In the late ‘90s, the team behind the legendary “Batman: The Animated Series” had moved on to “The New Batman Adventures.” But when the Kids WB network became concerned that the new “Batman” series’ viewers were skewing too old, executive producer Bruce Timm threw out another idea — a teenage Batman. The Kids WB executives loved the idea, but Timm had major concerns about changing 60 years of Batman canon by making him a teenager.
The compromise idea was a new Batman, a teen who would take over in the future when Bruce Wayne had become too old to defend Gotham City. The resulting show was “Batman Beyond,” a brand new take on the hero, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this week with the release of a limited edition Blu-Ray box set of the complete series.
If you’re not familiar with the show, “Beyond” follows the exploits of high schooler Terry McGinnis (voiced by Will Friedle), who accidentally discovers that Bruce (Kevin Conroy) was once Batman. When Terry’s father is murdered, Bruce refuses to help Terry bring the killers to justice. But eventually Bruce comes around and decides to take Terry under his wing and teach him how to be the hero Gotham needs.
“Beyond” did not quite measure up to “Batman: TAS,” but it was still very well done and deserves more love than it gets from Batman fans. Friedle, in his very first voiceover role, was perfectly cast, and anytime you can hear Conroy, the one true voice of Batman, do his thing it’s time well spent.
The box set is pretty comprehensive with all 52 episodes of the series and hours of special features. Two new featurettes are sensational as “Nostalgic Tomorrow: A Batman Gathering” brings together the “Beyond” principals to discuss the show and “Knight Immortal” relives 80 years of Batman history in a unique and very cool way.
But the real gem here is the uncut feature-length film, “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker,” one of the coolest and creepiest animated movies I’ve ever seen. Several years ago, I had the chance to discuss the film with Friedle, and he warned me the uncut version — which I have not seen — is even creepier than the original. I highly recommend watching it in the daytime.
My only disappointment with the set is that it doesn’t contain “Epilogue,” the “Justice League Unlimited” episode which served as the de facto “Beyond” series finale,” revealing a huge secret about Terry’s family. I’m guessing its absence is because an “Unlimited” set is in the works, but considering how much the episode is discussed in the “Nostalgic” featurette, it’s a glaring omission.
If you’re a “Beyond” fan or a “Batman: TAS” fan, this set is a must-have, but it’s also a great buy for Batman fans in general as you get a very different perspective of a character who continues to fascinate, inspire and entertain 80 years after his creation.
“Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition” is available now at retail and online outlets. The sets, which also include an exclusive Funko POP, are individually numbered and limited to 50,000.