One of the things that’s both cool and unfortunate about comic books is that time doesn’t really pass. Things do change, but Batman hasn’t gotten too old in the past 63 years. As fans we don’t mind that, because we don’t want Batman to go. It’s a good thing for comic books. It also allows for some really cool adaptation possibilities.
Batman Beyond is an animated television series that ran for three seasons and spawned an animated film, a video game, several comics, and even books. A live-action film was also discussed as recently as this past summer. As far as animated series go, it’s pretty typical. It has pretty lame animation and is very episodic. So why was it such a hit? Why does it still have fans 12 years later?
It’s not uncommon for animated shows to have fans much older than its target audience. For crying out loud, I’m 20 years old and I still love Avatar: The Last Airbender! As a matter of fact, I didn’t even get into it until I was older. So what makes these shows great?
In the case of Batman Beyond, it’s about originality. With a new Batman in the picture, it would have been very easy for the makers to simply make updated versions of the classic Batman villains. They don’t. The closest thing they have is an updated version of the Royal Flush Gang (who only the most hardcore nerds have ever heard of ) and the Jokerz, a gang inspired by The Joker, but have no affiliation with him. Otherwise, updated Batman characters are few and far between, with mostly new and fresh villains such as Spellbinder, Blight, Inque, Shriek, and Curaré.
Spellbinder – Has the ability to cast illusions on people, making them “see” things that don’t happen.
Blight – Batman’s first real villain. Has the ability to shoot blasts of radiation.
Inque – Can transform her body into a liquid, making her extremely difficult to fight.
Shriek – Has the ability to create sound waves, either small enough to irritate animals or large enough to cause structural damage.
Curaré – A member of the League of Assassins, whose sword is sharp enough to penetrate nearly anything.
In addition to the cool villains, Terry himself is a pretty cool character. He’s an adept fighter in his own right and is a believable high-schooler. His girlfriend Dana is somewhat flat character-wise, but she gets better by the time the series ends. Max, a female friend of Terry’s who learns his secret, becomes a sometimes-sidekick of his, doing research and helping him with the whole “World’s Best Detective” part. An old and hardened Bruce Wayne now helps and directs Terry from the Batcave, and he still looks as large and impressive as he did inside the suit.
Speaking of the suit, the technology there is legit. It has chameleon capabilities, enables flight with jet pack-like boosters on the boots, and boosts strength. It’s a very cool kind of futuristic.
The futuristic nature of the show goes beyond the suit, too. The creators did some extensive world-building for a Saturday morning cartoon, even adding a several slang terms for this future Gotham. Some of those include schway (cool), fiz (soda), and twip (twerp). Other differences are present. The currency is now called “credits” and carried around on debit cards. One of the fads explored from time to time is something called “splicing,” which is incorporating animal DNA into your own DNA, which creates “cool” physical features.
So why is the show so successful, you ask? Because out of the scores of animated superhero shows, very few have showed this kind of originality and creativity. There hadn’t been anything like it before, and there hasn’t been anything like it since. That’s why it was so successful. The characters are memorable in their own right. So much so, in fact, that some of them have even been cosplayed numerous times. It’s a cool show. And I’m not ashamed to say that I watch it and love it, no matter how corny the animation is.