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‘Batman Beyond’ (1999 to 2001)

— by CHAS BLANKENSHIP —

“Never again.”

Those were the words uttered by Bruce Wayne as he shut down the Batcave…ending his crusade as Batman once and for all.

But evil is never completely eradicated. The poor professor that it is, it continues to manifest in the generations…even as Wayne grew older and reserved, his adversaries grew younger and more ruthless.

Thus the stage was set…and lightning was captured yet again by the producing team behind “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman: The Animated Series” with 1999’s “Batman Beyond.”

Flash forward 20 years after Bruce’s last outing as the dark knight.

Gotham has flourished into a monolithic sprawl of technological achievement…Gothic stone citadels replaced by gleaming ziggurats of titanium and glass.

But in spite of the Utopian landscape, crime has run rampant…both on the streets and in the boardrooms. While Wayne Enterprises has since been transformed into Wayne/Powers following a hostile takeover by mogul Derek Powers (Sherman Howard), the city is plagued by a rowdy street gang calling themselves the Jokerz after their idolized criminal inspiration.

In the midst of a new generation of Gothamites is high school student Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle), a punk with a record from juvenile hall and a short temper…but also with a heart of gold hidden underneath his swagger.

After an unfounded argument with his father, Terry has a run-in with the Jokerz that leads him to the front gates of Wayne Manor…and a strange old shut-in…named Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy).

Due to circumstance, McGinnis stumbles upon Wayne’s cape and cowled alter ego…just in time to discover a secret hidden within Wayne/Powers that cost his father’s life.

Fueled by the same tormented forces that befell Wayne following the murder of his own parents, Terry makes the rash decision to break into the Batcave…steal the newly designed high-tech Batsuit and take matters into his own noble yet naïve hands.

However, following the prevention of Derek Power’s own nefarious schemes, Bruce sees a much-needed spirit in Terry…and decides to take him in as a field operative, giving Gotham City its first Batman in decades.

Meant to appeal to younger kids, “Batman Beyond” is a force unto itself…with its techno-slammin’ visual aesthetic and razor’s edge creative design.

It successfully placed an entirely radical spin on the character, maybe even THE most radical to date, yet made it entirely plausible.

I, like many other fans at the time, was completely skeptical about taking Bruce Wayne out of the costume.

How I prayed that the episode would come where Bruce would tell Terry, as he had told Dick Grayson before, “This is MY hunt.”

But in hindsight, I respect that the series didn’t make such unfounded moves like that…giving Terry and the new rogues gallery a fighting chance to become just as credible of a cornerstone for the legacy as anything else.

Simply put, this IS Batman…but it’s a Batman unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

In many ways, the approach to the series reminds me of the one taken with the “Blade” movies…in so much that you have all of these unique elements…techno, eye-popping futurist visuals, music videos, Generation X…that seem like they have the potential to not meld well. But given the efforts of the creative forces behind the project, they not only work…they work beautifully.

And even better, the series never allowed said elements to overpower what was truly important.

Just as with every series created by this particular production team, what drives “Beyond” are its characters and its senses of both humor and storytelling.

As an out of left field character, Terry McGinnis still fits into the landscape of psychological motivation that makes up Batman’s cast of players.

And yet, despite taking Wayne out of the costume and dropping someone entirely new into it, we can still identify McGinnis as a character…that smart-mouthed delinquent in all of us with a tough exterior but noble intentions. We’ve all got attitude to burn and Terry is very much a reflection of that. I love the fact that they took someone like Will Friedle (for those who haven’t figured it out yet or didn’t know…he played Eric Matthews on “Boy Meets World”), mostly known for comedic work at the time, and put him in this dramatic role…and, as always, he fits beautifully.

When the producers were faced with the decision by Warners to attempt a teenaged Batman, immediately that brings up many concerns and potential pitfalls.

Thankfully, the decision to push the timeline into the future…it was the perfect choice…and really the only choice.

I mean can you imagine a series conceived in the same manner as, say, “X-Men Evolution?” Bruce Wayne in high school facing off against his villains in that format? That would never work (I don’t think anyway).

But to make the teenaged Batman a kid from the wrong side of the tracks…which makes his taking of the mantle a test of character and self-redemption…and have him act on Wayne’s behalf out in the field while Bruce monitors and mentors from the cave is just brilliance. It accomplishes the task at hand while both allowing itself to be connected to the previous animated series and not throw away the legacy of the original shows.

By doing this, Wayne and the Batman persona are even MORE mythic than ever before…because we’ve seen all that he’s accomplished and done as Batman before and all of that is still legit in the “Beyond” future.

This is strengthened by Kevin’s presence in the role yet again…only this time he plays the older Bruce a bit more reserved, more of a mentor and father figure than ever before. Of course, being Wayne, he still keeps the spirit quite in tact.

Terry: “oh…guess you would call yourself that. But that’s MY name now.”

Bruce: “Tell that to my subconscious.”

One of the key aspects of the show is that, in very subtle ways, it creates a parallel dynamic between Terry and Bruce’s respective crime fighting careers.

For instance, “Dead Man’s Hand” introduces Terry to the Royal Flush Gang…and a new love interest named Melanie Walker, who just so happens to be the gang’s ‘Ten.’ Their relationship both in and out of costume clearly symbolizes a nod to that of the one between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle aka Catwoman.

There’s also the involvement of Police Commissioner Gordon…only THIS time it’s Jim’s daughter…and former Batgirl…Barbara (voiced by “Grease” co-star Stockard Channing!).

One of the best early episodes, “Meltdown,” goes even one step further by bringing Mr. Freeze himself into the future…a result of his metamorphosis that allowed his mind to live on through the years. Even amidst all of the cutting edge visual difference of “Beyond” the show found its ways to inject raw, nostalgic emotion emanating from the past.

Batman: “You gotta get outta here, Freeze. The whole place is gonna go…”

Mr. Freeze: “Believe me…you’re the only one who cares…”

When rogues like Freeze, Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul weren’t involved however, the show still managed to meet the challenge by creating quite the rogues gallery for McGinnis.

Whether it was the personal vendetta of Derek Powers, who became the Nuclear-Radiated Blight…or the techno-wizardry employed by Shriek, Willy Watt and Spellbinder…the sheer insanity of Mad Stan or the sleek and deadly efficiency of the assassin Curare, Terry’s adversaries, in their own right and to their credit, can be just as memorable as Bruce’s foes.

Certain villains were created to be futuristic interpretations of classic Batman villains…such as the shape-shifting Inque (mirrored after Clayface), or the mastermind of the episode “Sentries of the Lost Cosmos”…meant to potentially be the “Beyond” answer to the Mad Hatter or perhaps the Riddler.

There were even some adversaries mirrored after Marvel villains! The Kobra Organization (parallel to HYDRA in the Marvel Universe) or the deadly Stalker from the episode “Bloodsport”…created as a “Beyond” interpretation of Kraven the Hunter; one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies.

Some foes just got downright dark and edgy, including the Brain Trust…and the Earth Mover, whose episode is still one of the downright creepiest stories from “Batman Beyond”s three season run.

Aside from our major players the cast is always of the utmost quality.

King, the leader of the Royal Flush Gang, is performed by none other than 007 himself…Mr. George Lazenby (who portrayed Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”).

George Takei (the original Sulu from the “Star Trek” television series) delivers a menacing performance as Mr. Fixx, Derek Powers’ right hand and the man who murdered Terry’s father in the pilot film.

There’s also Paul Winfield, known for his roles as U.S.S. Reliant Captain Tyrell from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and Police Lieutenant Traxler from the original “Terminator”…here providing the voice of Sam Young, Gotham City’s District Attorney.

As with most phenomenally told shows, “Beyond” was given the boot after its third season…and, even worse, without a proper send-off. The show ended without any sense of finality and at the time it was quite disappointing.

That is…until some years later.

Cut to the end of the second season of “Justice League: Unlimited.”

Thinking that the show’s second season was its final one, Bruce Timm and the producing team felt the time was right to bid an extremely fond farewell to the legacy they were about the leave behind with an episode cleverly titled “Epilogue.”

Meant to tie all of the series together (meaning “Batman,” “Superman,” “Justice League” and “Beyond”), the episode takes place 65 years into the future from the present day of “Unlimited.”

In one of the most powerful half-hours of super hero adapted television, “Batman Beyond” was finally given its definitive season finale as Terry is confronted with a life-changing discovery…

Amanda Waller, former head of Project Cadmus…a top secret division of the U.S. Government specializing in meta-human affairs and genetic engineering…conducted a project called “Batman Beyond” for the sole purpose of making certain that the world would always have a Batman to defend it…regardless of whether or not it was Bruce Wayne behind the mask.

I won’t go into anymore detail, lest I spoil it, but a tremendously inspired and logical choice is made to end the episode as a book end to the opening of “On Leather Wings” way back from 1992…it’s just so beautifully handled and the perfect ending to what is now lovingly referred to as the Timmverse…or the Animated DCU. Of course, the series was picked up for another 13 episode run afterwards haha…oh well. I personally still consider “Epilogue” to be the one true ending.

In the end, “Batman Beyond” became a valid component of the Batman lexicon…from fan fever over the desire for a live action motion picture to DC Comics’ brand new “Beyond” comic series that just began its run this year, it’s clear that McGinnis and his role as the futuristic dark knight left quite an impression on fans and audiences alike.

I highly doubt that “Batman Beyond” and the part it played in continuing the legacy will be forgotten…most likely it’ll stick around long enough to see the very future it attempted to predict.

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“Batman Beyond” (Bruce W, Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami and Alan Burnett, 1999 to 2001)

Episodes Directed by …

Butch Lukic (14 episodes)
Dan Riba (13 episodes)
Curt Geda (10 episodes)
Kyungwon Lim (4 episodes)
James Tucker (4 episodes)
Yukio Suzuki (2 episodes)

Episodes Written by …

Stan Berkowitz (12 episodes)
Hilary Bader (8 episodes)
Alan Burnett (8 episodes)
Bob Goodman (7 episodes)
Paul Dini (4 episodes)
Rich Fogel (4 episodes)
John P. McCann (2 episodes)
Neal Adams (unknown episodes)
Gardner Fox (unknown episodes)
Bob Kane (unknown episodes)
Jerry Robinson (unknown episodes)

Based on the DC Comics Character Created by … Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Series Executive Produced by …

Jean MacCurdy

Series Produced by …

Alan Burnett
Bruce W. Timm
Paul Dini
Shaun McLaughlin
Glen Murakami
Bruce W. Timm

Casting and Voice Direction by …

Andrea Romano
Leslie Lamers

Original Television Theme Composed by …

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Original Television Scores Composed by …

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Will Friedle … Terence ‘Terry’ McGinnis/Batman
Kevin Conroy … Bruce Wayne
Stockard Channing … Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon
Paul Winfield … District Attorney Sam Young
Lauren Tom … Dana Tan
Cree Summer … Max Gibson
Teri Garr … Mrs. Mary McGinnis
Ryan O’Donohue … Matthew ‘Matt’ McGinnis
Seth Green … Nelson Nash
Melissa Disney … Blade
Yvette Lowenthal … Chelsea Cunningham
Rachael Leigh Cook … Chelsea Cunningham
Sherman Howard … Derek Powers/Blight
George Takei … Mr. Fixx
Shannon Kenny … Inque
Chris Mulkey … Shriek
Henry Rollins … Mad Stan
Jon Cypher … Spellbinder
Carl Lumbly … Stalker
George Lazenby … Royal Flush Gang King
Sarah Douglas … Royal Flush Gang Queen
Olivia d’Abo … Melanie Walker/Royal Flush Gang Ten
Timothy Dang … King Cobra
David Warner … Ras’ Al Ghul
Michael Ansara … Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze
Peter Onorati … Rex Stewert
Bruce W. Timm … Jokerz Leader
Frank Welker … Ace the Bathound

The Dark Knight battles crime in Gotham City with occasional help from Robin and Batgirl.

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Key Episodes:

“Rebirth” Part I
“Rebirth” Part II
“Black Out”
“Meltdown”
“Shriek”
“Dead Man’s Hand”
“The Winning Edge”
“Spellbound”
“Disappearing Inque”
“A Touch of Curare”
“Ascension”
“Splicers”
“Lost Soul”
“Hidden Agenda”
“Bloodsport”
“Mind Games”
“Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot”
“Where’s Terry?”
“Ace in the Hole”
“King’s Ransom”
“Out of the Past”
“The Call” Part I
“The Call” Part II
“Curse of the Kobra” Part I
“Curse of the Kobra” Part II
“Unmasked”
“Epilogue” (as seen in “Justice League: Unlimited”)

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    i enjoyed this series. it was interesting to see a future based show on batman. The future batman was good. i enjoyed will as the voice. Also it was great kevin returned as old bruce.



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