspects to those shows be sprinkled in and help tie into the new direction we're going in. But at the same time, you're hoping that the stories are well told that even if you hadn't watched those shows, you'd still have a basic understanding of the characters and get to know them and these newer adventures they're on. It's why we wanted to start out with a large storyline to start, with a lot of familiar characters, but also with the team as we knew it from the show. There will be time to add to the League once this arc wraps as well as a lot of shorter more concentrated stories. But I want people to get to know this core group before we expand.

    Now not everyone might like what has happened to characters in the past or how things are relating to the characters as we move forward. And that's fine. You can't please everyone. But I can say that we've planned things out and it's not just slapping these stories together. That things are building. That it's coming from a fan point of view and not from someone that's never watched the shows. And it should never take away from what the animated shows did. Fans will always have those to go back to if they're not interested in the comics. But we figure there are enough die-hards that want to see the stories continue, and that's what we'll be providing.

    It's pretty exciting. You watch the show as a fan and it's the ultimate sort of wish fulfillment of, "If I were to take over this show or this continuity, then what would I do with it? Where would I go with it?" And now…it's happening.

  5. Batman and Superman:TAS certainly set the standard for meaningful done-in-ones, but there are few animated programs I can name that have done a better job of balancing self-contained stories with an overarching plot than JLU (except perhaps Gargoyles and Spectacular Spider-Man). Taken as a whole the first 26 episodes of Unlimited are one vast storyline that comes together beautifully. Yet individually, each episode stands on it's own and tells it's own story. Spectacular Spider-Man was also impressive in that regard; taking it one step further by having each episode be it's own entity, every three episodes making up a related arc and ultimately finding that each of those arcs form a season-wide direction.

    It may not be a fair to compare it to any other individual episode, but Epilogue somehow manages to act as a wonderful standalone episode, a capoff to the first season of JLU, a spiritual TV series finale to Batman Beyond and a tip of the hat to the entire continuity. If only every story could be as impactful. Though admittedly it did have a tremendous level of build-up that most tales simply don't have the luxury of.

    The fan in me has to ask, as we're on the topic of continuity and nostalgia: do you have any plans to approach the oft fan-referenced "near apocalypse of '09"? Perhaps starting by reinterpreting the '09, or even the spelling of apocalypse. The difficulty being, with the exception of a few details, it's become almost an urban legend of sorts within the fandom. Each fan having their own interpretation of what it might be. I for one latched on to the most minor, obscure detail that has continued to stick with me. That being that the Neo-Gotham gang "The Ts" seem to resemble Mr. Terrific, perhaps signifying a betrayal in the past. Nostalgia can indeed be a powerful motivator.

  6. It was interesting that "Epilogue" was set up to not only end Justice League Unlimited, but the whole animated continuity up through Batman Beyond. To the point where the last scene of Terry flying through Gotham was a call back to how the very first Batman: TAS episode opened with Manbat doing the same fly through the city. But then the show got picked up for another season, and we got even more episodes to enjoy. Win win.

    As far as the "near apocalypse of '09", yes I've definitely thought about it and have jotted down notes and ideas. But at this point I'm hesitant to say when or if we'll get to it. The intention is, I'd love to. But there's quite a few stories in motion at the present before it might show up. But things change, stories shift around, so anything is possible.

    The wonderful thing about Beyond, is getting the chance to show flashbacks. I'm a huge proponent when it feels right, to use them. And getting the chance to show what happened with Bruce/Batman and Ra's is too tempting not to do!

  7. The Terry/Manbat homage being a fine example of the startling attention to detail in the series. I remember being somewhat taken aback when JLU was renewed; not because it didn't deserve to be, but rather due to the definitive nature of the first season and it's conclusion. The additional episodes were a welcome surprise, but I must admit I approached them with a degree of trepidation, having already felt closure of a sort with Epilogue. If anything the additional season was responsible for rekindling my interest, and opening the viewership up to the idea that there were more stories to tell!

    If I may, I've always viewed the Near Apocalypse of '09 as having the potential to bridge the gap between the end of the JLU era, and the beginning of the Beyond. There are questions that linger, such as why Wonder Woman wouldn't be present in the future JLU roster when, like Superman, she should be virtually ageless. From an industry perspective we know the reasons were based around issues with the rights, something that hampered the DCAU programs on more than one occasion. Within the fiction however I can envision nothing short of a tragedy on Themyscira keeping her away. In my mind's eye I see this so-called apocalypse-level event as something that would impact the entire JLU on multiple fronts.

    As fascinating, and at times downright shocking as the Ras episode of Batman Beyond was, I look back at the Mr. Freeze episode with an even greater fondness. One of many, many superb Freeze tales told throughout that continuity. It was both tragic and wonderful, and I believe one or the finest examples of using a classic villain in a very dignified, subtle manner. There were no nefarious schemes, nor did Freeze become a continuous threat to Terry. Contrary to that Return of the Joker worked terrifically, using the Joker's Machiavellian nature to the stories benefit. Schemes on top of schemes, a favorite narrative tool of mine.

    I recently read Scott Snyder's Batman Annual with Mr. Freeze, and without going into too much detail I find myself very torn between the brilliant writing and extraordinarily clever re-envisioning of Freeze's motivations and the more sympathetic version Batman: TAS established; which was eventually adopted by the comic canon. He found a way to make Freeze more applicable to the Gotham lunatic scene, which is an impressive feat. With that said, it is only fair given that he was a vastly different character before Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. One cannot keep these characters on ice (pun fully intended), especially when they've been retooled before.

  8. As far as the "Near Apocalypse" and other mainstay Justice League characters....all in due time. I imagine there definitely will be a chance to start explaining what happened to certain characters. And some might show up in our future stories anyways. But to reveal more would be spoiling. :)

    I agree that Mr.Freeze episode was great. They fought against trying to rely too heavily on past established villains or their offspring. So when the time came, Freeze did seem a natural to break that rule. And sort of a nice "man out of time" feel to him as well, as the world had moved on around him, as what would happen to any cryogenically frozen person that would awaken years later. Still tragic in the future as well as in the past.

    I haven't read the new annual with the updated Mr.Freeze, but have heard the broad strokes of it. And while some of it sounds interesting to what they could add to it, I have to admit that the way he's always been portrayed in the animated show (and adopted into the comics) was so darn perfect, that it doesn't need an update. But that's just me and that's why I'm not handling any new52 projects. heh

  9. I can relate. For the longest time the DC animated continuity has been my DC universe of choice. Though that's not to say there aren't things I enjoy about the mainstream canon as well. There are more than a few ongoings that came out of the New 52 that I would consider must-reads.

    With the Batman Annual I can see the quality of the writing, and a very well presented retcon as well. I've always said that I enjoy an intelligent use of retroactive continuity, even if it doesn't necessarily play to what I enjoy. It's a trait I'd like to see in more fans of fiction; the ability to distinguish between not enjoying something and that something, for lack of a more appropriate term, "sucking". I can't say I've ever viewed a project that had absolutely no redeemable qualities. In the case of this particular annual, there's far more to like than not, and in fact my only reservations come from the fact that Freeze to this point was pitch-perfect.

    I sometimes wonder if my preferences as a fan impact my enjoyment of newer material. Take the semi-recent Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths animated film for example. That was originally devised as a direct-to-video bridge between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. After wallowing in development limbo for years it was altered to bear no resemblance to the DCAU, and with the exception of James Woods' terrific Owlman interpretation, I kept seeing lines as they would have been delivered by Michael Rosenbaum, rather than as they were actually presented. That particular move still perplexes me, as it still could have been a solid standalone film while tied to the previous continuity.

    Young Justice remains terrific despite my Timm-centric preferences, much of that due to the phenomenal oversight of Greg Weisman. It has perhaps the coolest and most visually streamlined Robin design I have seen to date. Entirely subjective, of course, but absolutely one of my favorite visual designs in recent memory.

  10. The alternate universe storylines have been used a few times in the regular DCAU, so to have the semi-recent Crisis film almost seemed redundant. But the idea of course is that it's a big Justice League story they could release on it's own, if people hadn't seen sort of a version of it already used in the Justice League animated series anyways. And like you, it was just great to see James Woods play Owlman (great casting). Plus they had all those unique merged alternate character designs, which were fun to see.

    The thing that Young Justice has going for it, much like "The Brave & The Bold", is that you can tell it's being steered by some huge DC fans. Both series used their show platforms to introduce a multitude of DC characters that haven't had a chance to be shown before (or at least very often). And Young Justice has the ability to have these long storied seasons where each of the episodes grows and adds to the larger story they're trying to tell, even moreso this second season.

    Honestly...I'd love if the Beyond comics were popular enough for the DC animated people to consider revisiting the Beyond universe in an animated film. They've said in the past that they've thought of maybe doing another Batman Beyond movie, but nothing more has come of it. I think it would be the perfect vehicle, much like "Return Of The Joker" did, where you can have the story being told of the future Justice League, with flashbacks to Justice League Unlimited and maybe how things went bad. Plus it would be the perfect excuse to revisit the old Timm designs as well. One can dream.

  11. Sensible reasoning, but I suspect I'll continue to cringe whenever I see Wonder Woman steal that invisible jet! A scene that was meant to explain it's inclusion in JLU.

    James Woods' astounding Owlman aside, I believe I prefer the Justice Lords to the Crime Syndicate. There are some pretty distinct thematic differences between the two. The Crime Syndicate is essentially an Elseworlds tale where the Justice League and it's members are criminals from the outset. It's an interesting idea, but there isn't much room personal growth. We are meant to understand that they are evil counterparts and little more (at least initially). Whereas the Lords were the same characters we knew who gradually grew into an oppressive force. Their goal of protecting the world was as true as ever, they simply had far more extreme methods. It boils down to a matter of complexity for me, of which the Justice Lords seem to have more.

    The expansive character roster of Young Justice is, in my opinion, both it's greatest strength and greatest weakness. For where the characters they focus on get to shine, such as Red Tornado, those we only see in passing don't always ring as true as I would like. The excellent, excellent prison episode comes to mind. Here we have an inventive mission for the team, some fairly advanced themes at play, and some great (and obscure) DC characters. And then on the other side of the coin, the Riddler appears, bearing little or no resemblance to his character, cast with a Texan accent. It goes without saying that minor quibbles such as that can be overlooked given the shows quality in every other respect, but it's notable enough in my eyes to be discussed.

    I too would love it if your work reinvigorated the Beyond, and by extension, DCAU brand. However, I think I would be doing your Beyond work a disservice to call it a simple stopgap measure between the end and hypothetical beginning of two Timm animation eras. There are those who don't view the recent Joss Whedon and co work on Buffy season eight and onward as valid because of a change in medium, but that diminishes both their intense dedication and comics as a medium. I do hope, should the brand expand, that the work being done today is appreciated for not only keeping the source material alive, but staying true to it.

    As for another Batman Beyond movie, I may be mistaken, but I believe the basic plotline of Epilogue was originally planned to be the next film; with Selina Kyle in place of Amanda Waller. That doesn't rule out other potential ideas, of course. In my heart of hearts I'm still holding out hope for a live action Beyond film when Nolan's trilogy is complete. Perhaps with an elderly Clint Eastwood as Bruce Wayne.

  12. I agree with you on the Justice Lords. It doesn't just cast them into the villain role, but shows the League as being a few poor choices or bad steps removed from becoming them if they continue down the same path.

    I think it would be great if a new Batman Beyond/Justice League Beyond animated film came out, not just to see a return to those characters and style (from a fans point of view), but also to maybe loosen the animation division from just making adaptations for all their material as of late. Of course that said, I've been picking up every release so far, some greater than others but all watchable. But still would be nice if they got away from just mining their back catalogue of comic stories, and tried coming up with a whole new story from the ground up.

    Should be interesting to see where they go with the live action films following Nolan's trilogy.

  13. Agreed on all counts. I've enjoyed many of the releases, Batman: Year One in particular, but some more original material would be grand. The drawback of many of these releases is that they've felt, obviously so, like condensed comic storylines. You can feel the restrictions of the running time as you watch the films unfold. I can't say I've ever felt that way while watching a DCAU program or film. In fact, even with a substantial surplus of time Superman: Doomsday failed to live up to the standard set by the 20 minute JLU episode "Doomsday Sanction". In all fairness to that film, many of the story elements of the Death of Superman were utilized in other episodes throughout Superman's DCAU broadcast history, giving it more room to breath.

    The only reason I hold any hope whatsoever for a Batman Beyond film adaptation is that at one point, before Nolan's trilogy, it was considered as a potential way of resurrecting the film franchise. While it may seem unlikely given that their is no current Beyond cartoon on the air, I maintain that the fanbase holds the material in high enough regard that it could some day be chosen. While it is far more likely they'll want to do something related to the impending Justice League film, I do think Beyond would be a refreshing change of pace, however unlikely it may be.

    It's about time I shed my anonymous name, to avoid confusion with future such commenters!

  14. It'll be interesting to see how the animated Dark Knight Returns does, expanding that into two parts for release. I imagine if that works, maybe we'd see a Kingdom Come eventually.

    I'm thinking they'll keep making live action regular Batman movies for quite awhile, no matter who directs or acts in them. Maybe until they see a decline. And only then, someone in power would have to throw out the crazy idea of a young Batman...and boom, you'll have your Batman Beyond film. Now whether that resembles anything like the show, is the other question.

    Glad for the reveal, Logan. Always good talking to ya.

  15. Man, knowing that you guys could've taken over the main Batman Beyond book makes me sad. I'm liking JLB but I really would've liked it if you guys did Batman Beyond. I'm not a huge fan of the current series. If I had a say, you guys would be doing both books.

  16. JLB will always have a foundation with Batman Beyond, since that show helped introduce that future Justice League team. So think of this as the best of both worlds. You get to have Terry, Bruce, and a lot of the themes in the Beyond universe, but expanded both in and out of future Gotham.