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2019: not only is it the year that Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman in the DC Animated Universe, it also marks the 20th anniversary of Batman Beyond’s debut. Following the success of Batman: The Animated Series and its continuation The New Batman Adventures, Warner Bros and DC decided to jump decades into the future and tell the story of a new, younger Batman, voiced by Will Friedle, being mentored by a now-elderly Bruce, reprised by Kevin Conroy. The result was a critically-acclaimed, award-nominated animated series that took the Batman mythos in a unique direction.
Last month, it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con that Batman Beyond will be released on Blu-ray this fall, with 41 of the 52 episodes being fully remastered (the other 11 are getting an ‘upconversion’). Who knows, depending on the Blu-ray sales, it’s even possible that a Batman Beyond revival will be considered, as series co-creator Bruce Timm mentioned at SDCC.
Regardless, because of this exciting news and the fact that it’s been two decades since Batman Beyond premiered, we felt it’s worthwhile to go over not just why this was a great series, but why it’s also one of the best iterations of Batman period.
Terry McGinnis Is A Different, Yet Still Compelling Batman
It would have been easy enough for Batman Beyond to have Terry McGinnis simply resemble a younger Bruce Wayne, but the show wisely decided to have Terry stand out from his mentor and give him his own unique personality, characteristics, problems, etc. There are some similarities, to be sure, like how the death of Terry’s father pushed him to becoming Batman, or how, as Amanda Waller put it in the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue” (more on that in a bit), Terry has Bruce Wayne’s heart.
Ultimately, though, Terry is a much different kind of Batman than Bruce Wayne. Because he started his Batman journey at a younger age, he’s more headstrong and stubborn that Bruce was early in his Batman career. And unlike the original Batman, who was the quiet and foreboding type out in the field, Terry liked to talk when fighting his enemies, frequently making jokes at their expense. This actually gave him an edge when tangling with The Joker in Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker.
Terry being forced to balance his time as Batman with his civilian life, specifically school and personal relationships, also gave his superhero journey a Spider-Man-esque quality, as it was arguably harder for Terry to keep a lid on his crimefighting activities than it was for Bruce when he started out.
Terry McGinnis And Bruce Wayne Have A Great Dynamic
After Bruce Wayne met Terry McGinnis, he was initially not on board whatsoever with the teen acting as Batman, going so far as to disable the stolen Batsuit right as Terry was fighting Derek Powers’ security. By the end of the three-part “Rebirth” pilot though, Bruce realized Terry had potential and decided to mentor him, offering him a job as his personal assistant as a cover for why they were spending so much time together.
It’s rare that you’d see the elderly Bruce Wayne participate directly in Batman Beyond’s action, Instead, he primarily fed Terry advice and intel from back at the Batcave, serving as the voice of wisdom in Terry’s ear. In some episodes they got along great, but there were plenty of times where they clashed, whether it was due to Terry’s brashness, Bruce refusing to budge on an issue, or a little of both. Regardless, this dynamic was one of the main reasons Batman Beyond was so enjoyable to watch.
It should be noted that in the previously-mentioned “Epilogue,” Terry, now 31 years old, discovered that Amanda Waller had overwritten his father Warren’s DNA with Bruce’s DNA before Terry was born through Project Batman Beyond. But Amanda’s plans to give the next generation its own Batman fell through, and it was simply coincidental that Terry and Bruce’s paths eventually crossed. Terry may be physically similar to Bruce, but if their partnership hadn’t formed the way it did, then Terry’s time as Batman, assuming he even became Batman, arguably wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.
It’s Visually Distinctive From ‘Traditional’ Batman Stories
If you set a story in the future, then naturally things are going to look different than they do in the present day. After years of watching Bruce Wayne maneuver through an art deco, 1940s-looking Gotham City, Batman Beyond was set in Neo-Gotham, which looked like it was ripped straight from the Blade Runner world. Make no mistake, though: facelift aside, Neo-Gotham is just as crime-ridden and sketchy as it was decades earlier.
Naturally technology has also improved significantly in the 20 years between Bruce Wayne’s retirement and when Terry McGinnis becomes Batman, from flying vehicles to mini-CDs (the latter admittedly hasn’t aged particularly well in real life). Ironically, though, the main example of impressive tech in Batman Beyond is Terry’s Batsuit, and that was something Bruce created more than 20 years earlier. Beyond (pun intended) giving Terry abilities like super strength, flight and camouflage, the suit also visually distinguishes Terry from from the cape and cowl look we’re used to Bruce rocking.
Batman fans have come to expect a certain look from Batman stories, so when Batman Beyond moved the action to the future, it was a good call to infuse this ‘world’ with cyberpunk and sci-fi elements. In fact, the show’s unique look and the special technology in this era sometimes made Batman Beyond feel even darker than its predecessors.
It Can Be Enjoyed As A Standalone Offering
Batman Beyond premiered seven years after Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves, meaning the kids who caught that series when it was first on were now approximately high school-aged, and the kids just tuning into Batman Beyond possibly had never seen Batman: The Animated Series. Thankfully, Batman Beyond isn’t a show that requires you to have an in-depth knowledge of the Batman mythos.
Make no mistake, Batman Beyond is definitely more fulfilling if you’ve caught episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, particularly the latter series since it has the main DCAU animation style. There are a lot of references to Bruce Wayne’s crimefighting escapades, and as we’ll get into more later, some of his old villains even popped in at times. But if you only know the barest of basics about Batman, that’ll be enough to check out Terry McGinnis’ adventures.
Batman Beyond would later become more directly tied to the DCAU through crossovers with Justice League Unlimited and Static Shock, but the show itself is enjoyable enough on its own. Most of the episodes are standalone, and since the majority of the characters are brand-new, you can’t turn to the comics to learn about their personalities and histories ahead of time. If you’ve never been a huge fan of the traditional Batman mythos, watch a little bit of Batman Beyond to see if it strikes more a chord for you.
It Doesn’t Focus On Rehashing Old Batman Villains
One of the main reasons Batman’s popularity has endured for so long is because of his colorful rogues gallery. So Batman Beyond certainly could have gone the route of only bringing back and reinventing the Caped Crusader’s villains for the future in order to draw people in, but it didn’t. There were definitely some exceptions, like Mr. Freeze and Ra’s al Ghul causing trouble in respective episodes and various Jokerz gangs running around that model themselves after the Clown Prince of Crime (with The Joker himself eventually returning in a direct-to-video movie).
But for the most part, Batman Beyond either started from scratch with Terry McGinnis’ collection of adversaries or borrowed from other corners of DC lore. His arch-nemesis was Derek Powers, the man who ordered his father’s death and was transformed into the radioactive Blight towards the end of the three-part pilot. He frequently went up against the shapeshifting Inque (who, to be fair, does share similarities with Clayface) and also tangled with the Royal Flush Gang, even having a brief romantic fling with that group’s Ten, a.k.a. Melanie Walker, calling to mind Bruce’s relationship with Selina Kyle/Catwoman.
Other notable rogues included the sound-manipulating Shriek, the illusion-inducing Spellbinder, the serpent-obsessed terrorist group Cobra, the Society of Assassins member Curaré, the anti-establishment Mad Stan, the list goes on. It’d be foolish to say that Terry’s rogues gallery exceeds Bruce’s in quality, but they were definitely worthy opponents for our intrepid hero.
It’s Gone On To Impact The Actual DC Comics
It’s rare that something that was created specifically for a DC Comics movie or TV goes on to become a big deal within the comics themselves, but Batman Beyond is one of the exceptions. Admittedly, it took a while for that to happen, as aside from releasing some comics that were directly tied into the TV show, DC didn’t start featuring Terry McGinnis regularly on the printed page until 2010. For the first half of the decade, there were various Batman Beyond series and spinoff books set in a universe that blended DCAU continuity with elements of the main DC universe.
Terry McGinnis also cameoed in the mainstream DC continuity twice in 2010, but it wasn’t until the maxi-series The New 52: Futures End that he became a major player, as he traveled from his apocalyptic future to five years ahead of the then-present day New 52 universe to try to prevent his reality from existing. Sadly, Terry died during this story, leading to the future Tim Drake to don the Batman Beyond mantle and return to Terry’s time period to pick up where he left off, as unfortunately, their efforts to change the future didn’t work.
Terry was revived during Tim’s Batman Beyond series, and following the launch of the DC Rebirth line, another Batman Beyond book began publication with Terry back as the titular star. At the time of this writing, this book is still being published and isn’t ending anytime soon. Even if it does, it’s doubtful that DC will put Terry back on the shelf. He’s become popular enough that the company will find new ways to highlight the Batman Beyond mythology, whether it’s ted back to the original show or more closely connected to the main DC universe.
The Batman Beyond Blu-ray set will hit shelves on October 29, and the show is currently available to stream on DC Universe. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all the latest updates regarding DC TV, including if a Batman Beyond revival is announced.