For the history of Batman, check out the post here.
In 1997, leadership at The WB Network had changed, and with new executives came new ideas on how to improve everything—even the things that weren’t in need of improving. While Superman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series were doing well for the network, the audience for both programs tended to skew a bit older than what was desired. Network head Jamie Kellner called in the producers--Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami and Paul Dini--with the idea of making Batman more appealing to kids. They thought he was talking about adding yet another sidekick to the mix, but Kellner had bigger ideas: make Batman a teenager.
|Evolution of Batman in the DCAU.|
Timm, Burnett and Dini were a bit taken aback by the suggestion; so much so that they even contemplated outright quitting. Murakami, though, was very enthusiastic for the idea and convinced the others to stay on and go through with it. However, instead of starting entirely from scratch, Dini and Burnett thought it would work better as a continuation of Batman set 50 years into the future; making it a part of the interconnected DC Animated Universe (DCAU).
|Batman struggles to juggle his heroics with his love life.|
The series developed under the working names of The Tomorrow Knight, Batman Tomorrow and B2, ended up being set roughly 40 years into the future from the then-present day. Gotham and its citizens were redesigned with a strong focus on Dickensian themes. The city would become populated by tower skyscrapers with a modern aesthetic, while aspects of Old Gotham would remain the lower you went. The production team took cues from Blade Runner, Metropolis from 1927, and Akira for a blend of film noir and German expressionism mixed with future tech noir. The clothing styles would also have a Victorian/Old English feel to them and would vary depending on the class level of the character. The technology wasn’t too outlandishly futuristic, instead it was grounded in reality by exaggerating technology that already existed like cell phones and computers (this future still had extensive use of land lines). That’s not to say there were the occasional futuristic flourishes, like the flying Batmobile and reporters who appeared to be nothing more than holograms on a screen (voiced by Lauren Tom, Mark Jonathan Davis and Sean Donnellan).
|Derek Powers making Warren McGinnis uncomfortable.|
One desire of the producers was to shift the criminal element from the streets to the boardroom, making the villains be wealthy and powerful members of Neo-Gotham society. While the streets would be safer than they were in Batman, there were still remnants of good old-fashioned street crime; such as the gang that patterned themselves after the Joker (Mark Hamill), called The Jokerz (other similarly themed gangs were contemplated, but abandoned to keep it from feeling gimmicky; although a similar concept was successfully explored in Batman: Arkham City). The idea was never allowed to come to full fruition as Kellner, who was obsessed with capturing the feel of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wanted more focus on school drama. So, many stories were centered around events and characters at Hamilton Hill High School (named for the mayor from Batman).
|The mind is willing, but the body...|
Burnett suggested that the series should open on the original Batman’s final night. Beginning 20 years in the future, Batman (Kevin Conroy) was forced to finally retire as his heart had become too weak to allow him to continue fighting crime, even in his enhanced super suit. 20 years later, Bruce Wayne had become a virtual recluse in his mansion with his loyal guard dog, Ace (Frank Welker). Ruthless businessman Derek Powers (Sherman Howard, cast because the producers remembered he was almost their Lex Luthor), a ruthless businessman, ran Wayne-Powers; the combination of Wayne Enterprises and Powers Technology.
|Blight takes on Mr. Freeze as Batman watches.|
Powers was engaging in illegal weapons development that was discovered by Warren McGinnis (Michael Gross), leading to Powers having him killed by his right-hand man, Mr. Fixx (George Takei). Warren’s son, Terry (Will Friedle in his first voice acting role), had accidentally discovered Bruce’s secret identity after Bruce helped him fend off a gang of Jokerz at the gates of the manor. Terry returned to steal the Batsuit to go after Mr. Fixx, and eventually Powers himself after exposure to his weapon turned him into the radioactive villain, Blight. Ultimately, Bruce decided to become active in his company again and to take Terry on as his assistant as a cover for Terry continuing as Batman. The Batman suit acted as strength-enhancing armor with boot jets for limited flight, expandable wings for gliding, a variety of audio and visual sensors, and a stealth mode that rendered it invisible.
|Terry with Bruce and Ace.|
Batman Beyond debuted as part of Kids’ WB! on January 10, 1999 and ran for three seasons; racking up ten Annie Award nominations and winning two. Originally, the Batman Tomorrow moniker was chosen, but it was felt it would be too hard to do promotional interstitials. In some territories outside the United States, the show was known as Batman of the Future. The series’ writers included Burnett, Dini, Stan Berkowitz, Hilary J. Bader, Rich Fogel, Robert Goodman, Evan Dorkin, Sara Dyer, Shaun McLaughlin, John P. McCann, James Tucker, John Shirley, Joseph Kuhr and Tom Ruegger. Shirley Walker, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis, and Kristopher Carter composed the music, with Carter also coming up with the theme. Koko Enterprise Co,. Ltd. and Dong Yang Animation Co., Ltd. handled the animating duties throughout the show’s run, however halfway through the second season they switched from traditional ink and paint to digital coloring, resulting in the remaining episodes being somewhat brighter than the rest.
|Terry getting ready for action.|
The opening sequence was a composition of several different animation techniques designed and put together by Darwyn Cooke. Two shots were achieved by Timm in his kitchen: 1) when old Bruce Wayne turns towards the camera was a maquette sculpted by Glenn Wong filmed on a Lazy Susan and 2) when Batman is surrounded by foes and the camera spins around him, that was a figure being spun on that same Lazy Susan as Timm filmed it.
|Mary and Matt McGinnis.|
Although the death of a parent set Terry out on his path as Batman, he wasn’t exactly orphaned. He still had his mother, Mary (Teri Garr), and little brother, Matt (Ryan O’Donohue). The network wanted Matt to become Batman’s sidekick, having a secret way in and out of their apartment to a motorcycle. The producers largely ignored that and instead just made Matt a huge fan of Batman, while simultaneously being a brat to Terry. However, the network got their way with the addition of Maxine Gibson (Cree Summer) in the second season, fulfilling their desire for a strong young teenage girl. She was an intelligent classmate of Terry’s who figured out his dual identity and spent the rest of the series acting in an Alfred-type role, rather than being another sidekick akin to Batgirl on the previous show. The other woman in Terry’s life was Dana Tan (Tom); his long-suffering girlfriend who often came second to Terry’s duties as Batman. At one point, Murakami wanted to showcase an episode in season 3 where Terry managed to make a date with Dana, but Burnett wanted to have Terry’s affections shift towards Max to escape the trope of the teenaged hero having one consistent girlfriend throughout a series’ run. Fans, and even Friedle, even came out in support of that pairing over the years.
|A collage of villains featured on the show.|
For a new Batman, they introduced a host of new villains. Each began as a drawing that was put in the hands of that episode’s writer to flesh out the finer details. Amongst them was Inque (Shannon Kenny), a freelance saboteur who could change into an ink-like liquid; Walter Shreeve, aka Shriek (Chris Mulkey), a genius sound engineer led astray by Powers who developed a soundwave-generating suit; James Tate, aka Armory (Dorian Harewood), a brilliant weapons designer forced to become a mercenary when he loses his job; Ira Billings, aka Spellbinder (Jon Cypher), a high school psychologist who used virtual reality technology and his knowledge of the human brain to commit crimes; Ian Peek (Michael McKean), a tabloid newscast host who used a phasing device to uncover celebrity secrets to boost his ratings; Stalker (Carl Lumbly), a big game hunter enhanced with cybernetic implants who targeted Batman as his next, great hunting challenge; Curare (Melissa Disney), the best assassin in the Society of Assassins who wielded a laser-honed scimitar; Dr. Abel Cuvier (Ian Buchanan), a scientist who introduced “splicing”, the act of combining human DNA with animal DNA, and used that discovery to commit crimes; Kenny Stanton, aka Payback (Adam Wylie, Bill Fagerbakke in costume), was a troubled child who decided to get revenge on his parents’ tormentors in order to free their time up to give him attention; and Carter Wilson, aka Terminal (Michael Rosenbaum), a Jokerz gang leader who was also a popular genius at Hamilton High, amongst others.
|Max fixes up Zeta.|
One new character went on to have a life outside of Beyond: Infiltration Unit Zeta (Gary Cole & Diedrich Bader). Zeta was an assassination android that developed a conscience due to the machinations of his creator. Zeta went rogue and the NSA tracked him down to Hamilton Hill where Batman first fought against him, then with him. Maxine ultimately disabled his tracking device and taught him how to use his holographic projections to make new identities for himself, allowing Zeta to escape. “Zeta” served as the backdoor pilot for The Zeta Project, which came to Kids WB! in 2001.
|You can take the Commissioner out of the batsuit...|
Wanting the show to stand on its own, they limited the number of returning characters from the previous series. That’s not to say some didn’t pop up from time to time. One of the series’ recurring characters was Barbara Gordon (Stockard Channing, Angie Harmon as of season 3), who was now the Police Commissioner and initially very anti-Batman. She was married to district attorney Sam Young (Paul Winfield). Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) appeared as just his head, made immortal by the same cryogenic process that eventually destroyed his body (a rejected gag where Freeze’s head was living in Bruce’s refrigerator was dismissed as being an unfitting end for the character). Bane was a withered husk of a man after years of exposure to Venom; the only thing that was keeping him alive at that point. Ra’s al Ghul (David Warner), whose body degenerated from repeating use of the Lazarus Pits, transferred his mind into the body of his daughter, Talia (Olivia Hussey), in the hopes of one day taking Bruce’s and gaining control of Wayne Enterprises. They and other characters, particularly villains, were immortalized via souvenirs on display in the Batcave.
|The Royal Flush Gang.|
Stradling the line between new and old was the Royal Flush Gang who flew around on giant playing cards. This version was a criminal family known as the Walkers. The King (George Lazenby) and Queen (Amanda Donohoe & Sarah Douglas) were husband and wife, Jack was their son, also named Jack (Scott Cleverdon & Nicholas Guest), and their daughter, Melanie (Olivia d’Abo), was Ten. Ace was a massive and mute android that served primarily as their bodyguard. Melanie developed affections for Batman, akin to the original’s relationship with Catwoman, and eventually quit her team and tried to reform. A rejected idea by Murakami was to have Melanie rejoin the team and become the new Queen.
|Justice League Beyond: Superman, Warhawk, Green Lantern, Aquagirl, and Big Barda.|
It took until the third season for the DCAU’s Superman to make a guest-appearance. Although Superman actor Tim Daly was available, the producers chose to cast Christopher McDonald, who had previously voiced his father, Jor-El, to show that Superman had grown over the years. With him came that era’s version of the Justice League, a precursor to the following Justice League animated series. Their roster included Aquagirl (Jodi Benson, who voiced Disney’s Ariel); Big Barda (Farrah Forke), formerly of the Female Furies of Apokolips; Green Lantern Kai-ro (Tom); Micron (Wayne Brady), the next in the line of Atoms; and Warhawk (Peter Onorati), the son of John Stewart and Hawkgirl (revealed later, as the two hadn’t been introduced to the universe yet). The episode also elevated Starro, the mind-controlling starfish-like alien that first fought the League in their debut comic, into an actual character from its cameo appearance in Superman.
The biggest character return came in the form of the Joker in the made-for-TV film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Written by Dini based on ideas by him, Timm and Murakami, the film delved into the mystery of how the Joker stayed alive and what happened to drive the Bat-family apart. The film also featured an adult Tim Drake (Dean Stockwell) and an elderly Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin), as well as the return of Tara Strong as Batgirl and Mathew Valencia as Robin in flashbacks. Because the Beyond crew was already stretched tight, Tucker was named the film’s director and was given a crew comprised of series regulars and freelancers. Some work was outsourced to Tokyo Movie Shinsha, who in turn outsourced to Koko Enterprises and Dong Yang.
|New vs. old.|
The film was decidedly violent in its first airing, earning a PG-13 rating. Because of the Columbine High School massacre, there was a massive backlash against violence in movies and video games meant to be for children. At the request of executives, the film was altered heavily to achieve a PG rating in future airings and immediate home video releases. Many of these included the elimination of blows from fight scenes or fight scenes entirely, altering the color of graffiti to less-resemble blood, the removal of a knife and projectile weaponry in a couple of scenes, the removal of visible deaths, and altered dialogue, amongst others.
|Terry and his Justice League meet Static and his Justice League.|
Once production wrapped up on the series’ 52 episodes, the network didn’t order any additional. The cast and crew went on to other projects, including the next phase of the DCAU with Justice League. Production delays caused some episodes to receive massive delays. Two episodes produced during season 2, “Big Time” and “Untouchable”, aired as part of season 3. “Countdown”, the last episode produced, didn’t air until April 2001; nearly five months after the last regular episode had aired. The final new episode, “Unmasked”, was originally scheduled to air on September 14, 2001, but was replaced following the September 11th attacks due to its terrorism-related content. It wouldn’t air for the first time until that December on Cartoon Network where reruns were currently shown. Terry would make a guest appearance in an episode of Static Shock and three episodes of Justice League Unlimited between 2004-05.
|Terry confronts Amanda Waller.|
Because “Unmasked” was such an anti-climactic end to the series, the production crew decided all future productions would end with their seasons with an epic story in case that season ended up being the last one. A sort of proper series finale came four years later as the second season finale of Justice League Unlimited. Written by Dwayne McDuffie based on a story by him and Timm, “Epilogue” had an older Terry confronting an elderly Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) to find out why, when he was donating tissue to save Bruce from a failing kidney, it turned out he was a perfect genetic match to Bruce. Waller revealed that after impressing her with the way he defused a situation, she felt the world needed a Batman and launched “Project: Batman Beyond” to ensure there would be a successor. Bruce’s DNA was injected into Warren, overwriting his reproductive genetics to effectively make both him and Matt Bruce’s biological children. As Unlimited had not yet been renewed by the time the episode was planned, it was also meant to serve as an overall finale to the DCAU as well as Beyond. It also featured many ideas that were planned for a second Beyond film, which ended up being scrapped after the controversial reaction to Return of the Joker.
Sometime after the end of the show, Warner Bros. hired members of the Beyond crew to pen a live-action adaptation of the series to be directed by Boaz Yakin. However, they instead decided to go with Batman: Year One directed by Darren Aronofsky, which eventually failed and gave way to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Beyond did make one final return to television in 2014, as part of the Batman 75th Anniversary Celebration. In a short called “Batman Beyond” written and directed by Cooke, Friedle and Conroy return to their respective roles as Terry discovered Bruce had been attacked by robot versions of himself. Each robot represented a different era of Batman: The Animated Series, Beware the Batman, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman ’89, Batman ’66, and Detective Comics #27. “Batman Beyond” debuted on Cartoon Network on April 23, 2014.
|The future comes to comics.|
DC Comics has published several comics series utilizing the name and characters from the show. The first Batman Beyond began as a six-issue limited series in March of 1999 before becoming an ongoing series that November, running 24 issues. The first three issues of the mini adapted the debut story from the show, but the rest featured original stories that served as mostly sequels to episodes. Originally, the third issue of the ongoing series was going to feature the Terrific Trio from “Heroes”, but that idea was scrapped due to blowback from Marvel Comics over their similarity to the Fantastic Four. These books were mostly written by series writer Bader, with Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt and Paul D. Storrie filling in on a couple of issues. The mini was collected in 2000’s Batman Beyond, and 2010’s DC Comics Presents: Batman Beyond 100-Page Spectacular reprinted issues #13, 14, 21 and 22. A special adapting Return of the Joker was published in 2000 written by Darren Vincenzo, largely based on the original uncut version of the film. Terry also made an appearance in Superman Adventures #64.
|With a Batman, it was only a matter of time before there was a Batgirl.|
In the following years, the Beyond Batman had made appearances in Superman/Batman #22-23 and Annual #4, Countdown to Final Crisis #21, Justice League of America vol. 2 #43, and Batman #700. Later, publisher Dan DiDio announced a new Batman Beyond series was launching after having teased it for a time. Written by Adam Beechen, the mini-series was designed to integrate the Beyond universe into mainstream continuity. The success of the mini led to another ongoing series that only ran for eight issues. A one-shot set after the Superman/Batman annual called Superman Beyond was written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Ron Frenz. In 2012, the Beyond universe was featured as a tri-weekly digital series that would see monthly print in the pages of Batman Beyond Unlimited. It contained stories centered around Batman, the Justice League and Superman. Those series were all cancelled in 2013 and replaced with the digital-first Batman Beyond 2.0 and Justice League Beyond 2.0, which were later physically printed in Batman Beyond Universe. A big change in that version saw Terry now in college and Dick Grayson playing his wingman on the computer instead of Bruce.
|Matt becomes Robin?|
Terry played a major role in the weekly maxi-series New 52: Future’s End as he traveled back in time to 5 years in the DC Universe’s future to help prevent Brother Eye’s conquest of the world 35 years later. Ultimately, Terry is killed, and a retired Tim Drake takes up his mantle and cause, winding up stranded in Terry’s future. The new Batman Beyond series picked up following those events as Tim helped the last-standing city, Neo-Gotham, fend off Brother Eye’s attacks after he had conquered and decimated the rest of the world. Barbara served as his tech support. Eventually, it’s discovered that because of the altered timeline, Terry was still alive in the future and Tim happily gave him back his role, opting to go out and explore his new world. Batman Beyond was again relaunched picking up from Terry reassuming the role. Over the course of the series, Bruce returned to Terry’s team, Dana learned about his dual identity, and the network’s unfulfilled desire to see Matt become Robin were finally realized.
Hasbro was the primary manufacturer of the toys during the time of the show. They produced standard and deluxe figures and vehicles, as well as a talking figure. Following the initial series, there was a “Batlink” series where Batman was taking the fight to cyberspace, “Mission Masters”, and a series based around Return of the Joker. Most of the figures were just variants of Batman with different armor colors and accessories. The primary villains made were two members of the Jokerz, outside of Joker himself for the “Batlink” and film series. Exclusive to Warner Bros. Stores, there was a 9” Batman figure with a cloth costume and projectile accessories and a bean bag plush. In 2000, Hasbro marked their 200th Batman figure with a 200th Edition Justice Flight Batman Beyond figure, which came on a base and flapped his wings. Hasbro also produced four Micro sets; three featuring an action figure with two vehicles and one based on the Batcave.
As a promotional tie-in to the show, Burger King included eight toys in their Big Kids Meals. There were three Batmen: one that talked, one that spread his wings, and one that threw batarang discs. There was a ripcord spinner, a Batmobile and Jokerz motorcycle that could be blasted off, and Inque and Blight who could transform to their human identities. Over in the United Kingdom, KFC released their own set of four toys. One had a flying Batman balancing on a building, one had Batman flying on a light-up cloud, an image viewer, and a pull-back Batmobile.
Years after the show ended, Beyond still remains popular with fans; resulting in a whole new wave of merchandise being released. Mattel produced figures based on Batman, old Bruce, Superman with Starro and Warhawk as part of their DC Universe Justice League Unlimited line, DC Universe Classics line, Batman Unlimited line, DC Direct Superman & Batman line, DC Comics Multiverse line and Total Heroes Ultra line with a Micron mini-figure. Fisher Price released a Batman Beyond toy with a motorcycle as part of their Imaginext DC Super Friends line. DC Collectibles would also release a three-pack figure set with Batman, Bruce and Ace and a statue designed by Dustin Nguyen as part of their Black and White series. Funko produced a figure as part of their Pop! line, and Mezco Toyz released one in their DC Universe Mini Mezitz line in a 2-pack with Cyborg. Diamond Select Toys released several resin busts of Batman with and without his mask and old Bruce, and a DC Gallery PVC figure. Medicom included a Terry McGinnis and Blight figure in their Kubrick Batman animated series. Batman was one of the featured pieces in Eaglemoss Publications’ DC Chess Collector figurine and magazine collection, and his Batmobile was included in their Batman Automobilia collection. Bleacher Creatures made a 10” plush doll. Jada made a 1.5” diecast metal figurine in their Nano Metalfigs collection.
To date, the only Beyond video game was an adaptation of Return of the Joker developed by Kemco and published by UbiSoft Entertainment for the PlayStation, Nintendo Game Boy Color, and N64. The game loosely followed the story as Batman traversed levels, taking down members of Joker’s gang and Joker himself. Batman was given four suits to choose from during gameplay: Standard with three weapons, Offense which dealt powerful attacks at the expense of defense, Defense which sacrificed strength for durability, and Nimble that allowed double-jumping and gliding. The Game Boy version allowed those features to be equipped one at a time, rather than shifting a suit. The console version was largely panned by gamers and critics for its short length, simple and repetitive gameplay and music, and overall poor presentation, while the Game Boy version fared slightly better.
|Batmobile super move in Injustice: Gods Among Us.|
Injustice: Gods Among Us featured the Beyond batsuit as an alternate skin for Batman, acquired by simultaneously playing the iOS version of the game. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham featured a Batman Beyond DLC pack with Ace, Terry, Blight, Bonk, old Bruce, Inque, Joker and Mr. Freeze as playable characters. Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Knight featured the Beyond batsuit as an alternate skin for Batman (with City’s being more accurate to the show). The Knight version of the suit has since been made into a collectible statue by Sideshow Collectibles. Injustice 2 doesn’t utilize alternate skins as much as the previous game in favor of a gear-equipping system. However, one of Batman’s masks is called “Cowl of Beyond”, which featured his face entirely covered like the Beyond batsuit, and one of his shaders is labelled “Beyond” and gives him a black and red color scheme. Other gear pieces could be used to approximate the appearance of the Beyond batsuit.
|The complete series DVD.|
Six episodes from the first season were combined for the Warner Home Video VHS and DVD release Batman Beyond: The Movie in 1999, re-released again in 2009. Three of those were releases again with three new ones in School Dayz and Spellbound in 2004, and six more were released in Tech Wars and Disappearing Inque; both of which combined the next four VHS releases. The complete first and second seasons were released in 2006, with the third following in 2007. In 2010, the complete series was released in a collector’s set that included a booklet detailing the production of the series. Initial releases of VHS and DVDs of Return of the Joker only featured the cut version of the film. In 2002, the uncut version was released and became the only version to see release from that point on. In 2008, the film was released in a double-feature set alongside Mystery of the Batwoman (which had Batwoman wearing a costume similar to Terry’s). In 2011, the film came to Blu-ray for the first time.