Monday, August 26, 2013


The origin behind the Origins. About midway through working on the first arc for Justice League Beyond, it was decided that it might be worthwhile to do some origin stories for the members of this future League. We wouldn't have to retell Terry/Batman or Superman, since their origins are known enough. But this would be a good chance to showcase the other members, most of whom new readers might be unfamiliar with if they hadn't seen their brief appearance on those few Batman Beyond episodes. The fun thing creatively about this, is most didn't have any backstory established. So it would be a chance to flesh out everyone and give more depth to their character.

I guess the problem, or the challenge, is that this came sort of suddenly. I'm sort of a stickler for planning things out as much in advance as I can. I'm quick enough to roll with the punches if something is sprung on me. But I also think it's more of a benefit to the company as well as the people involved working on these (and to the reader), when we have time to plan it out. When the Beyond Origins were decided upon being placed in-between the ongoing digital issues of JLB, I knew it would be seen as an interruption. Anything shoved in can hurt the flow of an ongoing story, especially one that was being released semi-weekly in small 10 page doses already. Add to the fact that we thought we'd launch as a JLB solo book, then pairing up with Batman Beyond, adding Superman Beyond, and now the Origins…essentially we'd all be vying for space once the "Unlimited" print issues came out. There were times where all four were in the same issue (four separate 10 page stories) and it aggravated not only the fans but I think those of us that worked on it as well. Consistency and momentum is a cherished thing to a reader, so these added hiccups would be unfortunate.

Even though the Origins would be added late, Dustin and I were still well enough ahead of writing JLB that we could try to integrate the stories. In fact, the entire "Konstriction" script was finished by the time Dustin started drawing pages. We could now introduce things in their Origins that we could allude or tie-in to the regular ongoing story. I always love continuity nods like that because it makes the world feel that much larger and integrated. So that is the reason why you get things like…Aquagirl being kidnapped as a child to be raised as a Female Fury (only to symbolically join the Furies when attacking the giant snake on Apokolips later with the Justice League). Helping set up Barda's banishment from her homeworld and why it's that much more painful when she goes back and finds it destroyed. Micron was an athletic football player in high school that always wanted to play quarterback, which he'd get to live out when he'd toss the book controlling the snake in a Hail Mary throw into the Boom Tube "endzone". Just a few of the examples.

After the "Konstriction" opening arc was done, the Origins would continue. And it could be something I could plan for a lot better from the start. The next story arcs would be shorter during the "Recruitment Drive" arcs, and would be a way of introducing new members to the team as well as their Origins that followed. Of course, plans change. And no sooner than I was setting up the origins for the next batch of added characters, that it got decided midway through that they wanted to stop them altogether (I think in an effort to wrap up everything in a clean sweep before they'd head into the relaunch. I just didn't know it at the time). Such is the way things can be.

So contained below are my final thoughts on those Origins that made it and those that didn't. Add to the fact that some of them never did get printed in the comics even though they were released digitally. In sad irony, two of these not only became "Digital First" releases…but "Digital Only" since that's the only current way to read them. I'm hopeful they'll eventually collect them into print in a future trade paperback.


Out of all the newer heroes in the future League, the Green Lantern kid was probably Dustin and my favorite. He was younger, had more tranquil Buddhist leanings, so we could really play that up in forming his backstory. And I just love the real process of how they find the next Dalai Lama. The tradition and ritual aspect of it. The spirituality. It makes it fascinating even before you bring in any superhero aspects to it.

A lot of the things that happened in this story, I have no idea how they came about. I do a lot of free thinking when it comes to story creation. And a lot of ideas seem to just form right out of the ether. Kai-Ro is one of the many Green Lanterns. But that his ring would be the one that John Stewart lost, was a nice way to bring the Origins full circle. It started with John losing the ring and it would end with the ring finding Kai-Ro. Setting that up in advance was a bit of kismet. 

The other thing that came as a bit of surprise was creating an arch-villain for Kai-Ro. That this wouldn't just be his origin story, but that of the villain Curare. I always loved that silent female assassin in the show. Always wondered what her backstory would be. And being able to show these two growing up together would add a bit of tragedy to where each of them ended up apart. Their stories might be my favorite contribution to the mythos behind the characters during my entire run on Justice League Beyond.

Creatively speaking, most of the Origin stories would be a chance to have other artists draw them. But for this one, it was something that Dustin wanted to draw. It didn't hurt that we were both fans of Avatar The Last Airbender and Kai-Ro was it's spiritual predecessor in a way (since his show appearance came out years before Avatar). And at the time we were writing this story, the idea to help his Origin stand out from the rest of the "Konstriction" issues that Dustin was drawing, was he would paint it in watercolor. But the familiar adage of "things change" surfaced again. Batman: Li'l Gotham in the interim got the greenlight and then Dustin was too busy watercoloring that to keep on schedule to do the same here. So instead, he just left Kai-Ro's story in pencil, I inked it, and we got our old "Streets Of Gotham" colorist John Kalisz to reunite with us to color it. It turned out pretty beautiful regardless.

I had a lot of fun working on this new Flash. While I didn't grow up a reader of the character, I know Flash has one of the most adamant and faithful fan bases in comics (in all his incarnations). So more than anything, I wanted to be very respectful to the history of the Flash. It's a legacy based character and that continues even in the Beyond future. And while most of the other Flashes were the result of lab accidents, I liked the idea that there was something special about Dani. That she was able to tap into and see the Speed Force at a young age, and her fandom and appreciation of it would bestow her with its powers when the time came. I also wanted to have her family involved. So many heroes have to keep their identities secret from those they love. But given the work that her father did and how closely her mother was to her, I thought it would be better if they were just as involved in her superhero life to try to be as active participants and help her out. I think it sends a good message that way.

I admit when it comes to the origin of our future Flash, that I was trying to plan in advance. To actually use this story as a setup to her own series if it ever happened. To use television terms…I wrote her origin as a "backdoor pilot". Everything anyone would need to know about the character, could be setup here…her family, the city she lives in, how she developed her powers; even a brand new rogues gallery that could be further exploited. And maybe at some later date, they might develop her into her own title. That would be a lot of fun to see. But I think their plan is to keep the Beyond Universe small. Superman's own title fell to the wayside, and now it's just Batman and Justice League that are continuing. It's too bad.

The acceptance by the fans for our future Flash was the most surprising thing. You hope to write stories that connect with characters that the readers will enjoy. But the support for Dani seemed like an overnight success. The fan art and tumblr postings were very rewarding to see. That a character that only had a very brief appearance in her JLB story and in this Origin had captured the fans hearts. I've included some of the wonderful fan art below. It's nice to know that she'll live on past the brief time I had to work with her.

Art by Kalinina Valeria -      Art by Just -

Art by Flash Beyond co-creator Jorge Corona


This was one I was the most excited about getting to write and turned into my greatest disappointment when it didn't happen. I only hinted at what happened to Billy Batson and Captain Marvel in their JLB story, knowing that I was going to tell it in the Origin. But after completing the Flash Origin was when they pulled the plug, and there was really no room to try to cram it into the "In Gods We Trust" storyline without feeling forced.

In my own mind, I had the origin story planned out that would explain the disaster that happened that was able to merge all the identities into Billy Batson (as well as his sister). That it would be this roulette wheel of powers that could manifest at any given moment…a body timeshare where the heroes (and villain) would have brief moments to appear before reverting back to Billy. It would've been great.

Add to the fact that I planned to have it drawn very retro, just like the character and his early appearances. I thought it would be fun to have a very Sunday newspaper strip style and even dot pixel coloring, to retell the origin of Billy being granted the powers by the Wizard Shazam. And then the final battle with Doctor Sivana that lead to the disaster and transformation into how the character was portrayed in the Beyond universe. I even had an artist already hand selected…Evan "Doc" Shaner. An artist after my own heart that loves the character and could draw in that throwback style. That could finally get his chance to officially draw the original version of the character that we both love. But it just wasn't meant to be. Look at some of the art below that he's done as a fan, and just imagine what could've been...


This was an origin that was brought about late in the process. We had gotten a new editor on JLB, and also at that time, J.T. Krul's Superman Beyond story would feature the Martian Manhunter. There was some talk about doing an origin for him. Of course this is one of the characters who's had his origin portrayed in the comics, so he's not exactly new to the Beyond universe. But it could be an area to play with the continuity, to explain his time in the Justice League Unlimited show and what he'd been up to in the years since that time, leading into the Beyond timeline. While I had come up with a rough outline, it got killed on the vine as soon as all the Origins were abandoned.

Friday, August 9, 2013


With my run on Justice League Beyond finished, it's time to wrap up some of my final thoughts on my last few stories. It's so weird to look back on this now, only because the team building I had planned for the future League barely got started before the change of direction was implemented. So I only got to add Flash, and for this story Captain Marvel (I know DC seems keen on the rename of Shazam, but it was Captain Marvel in the Justice League Unlimited show…and it's Captain Marvel in my storyline). I had planned to grow the team much more in offbeat ways. A story worth telling in a future post.

I don't know what first prompted me on wanting Captain Marvel to join the team. I guess it was a number of reasons. I've always loved the character as a real throwback to the fun superheroes of the past. It's one of the few that my dad remembers reading as a kid. And as a character of magic, it would be possible for Captain Marvel to still be around in this future (for reasons being…I won't divulge at the moment). I like the idea that he also had some history with Superman. Where things left off in the Justice League Unlimited episode he appeared in, he quit the League and was disappointed in Superman as the hero he once looked up to. I figured with enough time, there'd be a chance for them to consider their past actions and patch things over. And Captain Marvel would feel right to join the League this time around. And I also liked the fact that there was a chance to show Billy Batson and Mary, both still magically young. An age of stuck adolescence. And one of the few age appropriate characters that young Kai-Ro would be able to relate to.
Notice some familiar villains for Captain Marvel on the "Wanted" wall?
I also liked the idea of getting out of Neo-Gotham or Metropolis and showing some of the other areas in the Beyond universe. Fawcett City would be one of the few to remain untouched by society. No hi-tech future technology. No flying cars. A city from the past still frozen in time. Very "Mayberry" as I like to put it. I thought it would be a nice clash of cultures for the people living there and the League when they arrived.

For the villains, I always wanted to see more of Alan Burnett's creation of the "Brain Trust". Basically your sort of evil X-Men (or Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants) for DC's Beyond universe. A group that was going around and collecting special powered kids for some nefarious purpose. The shows they appeared in (Batman Beyond and later in Static Shock), they had such a small group. So this was a chance to build them up as well. Add more faculty to this teaching staff. So that's always fun to come up with names and powers to grow the enemy against the League. I even squeezed in a danger room sequence and a Blackbird type jet for them to fly off in, to keep the X-Men motif.
As a huge fan of these shows, part of writing Justice League Beyond was always my chance to throw in cameos and nods to not just the Batman Beyond show but the rest of the shows in that continuity. So "Krypto's" appearance here ties back to the Superman animated series with him being Bizarro's pet. I planned for so many of these special appearances to not be throwaways but actually followed up later for a reason. There would've been a story that involved Superman and the League being absent from earth, so in their place, Bizarro (with Krypto in tow) would end up "protecting" Metropolis in his own misguided way. Even though  I never got the chance to continue that story, it was fun to have Krypto in here briefly. I love that slobbering alien dog.

More cameos came in the form of some of the other teams operating in the Beyond universe that Bombshell would mention here. Little cues I could plant and come back to later if I wanted, or leave it open for the readers to guess at. I wanted to show that the League wasn't the only team operating out there. There would be others that could pose a threat to the Brain Trust. "The Circus Of The Dead" would be deceased members that formed a group to heroically haunt from the afterlife. Deadman being their leader, with Wildcat, the Creeper, and Vixen in there (which could always lead to some uncomfortable feelings if John Stewart and Shayera Hol showed up again in a story, since that tragic triangle was thought to have already played out).

The Terrific Trio were the media-publicized and disgraced "Fantastic Four" knockoff in the Batman Beyond show, that perished in their only appearance. I thought it would be a fun way to do what comics have always done…when one team is killed, disbands, or disappears; there's always an "ALL NEW" version that takes their place. Their team name would remain, but it would be composed of new members. And mimicking the Fantastic Four, they might have a few visual nods as well. Lead by an older version of Plastic Man (the stretchy Reed Richards of the group), the return of the Earth Mover (filling our "Thing" spot on the team, even though it looked like he died in the show), and Zeta (to keep this a "Trio"…although we maybe could include Ro in the "Sue" role, if it were to be more like the FF).

Bombshell would even mention a new Titans group in passing. At the time I was writing this story a year ago, there was the possibility of there being a Teen Titans Beyond title spinoff I had heard from my original editor. I didn't know who would be on it, neither the team members or the creators involved, or when it would come out, but I thought it would be fun to vaguely plant mention of them here. Of course, I kind of hoped I'd get a chance to write it and had some crazy ideas for it, but things changed. That editor left and any chance for a Titans Beyond title seemed to disappear with him.

Green Lantern Kai-Ro really grew into a favorite of mine, as well as Dustin's, while working over the course of this title. I loved the peaceful innocence and wide-eyed optimism that he brought to the team as well as the Beyond universe. And I always felt he might quietly struggle being the youngest member on the team. Maybe having trouble to relate with the adults around him and not really having any friends his own age. So featuring him in this story where he develops his first feelings towards a girl his own age, are moments I kind of miss in comics. There's always this focus on making things dark, depressing, and battle-worn. But it's the little moments of feelings and relationships these characters have towards one another that I always strive to find space for when I write. I want these characters to live and breathe less like action figures. Less like plastic toys being mashed against one another. And more like real people that love, argue, and care for one another. Of course to further complicate matters, is that Kai-Ro's crush happens to be a girl that shares the same body with a few other magical personalities. Imagine a first date between these two with a magical roulette wheel of possibilities of all the other Marvels appearing at any given moment, making every situation uncomfortable. No one said love is easy!

Lastly let's talk about the art. Anyone following JLB had seen Ben Caldwell's work drawing the "Beyond Origin" story to Barda. I always wanted to bring him back to draw the series regularly as the ongoing artist once Dustin had stepped down to concentrate on Li'l Gotham. So it was fun to get Ben on this story, with such a wide range of characters to draw and design. It was a bit nerve racking for me, since I was going to end up inking him on this. Artists I like as a fan, always puts more pressure on me to not ink them badly. I'd almost rather sit back and just watch them do the art as a reader. But I felt some ownership of wanting to keep the inking consistency over the ongoing story, that I've been a part of since issue one.

I've included some of the preliminary designs and pencils from Ben during the process of working on this. I think he was interested in doing a very youthful redesign of Captain Marvel, which in any other circumstance in the Beyond universe, would be the right idea to do a different take. But for Captain Marvel, I specifically wanted him to look exactly how we last saw him. That he's a living legend unchanged throughout time, and would still look the same. But you can see some of Ben's ideas in these rough pencils below. And also the great cover, from concept to execution, by artist Khary Randolph!