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Batman Beyond? More Like Bat to the Future! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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May 6th, 2010


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08:27 pm - Batman Beyond? More Like Bat to the Future!
When Batman Beyond first premiered, I thought it was a stupid kiddie version of Batman with laser guns and rocketships. Then I discovered that it was, in fact, pretty dark and not kiddie at all, which piqued my interest.

Batman Beyond takes place decades in the future, when Gotham City no longer looks like itself and instead looks like a typical futuristic city with flying vehicles and cops with laser guns. People use "credits" for money and talk in futuristic slang—because that's how you know it's the future, they have different slang—and get mugged by Jokerz, punk gangs emulating the Clown Prince of Crime. Bruce Wayne is old and cranky and I swear to God in the pilot he almost literally tells kids to get off his lawn. He has long since retired from crimefighting, but then he encounters Terry McGinnis, a high school kid who convinces him to let him take the mantle.

So what we get is an interesting origin story. We get to see a kid become Batman, accept the responsibility to protect Gotham. Now, let's get one thing straight: Terry McGinnis is no Bruce Wayne. They are very different characters, but that's the fun of it. The show is sort of like Peter Parker-as-Batman in that Terry is much talkier and wisecrackier than Bruce ever was, and he has to juggle his secret identity with his life in high school, which includes his girlfriend, Dana, who has to deal with Terry's missing, like, 90% of their dates because of crimefighting. Plus, this Batman has an awesome high-tech Batsuit with all sorts of gadgets built in. HE HAS ROCKET BOOTS! It's a very different show from Batman: The Animated Series, and it takes some getting used to. Batman with a rock music soundtrack, what?

Most of the time, Bruce is holed up in the Batcave playing Oracle as his protégé goes out and fights crime. He does all the things you expect him to do, like give Terry a hard time, be disappointed in him, encourage him to sacrifice his personal life...you know, typical Batman stuff. But it's rather fascinating to see the perspective of an aged superhero reflecting on his past, playing the mentor to a boy who's setting out to make all the same mistakes he did, take all the same chances, face all the same horrors. Unsurprisingly, the best and meatiest moments are scenes between Bruce and Terry. Their relationship is what makes the show worth watching. All the rest is a dude in a Batsuit beating people up.

And oh, the people he beats up! Since we're in the future, the majority of Batman's foes are dead and gone (or so old as to not pose a threat). So the show develops its own Rogues Gallery of recurring villains, one of my favorites being Mad Stan, voiced by—of all people—Henry Rollins, who loves blowing things up. I also liked Inque, who's like Clayface made of black oil; Spellbinder, who can create virtual realities; and the Royal Flush Gang, whose Ten is weirdly sexy. There are, of course, various one-shot villains and their henchmen. Some of whom die. Like for reals. And sometimes Bruce doesn't even care. He'll even make a joke. It's kind of scary how hardened he's become.

Terry does have allies as well, such as an awesome friend who totally figures out his secret identity and helps him out by being awesome. And Commissioner Barbara Gordon. Yeah. Although she, too, is old and cranky and isn't happy that Bruce is endangering this kid's life with superhero shenanigans.

After the strong continuity of Superman: The Animated Series, I was disappointed that Batman Beyond went back to the stand-alone format, with a few small plot arcs but not a strong sense that each episode was adding something to the overall story. There were many things I wanted to see explored more, like the public's reaction to a new Batman after so many years. I felt like there were many interesting stories left untold, especially since few had the impact of the great movie, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

Even though a sci-fi, futuristic take on Batman starring a teenager sounds like a terrible idea, Batman Beyond really works. It's fun and exciting and has connections to the rest of the DCAU. It's more mature than you'd expect, and it doesn't try to simplify the complexities of superherodom, including the psychological issues. Terry is a likable character, and he has a decent Rogues Gallery putting Gotham in peril on a regular basis. So what if a lot of them are robots or mutants or clones or whatever? It's the future! These things happen.
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(20 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:fabby
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
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Oh, we LOVE Batman Beyond! I have a commission of Old Man Wayne by Darwin Cooke and Bruce Timm! Geek out, man!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
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Niiice! You and all your cool art!
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From:paladin42
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
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Glad you enjoyed it. While I've seen all of BB, I currently only own season 1. I want to enventually get all of the DCAU on DVD, though at the moment I'm missing volumes 2-4 of Batman and the 2 Unlimited volumes of Justice League. (I picked up all of Superman as part of a crazy sale a few years back, so I actually fully own my least favorite of the assorted series.)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
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Heh, yeah, Superman is also really cheap on Amazon Marketplace. I really liked it, but it's Superman. Not Batman.
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
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Unsurprisingly, the best and meatiest moments are scenes between Bruce and Terry. Their relationship is what makes the show worth watching.

Yes! I love Old Man Bruce so much. He's so fucked up.

I felt like there were many interesting stories left untold, especially since few had the impact of the great movie, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

That's one of the reasons why I haven't taken the dive for the dvds yet. I love the pilot, I love Return of the Joker, and a few more episodes- but I feel like they didn't really get to what they should've done. I wish they played with the status quo more and I don't understand why they didn't- maybe because it was their own creation and there wasn't any real cannon anymore to play with (other than the, eek, retroactive relationship). Part of the reason why the series ends on an episode that is totally not made to be a finale is that they just kept making episodes until they were told to stop.

Also, I always forget to mention: The biggest weak spot for me was always the lame Terry/Dana relationship. I never cared that he was late to dates and I really never understood why Dana didn't dump his ass. I wish they had done more with his family issues rather than Dana. Or given Max a bigger part.

When are you going to start Justice League? If my internet wasn't so crappy, I'd just give you all the episodes myself.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
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Yes! I love Old Man Bruce so much. He's so fucked up.
He is!

That's one of the reasons why I haven't taken the dive for the dvds yet. I love the pilot, I love Return of the Joker, and a few more episodes- but I feel like they didn't really get to what they should've done.
Oh, I'm so glad you agree. I was expecting so much more from the series. I liked it, but I feel like there was more potential.

I wish they played with the status quo more and I don't understand why they didn't
Yeah, I mean, you have this whole Neo-Gotham to mess around in, and the city never really becomes a character the way it does in regular canon. They could have done more than just the regular "Villain does something bad, Batman saves the day" episodes.

The biggest weak spot for me was always the lame Terry/Dana relationship. I never cared that he was late to dates and I really never understood why Dana didn't dump his ass. I wish they had done more with his family issues rather than Dana. Or given Max a bigger part.
I agree! Although she was hot. And my favorite part in the credits is watching her dance. The dance scene is awesome because it's like, "Ooh, we're so EDGY. We have a DANCE CLUB. Also, corruption justice honor power."

When are you going to start Justice League?
Sunday! Both series will be churning tonight. I should basically treat them as one, right?
[User Picture]
From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 7th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
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I've always been surprised that Dini, Timm, or anyone else from the show never really started a true comic version of BB to flesh out the story and play in the universe some more, possibly to tweak the storylines and so on. There was a tie-in comic while the show was on the air, I think, but those are never worth the money or time.

The dance scene is awesome because it's like, "Ooh, we're so EDGY. We have a DANCE CLUB. Also, corruption justice honor power."

HAH! I do love those credits, though.


Sunday! Both series will be churning tonight. I should basically treat them as one, right?

Yes! They ARE the same series. JLU is just the later episodes when the structure changed. Also, here's a fun side game for the series: try to guess the exact moment when Bruce Timm started watching Joss Whedon shows and taking notes.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
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Ha ha ha. And started casting all his favorite actors? I'm looking forward to that.
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 7th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
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Not just the actors, though! There are plots (more towards the JLU episodes) that you can tell have influences from BtVS and Angel.
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From:equustel
Date:May 7th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
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"Ooh, we're so EDGY. We have a DANCE CLUB. Also, corruption justice honor power."

LOL irl.
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From:gymble
Date:May 7th, 2010 05:12 am (UTC)
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I remember catching a few episodes of this when it was first on and enjoying it. But I didn't really watch much as I was past my cartoon days (to which I've now reverted - adulthood is fun!).
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:May 7th, 2010 07:15 am (UTC)
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Batman Beyond is great stuff. I really liked that one episode with...I think a sound villain?...where, in one scene, everything was silent except for footsteps and echoes.
[User Picture]
From:outforawalk
Date:May 7th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
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whose Ten is weirdly sexy

Tens usually are weirdly sexy.

Edited at 2010-05-07 01:48 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:equustel
Date:May 7th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
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YAY! I'm so glad you dug it.

Some of whom die. Like for reals. And sometimes Bruce doesn't even care. He'll even make a joke. It's kind of scary how hardened he's become.

You know, it's been awhile since I watched the show, but I never really picked up on that - how much of a change it signifies. Very interesting.

One of the moments that always stuck with me is that scene in the pilot where Brucebat is forced to pick up a gun to defend himself. There was so much weight to that, and to his disgust with it afterwards. His complete isolation as an old man is sad - how all his relationships with his loved ones ended bitterly and he's just living out the rest of his years by himself, stewing (until Terry comes along, at least). At least he has Ace! LOVE ACE.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
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You know, it's been awhile since I watched the show, but I never really picked up on that - how much of a change it signifies. Very interesting.
It surprised me every time. In some episodes, the villain dies or meets some horrible, terrible fate, and Bruce doesn't care. It's like it doesn't matter to him anymore whether the bad guys are okay, as long as the good guys are safe and unharmed.

His complete isolation as an old man is sad - how all his relationships with his loved ones ended bitterly and he's just living out the rest of his years by himself, stewing
It is sad!

The show had a lot of downbeat endings, I noticed, once again in the "Not just a stupid kid's show" vein.
[User Picture]
From:noisedesign
Date:May 7th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
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I worked on a number of the Batman Beyond episodes, one of them with Henry Rollins, he was one of the nicest folks I've had the pleasure to record.

I also did a few of the sessions for Return of the Joker. Mark Hamill was a lot of fun and another really nice guy.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
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What! That's so awesome! Very cool to hear about Henry Rollins and Mark Hamill. I actually am not that familiar with Henry Rollins's music, but I know of him and enjoy his collaboration with William Shatner.

I'll bet watching Mark Hamill record as the Joker was immensely entertaining. He has a lot of fun with it.
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:May 7th, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I always liked when there was a callback to the original series, like in the pilot episode, when the Jokers call themselves the originals, and Bruce is like, "Really?" and smirks at them. Or the first time Terry has to fight the Royal Flush Gang and ends up falling for the daughter (was that Ten? I forget), and when he finally confesses that to Bruce, he says, "Let me tell you about Selina Kyle."
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 7th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I loved those moments as well.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 11th, 2010 07:49 am (UTC)
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I watched a couple of seasons of Batman Beyond (all I could find on the internet at the time) a few years back. I found it to be really interesting, examining the inevitable need for the Bat-mantle to pass down to a new generation in a Blade-Runner-eque cyberpunk future.

I really should go back and finish it one of these days.

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