Here’s another Batman short, this time from Darwyn Cooke.
A friend of mine gave me the complete Batman Beyond series on DVD for Christmas, so I’ve re-watched it recently. The show holds up remarkably well. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked. The network wanted a younger Batman, a teenager, who younger viewers could relate to. Bruce Timm, who produced the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series, was reluctant to do it, but the more he thought about it, the more he became intrigued by the concept. There are several reasons Batman Beyond worked. The highlights include:
1. It provided a plausible reason why Bruce Wayne would retire and pass on the mantle. Not even the The Dark Knight Rises managed that. The mentoring relationship between Bruce and Terry was the core of the series.
2. It was set in the future, but not too far in the future. Yes, there were flying cars, but not everybody had a flying car. The writers wisely realized that such technology would be expensive, at least at first, so only the rich, i.e. Bruce Wayne, would be able to afford it. Gotham City also looked like a plausible place. The designers borrowed pages from Blade Runner, Manga, and Judge Dredd in coming up with a believable future urban landscape. City blocks and public transportation went vertical. There was a fusion of Asian and Western designs. Also, there was a clear demarcation between rich and poor. The poor lived close to street level, while the rich lived atop skyscrapers. If our current economic situation is any indication of the future, the writers accurately forecast this aspect too.
3. The temptation when doing a show like this is to have future Batman facing ‘the son of the Joker’ or ‘the son of Two-Face.’ In other words, the writers could have taken the easy road and just recycled classic Batman villains. Instead, they created new baddies for Batman to battle. Yes, there was the Jokerz Gang, but that gets a pass. Interestingly, the new villains often contained elements of Batman’s classic rogue’s gallery; for example, the character Inque, who combines elements of Catwoman and Clayface.
One of the reasons I’m less than optimistic about DC’s attempt to build a live-action ‘universe’ is because there’s no chance it could possibly be as good as their animated universe. They should just give their film budget to Bruce Timm so he can produce great cartoons in perpetuity. Now, that’s something I’d pay to see.