Radar Replay: ‘Batman Beyond’ revitalized the Batman mythos with fresh and original storytelling

Following the conclusion of the acclaimed “Batman: The Animated Series,” Warner Bros (WB) decided to continue Batman’s story in a refreshingly original take. The well of content that is Batman’s comic book history is nearly endless and contains countless heroes and villains. Any of these characters could’ve likely led their own show; however, WB instead chose to pitch an original character that propelled Batman’s story into the future. 1999’s “Batman Beyond” follows an old Bruce Wayne as he mentors the new Batman, Terry McGinnis, in a futuristic Gotham City.

“Batman Beyond” follows in a similar format as the original “Batman: The Animated Series,” which the show acts as a sequel to. Episodes are often your standard villain of the week while also occasionally hinting at an overarching plot, such as the first season’s focus on the villainous Derek Powers. Viewers follow the young and headstrong Terry McGinnis as he reels from the murder of his father and stumbles upon Bruce Wayne’s vigilante past. Following Terry’s theft of the batsuit, Bruce reluctantly decides to take the headstrong and wisecracking youth under his wing and give Gotham a brand new Batman. Acting as a father figure and mentor, Bruce provides Terry with support as he takes on a slew of new futuristic villains that comprise his new rogues gallery.

The show concluded after three seasons in 2001 and has since become a fan favorite. A more than worthy successor to the beloved “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond” offers fans a familiar hero in a brand new light. Rather than the dark and brooding detective, Terry is instead a young and brash teenager. Though by no means immature, this Batman is not above the occasional quip or one-liner. He’ll gladly banter and taunt his enemies while he beats them up. Furthermore, Terry’s personal life is a welcomed shift from the unrelatable billionaire that is Bruce Wayne. Coming from a divorced family, Terry juggles his duties as Gotham’s protector with his responsibilities to his mother, brother and girlfriend, Dana.

The series also manages to perfectly pay homage and respect to the series it followed while never getting lost in Batman’s long shadow. Occasional episodes utilize famous Batman villains in either leading or cameo roles, such as Mr. Freeze and Bane, and familiar allies spring up as recurring faces, such as Bruce Wayne and Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon. Their additions are a welcomed reminder of the original series, but are never a crutch. In fact, Terry’s interactions and relationship with Bruce and Barbara create some of the show’s best moments. The utilization of these legacy characters established a sense of familiarity for fans of the original series while never coming across as cheap and repetitive. Blended in with these familiar faces are a slew of colorful new futuristic characters. Though none of his villains ever quite reach the heights of the Joker or Two-Face, this new Batman has plenty of memorable villains like Inque and Blight.

Speaking of paying homage to the past while also embracing the future, the new Gotham City can perfectly describe that. Gotham is no longer trapped in perpetual darkness like it was in the original cartoon, but is now advanced and filled with towering skyscrapers and bright vistas. Flying cars and new technologies litter the city, but at its core Gotham is still the same city it used to be. Filled with political and corporate corruption, Gotham is plagued by the same kind of criminality that Bruce’s Batman fought against. On that same note, Terry’s new Batsuit is similarly new yet recognizable. With his newest state-of-the-art batsuit, Terry’s Batman is sleeker, as it ditches the cape, and more monochromatic. Now capable of limited flight, advanced strength, and a slew of more gadgets, this Batman is custom-made for the era he’s in. Newcomers to the show are sure to fall in love with this sleek new design that retains enough of the original to remain recognizable.

“Batman Beyond” is essential viewing for any Batfan as it beautifully carries on the legacy of the beloved “Batman: The Animated Series.” Filled with plenty for classic Batman fans to love and enough new material for new fans to gravitate towards, “Batman Beyond” is a classic in its own right. The show respectfully pays homage to its namesake while expertly crafting its own unique style to differentiate itself from the past. “Batman Beyond” can now be viewed in its entirety on HBO Max and is well worth viewing.

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