Saturday, February 16, 2013


Having the Li'l Gotham stories center around holidays makes a Valentine's Day themed story something to look forward to. It could've been very easy to have Batman out on a date with Catwoman or Talia. Bruce has had many loves in his life we could've drawn from. Or gone in the direction of having Damian with unwanted attention on this holiday. But ultimately it was decided to let the villains run the show in this story. And a chance for me to revise and rework an old idea.

This goes back almost 15 years ago. Even though I wasn't working in comics at the time, I was pretty ambitious wanting to break in. And I would write down ideas and even script out stories, in-between working on art submissions. And one of those was very similar to this issue. It was called "Poison Envy" and revolved around the idea of Harley and Ivy out on a crime spree with Harley bungling things up, as she is bound to do at times. Ivy getting annoyed for the last time and deciding to get back at Harley the only way she knows how…through her Mistah J. Ivy would use her alluring toxins to entice Joker under her control, to become the new Bonnie & Clyde crime couple in town. This would infuriate Harley to the point that she was planning to blow up the Gotham Botanical Gardens with Ivy and Joker as collateral damage. All until Batman showed up to save the day, and Joker once free of Ivy's control, could crawl back to Harley.

I always liked that story but like most ideas, it would be filed away, probably never to see the light of day. Then almost 15 years later, Li'l Gotham comes along, and a matter of coming up with a range of stories to fill in every month on the calendar. I could dust off the original idea and expand it. Have Joker accidentally pour that love potion on himself, and then have all of Gotham's femme fatales after him.

I think so far, most of the stories that Dustin and I have been able to do in Li'l Gotham, seem to fall under two categories… Capers and Sentimental Message. Damian learning about Halloween, Thanksgiving with the family, and Mr.Freeze experiencing the holiday spirit, can all fall under the sentimental area. New Year's Revolution and this Valentine's Day, turn into capers with the characters running around and getting into trouble. As we move forward, and double up stories each month, the idea is to expand on that. We'll have some more heartfelt stories, some wacky adventures and humor, and even some 2-part stories (one part at the beginning of the month and the other part near the end, as they relate to one another).

Some additional thoughts for this story…
I love writing any Harley and Joker scenes. There's a reason the fans love these characters and also why I enjoy seeing Dustin draw them. He gets a range of fun expressions and body language. Seeing Harl get Joker in a loving choke embrace, and seeing her devil-may-care dive into the back seat with the car still moving, are just a few of my favorites from this issue. And having the Hyenas take the wheel in her absence…too fun!
It's no secret that Dustin and I are huge fans of Batman The Animated Series. And there are so many interesting characters that were born out of that show. Some have made the transition to comics while others haven't. But something like Li'l Gotham gives us a chance to bring some of them back. Baby Doll is one of those characters, who is just such an odd ball fit and yet I always liked that character in the show to have her here.
How we made the jump from Baby Doll being tossed into a baby cart with Joker into this "Lone Wolf & Cub" homage…no idea. But thought it would be a funny visual. You get a brief visit to Japan Town in this story, but we'll be going to Gotham's China Town in the next one.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


The "Beyond: Origin" to Micron probably involved the most work from the ground up, compared to any of the other origins. Unlike most of the other members on the Justice League, Micron really was a blank slate. There wasn't the familiarity that came with Barda, or the family name recognition that came with Aquagirl, or the back history with someone like Warhawk. Aside from his brief appearance in the show, there was not a lot to go on. So it was both a challenge and refreshing to be allowed to see where we could take the character. And continuing the idea of the parents of these heroes, Dustin and I thought it would be a way to champion all the single moms out there raising kids. That Dustin made her an EMT driver, makes her just as much a hero as her son.

Also this story was a chance to get a bit geeky. To have a little fun and tie-in all sorts of things that had gone on in the Batman Beyond show and timeline. The story ended up being as much about Bruce Wayne as it was about Micron. I thought it would be a good chance to attempt to explain the things leading up to Bruce losing his company as well as his mantle of the Batman.

Just some of the fun continuity nods from the show…
I wanted to show Bruce, even nearing the end of his career of Batman, would have been the first to encounter Derek Powers' bodyguard Mr. Fixx. A younger Fixx would actually lose his eye in this encounter, to help explain where that scar came from in his appearance in the show.

In the opening episode of Batman Beyond, the merger of Derek Powers' company with it's takeover of Wayne Enterprises, could now be explained. With Bruce's failing health, he would now be that much more determined to focus his life entirely on Batman. And the expense that would take to his bank account to keep his technology up to date would be the leading cause of him losing his company.

The scientist Nobu Otaka is a direct call back to the episode "Sneak Peak". Nobu was responsible for developing the Vibraspace technology that allowed the user to change their molecules to pass through solid objects. But also I'd expand that to allow for shape and dimension. This would help set up Micron's powers. Even though it would've been far easier to make Micron a sort of legacy decedent to "The Atom", I thought it would be more interesting to take a different path.
Eagle eyed readers might've been able to spot Terry's young father, Warren McGinnis, as one of the people to be rescued from the fire, by Micron's mother. He was still working for Wayne-Powers in their research division at this time.
It became a bit of a running joke between Dustin and I that Micron spent more time in containment tubes than out of them. And we'd always find a way to put him in one. He had that appearance in the show, then we used it in the "Konstriction" story, and now here. Well…it amused us at least. This is what happens when you toss ideas back and forth in the middle of the night over instant messaging.
I'm always looking for any excuse to showcase some of the more absurd villains from the comics and animated shows. The obstacle of writing a future based story, is a lot of those said villains might either be really old or dead. But I figured we could get away with it by using Toyman. Whether this is still the original version, an offspring, or a sentient toy himself…we'll just leave that open to interpretation.

Lastly let's talk about the art. Fiona Staples is getting all sorts of acclaim for her work on the hit "Saga". And even though this Micron story would be published after that title was already coming out, it was actually the Micron story that was drawn before Saga. Fiona was drawing Micron in November of 2011, before the first issue of Saga would come out in March of 2012. This is the magic of working for DC Digital, in which so much of our work is being done far in advance of when it's released, due to it being digital-first before eventually getting collected much later into print. So it was fun seeing how Fiona really exploded with the buzz around Saga, by the time our story came out. And she turned in a fine performance here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Still a little delayed updating my blog. Been a busy last couple of months. But I thank you for checking in as this was a favorite story to work on in a number of ways.

The "Beyond: Origin" for Big Barda, was a chance to continue my love for all things Jack Kirby. Unlike some of the other newer characters in the future Justice League, Barda is the one that should be the most familiar to readers, as she wasn't invented for the Beyond universe. So for her, it was more of a retelling of how she ended up joining the team. And really more of an opportunity to do something a little different with her and continue the theme of parents for these origin stories. To find out where our heroes came from in relation to their mothers and fathers.

I love a good tragic story. It's something I tend to gravitate to. The idea of two characters that grow up as friends, only for time and circumstance to pull them apart, and become bitter rivals and enemies. I thought that would be worth exploring for Barda's mother, Big Breeda, and her childhood friend who would ultimately become Granny Goodness. It's no shock to anyone that Apokolips isn't a happy place to grow up. The living conditions in the slums, the oppression, threats of war, and a constant state of death and gloom hang over the landscape of rock and fire. And those that do survive the process become stronger individuals. Barda is who she is because of how strong a mother she had.

I'm actually kind of surprised they allowed me to have Barda's birth on the battlefield. There might be some Conan The Barbarian similarities there, but I thought it would be just an insane brutal visual of a mother-to-be, bred to fight, that would continue doing so, right up to the delivery itself. Some things during a story's development get questioned, debated, and changed. But this one, they didn't even touch, and I'm happy for that allowance.

I just love the world that Kirby created with the New Gods and Fourth World. If it were up to me, and the company gave me free reign, that would be an area I'd love to explore more of from the very beginning. What Urgrund was like in the beginning before it split into two worlds, the type of family that Darkseid came from…there's a lot of mythical and biblical application to be found, I'm sure. Some people get bored by that type of stuff, as if they're being forced to hear a history lesson. But I would enjoy playing in that world, much like I would find it interesting what Krypton was like hundreds of years before its own demise. But that's just me. The New Gods look to be explored more by Azzarello in the Wonder Woman title, so I'm happy they haven't been forgotten in the New52.

And last, let me gush a little about the artist on our story. I was excited that we got to have Ben Caldwell draw this origin for us. A lot of times, the choice for artist is made for you by the editor and company. Writers give their suggestions when asked. But usually, the editor has a certain stable of people they've worked with or like to go-to. But I was really adamant about getting Ben for this one, because I'm a HUGE fan of his work.

I first stumbled across Ben with his first Action Cartooning how-to-draw book. I rarely even notice those types of books, but saw one on display at my local Barnes & Noble when it came out years back. I loved the style and energy he brought to his drawings. Maybe it's because I could instantly see the animation artists he was influenced by, which happen to be two of my favorites…Don Bluth and Bruce Timm (coming from many quarters spent playing Dragon's Lair and Space Ace in the arcades, and many years watching the Batman cartoons). And once I discovered Ben's work, I became an instant fan, picking up his work on various short stories and covers he would do, along with his Action Classics line of books and his own Dare Detectives creation.

I think the thing I appreciate most about Ben's work, is the actual design process leading up to the sequentials. It could be his background in toy design and animation concept work, but he really spends a lot of time in the preliminary stage of figuring out his characters and their environments. You hear the term "world builder" from time to time in the creative arts, and I definitely apply that to Ben's work. Comic artists aren't always allowed the time and freedom to develop their drawings before they have to jump into the job itself. But I knew with Ben, he'd take that time to figure it out. I also love that he colored himself on this story with a very limited palette. It comes off very european or Heavy Metal inspired, adding to the mood.

As you'll see below, these were just a few of the sketchbook designs and rough layouts Ben was working through before he jumped into the pages themselves. It's a fantastic behind-the-scenes process as you see him figure things out before he dove into the sequentials.

And this isn't the last we'll see of him. Currently I'm working on an upcoming story arc I've written for Justice League Beyond, with Ben on pencils and I'm inking him. It's a bit strange inking over someone you're a fan of. Sometimes it's less stressful to just sit back and be a fan and be separate from the art. But at the same time, I was curious to see what I'd be able to do. Below is the very first page of that story, yet to come out.

Children are our future. Our dark, manipulated future...