Comic-Con Exclusive: Talking Batman Beyond Universe with Kyle Higgins and Christos N. Gage

While at San Diego Comic-Con last week I had the opportunity to sit down in the DC Comics booth with some talented creators for 10 minute interviews. These talks took place in a roped off section of the floor surrounded by press handlers on the outside and furnished with modern-style black tufted chairs on the inside (a huge relief after being in lines since 5:30am). The first conversation I was scheduled to have was with writers Kyle Higgins (Batman Beyond) and Christos N. Gage (Justice League Beyond). All discussion was kept to Comic-Con and the upcoming Batman Beyond Universe series which begins in August.

Andrew: (collapsing onto the furniture) Ah! It just feels good to sit down.

Christos: Yes!

Kyle: Enjoy it while it lasts.

Andrew: So how are you guys enjoying Comic-Con so far?

Christos: Pretty good.

Kyle: Yeah, this is the highlight!

Andrew: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen so far?

Kyle: I can’t answer that, you go first!

Christos: I just saw this guy in this amazing Aquaman outfit, but then I saw this adorable little Galactus. The cutest Galactus you ever saw. It’s a little kid and he’s got the big Galactus head. That was pretty awesome too.

Kyle: My coolest moment was probably– there’s a booth called TriForce and they have the license rights for the Arkham City video game so they have the Nightwing eskrima sticks. It’s like this big display, all the sticks come off and they’ve got track lighting built into them and it’s like… it’s gonna look awesome in my office!

Andrew: That’s great. What about strangest thing?

Kyle: I don’t know… there’s a lot.

Christos: I’m just used to seeing characters from stuff I don’t recognize. I saw a guy in a Leatherface outfit that the mask was just a little bit too realistic.

Andrew: So while you’ve been here have you guys been brainstorming any ideas?

Christos: No, not here, it’s too hectic. But we’re both in the LA area so it’s pretty easy to get together when we need to and Alex, our editor, is in Burbank.

Kyle: Plus Chris and I also live around the corner so we run into each other and random movie screenings at old theaters.

Andrew: So do you guys have a big collaborative arc in mind already?

Christos: Well… we’re not in a position to make any announcements or anything but at some point it would be crazy not to do some time of crossover and we are conscious that we are in the same universe so that’ll be reflected.

Kyle: That’s the thing about it really just being the two of us spearheading this universe is that it makes collaboration that much easier.

Andrew: How much freedom do you have to really dig deep into the DC archives and find a character to give the Beyond treatment.

Christos: Well we can pitch any idea we want to just as long as it doesn’t violate the continuity that’s already been established for the Beyond universe, but there’s always a consciousness of, ya know, hey we don’t want to just be like “Hey let’s bring back Killer Moth!” and have it be the same Killer Moth that existed in the past. There needs to be a Beyond spin on it. Something that– somehow he’s changed! He’s a cyborg now or it’s his kid, ya know? Or whatever.  There’s got to be a twist to it.

Kyle: Like I keep pitching how awesome it would be to do a cybernetic Starro, right? Right?! See, this is why it hasn’t gone through…(long pause) NEITHER of you guys smiled at that!

We laugh for a bit at the failed joke and then I turn to Christos Gage who is writing Justice League Beyond.

Andrew: If you had been on board at the time of the TV show when the idea of a Justice League Beyond was first being pitched, how closely would your idea of a future Justice League look like what was actually created? Would you have assembled a similar team or would it look much more different?

Christos: Um… I think there would be some differences. Some characters make a lot of sense like Barda and Mister Miracle because they’re– I don’t know if they’re immortal per say– but they have very long lifespans. I might’ve stuck Martian Manhunter in there, but there’s only so many characters that would live that long and still be able to fight crime and then it’s a matter of trying to come up with fun and cool new interpretations of other characters.

Kyle: I would’ve been fourteen so… I don’t think you would’ve wanted to read that…

Everybody laughs and I turn back to the group as a whole for the next question.

Andrew: How timeless do you think the Bruce Wayne Batman really is? We’re getting to the point now in the comics when Batman has contact lenses that tell him if a guy’s lying and he’s been shown with X-ray vision built into some of his tech too. When does the Beyond universe start to become the more contemporary story that people can relate to?

Kyle: That’s an interesting question um… yeah, I mean even in the New 52 Batman there’s a cool that– I think in issue eighteen or nineteen, no I’m sorry, nineteen or twenty when  Bruce finds a prototype for the Batman Beyond suit as built by Lucius Fox so, well, obviously that’s a different universe like it doesn’t connect with our stuff but I think that’s actually one of the interesting things about Beyond stuff is that we’re telling stories in a universe that was created in the late nineties that’s futuristic. But the further we go into real-time as we’re working, the closer we get to when the show is actually taking place so it’s like… How high-tech do you continue to push it?

Christos: I think you have to! Otherwise you end up like Tomorrow Land where ya know, if you went to like Disney Land in the 90’s Tomorrow Land had to look like the Jetsons. It was what they thought the future would be back in the 50’s so it’s kind of dated. So I think you have to keep pushing it.

Kyle: But like, that said, I’ve made a few conscious choices of like almost doing like throwback technology so it’s like 80’s futuristic. Everyone calls cell phones “portables” just because it feels a little more timeless to just kind of avoid that as you move forward–

Christos: Well Gotham City has its own sort of design feeling– Metropolis is the city of the future, but Gotham is the noir city so I think there are some things that are more appropriate there and some things that work better in other locations.

Andrew: We talked about how timeless Batman can and can’t be and you can actually look at Elseworlds stories to see how well the Batman works in the past. When do we get an Elseworlds story where we see Terry McGinnis of like The Old West or something? When can we transplant the Beyond characters into different settings and times because the mythology, the Beyond mythology is getting rich enough and you guys keep creating more and more new stuff that I think you can do that.

Kyle: I think as soon as sales are strong enough.

Christos: Yep.

Kyle: THAT’S when we will start to see really cool inversions on the Beyond characters–

Andrew: (laughs) That’s such a cynical answer!

Christos: Yes!

Kyle: It’s the true answer though! It’s like, that’s why we’re gunning hard with this launch. We want this to hit really strong and solid because I think we both have big ideas for these characters and where to to take things that um… The bigger the audience is for them, the more fun we can have.

Andrew: So how frequently do you guys go back and watch the TV show for reference? Or have you gotten the gist of it and put the old stuff out of your mind and try to blaze forward with your own vision?

Christos: I’ll be honest, some of it I’m seeing for the first time. I’ve seen some of the Batman Beyond but I was not as familiar with the Justice League Unlimited and Justice League cartoons which are the past of the Beyond universe.

Kyle: Yeah.

Christos: So I’m just starting to watch some of those and it’s kind of fun to see some of these things for the first time.

Andrew: I just started watching some of them again just because I came to do the interview and– Barbara’s got a husband?

Kyle: Yeah!

Andrew: I forgot all about that! Are you going to be bringing him back?

Kyle: Yeah! He’s in there. I don’t think he’s on screen when I first start but there’s a picture of him on the desk framed next a picture of her father which is all sorts of weirdness. There was a moment when we got the art back on one of the early issues where, hanging over her desk behind her, was a portrait of Jim Gordon and I was like “That–” because it was like a 24- by 36-inch portrait of her father, “That might be a little much!” So we pulled back on that. Toned that down. But yeah, Sam will be in there! I’ve seen all of the episodes and, ya know, I don’t think I’ve seen–and I’ve been going through Netflix and catching up again– I’ve seen the Beyond stuff multiple times and I’ve seen the Justice League Unlimited stuff. But some of the earlier Justice League stuff where it was the two part episodes so every episode was like an hour? There are a few in there that I’m fuzzy on but…

Andrew: Well, that’s his job anyway (points to Christos)

Kyle: Yeah! Well, on the whole I revisit every one of them just for fun anyway, it’s great. There’s some great stuff on that show.

Andrew: How did you–

Press Handler: Last question!

Andrew: Okay… umm… If either of you could launch any New 52 book, a whole new series of your own, what would it be?

There’s a long pause as the gears turn and each writer looks around the ceiling for the right answer. 

Andrew: DC calls you up and says “We need a New 53! Now! Name it and you’ve got it!”

Christos: I’ve always liked Kamandi! That’s my answer to everything! I would love to do a Kamandi book! I love that comic.

Kyle: I would love to do Nightrunner, actually. That’s a character I created. He’s part of Batman Incorporated. That was the first work I ever did at DC. He’s a French algerian muslim Batman of Paris. A big parkour runner and a symbol of hope for the slums of Paris! That would be a fun world to revisit.

Andrew: Alright, well thanks you guys and I’ve got more questions so if you see me on the floor somewhere–

Kyle: Okay, sounds good man!

Christos: Thanks!