INTERVIEW: Enter the Abyss In Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic and The Outsiders With Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly are two of DC Comics’ most consistent writing teams of the last few years. Also known as “The Hivemind,” Lanzing and Kelly have been building a new era for Batman Beyond beginning with a story in Batman: Urban Legends #7, continuing on through last year’s Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, and Terry’s newest series, Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic. Outside of Batman Beyond, the Hivemind will expand into undiscovered territory in the DC Universe with the newly announced Outsiders series.
DC Comics has a reputation for being constantly in flux, but the new Dawn of DC initiative will address some lingering questions about the edges of the DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con 2023, DC Comics announced a new Outsiders series from Lanzing and Kelly and artist Robert Carey. Rather than centering on the famous Outsiders team that Batman led in the 1980s, this trio will consist of Batwoman, Luke Fox, and a mystery character as they launch on an “archaeological” search into the reaches of the DC Universe. The series will be 12 issues, and will launch in November.
‘The Outsiders’ Will Excavate Corners of the DC Universe
Outsiders will spotlight corners of the DC Universe that have been left unresolved over the years, through numerous continuity reboots. And while the series will be a meta-commentary on the narrative tapestry of the DC Universe, Lanzing and Kelly wanted to avoid the pitfalls of other stories told within this lens. “Stories about ideas tend not to work. Stories about characters do,” Lanzing explains, “It was about figuring out where we had something to say not just about character, but about the meta, and how we could handshake that. And if we could find a way to handshake the meta side of it with the character side of it, then we had an issue of Outsiders.”
The objective of Outsiders is fitting for Lanzing and Kelly, because much of their early work at DC Comics was Elseworlds stories like Gotham City Garage and Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Dark Nights Metal. The idea for the series came together in a day after Lanzing and Kelly walked around jotting down different “dangling threads” left in the DC Universe that they wanted to return to. Kelly explains, “We’ve touched on a lot of these different corners of the DCU just naturally and organically through our storytelling. So we have these touch points to explore in some interesting ways.” Lanzing describes the process of writing Outsiders as “unearth[ing]” stories that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to explore in a traditional superhero story.
This idea of “unearthing” ties directly into the Hivemind’s newest series, Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic, with Max Dunbar and Sebastian Cheng. Spinning out of the events of Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, Neo-Gothic will follow Terry McGinnis as he discovers the secret history of Neo-Gotham hidden below the city’s surface. Neo-Gothic features a new set of characters called “under-goths,” animal-human hybrids (also known as splicers) who live beneath Neo-Gotham. As the title suggests, it’s a tale built in the same vein as Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson’s seminal Batman: Gothic story in Legends of the Dark Knight, which chronicled the Batman’s return to a boarding school he attended as a youngster.
“There Is Something Inherently Hallucinatory About Going Into The Dark”
Lanzing and Kelly’s decision to frame the story within a Batman: Gothic lens is fascinating, considering how gothicism is not commonly associated with futuristic settings like Batman Beyond. In taking a gothic approach with Batman Beyond, Lanzing and Kelly first examined the role that gothicism has played in traditional Batman stories. Lanzing notes that most gothic Batman stories are constructed within a gothic romance vein. And while there certainly will be romance within Neo-Gothic, that is not the focus of the story.
“Oftentimes, [gothicism has] operated as the way that Batman interacts with the unknowable or the supernatural, and the ways in which that challenges his mission and his ability to see the world in a normal way. Batman walks into the shadows and sees the darkness and evil that lives in the heart of that, and then has to go back into the light and maintain that sanity,” Lanzing explains.
Kelly adds, “Neo-Year, we were in the sky. It was about cyberpunk… Now we’re plunging him deeper into the ground, literally, we wanted to strip away a lot of that cyberpunk, which is what [Terry] relies on. He is a child of that technology. But he’s going down into the past of Gotham. So while he still has his uniform, he still has the gear that he’s walking in with, he doesn’t have the rest of the city to rely on.”
This descent into the darkness of Neo-Gotham is where Neo-Gothic will sing as a work of gothic literature. “There is something inherently hallucinatory about going into the dark,” Lanzing states, “There is something inherently trippy and otherworldly about stepping into these places that no one has stepped for decades.” For Terry, this is going to be a unique challenge, as he doesn’t have the same set of skills or experience as Bruce Wayne. “The neat thing is that Bruce isn’t afraid of the dark, right?” Kelly says, “Anything Bruce would find in that eldritch darkness, he would be aces with.”
“There was an element to this story that Colin identified really early on in the book, and he was like, ‘Terry has never faced this.’ And I was like, ‘That’s impossible. There is no way that we’ve never seen Terry deal with this.’ And then we looked into it, and it was like nope, in fact, there was a whole part of the DC Universe that Terry has never interacted with… It’s gonna be the long game of the book, how Terry interacts with these things that he simply had not been trained to deal with.”
With Terry’s growth in mind, I asked the Hivemind what Terry McGinnis meant to them. Lanzing describes him as, “the best self-insert superhero around.” He’s someone we can all be, because he’s self-made, without the privilege that Bruce Wayne was born into. “Terry’s got jokes,” Kelly says, “He’s able to face these kinds of terrors and still maintain his humanity. In that way, he’s better than Bruce ever was.”
If we can all be Terry McGinnis, then doesn’t that make him a bit like the DC Universe’s cooler version of Peter Parker? The Hivemind certainly thinks so, from his difficulties with his love life and relationship with his mentors, but with one crucial difference. “He’s dangerous,” Lanzing says, “He’s a good Ben Reilly.”