Twenty years have passed since Jan. 10, 1999, the debut date of Warner Bros. Animation's Batman Beyond animated series. That's 20 years since comics and animation fans were given a glimpse into the future. A darker world, one foreshadowed by the cyberpunk and industrial metal of the '90s. A world where an elderly Bruce Wayne must pass on the mantle of Batman to a reformed delinquent by the name of Terry McGavin. No, that can't be right.
Most fans first learned of Batman Beyond during Wizard magazine's announcement article in 1998. In it, Paul Dini explains the concept, offering a first glimpse of Terry McGavin, the teenager selected to take Bruce Wayne's place. The name later changed to Terry McGinnis as the show evolved.
This development of the series, unlike the two years spent drafting the world of Batman: The Animated Series, was hurried. No series bible was produced, and the network's vision for the show didn't truly exist until after the first season was complete. Making life even harder for the producers, both the Batman and Superman animated series were still in production, all with the same crew.
"OUR FIRST REACTION WAS HORROR"
How did Batman Beyond come into being? Why was the development so rushed? In the first issue of Comicology, co-creator Bruce Timm recounts his meeting with Warner executive Jamie Kellner.
[T]here was some concern that Batman had just been around a little bit too long in its current incarnation, even with the revamped look and everything. The shows did really, really well ratings-wise, but [the WB execs] kinda felt that we'd been riding that train for a long time, and there was also a concern that the show was skewing a little bit older than they would've liked, 'cause the advertising is aimed at children. So they were just talking about ways of freshening the show and, y'know, the words "teenage Batman" came up — "Is there some way that we can get a teenager into the Batman suit?" And, of course, our first reaction was horror. "Teenage Batman? Aaaah!!!"
Some of the ideas pitched to the producers included the idea of Batman as a multigenerational mantle, much like in The Phantom. Another focused on a young Bruce Wayne traveling the globe, developing the skills he'll use as Batman. After many years, a permutation of this idea airs today as Gotham.
Eager to draw in kids, another pitch had Batman leading a team of "Justice League Jr." cadets, which would have had Batman teaching the ropes to "Aquaman Jr. and Wonder Woman Jr." The crew of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett had no enthusiasm for any of these concepts. Timm recalls pitching, "What if we set it in the future?" It was a spur of the moment suggestion, grasping for some way to give Warner the youth demographic it wanted while maintaining their established continuity.