The futuristic cartoon Batman Beyond may have been ahead of its time when it premiered in 1999, but the under-appreciated series is currently having a bit of renaissance with a pop culture comeback. Repeats of the animated show — which featured teenager Terry McGinnis taking over the role of the Dark Knight, with an elderly Bruce Wayne as his mentor — air daily (at 7:30am/6:30c and 5:30pm/4:30c) on the new network The Hub. The character has also returned to the printed page, with a recent comic book miniseries proving so popular that DC Comics will launch a monthly series in January. And the nine-disc DVD set Batman Beyond: The Complete Series comes out from Warner Home Video on Tuesday.
Batman Beyond continued the work of a core group of writers and producers working under Jean MacCurdy at Warner Bros. Animation who had set a new standard for sophisticated storytelling and stylish visuals in superhero cartoons with the Batman and Superman animated series. "It was like keeping the band together," says Paul Dini, who worked alongside Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Glen Murakami and voice director Andrea Romano (among many others) on the shows.
Not that they all bought into the concept immediately. "Batman Beyond started because we were tossed a curve, because the higher ups at Warner Bros. wanted a different take on him," says Lost alum Dini, whose live-action series Tower Prep is currently airing on Cartoon Network and has maintained his connection to the Batman universe, writing numerous comics. "They wanted to see a younger Batman, a kid in the Batman suit, maybe a futuristic Batman. At first we though, why? But the more we played around with the idea, especially with the idea of taking Bruce Wayne and aging him up about 35 or 40 years and giving him a new partner, somebody who wasn't a Robin, really began to appeal to us."
The DVD set includes all 52 episodes, three featurettes and a 24-page collectible booklet. A featurette on the development of the show reveals the differing opinions among the creative team about the revelation, in an episode of Justice League Unlimited a few years later, that Bruce and Terry shared a biological connection. Among the episodes, standout installments include the two-part series premiere ("Rebirth"), the introduction of the Justice League of the future ("The Call") and the trippy, creepy episode "Out of the Past," in which the classic villain Ra's al Ghul returns — in the body of his daughter Talia. "We just had to do that one," says Dini. "It just spoke to the fanboys in us."