‘Batman Beyond’ A 20th Anniversary Retrospective – Part One

Article by Steve J. Ray

2019 is a huge year for Batman. Most of our readers know that this year marks 80 years since the publication of Detective Comics #27, and the first appearance of everyone’s favorite Dark Knight. What some may not know though, is that 2019 marks 30 years of Tim Drake (the third and arguably most underrated of all of Batman’s crime fighting partners). It’s also the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie… and the 20th anniversary of Batman Beyond.
How old are you feeling right now?

Batman Beyond

My experience of this show will be a little bit different to that of fans in the U.S.A. I live in London, so a lot of what is aired in America arrives here late, edited, or sometimes never. For starters, Batman Beyond had a completely different title in Britain and Europe, where it was known as Batman Of The Future. This show, and so many others, never aired all it’s episodes on U.K. Network Television, only on cable and satellite. The same is also true of Young Justice. Sadly, this means that while I have seen most of the series, I haven’t even had the chance to watch it all.
What I have seen I adore.
Most of my exposure to Batman Beyond is from the excellent comics, which came long after the show ended, back in 2001.
More on that later.

Batman Of The Future

The show was developed by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett and produced by Warner Bros. in collaboration with DC Comics. It was a continuation of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, but also a brand new, fresh and futuristic take on the character.
Bruce Wayne, (still played by my all-time favorite Batman, Kevin Conroy) had retired and become a recluse. The new Dark Knight was a teenager named Terry McGinnis who, after the tragic murder of his father, became Bruce Wayne’s protegee.
The series first aired in January 1999, and ended in December 2001 after 52 episodes. It ran for three seasons and spawned one animated movie, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. This  was released direct to video in 2000.

Teenage Hero… Teenage Problems

It was great! The show explored a darker future than many of us may have imagined for an animated series. It played on human emotion, family dynamics, the perversion of future technologies, and even PTSD; personified tragically and beautifully by Conroy’s aged, tormented Bruce Wayne.
Having a teenage Batman also brought problems; an interfering mother, an annoying kid brother, school, homework, girls, and fitting in with society at large. Yeah, some things never change.
When I first discovered the show I wasn’t very happy. For me Bruce Wayne is Batman. The one, the only, the true, tried and tested, original and best Batman of them all. Back then I didn’t want to accept, trust or even like anyone else as the Dark Knight.
You must remember that I was already 30 years old when this show came out. I was an adult and Batman had always been a huge part of my life. I’d already witnessed Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael don the Mantle Of The Bat (almost destroying its reputation in Knightfall/KnightQuest/KnightsEnd in the process). I’d seen Dick Grayson pick up the cape and cowl in the wonderful Prodigal arc too, before Bruce reclaimed the role.

The Men Behind The Mask

While having different men wearing the cape and cowl has always been interesting and entertaining, the true Batman always returned. Even Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saw an old Bruce Wayne come out of retirement. Batman Beyond however, made me finally accept that Bruce Wayne was aging, and his mortality weighed heavily upon me. One of my childhood heroes was old, he could die and he couldn’t be The Batman anymore… but someone else had to be.
DC and Warner were very clever with their creation of Terry McGinnis. They could have just made him a carbon copy of Bruce, but were too smart for that. This Batman was almost the perfect amalgamation of Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne and – yes, I’ll say it – Peter Parker. Spider-Man was, is and always will be one of the greatest teenage heroes of all-time. His real-world problems made him one of the most fascinating comics creations ever. Having adolescent woes, the weight of Bruce Wayne constantly on his back, living in a future dystopia overrun by Jokerz and technology gone mad made Terry a brilliant, interesting and dynamic new Batman for the ages.

Beyond The Screen… The Comics

The series was a great critical and commercial success; IGN even named it one of the “Top 100 Animated TV Series.”
I’ve been discussing the show with fans and comics creators over the last few days online: With this being the Year Of The Bat, and after having already received the incredible Batman: TAS Blu-ray box set, containing every episode and two animated features; isn’t it high time Batman Beyond got the same treatment?
What has really amazed me over the course of these conversations though, is how many people are completely oblivious to the fact that Terry McGinnis’ adventures continue to this day in the comics! There have always been tie-ins with the show from its inception, going all the way back to the six-issue mini-series from 1999 to 2001, for a total of 24 issues, but these were set in the same world as the show, and aimed at younger readers.
The major turning point for the character in comics came with 2014’s incredible Futures End series. This groundbreaking crossover ran as a weekly series for an entire year, between 2014 and 2015. The story crossed over with many ongoing DC titles, and brought Terry McGinnis directly into DC Comics Universe canon, for the very first time.

When Futures End… The Blood Moon Shall Rise

The series was written by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, and Jeff Lemire, with covers by Ryan Sook. Futures End gave fans art by some of DC’s finest; Ethan Van Sciver, Patch Zircher, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, Jesus Merino, Dan Green and Mikel Janin.
This story was set 35 years into the future of the DC Universe, with Earth feeling the after effects of a war across the multiverse. Bruce Wayne’s creation Brother Eye had wiped out the superhero community, transforming many of them into cyborg killing machines. This forced Bruce to create a time machine in an attempt to travel back to the present, to prevent this happening. Before he could use it however, he was mortally wounded, forcing Terry McGinnis to travel through time instead. Arriving in the past, Terry realized he’d arrived too late.
He continued the mission regardless, teaming up with many present day DC Heroes. In the final battle, he joined forces with Tim Drake but ultimately sacrificed himself in order to prevent the rise of the machines. Honoring his new friend, Drake took Terry’s futuristic suit to become the new Batman.

Batman Of The Future… Today

These events set up a new Batman Beyond spin-off series starring Tim Drake as Batman; written by DC Legend Dan Jurgens, and one of my favorite current artists Bernard Chang. This great series ran for 16 issues between 2015 and 2017. With the advent of the DC Rebirth initiative it was revealed that Terry McGinnis survived his ordeal, allowing him to reclaim the mantle of Batman.
This ongoing series is one of my favorite DC books. I reviewed it for Dark Knight News and on this siteup to issue #22, before my son, Adam Ray, took over. It’s still published monthly and you can pick it up in comic-book stores right now!
This title is brilliant. Bruce, Terry, young Matt McGinnis and Damian Wayne claiming their destinies and mantles of their own. We have an aged Jack Ryder, the return of Bruce Wayne’s greatest nemesis, and we even see Dick Grayson as Mayor of Bludhaven! Who is Elainna Grayson’s mother? Will readers meet a Nightwing Beyond… or even a future Huntress (thanks @LicenceToMock)?
I love this series so much that I collect it to this day, and look forward to the reviews every single month. I love reading about what other readers get from this book. Please be sure to catch Adam’s take on Batman Beyond in part two of this 20th anniversary retrospective focusing on the current comics run.
Before anyone jumps on me for omitting it; I do know that there was a comics series called Batman Beyond 2.0, which featured Terry McGinnis being mentored by an older Dick Grayson. Sadly, I never read those issues, so look forward to doing do at some point in…
…the future.
(This article was originally published on the Dark Knight News website on January 11th 2019)

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