I remember when the first promo for the series aired on a weekday afternoon. “Coming this fall: Batman Beyond!” This gaunt, weird looking Batman was fighting what looked like storm troopers and replying to their demands to surrender, “No thanks, having too much fun.” I was horrified. What had they done? This couldn’t be taking the place of the original. A sickness stirred inside me.
Then the second promo aired some time later, closer to the premiere date. The brief ad showed an ancient Bruce Wayne looking out of his mansion’s window. Lightning flashed, then Kevin Conroy’s unmistakable voice intoned, “I WAS Batman.” My heart stopped, then shattered. At 10 years old, I was haunted by this old, broken Bruce Wayne and unsure if I was ready for it. Kevin’s cracked, gravelly voice lent the project an air of gravitas and sold the character’s age. I was suddenly intrigued.
The hour-long Sunday night premiere began with a morbid sense of melancholy and dread as the Dark Knight’s bleak fate began to unfold. But an unexpected light appeared at the end of this futuristic tunnel as the old man was offered a renewed glimmer of hope. I had been drawn by the curiosity of discovering what had happened to my greatest hero, but was taken in by what was, to me, at the time, a novel and dangerous new world. Energized by the possibilities that the show posed for my imagination, I couldn’t stop reenacting the scene where the new Batman is discovered by guards on the side of Derrick Powers’ building. “Little late for Halloween,” came the voice from behind him. “But just in time for fall,” Terry retorted, before kicking off the side of the building and launching into a glide over the expansive city.
The all-black, bat-like suit, jet propulsion boots, and gliding wings gave this version capabilities the old one never had. Best of all were the compact batarangs that popped open like razor sharp switch blades and flew with a spinning precision that might cut through anything. Terry McGinnis’ guts and devilish vibrance won me over. The main antagonist’s ominous laugh at episode’s end teased the coming of a wholely different and strange pantheon of villains to wreak havoc on New-Gotham. The creators don’t get enough credit for how bold they were in creating something new, instead of continuing to recycle these age old characters. Their fearlessness broke up the monotony that sets in by always giving the fans what they’re comfortable with and ushered in a new interpretation that could be embraced with all the others. Experimentation is what keeps comicbook heroes alive. Terry spoke for all Bat-men-to-come when he declared at a moment of seeming defeat, “I – AM – BATMAN.”
And the story goes on.