With Batman's 75th Anniversary upon us, it's only natural for the spotlight to linger on the DC comic books that have defined the caped crusader and his rogue's gallery, as well as the cinematic adaptations that have both pushed comic book movies forward (Tim Burton's 1989 Batman and the Nolan trilogy) and moved them back (Batman and Robin). But while it doesn't get the same attention, the character's animated legacy is equally impressive and still growing.
Launched in 1999, Batman Beyond followed the legendary Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures to the small screen, pushing the story out to the year 2039 and a time long after Bruce Wayne's health had betrayed him, thus making way for Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) to assume the mantle of the Batman with Wayne (the great Kevin Conroy) as his mentor.
Sadly, Batman Beyond left the airwaves in 2001 (though Friedle reprised the role numerous times, most recently in a 2005 episode of the Justice League animated series), but at WonderCon yesterday afternoon, DC Entertainment released a new animated Batman Beyond short (which follows Bruce Timm's recent Batman Strange Days short) complete with both Conroy and Friedle's iconic voices.
Scheduled to air after an episode of Teen Titans on Cartoon Network this Wednesday, Yahoo was able to let web dwellers and Batphiles the world over take a look at the all-too-brief adventure ahead of schedule, and what an adventure it is with both Wayne and McGinnis fighting off a Batman robot that looks a bit like the Batman: The Animated Series version. Also in attendance, Batman-bots that resemble the Batman (1989) version, the Batman TV series (Adam West era) version, Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman, the Bob Kane/Bill Finger original, and the last three animated versions of the character from The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Beware the Batman.
Created by comic book writer/illustrator Darwyn Cooke, the Batman Beyond animated short accomplishes much in less than two minutes, but while it is a fitting tribute, the main takeaway may be frustration that this is seemingly a one-off project (with a cliffhanger, no less) - that is, unless DC is using this Batman Beyond short to test the waters for a future return.
As of now, there are no hints that that is what is going on, but while it may be a long time until fans see Terry McGinnis again (if ever), they can at least draw comfort from DVD features like Batman: Assault on Arkham and Son of Batman, as well as the news that the long ago shelved Beware the Batman will soon make its return, joining Adult Swim's Toonami lineup on May 10th.
Whether or not that return will include the remaining un-aired episodes from season 1 remains to be seen (the 3am timeslot doesn't seem like there is a lot of faith in the show), but at this point, something is better than nothing for Batman animation fans who, based on the vocal and excited response to these shorts across social media and the net, seem eager to embrace more Batman cartoons.
UPDATE: According to Toonami head Jason DeMarco's Twitter account, the un-aired Beware the Batman eps will air on the channel.
Beware the Batman premiers on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block on Saturday May 10th @3AM. Batman: Assault on Arkham premieres in the Fall of 2014. Son of Batman premieres on May 6th.