Back when Batman Beyond first hit TV screens in 1999, many fans of DC’s amazing animated superhero shows were skeptical. They had already been spoiled by the outstanding Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. It was a lot to live up to, even with the same creative team running the show.
Comic readers were also still reeling from the recent Marvel 2099 line – which did a “future take” on classic heroes – leaving a bad taste in fans’ mouths. It felt then like dystopian stories set years into the future were destined to suck. Those fears were kicked away the moment the first episode smashed onto screens.
Batman Beyond wasn’t just an exciting show; it was a clever and reverent next generation Batman. The new hero, Terry McGinnis, stepped into the updated, high-tech batsuit like he was born for it, with an elderly Bruce Wayne mentoring him into becoming Neo-Gotham’s new protector. It felt like canon from the start, producing some great superhero tales. Fortunately, Batman Beyond stories continue to be created to this day, almost 16 years after the last episode aired.
Here are 15 Amazing Batman Beyond Stories You Couldn't See On TV.
15 Legends of the Dark Knight: Jake
Anybody who really knows Batman can recall upon request the name of the man who killed his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne: Joe Chill. On that fateful night, young Bruce’s life changed forever. In the Beyond timeline, as if taking on the Chill family’s curse, readers are introduced to Joe’s great-grandnephew, Jake.
Carving out his own destiny as a special unit security guard, Jake falls from grace after facing an unconscionable task required of him by the nefarious Derek Powers (who goes on to be Terry’s arch-nemesis, Blight). Becoming a lost soul, fallen into alcoholism, Jake encounters an opportunity to become better than his murderous ancestor and pick up a new mantle in defense of Neo-Gotham.
It’s a fantastic full arc of redemption for the Chill family, fitting very nicely into the Beyond lore. Without giving it away, this new hero/anti-hero could become a more impactful character for the greater McGinnis storylines.
14 The Bat Men
Why just have one Batman when you can have so many more? Or more accurately – more Man-Bats. Dr. Kirk Langstrom is up to his old tricks again, transforming himself permanently into the classic half-human, half-bat villain that Bruce went up against so many times.
Formerly more of a beast, the elder Man-Bat is in control of his human faculties, and now, he’s trying use his formula to create a “bat-family” for himself, since his wife has died and his kids won’t talk to him anymore. It’s a great twist on a favorite from the rogue’s gallery who used to be a sort of Jekyll/Hide tragedy, now seeming to control his own destiny, possibly shifting from crazy to evil.
Terry teams up with the older Bruce, despite the fact that Dick Greyson is his new mentor. The Man-Bat has always been one of the creepiest of Batman’s adversaries, like a mashup between werewolf and vampire. Giving him the ability to choose to be a monster offers an added edge to the Beyond universe.
13 Mark of the Phantasm
Drawing from the fan-favorite Batman animated feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the deadly judge, jury,and executioner of villains comes back in new guise to the Beyond world. This time his target is our old friend, Jake Chill, now going by the superhero moniker Vigilant.
For the Phantasm, Jake’s past sins will not be forgotten. Forget making up for his wrongs, the vengeful killer of villains wants to see Jake’s blood. This connection between classic characters and the future pastiche of Terry McGinnis’ story plays into the whole question of right and wrong, unforgiving revenge and redemption, tapping directly into the morality of the Batman mythology.
Fans of the TV series and traditional comics alike will feel that play out as bad guys and good guys both fall into some very grey areas.
12 The Heart of the Matter
One of the coolest things to come out of the original Batman Beyond show was the introduction of Terry McGinnis’ timeline version of the Justice League. Led by an older but still supreme Superman, members like updated versions of Green Lantern and Hawkman (Warhawk) nicely complement the new Batman, who’s reluctant to be part of the team.
The main villain is a newcomer taking up the mantle of the Matter Master. And this time it’s personal because he’s taken some of Terry’s loved ones hostage. A solid superhero yarn that hits all the right notes, it was a great excuse to lobby for a bigger and more active Beyond universe Justice League.
Keeping the tradition of the show alive, this take on DC’s core super-team’s future maintains a nice thread between the legacy characters we all love and a future that’s open-ended enough to grow.
11 The Trigger Man
If you love Batman Beyond, then you have to love Mad Stan, the paranoid ammosexual villain voiced so memorably by legendary punk rock front man Henry Rollins. The character’s anarchic recklessness and self-righteous attitude strike a fine balance between loving and hating him – a sort of crazier version of Marvel’s The Punisher.
In this comic tale, Stan is back bombastically pushing Batman’s buttons while carrying out his loony war on the system. Once Stan gets his hands on a device that can set off any nearby explosives, Terry has to drop everything to take him down. But sealing the deal is the relationship between the literal bomb-thrower and his dog.
The epilogue to the story hits the right note, reinforcing the soft side of a totally insane, tin-foil-hate-wearing dude who just loves to blow up anything put up by “the man.” We need more Mad Stan than ever!
10 Return of the Joker (comic adaptation)
When people debate what the best animated Batman feature film ever was, many would choose the aforementioned Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. But arguably, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker was the superior work. Where a supposedly-dead villain’s return usually uses the same old tricks to stage a resurrection, this film uses a really smart sci-fi template to bring back everybody’s favorite crown prince of crime.
Upon release, controversies sprouted over some graphic moments, particularly one flashback sequence where Joker seriously tortured a captured Robin. It turns out there were more scenes that didn’t even make it to the screen at all.
The comic book adaptation of The Return of the Joker puts them back in, including a flashback scene with the interrogation of The Penguin by the Bruce Wayne Batman himself. If this is a story you can’t get enough of, this fills in some gaps nicely, while doing a nice job of representing the story we already love for the comics pages.
9 Return of the Joker (video game)
The animated movie and comic adaptation weren’t enough for you? Here’s the video game! Yes, technically, this is still on a TV screen, but it is not a TV show, so it counts for this list!
Everyone take note: this is not a great game, but to date, it’s the only one to feature Terry McGinnis and the Beyond timeline. Created in 2000 for the original PlayStation console, it’s a standard beat-em-up game, in all its side-scrolling glory. Mostly unloved, it’s still the only chance to really be Batman Beyond in a video game. Yes, various games offered DLC’s to suit up in the high-tech outfit, but those never fully incorporated the uniqueness of the character’s quirks.
Ever since Rockstar closed out its super-popular Arkham series of games, some folks are rumbling for the superb developers to take on Terry’s bat-persona in proper form. Until then, Return of the Joker is all we’ve got!
8 Justice League Beyond: Power Struggle
When DC finally did get around to giving Justice League Beyond its own title, they made sure to keep Terry McGinnis in the mix. Despite this being pretty much a story centered around Superman, Batman nevertheless maintains a key role. The problem is that the aging Kryptonian is having trouble controlling all of his immense metahuman abilities. With everything from heat vision to his own strength going haywire, Kal-El is forced to shut himself down – which, as one can imagine causes its own set of troubles.
What’s nice here is getting a meatier chance to see how Terry interacts with the JL, expanding his “lone wolf” persona, and claiming his own legacy within the super-group. More developed than previous forays with the League, Power Struggle could feature Batman more, but hey, it’s a team effort, right? If anything, this proves the Beyond world is more vibrant and rich than we yet know.
7 Brave New Worlds
It had to happen. If the original Batman, Bruce Wayne himself had to one day hang up his cowl, it was inevitable that the same day would come to the pages of Batman Beyond. Without spoiling things – because this storyline is chock full of spoilery stuff – there comes a time when Terry McGinnis is no longer available to be Neo-Gotham’s mighty protector. But you just can’t keep a good bat down.
Through a series of time-bending events, a familiar face arrives in the Beyond timeline, ready to assume the role of the Dark Knight and conclude some unfinished business with the vile Brother Eye! Sewing up old plotlines while charting new possibilities for the character, the story eventually finds itself back to where it began, giving us a memorable tale while smoothly showing us that the bat-family that caves together, stays together, even when possible futures and altered pasts keep changing everything.
6 Rise of the Demon
That pesky Ra's al Ghul! Even when he’s finally staying dead, he’s just can’t help himself from making the world miserable for anybody out there wearing the Batman uniform. Terry McGinnis faces off with what appears to be yet another iteration of the leader of the apocalyptic League of Shadows, even though he’s supposed to be permanently deceased now.
Part of DC’s Rebirth initiative, the plot draws our young hero of the future into the same dilemma that Bruce Wayne confronted: Was Ra's maybe really right after all? Could his goals be a better bet for humanity than Batman’s tactics? Once The Demon is finally unmasked, this makes those questions all the more hard to face for Terry.
It’s a great take on this classic villain from the Rogue’s Gallery, updated in a smart way which once again lets Batman Beyond forge its own path while staying true to the material from which it came.
5 Batgirl Beyond
How did they miss this great opportunity in the original Batman Beyond TV show? Of course we should have a Batgirl in the future too! Duh! Finally appearing in Batman Beyond Unlimited #18, an entirely new gal dons the cape for this one-issue feature tale which also figures in Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon – the original Batgirl and daughter of legendary Commissioner Jim Gordon – for a sort of “passing of the bat-baton” if you will. The main plot involves the poisoning of Gotham citizens and Batgirl’s hunt for the person responsible. Using the water supply to target victims, this echoes stories of The Joker doing the same thing in the original Batman’s history. The tale wraps up in a clever one-detective-out-detectives-a-detective moment that’s totally satisfying. So long as we are seeing more Batman Beyond stories, we should be seeing more of the mysterious Batgirl Beyond as well.
4 Justice Lords Beyond: Another World
The Justice Lords are probably the best “mirror universe” supervillain team ever. Their origins lying in the same Bruce Timm/Paul Dini mythology where Batman Beyond came from, the horror of a tyrannical version of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League was shattering and effective.
What really made them stand out was that they were once heroes just like our world’s JL. But in their arrogance, they take over the world by force, offering “justice” with a reign of super-powered terror. Now in the future, Terry McGinnis faces a new insurgency by the Lords into our world. The previously-defeated metahuman team from another dimension is once again gunning for a Lords-less order.
Luckily, our new Batman’s got our good old Superman still kicking around to take the latest threat on. With DC bringing these evil heroes into standard continuity in 2015, we’ll hopefully see more of their menace in the near future.
3 Batman #700
Okay, this one might be cheating a little but please give it a chance. When the original numbering of Batman approached #700 back in 2010, legacy numbering for comics wasn’t as exciting as it seems to suddenly be these days. So, it was pretty cool that the flagship of all of DC’s bat-lines was going to hit 700 on schedule. When it arrived, genius writer Grant Morrison delivered a story that was literally for the ages, “Time and the Batman.”
Morrison uses several artists to cover all eras of Batman’s career. Deeply referenced Easter eggs pack page after page for the eagle-eyed bat-fan. It’s a stunning tip of the hat to decades of the best stories in the mythology, and Morrison makes sure to include a brief but meaningful glimpse at Terry McGinnis.
Now having Damian Wayne as mentor rather than Bruce, a thread is woven between past generations and the unwritten future of Batman Beyond, tying Terry’s story to a fate that goes beyond the original Batman’s own lifetime.
2 Hush Beyond
Possibly the single most popular Batman story of the 21st century, Hush by legendary team Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee already ranks as having one of the greatest twist endings ever in superhero lore. When Batman Beyond picked up the thread of the original classic, it took things one step farther to concoct a natural progression for this formidable bad guy.
This time around, Terry takes on a terrifying new version of Hush; one who can fight as well as he does and seems to know all the secrets of Batman. Not only that – he’s killing off all of Batman’s oldest surviving foes in some very peculiar ways. The plot unwinds towards the unexpected identity of this updated villain that no one sees coming, yet makes perfect sense when revealed.
A great mix of classic detective tropes and eye-grabbing action, Hush Beyond flows very well from the original tale.
1 The New 52: Future’s End
This is the ultimate hero Terry could ever be. The Future’s End miniseries from 2015 solidifies Batman Beyond as worthy successor to the Batman mythology. It’s deep into a cataclysmic future. Most of the metahumans in the world have been transformed into cyborgs by the vile Brother Eye, totally under his control.
Only a trip into the past by Bruce Wayne can stop all this destruction from happening. Just one problem: an attack on the time machine ends up erroneously transporting Terry instead, dropping him off 5 years later than it was supposed to. Brother Eye may not have won yet, but he’s well on his way – lots of superheroes have already been changed!
What could have been a relatively simple Terminator 2 type mission puts Batman up against almost impossible odds. The final choice Terry McGinnis makes to save the future may be the most powerful part of his hero’s journey to date.
Are there any other Batman Beyond stories that never made it onscreen? Let us know in the comments!
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