By Maxi Kim | August 1, 2017
The current artist of DC’s Batman Beyond, a comic set in Bruce Wayne’s twilight years, is himself battle-hardened and exceedingly generous. Having illustrated for a number of Marvel and DC titles—including Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman, Superman, Supergirl, X-Men, New Mutants & Deadpool— Chang is no stranger to fan adulation.
At this year’s Comic-Con, it wasn’t unusual to see him at artists’ alley, greeting starstruck fans and signing their favorite Bernard Chang covers. When I arrived at his booth for an interview with ComicBlitz, he was hard at work touching up a few panels for what I would later learn would be the new issue to Batman Beyond.
He began our conversation by recounting the details of his first Comic-Con, always with a degree of modesty and amused wistfulness for his younger self.
ComicBlitz: Best Comic-Con moment for you so far?
Bernard Chang: Well, this is my 25th Comic-Con. My first one was in 1992. I came here as an amateur with my portfolio looking for work, and that’s where I met the editor-in-chief at Valiant. A month later, he hired me. So, for me the entire Comic-Con experience has been very humbling and honorable. . . .
How has it changed in the last 25 years?
The size. The whole city of San Diego has changed a lot. I remember in 1992 you really just had the show. The convention center itself was half the size; that show was only a quarter of the size it is now. But the city of San Diego has also transformed. What used to be empty parking lots are now residential buildings, and whatever’s left over companies and corporations have set up their advertisement booths. Today the entire city is an event. Before you’d just come to the convention center and you’d come back to the hotel. Today you have a lot more restaurants. Also, you see a lot more fans who want to join the medium whether it’s through the movies, television shows, or the books themselves.
Have the fans changed at all in terms of the type of people who approach you?
Well, there’s a lot more cosplayers. Originally, everything was homemade. The crafts, the actual construction of their costumes was very unique; there was a particular level of passion and homemade quality to it. But the fans themselves, young and old, are a very diverse crowd. San Diego is mostly very diverse compared to some other shows—maybe with the exception of New York. But the enthusiasm is still the same. The spark that you see in the young kids and the veteran collectors or readers—the magic is still there. It’s a great opportunity to share the comic book experience with everyone.
Before you hooked up with Valiant, how long had you been involved with comics?
I used to collect comics when I was a teenager. In college I kind of stopped. It took me about a year of doing sequential work, comic book storytelling pages, and showing it to a couple different conventions . . . it was a smaller New York show where I met some influential people.
It seems that conventions were really pivotal for you. Do you think you’d ever have become as successful as you are without access to conventions?
Conventions are a great way to interact and network. As a comic book artist, you work in your own studio or at home. You’re not going into an office and interacting with your coworkers a lot. Comic-Cons are a great way to professionally, business-wise, network and meet with editors and potential editors, even also potential collaborators. Other than that, it’s really fun.
Worst Comic-Con moment?
Gosh, sometimes just fighting through the crowds. As an artist, you’re bringing work with you in a suitcase. Either you come early or stay late. Try to get a hotel room close to the convention center. And then, of course, there’s traffic driving from and driving back to LA.
I’ll fire off some “sorting hat” choices. You tell me which one you prefer: X-Men or X-Files?
X-Men. . . . My favorite X-Men movie is maybe the first one. . . . I haven’t seen Logan. I don’t get to see a lot of movies. I just saw Rogue One on a plane. (Laughter) It was great. I almost cried, and I’m an old man.
Which is your favorite Star Wars episode?
When I was a kid, it was Return of the Jedi. It came out one summer and I ended up watching that maybe a dozen or twenty times. That’s when movies were in theaters for months. And mostly because of the action scenes. I remember watching the fight scenes between the X-Wings and TIE Fighters on Endor. . . . I’d go home after watching the movie and draw my own space battle scenes. That was a lot of fun. . . . I’m probably a bigger Star Trek fan than Star Wars.
Michael Keaton Batman or Christian Bale Batman?
Christian Bale Batman. . . . And I thought Ben Affleck’s Batman was great. . . . As fans we really have to wait and see, not jump to too many conclusions beforehand. Because if they’re great actors, they’ll be able to transform themselves. . . . You need to be able to kind of see outside the box a little, but at the same time trust the process.
Alien or Aliens?
Aliens! [Imitating Bill Paxton] “Game over, man! Game over.”