The idea of taking classic characters and sticking them 50 years in the future never appealed to me. So when I heard they were doing it to my favorite DC Comics hero Batman, I was less than eager to see the results. The show introduced a “younger, hipper” Batman who wasn’t even in the comics, and it was easy to see that the creators meant this to replace their classic Batman: The Animated Series.
It seemed like a pure marketing move. It was 1999, a year before the millennium, and everything on TV seemed to be going space age. Even the creators of The Simpsons were making Futurama.
So I never really got into Batman Beyond. I watched a handful of episodes, and that was the end of it. But now, more than a decade later, I decided it was time to give it a second chance.
Let me tell you, I was wrong to abandon this show back in the day. The first thing that struck me about Batman Beyond was how dark it is. This was a Saturday morning cartoon, but season one’s topics include chemical warfare and drug overdosing. The next thing I noticed was how well it honored the Batman character’s past despite taking place so far in the future. While most of the villains are brand new, there are references and sometimes entire episodes about classic villains. Particularly clever is an episode discussing what happened to Bane (the villain of the next Batman movie) after pumping himself with the steroid-like “venom” his entire life.
Did I mention that Will Friedle (Eric from Boy Meets World) provided the voice of the new Batman? That’s almost as awesome as Mr. Feeny doing the voice of KITT on Knight Rider!
You can get all 52 episodes on DVD for about $50 if you shop around online. If you’re any kind of comics fan, you owe it to yourself to check this show out. The writing is terrific, not to mention the shway pre-digital animation.
If you like it, I also recommend the feature-length film Return of the Joker. It’s even darker than the show (so much so that they released censored and unrated versions) and includes flashbacks of present-day Batman.