Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Batman Beyond" (Bruce W. Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami and Shaun McLaughlin, 1999 - 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 ...

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

Casting and Voice Direction by Andrea Romano and Leslie Lamers

Original Television Theme Composed by Shirley Walker

Original Television Scores Composed by Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Kristopher Carter.

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

20 Years after an elderly Bruce Wayne has retired from crime fighting, the mantle is taken up by young punk Terry McGinnis, wielding a high-tech Batsuit and acting as Wayne’s field agent to protect the Gotham City of the future from a host of bizarre psychotics and super criminals.


Key Episodes:

“Rebirth” Part I
“Rebirth” Part II
“Black Out”
“Dead Man’s Hand”
“The Winning Edge”
“Disappearing Inque”
“A Touch of Curare”
“Lost Soul”
“Hidden Agenda”
“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
“Epilogue” (from “Justice League: Unlimited”)



"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 a tenacious thing; never totaly resolved, never completely eradicated. The poor professor that it is, it continues to manifest in the generations and 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.”


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

Gotham City has flourished into a monolithic sprawl of technological achievement, stone monolithic buildings replaced by glittering sprawl 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 carrying 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 forgotten 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 would 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 well-meaning spirit in Terry that need only be tempered and focused. He decides to take him in as a field operative, thusly 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 razors 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 STILL Batman in essence and spirit. 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 such as techno, eye-popping futurist visuals, music videos and Generation X that seem like they have little more than the potential for failure when combined. 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.

Its future-setting opens the field for a lot more Science Fiction based storytelling than before, and it’s more than welcome in my opinion.

A ‘Science Fiction’ Batman; just the thought of combining the two opens countless doors of visually compelling opportunities that the show manages with great attention to see come to fruition.


This Gotham City is hardly the one we once knew; its gothic cathedrals and seedy urban brownstones demolished, paving the way for ziggurats of steel and glass, elevated super highways and dazzling electronica citadel skyscrapers that house everything from tech-depots to bio-weapons labs to futuristic penthouse suites.

The visuals of the city are straight out of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” one of my favorite films, and I just love it!

And the attitude towards bringing Batman into this genre doesn’t let up past the change in locale.


Here, the young high-tech dark knight is pitted against villains and monsters that span the gauntlet of Sci-Fi fare; from radioactive bio-hazard Blight to everything from androids, mutants, tech-savants, cyborgs, robo-suits, computer hackers and more.

Just as with every series created by this particular production team, what ultimately 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. As always, he fits beautifully.

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

Thankfully, the decision to push the timeline into the future 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” or "Spider-Man: Unlimited," which were shows with similar ideals for their respective character? 

Bruce Wayne enrolled in inner city public school facing off against his villains in that landscape. Would that ever truly work?

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 show.


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 beforehand and rather than being forgotten for the creation of the show, all of that history is still legitimate 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 intact.


Bruce: “The voice kept calling me ‘Bruce.’ In my mind, that’s not what I call myself.”

Terry: “What DO you call yourself?”

Bruce: …

Terry: “Oh yeah. I suppose you would. But that’s MY name now.”

Bruce: “Tell that to my subconscious.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle, Bruce is still given some breakout moments to return to the former glory he once had, including the incredible moment in "Disappearing Inque" when Bruce, equipped with a combat exo-suit, attempts to rescue a captive Terry.


And there's the magnificent episode "Out of the Past." Written by Paul Dini, we find Bruce feeling the weight of his age...only to be confronted by none other than Talia Al Ghul, who wishes to finally grant Bruce the immortality she feels he deserves with the Lazarus Pit.

These two scenarios allow fans of the original Animated Series an opportunity to cheer their original hero on once again, complete with futuristic renditions of the classic Shirley Walker "Batman" theme!

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 own ways to inject raw, nostalgic emotion emanating from the past foundations it had been built upon.

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 Ras’ Al Ghul weren’t involved however, the show still managed to meet the challenge by creating quite the rogues gallery for McGinnis.

Can you name the following before they're revealed?



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' Labowski 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 represent 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. There’s also the Earth Mover, whose episode is still one of the creepiest stories from the show’s three season run.

As Terry's rogues began to accumulate, so to did his own list of allies.

One of the most prominent set of episodes was the two-parter dubbed "The Call," which finally introduced Terry to the Justice League of the future.


Led by the one and only Superman, the team consisted of Green Lantern, Aquagirl, Warhawk and Big Barda. It's a great treat to see the relationship between Bruce and Clark this late in the game (in terms of timeline) and to see Terry's own reactions to the Man of Steel.


Despite being his own man, Terry actually seems to play off of Superman and the League in quite the same manner as we would see Bruce do later on in "Justice League: The Animated Series."

Goes to show how much Wayne rubs off on his field agent with time. In fact, it's interesting to point out that when Terry starts off he's far more gung-ho, ready to get straight to the combat...but later on, he begins to learn the value of detective work and patience, which is tremendously handled as the series progresses.



There was also computer extraordinaire and classmate Max Gibson, who got a clever debut when she was introduced with her own sub-plot of attempting to utilize self-created compter programming and software to deduce Batman's identity.

In a charming character turn, her program actually pegged Terry...but as a suspected leader of the Jokerz given his criminal past.

Brought in during the tail-end of the show, it's a welcome relief for Terry as a character to have someone his age and far more relatable to bounce ideas and such off of; sure Bruce is an excellent catalyst for dynamic characterization on Terry's part and it's fascinating to see the dichotomy between the two...but Max brings an energy into the fold that's wonderfully present when it occurs.

Without her, we wouldn't get a sight like Terry cramming for a history exam while patrolling in the Batmobile. Hilarious!

In fact the show, for all its dark edge and tone, had its fair share of comedy, specifically with Terry given the obvious nature of him not being such the tortured soul that Bruce is.

A classic example is, of course, the notorious episode "The Egg Baby," as Terry takes part in the classic high school experiment of having to take care of an Egg as if it were an infant...which includes its accompanying him as Batman.

Let the hi-jinks ensue!

This episode, along with several others, also sheds light on the series' attempts to not only appeal to a teenage audience but to educate and inform them on a spectrum of life scenarios and coming-of-age instances that teens could relate to.

There's the nearly insatiable desire to find a significant other as depicted in "Terry's Friend Dates a Robot."

And the highs and lows of peer pressure and self-expression take center stage in the fan favorite episode "Splicers."


Introduced to Gotham youth by Dr. Abel Cuvier and his Chimera Institute, the trendy fad of Splicing takes the city by storm. The procedure of combining animal DNA with a person's biological make-up plays like a futuristic successor to getting a tattoo and it symbolizes the great nature of the series where fictional narrative with real world messages are cleverly fused.


There's also the hot-button issue of oppressive parents, such as Willy Watt's father in "Golem" and of course the consequences of drug addiction in "The Winning Edge," where the Venom that once fueled the original dark knight's arch-enemy Bane is now being peddled to jocks with a new craze of laced patches dubbed 'Slappers.'

It's a great way of conveying these universal scenarios to children watching the show while not coming off as preachy.

Aside from our major players in the case, the supports and guest appearances are 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 James 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 was until some years later.

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

Thinking that the show’s 2nd season was its final, 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 collective series’ together (“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.

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 DC Animated Universe (DCAU).

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’s been enjoying its run in recent years with art be legendary Batman artist Norm Breyfogle, it’s clear that McGinnis and his role as the futuristic dark knight left quite an impression on fans, creative contributors 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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