By BatWatch 5 Comments
Batman Beyond Grows Beyond the Cartoon
Online, I talk to people about comics constantly, and I ran into this one guy who was a big fan of Batman Beyond. He said, “Man, I really miss that show. They should have kept it going,” to which I replied, “You know they are continuing Batman Beyond in comics, right?” It's hard to decipher tone in written communication, but my impression of his words were of a man preparing to die of dehydration suddenly realizing I had a bottle of water because he said, “What?!!? What are you talking about? Where is this! Seriously?”
It's true. Batman Beyond is still alive and well, and I'd go as far to say that it has grown beyond the original conception of the show and is now better than ever.
I never saw much of Batman Beyond until recently. I grew up poor, (well, poor by United States standards which would be considered rich throughout much of the world not to mention compared to all the people who lived in previous generations who could never dream of having the luxury that “poor” Americans suffer through) and my family never had cable. I did see a few episodes of Batman Beyond when I was babysitting some kid, (to make another side note, I was a horrible babysitter. I napped while the kid played in the back yard. It's a miracle he wasn't kidnapped) and while “watching” the kid, I saw a few episodes and I thought they were okay, but I was not a huge fan. This was not the Batman I knew. The Batman I knew was now old, and the universe just felt like it glorified in the cyberpunk without really having a soul.
When I started gearing up for BatWatch about a half year ago, I realized there was a Batman Beyond series being released digitally, and I reluctantly resigned myself to shell out the money for what I thought was going to be a mediocre comic, but I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.
I immediately found that the current series is great, and this made me eager to give the cartoon another try. Watching from the beginning, I found that there was more to the series than just the cyberpunk aesthetic, and it most definitely did have a soul. I've now watched about half the episodes, (which are on Netflix by the way) and they are fun, but I actually think the current series is better for several reasons.
The story and art is just a tad more mature. It definitely sticks close to its DCAU roots; there is no sex nor, unless I've missed it, any cursing in the comic. The art is very much reminiscent of the cartoon style, but there is more detail than what can be provided in telivision animation.
More importantly, the characters are more fully realized. Terry and Bruce always had good chemistry in the cartoon, and their oddball relationship was what drove Batman Beyond emotionally, but the supporting cast was much more limited. Terry's family was usually an afterthought. Dana played the stereotypical role of love interest/victim. Barbara Gordon occasionally had a little interaction with Terry, but for the most part, she was just another character giving orders.
Now, the supporting cast is much more involved and widespread. Dana just realized Terry was Batman. Dick Grayson is now a sort of antihero going by the codename Hush. Tim Drake is also back in play lending support to Batman when needed but still deeply scarred from his time as Joker. There is even a new character known as Vigilante who is the hired gun who killed Terry's father but is now trying to redeem himself by becoming a hero.
In short, there is a lot happening on the character front.
The stories too have broken away from the cartoon's mold. The cartoon was very much villain of the month, but the latest arc of Batman Beyond just concluded which included a twenty part story (the equivalent of ten issues) on one single villain, The Joker King. Giving a longer development time for villains and arcs really helps to make readers invested in the stories.
The Universe Expands
Batman Beyond is currently being packaged monthly alongside Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond in a print series called Batman Beyond Unlimited. Superman Beyond includes the adventures of Superman from The Animated Series during the same period as Terry McGinnis is wearing the Bat suit. Superman is now, obviously, much older. He is also a bit weaker, and when last I heard of him, he was working as a fireman. Justice League Beyond is pretty much just as it sounds, and it includes characters that some might remember from episodes of the Justice League cartoon which visited the future. I've read a little of these, and they are both entertaining, but if you have no interest, you can just ignore those series and buy the Batman Beyond series digitally.
Recently, there have been several major announcements for Batman Beyond.. The series is supposed to leap ahead about a year to the time when Terry is in college, and we also know that Terry, for some reason, will not be on talking terms with Dana. Around the same time, Batgirl Beyond will be making an appearance, and other than knowing that she has some connection to Babs, we know nothing of her. Joker is also said to be showing his ugly face to menace Terry which does not bode well for poor Tim Drake. Finally, Kyle Higgins, (former writer of Gates of Gotham and Arkham City and current writer of Nightwing) who most seem to liked very much on Nightwing, will soon be taking the reigns of Batman Beyond.
I've said an awful lot just to make a simple point: if you enjoyed the Batman Beyond cartoon, you owe it to yourself to check out Batman Beyond. With issue twenty-one, a new arc was started, and I suspect that the previous mega arc, 10,000 Clowns, will probably be collected in trade sometime soon.