"Batman Beyond" is a world that just won't die.
The animated series ran for three seasons, telling the story of a younger Batman 35 years into the future, mentored by an elderly Bruce Wayne. The show made such an impact that it's been brought back in several comic book series over the years. The most recent iteration is being relaunched this week as part of DC Comics' "Rebirth" event.
The writing team includes writer Dan Jurgens and artists Bernard Chang and Ryan Sook. We spoke with Jurgens and Chang about the book shortly before the announcement of "Rebirth."
Jurgens has a pedigree that's hard to beat — he wrote one of the most famous comic book stories of all time, 1992's "The Death of Superman," along with numerous other stories over the years. He said that his longevity in comics comes down to his ability to understand his characters.
"To a certain extent, you have to believe in the characters, you have to understand the world that they exist in and how they function, because that's what takes you down the road to creating story," Jurgens said. "And if you start to really think of them almost as being real, to a certain extent — understand their motivations, what they would do, what they wouldn't do — then you can figure out the conditions that you can put them in that makes life difficult, and that's what makes a story."
Jurgens has written more than his share of time travel stories over the years, including those about the time traveler Booster Gold, a character currently on his way to the big screen. Jurgens says the future of "Batman Beyond" is much different than Booster's though; it's set only 35 years in the future, rather than 350 or 400 years ahead.
"What you really do — and this is what I constantly talk to Bernard about — is we take the world as it exists now, make it a little more stylized, and just push it a little bit," Jurgens said. "Because if we think back on what the world was 35 years ago, well what's different? Everybody has a phone in their pocket now. So you think of the differences we've seen in the last 35 years, and try to project that over 35 from now."
Chang dove into the history of "Batman Beyond" to help create this new version, going from someone who was familiar with the cartoon but wasn't a diehard to knowing the ins and outs of the universe. Now he has the chance to add his own spin.
"I went to college and I got my bachelor's degree in architecture, so that's really helped play in a lot of developing, designing the world that we're in," Chang said.
Chang loves doing the designs so much that he said he has to remind himself to stop designing and actually draw the comic book pages.
While Jurgens and Chang deliver their version of the future, like all great science fiction, they're writing a book with parallels to our own world.
"The theme we built is this idea of a string of refugees all coming to Gotham City, because that's where there's food, medicine, water, and everything else. And the question is, 'will Gotham take that in?'," Jurgens said. "And we started on that long before it became this much larger topic that we've all seen in the world with the United States, Germany, through Syria — whatever it might be, and it's been really odd to see that transpire."
You can see the next eerie parallel in "Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1" at comic stores everywhere and available digitally. And maybe there's another reason for those similarities to real life.
"You didn't know? Dan [Jurgens] is really is from 35 years in the future, and he's just coming back," Chang said. "He's not really writing, we're just teleplaying his whole life."
Jurgens laughed at Chang's comment — maybe a little too hard?
Watch a "Batman Beyond" anniversary video that was released for Batman's 75th anniversary in 2014: