The Matt Signal Beyond – Batman Beyond Comics: Part 1 (The Tie-In Era)

Contrary to my original claim I wouldn’t be covering the Batman Beyond comics because there are so many more of them than their BTAS/TNBA equivalents… let’s take a look at Terry McGinnis’ comic book exploits over the years.

These books can be divided into four distinct eras, and we’ll start with The Tie-In Era, helmed by show writer Hilary J. Bader.

After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

With the show starting in January 1999, there was a six-issue series starting in March, and then a new 24-issue series from November 1999 to October 2001, which would have meant it outlasted the show itself if not for the fact the final episode was delayed. There was also an adaptation of Return of the Joker.

Hilary J. Bader wrote almost every issue, with Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt and Paul D. Storrie filling in for a couple.

Rick Burchett, Joe Staton, Craig Rousseau, Min S. Ku and Terry Beatty provided art. Burchett previously served as the main artist of The Batman Adventures and The Batman and Robin Adventures. [LINKS]

There was supposed to be an issue featuring the return of The Terrific Trio, but while Marvel were fine about a cartoon homage to The Fantastic Four, they deemed a comic book too much.

I’ll rank every issue of Volume 2 due to its close resemblance to the books I covered in the past, but first a couple of pieces of housekeeping for Volume 1 and Return of the Joker:

Volume 1 Sucks

As mentioned above, this first volume (if you can even call it that) is only 6 issues and debuted a couple of months after the show began. To put it delicately: it’s really bad. The first two issues are abridged versions of both parts of ‘Rebirth’, so you’re basically only looking at four issues.

Of these four, the only good one involves Inque (surprise, surprise!), as she pleads for Terry’s help after falling prey to the manipulations of a nefarious scientist. It continues the tradition of her ostensibly dying at the end. The remaining issues involve a literal mummy who falls in love with Dana, a demon (requiring an assist from Etrigan), and a shockingly convoluted plot with Blight trying to steal a trio of man-made radioactive elements.

It simply fails to capture the feel of the show. The distinctive purple skyline and ‘Neo’ Gotham architecture are nowhere to be seen, with several issues taking place under perfect blue skies. Almost all of the stories feel like BTAS rejects, rather than emulating anything unique about Beyond.

Plus Terry’s trademark brown jacket is green for some reason???

Return of the Joker Feels Redundant

These tie-in comics are generally aimed at a younger audience, but this 40-page abridged version of the censored version of the movie tones things down even further due to the condensed format robbing even the implied stuff. Written by Darren Vincenzo and drawn by Craig Rousseau, most of the dialogue is verbatim, but there is a tiny (meaningless) addition with Bruce visiting Arkham alone.

The final fight in particular is hugely truncated, and by trying to rush through it as quickly as possible, the entire story loses any sense of grandeur.

I’m honestly unsure what the point in this was other than to try and get it in the hands of kids whose parents wouldn’t let them watch it. It would make more sense if they were adding things back in that got cut for one reason or another, providing somewhat of an alternate take, but no… if you’ve seen the movie you can skip the book entirely.

Volume 2 Issue Rankings

1. Commissioner of Fear (#13)

Barbara Gordon is revealed to suffer from relapsing symptoms of the fear toxin from ‘Over the Edge’ every few years that require her to be put into a medically-induced coma.

She refuses to go under this time though as she’s investigating a child kidnapping, so she instead confides in Terry and they solve the case together. The flashback sequences are fantastically drawn, and there’s a touching moment where Babs initially tells Terry he’ll never be Batman, only to later change her mind. Plus their team-up is badass.

2. Ebony Tears (# 2)

Inque pulls off another string of thefts to help a scientist develop a cure for her to make her completely human due to her rapidly failing body. She seemingly perishes in a fire, but emerges back to her full strength from her debut appearance in ‘Blackout’.

3. Family Day (#23)

Jack declares himself King of a new Royal Flush Gang, auditioning other new members, who have fun slightly remixed costumes. Terry enlists Melanie Walker’s help to take them down.

The B-Story sees Terry invite Bruce to spend time with his family, which is very sweet.

Plus 1,000,000 bonus points for a Darwyn Cooke cover.

4. Perfect Pitch (#5)

Shriek orchestrates a clever jailbreak and learns to disintegrate all of Terry’s weapons, forcing him to use Bruce’s old utility belt, mimicking the conclusion of ‘Lost Soul’. Terry gets absolutely wrecked in this one, with barely any of the suit still left on him by the end.

5. Prey or Hunter, Hunter or Prey (#18)

Stalker injects Terry with a dart that boosts his strength and reflexes, and also tags him with a radiation signature that attracts a somehow still alive Blight, who Stalker had been hunting. Slightly convoluted, but still a fun time.

6. In Blackest Day Part II (#22)

Green Lantern and Black Light face off. Terry deduces Black Light draws his power from Green Lantern, so apologetically neutralises him to render the villain useless.

7. In Blackest Day Part I (#21)

Terry spends time helping the JLU (minus Superman), defending Metropolis from an alien invasion. But when a Black Lantern (referred to as Black Light) attacks they are forced to retreat, causing the current Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, to have a crisis of confidence.

8. Terry’s Mom Dates a Splicer (#24)

A new gang of splicers try to steal from Mary McGinnis’ place of work, but Terry fends them off. Their leader, Noah, can uniquely control his various mutations at will, and charms Mary to get access to the lab so he can splice himself with… alien DNA!

Ends with a touching heart to heart with Terry and his mother, an element almost entirely ignored in the show due to time constraints. (The title is obviously a reference to Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot)

9. Zoologically Speaking (#3)

A new batch of spliced villains attack, more animalistic than ever. Terry eventually discovers Dr. Cuvier is splicing animals with human DNA rather than the other way around.

There’s a noble tiger-man who helps Terry and then chooses to forgo his intelligence and be turned back into an animal in order to be with his mate. Aww.

Notably, this concept of reverse-splicing was later used in Season 3’s ‘Speak No Evil’.

10. Toy Wonder (#10)

A friend of the McGinnis family builds a little toy robot for his mentally handicapped son to connect with. After a legal misunderstanding gets the father arrested, the toy comes to life and uses spare parts to turn into a GoLeM, controlled by the child.

It all ends peacefully, of course, but is surprisingly heavy stuff.

11. The Last of Her Kind (#9)

A series of assassinations and attempts are all perpetrated using Curare’s signature sword. Terry eventually learns she has her own League now, and puts trainees through brutal initiations.

12. Snake Food (#16)

Kobra kidnap homeless people to be brainwashed into becoming their soldiers. Terry is captured trying to intervene, so Bruce allows himself to be taken too and the pair bring the cell down from within.

13. Grounded (#1)

Bruce vs Terry! Spellbinder uses a hidden signal to brainwash Batman… but as established in ‘Shriek’, Bruce calls himself Batman in his own head, while Terry does not. Thus Bruce hallucinates that Terry has gone rogue, believing he has no choice but to suit up one last time to defeat his nemesis.

14. Terminal Velocity (#12)

Carter is ostensibly cured of his Terminal impulses via therapy and tries to make amends, but the Jokerz kidnap his doctor (and Max) on orders of… Terminal. It turns out he developed a Two-Face/Fight Club style split personality, with each side oblivious to the other’s actions.

15. Vendetta (#8)

Masked vigilante Vendetta attacks a series of Wayne-Powers related businesses. They’re revealed to be Miss Winston, Derek Powers’ assistant who has absorbed a portion of his powers and wants to bring down Paxton for ruining the company. If you recall, she brought food to Blight in ‘Ascension’ despite his monstrous transformation.

16. The Perfect You (#11)

A radical nano-bot treatment promises to fix any cosmetic issue and becomes very popular… but the patients become overtaken by the evolving nano hive mind.

Some vaguely good messaging about fatshaming etc… at least for the time period.

17. Two of a Kind (#4)

The Royal Flush gang go on a crime spree despite all ostensibly being behind bars. In one of the more ridiculous reveals in the franchise, it turns out King and Queen were both identical twins who married, leading to practically identical cousins in Ten’s case. Some corny “Melanie would never do that” stuff.

18. McGinnis’ Secret (#7)

Spellbinder builds a machine that reads minds and deploys it at Hamilton High, convinced Batman is a teenager. In order to avoid his secret being exposed, Bruce implants a fake memory that his little brother Matt is Batman, which is enough to convince Spellbinder the machine doesn’t work properly.

19. New Jokerz ‘n’ Old Friendz (#20)

Terry runs into his former best friend, who is auditioning for the Jokerz and tries to talk him out of it. Predates the introduction of ‘Big Time’, Terry’s former best friend turned mutant villain later in the show. One of the issues not written by Bader.

20. May Flights of Demons Sing Thee to Thy Rest (#14)

Terry enlists the help of Jason Blood to deal with a demon on the loose. Unfortunately, it’s Halloween so Etrigan gets the full day and night to himself and he tries to screw Batman over by having the demon try and erase Blood so he can keep his body permanently.

21. Most Dangerous Island (#6)

On Howard Groot’s recommendation, Terry and friends take a trip to a tropical island… which is coincidentally being used as a hunting ground by Stalker… who has spliced animals with dinosaur DNA for a greater challenge.

Stalker captures Terry’s friends to force him to engage him in a contest to see who can capture the most critters. Stalker kills them while Terry uses non-lethal means, naturally.

Kobra would end up Splicing humans with dinos in ‘Curse of the Kobra’.

22. A Sinking Ship (#17)

Patrick/Rat Boy exploits his control of rats to drive up demand for his pest control business, making him incredibly rich in another attempt to woo Dana.

23. Lighting and Rain (#15)

Terry fights and then teams up with ‘Erica Electra’, helping her prove a shady scientist stole her father’s invention and then murdered him. A painfully generic character that I can’t believe they thought would catch on. Not written by Bader.

24. Royal Mayhem (#19)

The Mayhem Family break out of prison and try to kidnap the princess of a fake Middle Eastern country visiting Gotham. Painfully on the nose stuff with Terry trying to teach the Princess the error of her ways, and her realising her country is corrupt. America, Fuck Yeah!

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker and most recently The Batman!

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, returns this week to begin coverage of Moon Knight!

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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