Welcome to Adventure(s) Time’s fifty-eighth installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. Suggestions are always welcome, folks. This installment comes from a suggestion from Gravity Falls Poland, a true DCAU fan if ever there was one. This week, we’re examining the final appearances of the villain we all assumed to be Batman Beyond‘s arch-nemesis. Turns out, he ranks as little more than a footnote in the mythos. Still, at least that design is pretty cool.
Derek Powers, alias Blight, is the man responsible for the death of Terry McGinnis’ father. Unlike Batman, who traditionally isn’t able to gain revenge on the murderer of his parents — in some incarnations, never even learning his identity — the producers weren’t so cagey with the Beyond incarnation. Terry knows who ordered the murder, going back to the two-part pilot. (And, honestly, doesn’t seem overly obsessed with revenge. Playing Batman is something he tends to view as something to do for kicks during much of this season.) What he doesn’t know is Powers’ dual identity as the fluorescent villain Blight, at least not until this episode.
“Ascension” is the first season finale, airing on May 28, 1999. Written by Robert Goodman and directed by Yukio Suzuki, this is one of the very few Beyond episodes outsourced to Japanese directors. This practice was utilized fairly often on Superman, and on some of the later Batman episodes. These episodes are notable for the fluid motion and more stylized look. It’s hard to argue they’re not the most visually appealing episodes from these runs. Beyond rarely employed the practice…this and “The Winning Edge” are Suzuki’s only director credits.
The premise has Derek Powers growing weary of the expensive and cumbersome process he needs to cover his glowing skeleton. (Terry reminds the audience that he threw the nerve gas at Powers that created this condition. And that he isn’t sorry.)
Powers decides to name his son, Paxton, acting chairman of the board…more as a public face than anything. A group claiming to be fishermen affected by Paxton’s lax environmental practices interrupts the introductory meeting, however. Derek is incensed, losing control of his powers and exposing himself to the world.
Later, Paxton has the gall to commission a new Bat-signal to attract Batman’s attention. Batman agrees to help Paxton locate his father, only to later discover he’s caught in the middle of a nasty father-son feud. The episode ends with Blight possibly dying aboard a nuclear submarine. The death Batman refuses to believe…a fact he gleefully makes known to Paxton.
There’s certainly an indication we’ll see more of the Powers’ family struggle. And, if the creative team had only themselves to answer to, perhaps we would’ve. The network, however, submitted its notes after the finale of Season One. The verdict: less of this corporate espionage stuff. Kids’ WB! wants kid-friendly plots. So, drop the boardrooms and focus on Terry’s life in high school. Hence, about half of Hamilton Hill High’s staff and student body turn out to have connections to supervillains. (Or outright be supervillains.)
The comic book tie-in, however, wasn’t bound by these restrictions. And given that the regular writer, Hilary J. Bader, was also a staff writer on the cartoon, Beyond became the Adventures title with the strongest links to its source material.
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