How Batman Beyond Has Lived on Beyond the Animated Series

Blair Marnell
TV Comics
TV Comics DC Animation

25 years ago this week, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett — the core trio behind Batman: The Animated Series — unleashed a new incarnation of the Dark Knight in Batman Beyond, which debuted on January 10, 1999.

Programming block Kids WB had requested a series with a younger Batman and a lighter tone than the original series or its follow-up, The New Batman Adventures. The creators of Batman Beyond were able to deliver on the first request, but the show itself wasn’t as light and fluffy as the network hoped for. Some of the Batman Beyond episodes went to some pretty dark places of their own, especially in the first season. That went a long way towards overcoming fan concerns about the show, and helped solidify its position as a popular take on Batman in its own right.

Check out Fandom’s 2019 conversation with Will Friedle
and the late Kevin Conroy about Batman Beyond‘s legacy

Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures star, the late, great?Kevin Conroy, reprised his role as Bruce Wayne for the series, who now served as a mentor for the Batman of the Future, Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle). The show only ran for 52 episodes over three seasons, but it has had a surprisingly strong reach even decades after the series came to an end.

To celebrate the show’蝉 25th anniversary, we’re taking a look at everything that Batman Beyond spawned beyond the TV series itself.

RETURN OF THE JOKER

Outside of the show itself, Batman Beyond’蝉 crowning achievement was its direct-to-video movie, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, which was released while the series was still originally running and which ranks among the greatest Batman stories ever told in animation (and, many would argue, simply a standout Batman story in any medium). Curt Geda directed the film from a script by Dini, who collaborated on the story with Timm and Glen Murakami.

Up until this point, The Joker (Mark Hamill) hadn’t been seen on?Batman Beyond, and his mysterious appearance in the future was worth the wait. There was a stunning extended flashback to the era of The New Batman Adventures that featured the modern day Batman and Batgirl (Tara Strong) attempting to rescue Robin/Tim Drake (Mathew Valencia) from the Joker and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin). This sequence in fact revealed how the Joker died and why Tim never became Robin again.

However, because of sensitivities in media following the Columbine high school shooting in 1999, Warner Bros. became reluctant to go forward with the Joker’蝉 death as originally depicted. Tim shot the Joker with his own gun in the film’蝉 original cut but the movie was delayed to December 2000 in order to tone down the violence, and instead, the Joker died after accidentally electrocuting himself. The much-requested uncut version would eventually be officially released two years later.

THE ZETA PROJECT

In the world of comic book media, even the spinoffs get spinoffs. The second season of Batman Beyond featured an episode called “Zeta” which introduced Infiltration Unit Zeta (Gary Cole). Zeta was essentially an assassination and reconnaissance droid for the NSA who went rogue when he refused to kill. Terry realized that Zeta had a conscience and he allowed him to escape.

Robert Goodman, the writer of Zeta, was tasked with creating a spinoff based on that episode called The Zeta Project. Diedrich Bader took over the role of Zeta for the series, years before he went on to provide Batman’蝉 voice in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Harley Quinn. The show also gave Zeta a teenage sidekick, Rosalie “Ro” Rowan (Julie Nathanson).

Because the NSA believed that Zeta’蝉 refusal to kill meant he was reprogrammed by terrorists, Agent James Bennet (Kurtwood Smith) and his team constantly pursued Zeta and Ro. Throughout the show, Zeta sought to find his creator, Dr. Eli Selig (voiced by George Segal in Season 1 before Hal Linden took over the role in Season 2). However, Selig appeared to perish in one of the final episodes of the series, and the show ended without resolution.

Prior to that unfortunate premature ending, Friedle and Conroy reprised their respective roles as Terry/Batman and Bruce Wayne in the first season of The Zeta Project, with Bader and Nathanson returning the favor by guest starring as Zeta and Ro in Batman Beyond Season 3. After that, the fate of Zeta and Ro was never revisited in animation, although early versions of the Zeta droids appeared in Justice League Unlimited, which was set decades earlier.

GUEST APPEARANCES

In addition to appearing in The Zeta Project, Terry and Bruce appeared in Static Shock Season 4’蝉 Future Shock, when Static (Phil LaMarr) was sent four decades into the future to help rescue his future self.

Terry and Future Static were also featured in Justice League Unlimited’蝉 “The Once and Future Thing” two-parter alongside the Justice League Unlimited team from Batman Beyond‘s earlier “The Call” storyline, when the present-day Batman, Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), and Green Lantern John Stewart (LaMarr) were thrust into a warped version of Batman Beyond’蝉 future. Both versions of Bruce Wayne even came face-to-face for the occasion. Although Terry and Static were both killed in the second part of the episode, the changes to history were undone. Terry’蝉 survival was confirmed in his final guest appearance on Justice League Unlimited, but we’ll get back to that one.

VIDEO GAMES GO BEYOND

Surprisingly, there’蝉 only one Batman Beyond video game. Ubi Soft’蝉 Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was loosely based on the movie of the same name when it came out for the original PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy Color in 2000. The game was a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the style of Final Fight and Double Dragon, but it’蝉 also uninspired and it didn’t even have any of the voices from the film. That’蝉 why it’蝉 not exactly beloved by fans.

On the other hand, the Batman Beyond suit has turned out to be very popular in the games realm. It’蝉 been used as an alternate costume in Justice League Heroes, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Batman: Arkham City.

So far, the closest thing to a modern Batman Beyond game was a Batman of the Future DLC character pack for Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, which let players step into the role of Terry McGuinnis and utilize the special abilities of his costume. In the other games, the Batman Beyond outfit was simply a cosmetic change. Lego Batman 3 actually let players fly and turn invisible with the Batman Beyond costume.

BEYOND COMICS

Despite not being where the concept was introduced, Batman Beyond has had a longer presence in comics than in any other medium. And like fellow Batman animation-originated characters?Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn before him, Terry McGinnis has been incorporated into DC’蝉 comic book universe. Before that happened, DC Comics published a comic book concurrently with the show’蝉 original release. The first six-issue Batman Beyond miniseries was released in 1999, followed by an ongoing series that ran for 24-issues before ending in 2001. Both of those series took place in the world of the show, as opposed to the larger DC universe

That could have concluded Terry McGinnis’ comic adventures, but instead it was just the beginning. In 2005, Superman/Batman #22 briefly introduced Batman Beyond to the mainstream continuity.? This was later expanded upon in Countdown to Final Crisis #21, which introduced Earth-12, a parallel DC world that was almost an exact duplicate of the timeline laid out in the Batman Beyond TV series.

In 2010, Batman #700 added some new wrinkles to the story by revealing that Damian Wayne’蝉 Batman of the future saved Terry McGinnis from 2-Face-2 when he was an infant. Roughly two decades later, an elderly Damian stepped into the mentor role originally filled by Bruce on the TV series as he guided Terry’蝉 destiny as Batman.

The third Batman Beyond comic launched in 2010 with a storyline that finally addressed the fate of Dick Grayson in Terry’蝉 era. A fourth volume followed in 2011, which ran for eight issues and dealt with some lingering threads from the show, including the return of Terry’蝉 nemesis, Blight, who strangely did not appear in animation again after the first season finale.

Batman Beyond also played a large part of DC’蝉 digital-first comics which launched in 2012 alongside Justice League Beyond and Superman Beyond. These stories were meant to establish the future of the DC Animated Universe’蝉 timeline and featured a slightly older Terry who was now in college and working with Dick Grayson instead of Bruce.

Meanwhile in the primary continuity of the DC Universe, Terry was one of the main characters of The New 52: Futures End, a nearly year-long storyline in which he went back in time to stop the rise of the AI known as Brother Eye. Unfortunately for Terry, he didn’t arrive in the present as he planned to. Instead he landed five years in the future from the then-present day DC Universe. Terry even laid down his life to prevent his future from happening, which led to the Tim Drake of this era becoming the second Batman Beyond by finishing the mission and going to Terry’蝉 time to fight Brother Eye in the future.

The fifth volume of Batman Beyond explored Tim’蝉 new life in the future as he honored Terry’蝉 legacy, only to discover that Terry was still alive and under the influence of Spellbinder. When Terry’蝉 mind was freed, he reunited with his friends and family and Tim willingly relinquished the Batman identity back to him. Terry’蝉 new adventures as Batman unfolded in the sixth volume of Batman Beyond, which also depicted the first time that his younger brother, Matt McGinnis, became the new Robin.

More recently, Batman Beyond: Neo-Year explored what happened to Terry after Bruce Wayne finally died and left his successor to carry on without him. That story also received a sequel, Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic, which was released last year. An alternate version of Batman Beyond also appeared in writer and artist Sean Gordon Murphy’蝉 Batman: Beyond the White Knight.

A BRIEF RETURN

In 2014, the late Darwyn Cooke produced a Batman Beyond animated short for Batman’蝉 75th anniversary. Friedle and Conroy once again reprised their roles as Terry was confronted by an android Batman that resembled Bruce’蝉 younger self.

Fans have long speculated that the android and its reinforcements were tied to the AI known as H.A.R.D.A.C. from Batman: The Animated Series. But since the short was only just over a minute long, no answers were provided. Still, it’蝉 a fantastic piece of animation that deserves to be revisited.

BEYOND‘S UNLIMITED END

The original Batman Beyond series didn’t officially got a conclusion of any sort until four years after it ended. In the Season 2 finale of Justice League Unlimited, Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie’蝉 “Epilogue”?gave Batman Beyond a proper sendoff by showing fans what happened when Terry discovered that he was the biological son of Bruce.

Unlike “The Once and Future Thing,” this episode showed Terry years into his own future when he had bulked up and he wasn’t as reliant on the suit to be Batman. By this time, Terry had also revealed his secret identity to his longtime girlfriend, Dana Tan. The revelation that Bruce was Terry’蝉 father bewildered some fans, but apparently it was an idea that the creative team would have used in an unmade Batman Beyond direct-to-video movie that never materialized after Return of the Joker.

In the abandoned film, Catwoman/Selina Kyle would have been behind Terry’蝉 connection to Bruce. Thankfully, the show had a better explanation by tying in the retcon to the Cadmus storyline that played out during the first two seasons of JLU. Amanda Waller was revealed to have engineered the plot to recreate Batman by tampering with the DNA of Terry’蝉 late father, Warren McGinnis, before he had children.

Waller even originally intended to have Terry’蝉 parents murdered in front of him to recreate the tragedy that drove Bruce to become Batman. That plan was only thwarted because the assassin Waller hired was Andrea Beaumont a.k.a. Phantasm from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Andrea loved Bruce before she knew he was Batman, and she couldn’t bring herself to dishonor his legacy by resorting to murder to create his successor. Even Waller had to concede that point.

In the end, Waller helped Terry realize that he wasn’t a clone of Bruce, and he had a chance to forge his own destiny as Batman. Terry’蝉 story came to a close with his full acceptance of being Bruce’蝉 son, as well as his plans to marry Dana while continuing to fight crime as Batman. That’蝉 about as happy as superhero endings get.

A Live-Action Beyond?

Perhaps, one day, we’ll get to see more of what happened in Terry’蝉 lifetime in animation and it’s also worth noting that Warner Bros. has, more than once, shown interest in adapting Batman Beyond for live-action as well.

In 2000, the studio hired Remember the Titans‘ Boaz Yakin to direct a Batman Beyond film, with a screenplay by Dini and Burnett. Yakin reportedly wanted Clint Eastwood to play the older Bruce Wayne before the project fell apart and Christopher Nolan was hired to helm Batman Begins instead.

More recently, a Batman Beyond film was reported to possibly be in the works with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, when the plan was for him to stick around after returning to the role in The Flash. However, any possibility for that project happening, at least anytime soon, fell apart when DC Studios’ co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran decided to create their own rebooted?DC Universe films and so, for now, Terry McGinnis has yet to make his live-action debut.

Regardless, it’蝉 a safe bet that Batman Beyond will eventually live on in some form or another. The show and its characters have long ago earned their place in the larger mythos of Batman.


Blair Marnell
Freelance writer for almost every major geek outlet, including Fandom!
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