Created By: Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, & Alan Burnett
No. of Seasons: 3
No. of Episodes: 52
Original Channel: The WB Television Network
Original Release: January 10, 1999 – December 18, 2001
Chronologically the last of the DC Animated Universe, Batman Beyond actually premiered before such series like Static Shock, Justice League, and The Zeta Project with the former even serving as a spin-off of the series though sadly not that good of one comparatively speaking. What’s even funnier is that though the series ended on December 18, 2001 with the episode “Unmasked” it wasn’t until July 23, 2005 with the episode “Epilogue” in the cartoon Justice League Unlimited that the series would receive a true-blooded finale.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Let us first start off where all cartoons begin, in the opening theme.
Now, I’m not certain if this was strictly a trend of the 90’s or one that has since waned in the time since but a great number of superhero cartoons, primarily those of Marvel and DC, did not have lyrical songs for their shows. In the case of Batman Beyond, the intro is composed of a… cyberpunk style of music the likes of which I can’t even begin to properly analyze. I have been told many a time that I can’t carry a tune even if it had handles so I’ll leave the musical side strictly to the professionals but I will say this of the visuals.
Stunning. That’s what it is. The beginning bit where we start to zoom in on what looks like Gotham only to see it at a far more grander scale in the form of Neo Gotham was an excellent way of showcasing the fact that this is not the world that we the viewers had come to know. One major bit of distinction in the intro though is a series of words that are shown amidst a series of super quick cuts with fitting imagery behind them.
Apathy which is followed by what could either be thugs or cops holding their weaponry but seemingly in the midst of not really doing anything with them followed shortly by a woman’s face frozen in terror. Greed that is followed by a trio of cop cars flying onto a scene preceding the word Corruption before we see the face of an aged Bruce Wayne followed shortly by the word Power. The face of his new protégé Terry McGinnis standing in a cemetery during a rainstorm is followed by Hope where we at last see the Dark Knight returned onto the scene. More words follow a greater number of cuts, those being Courage, Honor, and Justice everything that Batman, in any incarnation, has always stood for.
A particular thing to note especially is the fact that just before the final cut of the new Batman spreading his wings, there’s an image of a skull behind which seems to be an exploding light of emerald energy. A subtle hint towards the man who would, essentially, become the one responsible for bringing Neo Gotham its own Dark Knight.
As to the opening two-part episode of “Rebirth” it begins in the not-too-distant future of 2019 where we see an aged Batman, sporting a extremely high-tech batsuit, in the midst of rescuing a kidnapped heiress. Unfortunately, in the midst of laying some serious smack down on the thugs, Batman suffers a mild heart attack, leaving the remaining goon open to beating him to death. At the risk of his own life and that of their intended victim, Batman breaks the one rule he had always abided to the best of his ability.
He picked up a gun.
The kidnapper fled to the arriving police and the heiress returned to her family but the damage had already been done. The look on Batman… on Bruce’s face as he looks at the gun in his hands, the very thing that had robbed him of his parents all those years ago… was the last straw. “Never again.” He says and the lights of the Batcave turn off one by one until the last light upon the display case of costumes shuts off.
If I may take a moment to step atop this soapbox here, I’d like to make a point in saying that this, this scene right here, is exactly why I loathe the end of the so-called Dark Knight trilogy of films. It took Batman having not just a heart attack and putting his life, and those whom he hoped to save, in danger before he even considered the idea and it took him having to pick up a gun, pick up not use, to be the deal breaker. That… that schmuck… in those movies is a BINO! A Batman-In-Name-Only!
The Joker was awesome though. Heath Ledger deserved every award he got for that role because if you can make even your fellow actors think you’re the real Joker, you’re doing the job right.
Moving back to the opening episode, we found our series protagonist Terry McGinnis living the atypical life of a teenager with divorced parents and being something of a reformed troublemaker. That being he doesn’t take any crap from a local gang of Jokerz, a group of punks who, for reasons I cannot even begin to understand, actually try and emulate the Joker.
Fortunately for Terry, he ends up running from the gang and leads them right to the front door of Wayne Manor where he, and an extremely elderly Bruce Wayne, kick all of their collective behinds. Of course, this leads to Bruce having some heart complications and Terry helps him out by taking him inside the manor and getting him his medication and, coincidentally, discovering the Batcave.
I’ve got to say, for an old man whose been retired from the crime-fighting scene for a good twenty years, it was really good to see that Bruce Wayne can still fight with the best of them whilst also being unbelievably scary.
Things take a worse turn for Terry though as he returns home to find the police and his mother waiting for him. Terry learns that his father had been murdered earlier that evening while he was out partying with his friends shortly before the whole debacle with the Jokerz. The police think it was a robbery gone wrong by a similar gang but as we, and Terry, eventually learn that the real culprit is Derek Powers, the CEO of Wayne-Powers Industries who has been using the company to construct a specialized bio-weapon that Terry’s father had found out about.
Terry goes to Wayne Manor, seeking Bruce’s help with investigating his father’s murder and the cover-up. Needless to say, Bruce is less than pleased to find that Powers has been using his company to create a mutagenic nerve gas but not so much that he’ll come out of retirement. He insists that Terry take the evidence to Commissioner Barbara Gordon and Terry makes a surprisingly on the mark observation that something else occurred in Bruce Wayne’s past that truly drove him to retirement beside his age.
I’d go more into that but frankly, just watching the film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is informative enough. That and it’s a really good end for one of the greatest comic book villains.
Anyway, after a brief run-in with Powers, Terry manages to not only sneak into Wayne Manor but he actually steals the batsuit and goes out flying into the city. He’s far from the graceful Batman but he manages to become quite adept at the suit in a surprisingly quick amount of time. Bruce gets the bat-computer running and demands that Terry bring the suit back and even makes the suit shut down until he eventually relents long enough to allow Terry to use the suit only one time.
I shan’t go into the climax of the episode beyond the fact that while Terry manages to bring his father’s murderer to justice, he too follows in the footsteps of Bruce Wayne by inadvertently making a far greater threat in the form of Derek Powers, later to be known as Blight. For you see, during the foray, Terry threw a canister containing the nerve gas at Powers hoping to knock the man out.
Powers however shot at the canister and got exposed to the mutagenic nerve gas that his company had made. He survived it by way of the only means of killing the virus, extreme levels of radiation. Of course, with the virus being mutagenic, particularly in severe changes to its environment, it mutated Powers into a living nuclear reactor causing all but his skeleton to glow with an eerie green hue.
What I find particular funny with how the episode ends, aside from the reveal of Blight that is, is with Bruce Wayne visiting Terry at his home and convincing his mother to allow him to hire Terry as part-time assistant, an ally as it were. Bruce warns him that he is a difficult taskmaster and accepts nothing short of excellence from all that work for him. At Terry’s acceptance, Bruce welcomes him into his world and the two shake hands, one old knight to an aspiring squire.
As amazing as the opening episodes are, they unfortunately do not fall under my absolute favorite of the series. No, that honor goes to the fifth episode of season one “Meltdown” which features not a new villain for Batman to face, but an old one. In an attempt to find a way of curing himself of his radioactive affliction, Powers learns of a means of cloning his body and transferring his consciousness into it. Of course, not wanting to be the test subject of it himself he instead uses one Mister Victor Fries, more commonly recognized as Mr. Freeze, for the procedure. The process seems to work with Victor making something of a new life.
Unfortunately, Victor’s body starts to revert back to requiring extreme cold in order to survive and Powers and the doctor responsible for the clone body, try to kill Victor in hopes of studying his organs to try and figure out what went wrong. Of course, Victor manages to not escape he also implements his last piece of hardware and becomes Mr. Freeze once more. He manages to kill the doctor and though he makes a good attempt at killing Powers, Blight cannot be killed so easily.
During the fight between Batman and Mr. Freeze, Blight attacks Freeze and even names himself via this epic quoting here:
Batman tries to intervene but Blight easily overpowers him with his radioactive powers until, surprisingly, Mr. Freeze comes to Batman’s rescue by blasting him out of the complex. Though his plan for blowing up the building, and most of Neo-Gotham, has failed, Mr. Freeze’s desire to end his suffering comes true as the place starts to collapse around the two of them. Batman tries to convince Mr. Freeze to leave with him but Mr. Freeze retorts that Batman is the only one who cares before creating a wall of ice between them as the ice and mortar start to crumble down on top of him.
This episode is my favorite chiefly because it shows the true difference between Terry and Bruce as far as being Batman is concerned. Bruce didn’t believe that Victor deserved a second chance at life or that he would do something good with it while Terry thought otherwise. In the beginning of the series, I thought that Terry would become something of a teenaged Bruce but with a heck of a lot more angst. Whether by the life he had before or because he did not experience the same level of tragedy as Bruce had as a child, Terry is still an optimistic soul and one that was willing, and glad, to offer redemption.
If I had to pick an episode that describes the differences between Bruce Wayne’s Batman with Terry’s then this is the one. There are plenty of other episodes and moments where the two of them butt heads over things but this is one that directly involves the two of them. Bruce knows Mr. Freeze and has dealt with him many times whereas Terry has only known the man from history and has only truly met the man, Victor, in his stead. Bruce only sees the darkness whereas Terry the light and this is a trend that continues throughout most of the series.
Overall, Batman Beyond is a great cartoon series but one that, strictly speaking, is not truly a Batman cartoon. It was Greg Weissman who voiced the opinion that Batman Beyond was more akin to Spider-Man than to Batman and, in a way, he’s right. A good number of Batman’s foes are those who bear a striking similarity to Spider-Man’s own rogues gallery but the real breadwinner is the fact that, at his own admittance, Terry is one that likes to make jokes and get a rise out of his adversaries, an exact opposite of what Batman is.
However, I think that he, and most others, fail to realize that while he may indeed call himself Batman, Terry is still a “Robin” as it were when it comes to crime-fighting and the ways of the Bat Clan. Of course he’s not going to be the brooding, scowling visage we know and love, but that’s frankly not what we should be expecting from a Batman who is a teenager anyway. He’ll crack wise when the mood suits him and, oftentimes, have to make those difficult decisions of balancing social life, school, and being the Bat.
Sometimes even implementing some of together at the same time like so:
If there’s a close second to “Meltdown” the nineteenth episode of season two “Eggbaby” is a close second for obviously hilarious reasons. Because if you think seeing that was funny enough, you can’t even imagine the amazingness of hearing an incredulous Bruce Wayne demanding to know why he’s hearing a baby crying and what on earth could have possessed Terry to bring said baby along on the job.