Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Batman Beyond" - Original Television Score (Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, Kristopher Carter, 1999 - 2001)


Composed by Shirley Walker, Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion and Kristopher Carter

Released on Rhino Entertainment

Track Listing:

1. “Batman Beyond” Main Title (1:02)
2. Cold VS Hot (3:14)
3. Terrific Trio VS Rocketeers (1:52)
4. Bat-Slapped In Store (1:18)
5. Farewells (2:46)
6. Batman Defeats Chappell (2:16)
7. Batman Chases Inque (2:44)
8. Yachting With The Card Gang (2:11)
9. Batman's First Fight (2:59)
10. The Legacy Continues (1:26)
11. Hotel Scuffle (1:59)
12. Trouble In The Museum (1:48)
13. Inque Escapes! (1:24)
14. Nuclear Lab Destruction (1:56)
15. Golem Chases Shoppers (2:02) 
16. Willie Defeated (2:39)
17. Genetic Theft (1:31)
18. Joker Chase (3:09)
19. Move To The Groove (1:19)
20. “Batman Beyond” End Credits (1:02)



“Batman Beyond” presented its own unique set of challenges both to the show runners and to the musical composers who had worked with them previously. As with “Batman: The Animated Series” (1992) and “Superman: The Animated Series” (1996), the task of musical composition once more fell upon the shoulders of composer Shirley Walker and her fellow staff Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuistion, as well as new comer Kristopher Carter, who would go on to become synonymous with the animation team by providing scores for several episodes of the series, its spin-off film “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” (2000) and a number of future DC animated projects.

To create a foundation of musical composition for Batman in the era of Bruce Wayne’s tenure in the cape and cowl is one thing. It’s a completely different series of elements in play to bring the same sense of pathos, flight, heroism and dramatic intrigue to the adventures of a Batman 20 years into the future.

Rather than retread the idea of film noir and gothic, baroque symphony, Walker and her composers approach the drastic shift in genre and accept it with gusto and enthusiasm, using it not as a means of paying homage to the Batman they’d written before but as an opportunity to play with the paradigm and usher in a new era of Batman in musical terms.


“Batman Beyond,” heavily infused in the Science Fiction aesthetic, lends itself musically to a number of new and dynamic scenarios, situations, motifs and instrumentations that are rip-roaring, colossal, synthetic and awesome in every aspect of their use.

It’s as though the composers plunged into the spirit of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s brainchild, extracted its pure essence of adventure and heroics, and performed a gnarly bio-chemical experiment, injecting beeping, twittering synthesizers, tech-euphoric beats, roaring electronic guitar and an incredible sense of futuristic imagination and mechanized wonder.

The score for the television series is heavily embroiled in synthesizers and electronic music akin to the Gotham techno night clubs that Terry McGinnis and his friends frequent nightly and yet it maintains the melodrama and daring-do that befits Batman, whether it’s Wayne or McGinnis beneath the mask.


The “Batman Beyond” theme is now as classic in its own right as the theme of his legendary mentor, perfectly encapsulating the aforementioned with an aggressive industrial beat; its now-iconic four-note motif is still engrained in the heads of the show’s fans and greatly hum-able. I also love the bit that plays when the opening cuts to a strobing shot of Terry’s girlfriend Dana as she dances alongside other club-goers.



Another great track is “Farewells,” collecting a trio of empathic cues that both capture the mythic impact of the Batman persona and it’s transcending the limits of time and the eventual heartache that such a responsibility will inevitably create for Terry in as assuming of that persona.

It begins with the terrifically emotional escalating piano work as Terry returns home to find the Jokerz tags of “HA HA HA” spray painted in the stairwell. Fearing the worst, the music grows desperate as Terry ascends the stairs, questioning his mother as to the whereabouts of his father Warren...only to rush past the police to find the inevitable tragedy that’s befallen him.

We segue into the continuation of the piano motif as it reappears alongside a solemn, wailing guitar as Dana drops Terry off at Wayne Manor so he can plead a case of corporate subterfuge at Wayne/Powers to Bruce. The undercurrents of mystery and espionage are incredibly palpable in this cue and I love the moment where it takes a negative turn with Terry’s frustrations.


“Yeah, should’ve known you wouldn’t care. You’re no Batman, you whacked out old FRAUD!”

The cue ends with a chilling bit of chorus provided by a lone, female vocalist that calls forth the possible echo of an angel...calling forth for Bruce’s resolve to relinquish his self-imposed dormancy and once more take a stand as Gotham’s champion, at least in spirit as he uses his years of experience to oversee Terry in the field.

The final portion of the track comes courtesy of the climactic finale in “Meltdown,” and it’s incredibly emotionally charged as Batman makes a failed attempt to convince Mr. Freeze to save himself from the explosions he’s set off at Fox-Techa. The guitar work is powerful and laced with chilling empathy for our villain as he shares a tender moment with the dark knight. What I loved about this encounter is the idea that Freeze, whether he was aware of it or not, seems to have no interest in who’s wearing the Batsuit; to him it’s just Batman, as it’s always been.


“Believe me. You’re the only one who cares.”


For a brief moment, the score takes itself back into the simple with the acoustic guitar that opens “The Legacy Continues” as Terry is met with Bruce Wayne following his hap-hazard debut confrontation against Derek Powers. It’s a quaint peace that seems to symbolize the humble beginnings of Terry as a character.

Here’s a kid that’s been born and raised in a broken middle class family, dealing with all the angst, drama and frustrating normality of being a public high school attending teenager. He wasn’t born into wealth like Wayne and while tragedy strikes just as it did for the original Batman, Terry’s far older than Bruce was. He’s capable of comprehending a far more focused need for revenge that proves dangerous given his hair-trigger temper and disdain for authority.

So the track presents this concept; the acoustics and upbeat percussion call forth images of the kind of simple home life Bruce never knew; the annoying little brother, the aroma of cooking breakfast...and the comically logical exhaustion as Terry sleeps in with the Batsuit crumpled up beneath his bed.

It’s a great angle to take on Batman, humanizing him in a unique way with the fresh disguise of the new millennium American teen.

However the track carries us onward, taking a digital/electronic wing into the new era of the dark knight as Bruce formally employs Terry into the fold of the mantle he’s now earned.


“Very good then, Mr. McGinnis. Welcome to my world.”

By in large, the majority of the collection fits within the techno appetite that most fans found insatiable about the show.

Guitars are also the breakthrough star for another great track titled “Batman chases Inque.”


Commanded by a surging beat of momentum, the track brings in an incredible electronic guitar motif twenty four seconds in that runs throughout the cue with the same velocity as Batman in his desperate chase after the genetically altered shape-shifter.


The sparkling majesty orchestrated for the newly revamped Royal Flush Gang is also a standout with “Yachting with the Card Gang.”

I love how each of the new villains Terry is faced with are handled musically.

It’s a bizarre approach that works aesthetically and very well.

Rather than orchestrate a full-on theme like they had previously done for the Joker or Two-Face, foes like the Royal Flush Gang, Willy Watt and Spellbinder seem to be given musical and audio punctuation through specific sound effect motifs and electronic audio design.

It fits within the tone of “Batman Beyond” perfectly; honestly, I can’t give these artists nearly enough credit.

Here, let’s try something.

See if you can pinpoint these sound ‘motifs’ for each showcased rogue.

Willy Watt



The Royal Flush Gang


Did you find them?

Willy and his pet Golem robot, with their neural interlink between one another, are realized musically with a lone vocal note and a strobing three-note motif that could possibly resemble some manifesto of a machine powering down.


An electronic, pixelated staccato plays frequently for Inque as if it were a symphonic example of her own fluid composition; the idea of notes representing droplets of her bio-organic polymer form as it bends and contorts and splatters by sheer force of her will.


With the Royal Flush Gang, the frequent use of what I can imagine to be some sort of electronic cymbal crashes with digital precision every time they appear in their “Dead Man’s Hand” debut episode.

“Terrific Trio vs. Rocketeers” just rocks; the beat is methodic yet pulsating and this is definite showcase for the great synthesizer work the series was known for overall. It’s got a great edge and mysterious malice. The bizarro trippy chorus that comes in about forty seven seconds in just puts it over the top with the Sci-Fi goodness. As a fan of the genre, I can never get enough of flourishes like that, which are littered throughout the album.


It’s such a great exploration for Walker, Ritmanis and McCuistion; I can’t imagine how fun it must’ve been for them to take their prior experience and knowledge of Batman and test their compositional skills with remarkable range and experimentation. The sounds, the melodies and the beats are all wonderfully conceived and built a new backbone of ‘future-noir’ that fits the series like a hard-wired glove.

There’s also “Genetic Theft;” there’s nothing I can even say about this piece with its guitar work, it's just superb.

Take a listen for yourself.



Crafted out of techno beats and industrial edge, the music of “Batman Beyond” is a combination of head knocking tech-slammin’ joy and hauntingly poignant melody that enriches the legacy of the dark knight while playing with the Sci-Fi elements now firmly taking root in Gotham City, flying high on the red wings of our caped crusader of tomorrow.

I can only hope that, as with the score for the original “Batman: The Animated Series,” this material might someday get a proper collection release in the future.

Hopefully before Batmobiles are able to fly, right?

Simply put, in the words of Gotham’s hormone-driven, splice-experimenting, club going youth:

This soundtrack is Shway.




Shirley Walker

Lolita Ritmanis

Michael McCuistion

Kristopher Carter

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