Neo Gotham is a character unto itself in Batman Beyond. While Gotham City is the ultimate character setting for Bruce Wayne/Batman, a futurized Bat like Terry McGinnis needs a futurized city. For the design and general aesthetic of Neo-Gotham, creators of Beyond pulled inspiration heavily from the sci-fi sub-genre of cyberpunk.
Specifically, titles such as Bladerunner and Akira were the main sources of influence for Gotham 2.0’s look.
If you’re a fan of such tech noir type cities and sci-fi, then check out the unbelievably photo realistic digital renderings of today’s interview, Hal Laren.
Right before NY Comic Con this year, for my Above and Batman Beyond podcast, I interviewed Laren, the ultra talented UK based digital illustrator and concept artist (Star Trek: Discovery concepts, Robocop comics). Hal the digital master came on Above to talk about his upcoming independent graphic novel, Beyond the Dark Knight. I first discovered Hal’s vivid and stunning BDK work on Instagram (hal_laren). His profile is full of stills, from what appear to be a dark, gritty, tech noir live action Batman Beyond movie. The art is so real world, you sometimes have to do a double take to make sure it’s not an actual live action shot!
From artist, Hal Laren:
I’m gonna hopefully do a 180 page graphic novel. And it’s literally going to be, what happens to Terry after Bruce is gone? So, he’s gonna be learning about how Bruce took out other villains, other heroes… I want to carry on the kind of courage they had with the Batman Beyond cartoon, which basically said, ya know what? We’re gonna carry this on, we’re gonna take Batman animated and take it to the next step, of maturing to a whole new level of Batman.
Originally spun out of Batman: The Animated Series, Beyond’s neo take on the Bat first premiered in animated TV (1999-2001), as well as a concurrent run of in-canon comics by Beyond/BTAS screenwriting vet, Hillary J. Bader. 10 years later, in 2011, Batman Beyond appeared again in DC Comics and has remained in one comic version or another ever since.
I love what Laren says here about the original Batman Beyond cartoon:
Any kind of spinoff, it’s like, no that’s gonna suck. Then, it came out and it’s like, this is not going to suck. This is just going to smack you in the face. Every time. Ya, know, we’ve got original villains, we’ve got original concept. He’s just more gritty, more grand, there was more need for him.
On his Beyond the Dark Knight book, Laren continues:
And, that’s what I want to do with this. I want to make it into a book where it’s like, ya know, we’re going to step it up. I’ve got things that happen in this book, where people lose limbs, ya know major characters lose limbs. Put it this way: In the beginning of the book, Ten has both her hands. By the end of the book, who knows?… She becomes more of a villain. He becomes more of a Batman. One rises up to meet the other.
It’s fascinating to hear a concept artist apply his skills to the more story driven medium of comic writing. Again, Laren’s Beyond the Dark Knight is an independent project he is both writing and illustrating. And, since he has the conceptual brain to build all kinds of tech and gadgets for Star Trek: Discovery, building Bat vehicles and other Beyond tech have been part of the edge this artist has over your standard comic writer.
I do a lot of concept work. As I said, Star Trek: Discovery… I like doing stuff which is just a bit beyond feasibility. So, you have to make it feasible. How is that going to work? What is it going to take for that to be needed to work? Why do you need a bike with wings? [One of Laren’s original concept vehicles for his Batman Beyond book] What’s that about?
The current and past Batman Beyond comics have done well, and any member of the Bat family has undoubtedly earned the right to their own standard DC Comic title. But, the freshest of fresh takes, like Beyond the Dark Knight, would be such a nice change of pace for comics. As I said to Laren in the interview, Beyond specifically works well in the medium of digital illustration since the character is so obviously and intrinsically part of a digital, more Neo Gotham.
Don’t miss the concepts and artwork of Hal Laren on Instagram (hal_laren), including numerous updates and shots of the graphic novel we talked about today, Beyond the Dark Knight. CLICK HERE for Hal Laren’s website as well!
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