07 January 2010

Evolution of the Batman (and Robin) - Batman Beyond

What if Batman was a kid? Sounds like a terrible idea, but that's exactly the premise that spawned 52 episodes and three seasons of Batman Beyond starting in 1999. Rather than just throwing out Batman's history and making him a kid, the show creators decided to add to existing Batman history and continue the established DC Animated Universe continuity begun with the Batman and Superman Animated Series. Ironically, this kid focused series is easily the darkest of the bunch.

The series opens with Bruce Wayne wearing a futuristic batsuit and battling not only thugs but old age. During a fight, Batman's heart starts to give out and in an act of desperation he crosses a line breaking one of his rules and grabs a gun to finish the fight. After this he vows, "Never again," and retires from crime fighting.

Eventually a teen named Terry McGinnis meets up with Wayne, discovers the batsuit and takes it to avenge the murder of his own father at the hands of Derek Powers who coincidentally was also a foil for Wayne having taken over Wayne Enterprises for his own wicked purposes. In the end, Powers becomes the supervillain Blight, a nemesis for the new Batman who operated with the mentoring of an aged Bruce Wayne. As the series progressed, the differences between Terry and Bruce were apparent and Terry never became a Batman clone, but was a hero nonetheless.

As the series progressed, it was fun to see the ultimate fates of many classic Bat-foes such as Bane, Mr. Freeze, and R'as Al Ghul. Additionally, Barbara Gordon has become the new commissioner and even though she has grown to disapprove of some of Batman's methods, she is a frequent collaborator with Terry.

A series highlight, The Call, featured the future Justice League under the leadership of Superman battling Starro. Not only was this a great two-parter, but it served as a testing ground for the Justice League series.

Full disclosure, the series had some stinkers mostly in season 2. Take for example the episode, Rats, described as "Dana (Terry's girlfriend), who feels she has been ignored and let down by Terry once too often, begins receiving roses from a secret admirer. When she is abducted by the mystery man, a boy named Patrick who lives in the sewers because of his rat-like appearance, Batman may be the only one who can save her." This one was horrible. Also, Terry ended up with his own sidekick Max, an annoying know it all that sucked the life out of all her scenes. Watch out for episodes with her...

Up Next: Gotham Girls

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