A surprise Batman series has taken the internet by storm. Earlier this month, DC released the first six chapters of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on WEBTOON, a comics platform that primarily caters to a younger audience and uses a vertical scroll layout as opposed to a traditional comics layout. The series was immediately a smash hit - after just a few weeks, Batman: Wayne Family Adventures picked up over 558,000 followers and a near perfect 9.7 star rating on WEBTOON.
To get an idea of how the series came about and whether its success came as a surprise, ComicBook.com spoke with WEBTOON producer Susan Cheng, WEBTOON art lead Maria Li, series writer CRC Payne, and series artist Starbite about the new series.
ComicBook.com: How long has the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures project been in the works?
Susan Cheng: We pitched the idea to DC in 2019 after Maria Li showed me the robust fan community around the Bat-family. Their passion for the characters excited me, so I pushed hard for WEBTOON to pursue this story in particular. We formally began production on the series in early 2021 after nearly a year of looking for the right talent to help bring our vision of this series to life.
Maria Li: Officially, I ran to Susan's desk to pitch the idea almost two years ago. Unofficially, it's been in the works since I was burying my nose in Cassandra Cain's Batgirl run during lunch in middle school over ten years ago. Needless to say, it's been surreal in the very best way to see it out in the world.
Batman fans have clamored for a Batman Family slice-of-life project for years. Why was WEBTOON the right platform for this type of series?
Li: WEBTOON, and the webcomic medium overall, often has a reputation for being very fan driven and it's one that we're proud to embrace. As a fan of the Batfamily myself, it felt like the perfect place to showcase a more light-hearted dynamic of the beloved ensemble that found their family in the Bat mantle.
Additionally, since WEBTOON is free and mobile-optimized, the series are extremely accessible and the slice-of-life aspect really shines. Reading about Batman fighting his kids for a cookie while you're in line at, say, a Comic-Con panel, is kind of perfect.
Cheng: It's my hope that Batman: Wayne Family Adventures introduces these characters to readers who might not otherwise be reading Batman or comics in general. As a kid, I was limited to the select few comics and manga that my budget allowed me, so I'm happy to be working at a company that makes both reading and creating comics so much more accessible.
Were you worried that there would be pushback that DC's first comic wasn't a more standard superhero comic?
Cheng: Going into production, we approached the series through the lens of, "Well, who is Batman when he takes off the mask? Is he happy with his life? With the relationships he has with his many vigilante children? Is Batman OK?" I think these are questions that anyone who loves Batman has found themselves thinking about (or maybe that's just me, harhar), so that's what we wanted to investigate in the series. It's been a lot of fun working with CRC Payne to come up with these shorts that further explore Bruce Wayne not as a larger-than-life superhero but as a father and as a human.
As I've said before, this was a project inspired specifically by all of the wonderful fan-created stories and artwork out there. I knew there was a hunger for this kind of Batman story, so I wasn't too worried about any major pushback.
Li: I was aware that the premise might not be everyone's cup of tea, but the team put a lot of thought into making sure Wayne Family Adventures felt integrated with the superhero comics that brought the characters to life.
The series highlights more familial sides of the cast, such as Bruce as the tired father or Jason as the rough-housing big brother, but CRC Payne does an amazing job of retaining their roles as vigilantes and how it still deeply affects their lives and who they are. Eyes and Ears, the episode following Barbara Gordon's watching over the team as Oracle, is one of my favorites because of how it so comically blends the day to day of being a superhero and the endearing annoyance of siblings.
How was the creative team chosen for this project? Obviously, this is a bit different than a standard WEBTOON project, and this is CRC Payne's first webseries in particular.
Li: It was important to us that the team had a connection to the source material and we were constantly inspired by the level of talent we saw in the community. After coming across Kielamel Sibal's incredible Batman fan comic, I immediately shared it with the pre-production team and was thrilled when she came on board to letter for Wayne Family Adventures.
Cheng: I had worked with StarBite on another WEBTOON series that I produced called Kind of Love, which came out in late 2019. I loved working with him; he's great at depicting humor, and his expressions really bring out the human element of everyone he draws, so I'm overjoyed to be working with him again.
One of my favorite parts about the series is the choice of cast and more specifically, which versions we're seeing. From Babs as Oracle to Tim as Red Robin, it seems like we're seeing these characters at very specific points in their respective histories. Can you talk a bit about why you chose the versions of these characters that appear in the comic?
CRC Payne: The intent behind this comic is to explore these characters as individuals and as a family unit, rather than just focusing on their heroic endeavors. By deciding what kind of stories we wanted to tell, we were able to choose versions of the characters that would bring out the most in each person, while still giving them room for growth and change. Babs, for example, has so much to offer as Oracle--from her role as a big sister and mentor to the other heroes to her incredible crime-fighting abilities--and there's so much to explore about how she relates to the other members of the Batfamily during this moment in her life.
With such a big cast of characters, how do you make sure that each character has a distinctive voice and personality?
CRC Payne: I am so lucky that all of these characters have such a rich history and are already so fully developed. I've had a long time to learn about them and their personalities just by being a fan of Batman and his family. It's a joy to be able to explore them as a writer and figure out how they would react in these scenarios!
StarBite: Honestly, their distinctive personalities are what makes it easier to capture the essence of the character! I've really tried to capture the spirit of their DC-inspired beginnings while also adding my own style and flair to the characters to keep them definite and recognizable. A lot of it comes through in their hairstyles, clothing choices, and most of all, their facial expressions. That's my favorite thing to draw - I have an especially soft spot for Dick Grayson, and I may or may not have spent a *little* extra time getting his face just right.
Were there any challenges with adapting a DC project for a vertical scroll platform like WEBTOON?
CRC Payne: This is my first webcomic and my first comic in general so I was learning everything for the first time as we started this project--including how to script out cues for the art team. In some ways, learning everything from scratch made it easier to write with the vertical scroll in mind. But it's really the artists who have made this webcomic so amazing. StarBite, Maria, Kielamel, Lan, Jean, Cameron, and Camille are so incredibly talented!
StarBite: I would say that vertical scroll platforms are easier to work around because you're not worried about puzzling panels and rearranging pieces to force a fit; you can really focus on telling the story cinematically with natural flow. It's nice not to obsess over keeping it organized or worrying about whether or not it'll fit on a page. That, and lucky for us, we have an incredible storyboard artist on our team; Maria Li has done brilliant storyboard work on the series.
We've already seen the Justice League make a brief appearance in one episode of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures. Are there plans to feature more DC characters soon?
CRC Payne: Yes! We will have other DC characters pop up now and again, though the main focus will remain on the Batfamily.
Are you pleased with the reaction the series has gotten so far?
CRC Payne: I am so blown away by the response the comic has gotten! Thank you to everyone out there who is reading and supporting! This comic has been made with a lot of love for the Batfamily and Batfamily fans, and I hope that's apparent in the work!
StarBite: I am so unbelievably humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response Batman: Wayne Family Adventures has gotten. I've always loved Batman Comics (who doesn't?), but they tend to be on the dark and gritty side. On the contrary, this comic is fun. It's lighthearted. You don't usually get to see the Batfam playing around together, and this is a slice of life that I think people really wanted to see. I've had such a good time seeing people's reactions because they're so similar to the way I react every time I get to read a new script!
What can readers look forward to in future episodes?
CRC Payne: More shenanigans of course! There won't be an overarching plot for the series, but many characters will have a moment in the spotlight through mini-arcs exploring a small part of their lives.
StarBite: Readers can look forward to more fun, obviously, but I think I'm most excited for people to see a truly soft side of Bruce with his "kids." I get to draw some really tender moments that have really brought me closer to the characters, and I think it'll do the same for readers, too. Characters will continue to grow and develop in their relationships with one another and really show how dynamic they can be.1comments
There's also some fun surprises coming up, like familiar faces from the Batman universe pushing their way into the limelight (whether they're happy to be there or not). I'm so thrilled to draw these fun ideas with my own take and style and I can't wait for people to see what's coming!
New chapters of Batman: Wayne Family Adventure are posted each week on WEBTOON on Thursdays. Older chapters are available for free, while the three most recent chapters can be read by purchasing a Fast Pass from the service.