Monday, June 07, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #22: Batman

Real Name: Terry McGinnis
First Appearance: Batman Beyond Ep.1 (January, 1999)
Group Affiliation: Justice League
Gaming Credentials: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)DC Universe Online (TBA/2010)
Infinite Wars Ranking: DNR

I have to admit -- I'm coming at this entry somewhat ignorant in contrast to the usual HOTW.

While I could certainly appreciate the atmospheric noir and embellished comic book influences that gave us the 1992 Batman animated series, I was never so dedicated to the show that I would follow along to it's subsequent extentions. Continuations of this animated universe in Superman and the Justice League were certainly something I took a look at, but in the detached possible-future of Batman Beyond, I saw a pubescent vision of Batman that just didn't meet my interests at the time. The more I investigate, the more I realise I might've been a little hasty in my judgments.

The animated world that spun out of the original series -- dubbed by many the "Timmverse" for writer/producer Bruce Timm -- has done a lot of good for the promotion of DC comics and their characters. There's an associative assumption that Marvel characters are somehow more instantly relatable than DC's caped originals. This common misconception no doubt owes a lot to Marvel's steadfast maintenance of characters like Spider-man -- who has remained present in animation and film starting with the famous animated series. While DC have certainly had their television successes, it was this "Timmverse" that helped shake certain assumptions that came from varied interpretations of the characters, allowing for a reestablished modern persona that has inducted a generation of new fans.

For me, a reader of comics for most of my life, this success of the Timmverse has been a mixed blessing. While it's certainly done great things for the comics, not just in terms of exposure, but as an influence that steered the Batman franchise through the late nineties to it's own surpassing successes of the animated series, the cartoons have also had their drawbacks. Most frustrating is the eventuating ignorance of the source material which comes from many fans failing to follow their favourite characters to their home in the four-colour comic book format. A barrier that I would have to admit goes two ways -- adding to my resistance to indulge the Batman Beyond cartoon.

Beyond features a Bruce Wayne in his decline -- aged to a point where he can no longer patrol the futuristic streets and skyscraping rooftops of Gotham City as the Batman. Terry McGinnis is the teenage pupil in which he finds a successor, unaware of the conspiracy that brought him to his attention. I'm told it was revealed late in the character's life that Terry McGinnis' adoption of the Batman mantle was no mistake, originally contrived by long standing DCU manipulator, Amanda Waller.
Fortunately, as Batman Beyond joins the comic book world that inspired him, this is information you don't really need to know. Which brings us to the reason for this week's HOTW spotlight!

The Batman of this possible-future has appeared in various DC Universe cameos, most recently joining the ranks of canonized legitimacy brought about by DC's fifty-two universes introduced in the series, 52. The elaboration of this in comic book form has had to wait several years, but in the recent Superman/Batman Annual #4 [pictured above], we got our first taste of the upcoming mini-series that will continue the adventures of McGinnis as the hi-tech futuristic Batman. And I liked it!

The annual features a story very generous to the intimidated and stubborn alike, following up on storylines from the final episode (actually part of Justice League Unlimited) that boast Superman in his Beyond form, with the evil Lex Luthor still intact to cause trouble. This leads into a six issue mini-series that will test the waters for more projects with the character, coming up this month in the form of Batman Beyond #1. You can find more information about that at!

I wouldn't say I'm a complete convert, but I'm certainly reassessing what entertainment might lie in the world of the cartoons, which still seems to demand teen indulgence in things that aren't quite as serious as all that. The animated film Return of the Joker (which has a video game counterpart) certainly reveals more avenues of interest to the traditional fan, however, which is for me an example of the true spirit of comic book pulp fiction. There's always time to follow a thread, new or old, to discover something exciting along the way. I've written about this philosophy before, and I'm pleased to be an example of putting it into practise.

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