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 finish up with the longest and most recent, Dan Jurgens’ Rebirth Era.
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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As with all books in DC’s line-up in 2016, Batman Beyond got rebranded with a new number one. Everything that happened before was still canon, but they subtly shifted some things around, which I’ll highlight below.
I really wish they’d used Rebirth as an excuse to fully restore the pre-Future’s End continuity. As things stand it would NOT be an easy jumping-on point at all. They wanted it to be, as Terry full-name’s people and makes clumsy references to past comic events, but without proper context it would be very confusing. They try to have it both ways but not in a good way.
Jurgens remained aboard and penned FIFTY issues of this run, far and away the most in any iteration of the book and a number that fewer modern series manage than you might think. I prefer it to what came immediately before it, but with that many issues, it’s obviously up and down. Good concepts and individual issues, but overall just Very Okay.
Bernard Chang provides most of the art, and I HATE what he did to the suit. It’s the eyes; they’re a completely different shape and I think it throws off the entire look. Making it worse: they’re red for at least half of the run. The white is iconic and ties him in with Bruce better.
Bruce & Joker Return from the Grave
Right… so… something I neglected to mention in the previous era, is Bruce is presumed to be dead along with countless other people due to Brother Eye’s global takeover. This book’s first arc also states Joker died many years ago in a dramatic car chase with Bruce.
Terminal reveals he has Joker’s comatose body and is trying to bring him back to life, but it eventually turns out to in fact be Bruce Wayne dressed up to look like his former nemesis. Why? Because Terminal is using his fingerprints to authorise a series of transactions in an effort to quietly bleed him dry, while also ensuring total loyalty from the Jokerz as they think he has their messiah. Thus Terry is reunited with his mentor once they resuce him and all is happy once more…
Except the real Joker IS still alive after all, with Bruce hearing his voice while kept sedated. Mr. J sticks to the shadows and beats Terminal and other Jokerz to death, offended by them appropriating his likeness. He later reveals himself to the public around halfway through the series, orchestrating the deaths of thousands, claiming to want to make Gotham “dirty” again.
Joker kidnaps Matt McGinnis and plans to execute him on live television as a “sequel” to Jason Todd. Instead, Matt spills the beans about Bruce’s identity, leading to a final showdown between the old enemies… but Joker dies of a heart attack before we can find out if Bruce would have finally murdered him or not.
The first arc was a clever little fake-out, but I rolled my eyes when they revealed Joker WAS alive, and his rampage could have been written by an AI that ingested enough Batman scripts. One good thing is that Matt is left so traumatised by the events that he is benched as Robin (more on that below). Oh, and an elderly Harley Quinn steals Joker’s corpse.
Oh hey, it’s Damian Wayne!
One of the many subtle shifts in continuity that came with Rebirth is the first appearance of Bruce’s son, Damian Wayne. He and Jason Todd (also briefly mentioned in this series) are historically out of bounds in the BTAS continuity. They avoid trying to insert him neatly into flashbacks (like Paul Dini did with Jason in The Adventures Continue comics), and instead just present him as the adult leader of the League of Assassins. He has a pet dragon and everything. They avoided the entire Brother Eye conflict due to the remoteness of their headquarters.
Crucial to the arc is the existence of the ‘X7’ armour, a version of the Batman Beyond Suit which blocks out all pain and increases aggression. Bruce wore it on his final night as Batman to battle ‘The Banes’, realising after taking it off he’d cracked two vertebrae and all of his ribs. Damian later took it for a spin as his intended successor and went on a violent rampage that left him so exhausted, Ra’s al Ghul was easily able to manipulate him into joining the dark side.
Bruce tags along and defeats Ubu’s enormous son, while Damian beats Terry one on one. It all ends peacefully though, with Damian declining an invitation to return to Gotham with them.
‘Gotham Games’ Rules
Sticking out like a sore thumb in an otherwise clean but very artistically safe book, Issue 13, ‘Gotham Games’, is a beautiful, ambitious visual treat. Dividing every page into three sections, with each telling a separate narrative across the issue, it’s the kind of thing that benefits from being read in double-page spreads.
At the top, Terry races to try and watch Matt compete in the Gotham games, which are shown in the middle. He battles and then befriends Shriek and Hacker and takes down Freon (from The Terrific Trio). The bottom panels show how Shriek, Hacker and Freon ended up in their respective situations, so you’re seeing them from two different perspectives at the same time.
The ending is somewhat underwhelming but it’s an extremely cool concept and isn’t as confusing to read as it might sound. This is the kind of thing that comes along two to three times a year and really sticks in your memory, such as a recent Nightwing issue wherein every page could be arranged in a long line and read as one very long panel, or Radiant Black’s ‘Blacklight Issue’.
Matt McGinnis Becomes Robin Beyond
A surprising recurring theme when reading all of these comics was that there seems to be some form of disdain for Batman Beyond. The most common example is writers taking a hard stance that Terry is an idiot who could never measure up to the legendary Bruce. Another would be turning Terry/Tim into Iron Man. But perhaps the most overt slap in the face to the source material is this maddening decision to make Matt McGinnis the new Robin.
WB Kids actually requested this exact thing during the show’s run, which Bruce Timm and the writers strongly rejected. It’s a hangover from the network demanding Robin be in every episode of BTAS Season 2, and something you see in children’s television general; a false belief that kids love kid characters so they can pretend to be them. Kids want to pretend to be adults, not different kids.
Fast forward to these late 2010s comics, and Terry & Matt move into Wayne Manor, where Matt takes a great interest in studying archive footage of Robin. Bruce is super into it, being the maniac that he is, so encourages his secret training and signs off on him suiting up to try and rescue Terry from a mission gone south. Naturally, Matt almost dies, and Terry is furious with Bruce. I’m okay with all of this; it’s how it would go.
What sucks is that Bruce doesn’t care about the criticism, essentially makes Matt his pet project, and Terry eventually gives in and they spend a number of issues as partners. Not only does Matt basically become as good as Terry in a short span of time, the whole thing has that misguided ‘doesn’t this kid rock?!’ element that never sits right with me. Thankfully, it’s not permanent thanks to Joker leaving Matt with PTSD. Thanks, Mr. J! It’s a decent suit, I just wish somebody other than Matt were wearing it.
Melanie Walker: Hero
It goes without saying Melanie ‘Ten’ Walker was very popular with a section of the fandom who wanted Terry to end up with her instead of Dana. ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ is a popular episode, and I’m pretty sure I had a crush on Melanie as a kid. Kyle Higgins even had them reconnect in college, though Terry’s distrust of her reformation drives them apart.
Dan Jurgens takes it a step further by not only getting them back together (with Dana catching them kissing), but bringing her into the fold as a quasi-member of the Bat Family Beyond. She even becomes Head of Security for Wayne Industries!
There’s a masked vigilante drawing some minor attention from the GCPD who turns out to be Melanie. She believes by helping Batman, she can win Terry back, as she ‘knows they’re friends’. Instead she learns the two are one and the same, and after recovering from the shock, she offers her services as Ten, leading to the tryst.
For as clumsily implemented as it is (this book has an overabundance of masked mystery people), I actually enjoyed seeing her in action as the Royal Flush Gang costumes were always great. There’s even a story where she dons Terry’s utility belt to fill in for him while he’s got amnesia. Getting the nod from Bruce, who is historically distrustful of her, was nice.
What is less nice is that she’s said to be in ‘criminal rehab’, with Jack Ryder aka The Creeper, acting as her sponsor. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and for a while she’s written as insultingly ‘unstable’.
This is probably the single best concept and story from this period of the book.
Towards the end, with Terry temporarily missing (again), a new Batwoman arrives on the scene to fight crime. She essentially wears his costume, but with a long auburn ponytail poking out, which does NOT match the hairdo of the woman behind the mask. This is presumably a nod to the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane, who wears a long red wig to help hide her identity better.
Bruce is convinced that it’s Barbara Gordon (remember, she’s being drawn to look significantly younger here than she appeared in the series), while Matt McGinnis thinks it’s Melanie Walker. Both laugh when accused.
Instead, it’s revealed to be Elainna Grayson, daughter of Dick, who is the Mayor of Bludhaven. Both appeared in Joker’s big return story, where they plant seeds about Dick discouraging her from following in his footsteps.
She proves highly capable filling in for Terry and then teaming with him, and while her dad is initially against the idea, he eventually comes around, and helps to train her alongside Barbara. She even gets a blue costume recolour to evoke Nightwing, which is adorable, while also making her more distinct from Terry.
While I didn’t like some of the steps taken along the way, I really appreciated Jurgens building his own Bat Family Beyond after so long of Terry/Tim operating solo, just as the Justice League Unlimited breathed some new life into the final days of the cartoon. Elainna is the best written of the bunch, and I would have liked to have seen her continued adventures.
Confusingly, there was also an ‘interlude’ called ‘Batwomen Beyond’ by Vita Alaya & Steve Orlando, which saw the continuation of Nyssa, the Batwoman from the second era [LINK], with Max and Barbara as her support team. It didn’t go past one issue, though.
Blight ‘Always Knew’
As in the first two eras, Jurgens couldn’t resist penning a story wherein Blight actually survived his demise. No problem there. He was a cool character killed off too early because the network wanted the show to have a younger focus.
The problem is more the fact that Jurgens completely ignores the events of the show by claiming that Paxton Powers figured out that Bruce was Batman by simply looking through the Wayne-Powers financial records. Obviously that would make plenty of sense… if not for the fact it completely breaks the fiction of the show. Every single thing Powers tried to do in Season 1 would have gone a completely different way if he knew Bruce was Batman.
He spends the arc trying to transfer his consciousness into the body of an amnesiac Terry and then when that doesn’t work and he knows for sure he’s only got hours to live, he blows up Wayne Manor in an attempt to take his old nemesis with him. The heroes of course survive, and the new HQ ends up being a crazy penthouse Bruce owns in the city.
The End/The Future
The series ends with a trio of much shorter stories.
The first sees a League of Assassins member called Zeh-Ro depose Damian and seize control. He wears blue goggles and has a plan to freeze the planet (after safely boarding a space station), using the alias Mr. Zero. Comic nerds may recognise this as the original name for Mr. Freeze, so it seems this character is intended as a fun wink to that. Anyway, Damian reluctantly teams up with the heroes to stop Zero and then agrees to combine his vast resources with Bruce’s to help the world.
Next, is a silly time travel story with Booster Gold that sees Terry ignoring all of the rules and interacting with younger versions of both Bruce and his own father. In a love-it-or-hate-it moment, Warren McGinnis is credited with inventing the word “schway” after hearing it from Terry. And the entire thing ends up being an elaborate plan by Bruce, who read a diary entry by Warren about encountering Batman in his youth. Don’t devote any brain power to it.
Then in the final story, Terry is framed for murder by Inque and teams up with Wonder Woman to clear his name. Diana is so impressed she invites Terry to join the Justice League Unlimited.
I assume Jurgens wanted to do a new JLU book from there, signing it off with “Definitely Not The End!”… but instead a brand new creative team are taking the helm for ‘Batman Beyond: Neo Year’ and ‘Batman: Beyond the White Knight‘, both starting this year. Maybe I’ll be back when both are fully published…
Depending on my schedule, I plan to come back with one last weekend and an article for Bruce and Terry respectively wrapping everything up. It may not be next week.
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, is back with weekly coverage of Moon Knight.