Batman Beyond Returns to SDCC for 20th Anniversary Panel

Batman Beyond has returned -- to San Diego, that is! At Comic-Con International, producers Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami, casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano, director James Tucker and writers Bob Goodman and Stan Berkowitz celebrated the 20th anniversary of the cult classic series. Batman himself Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle, who voiced lead character Terry McGinnis, also stopped by for some "cool announcements."

"We were trying to do everything that we were kind of getting typecast as doing," Murakami explained.  "We knew we were capable of doing other things... We were getting kind of a different crew."

"We took everything we were told to do and subverted it," Goodman added.

"We did have a lot of freelance writers pitch us stories that sounded like old Batman: The Animated Series stories, but in the future," Timm explained. "If we had one star of the show, it was more about Terry than Bruce... We wanted to make the show feel really fresh and new."

"We took away Bruce's fortune and the villains were more powerful," Murakami said. "Bruce had to start all over again. It was kind of a Robin Hood story, and then Terry is from the lower part of the city."

"He mentored me in the voice-over world like Bruce mentored Terry, so there were ways where [our relationship] kind of mirrored that," Friedle recalled.

"Dialogue-wise, it's not yakky... but what that meant, we had four-hour ADR sessions," Romano said. Friedle added that Romano had to remind him "he's not a pirate" during ADR sessions when he recorded sound effects.

"We never really knew who was going to be in the room. Andrea would cast the most amazing people," he continued.

"Word had gotten around that there were these great bookings going around at Warner Bros.," Conroy explained.

"We didn't think for a second about recasting [Batman]," Timm said.

"We were trying to keep the same continuity," Goodman pitched in.

Timm shared how they chose Friedle for the role of Terry. "It was my wife. My wife and I would watch TGIF because we liked Sabrina and Boy Meets World... then she said, 'He's got a really great voice!' And it just stuck in my head," he shared.

Goodman also credited his wife for inspiring the "shway" slang word from the show.

"We wanted it to sound new and modern and fresh," Timm said of the show's score. "We knew it was probably going to be rock music elements and electronica and all that."

A Blu-ray remastered box set of the series was announced. It will contain the complete series, but it is part of a limited edition run. The box set releases digitally on October 15, then on Blu-ray and DVD on October 29. Prior to that, it will stream on DC Universe starting August 23.

The box set contains an action figure in addition all 52 episodes, as well as bonus features and featurettes, 41 episodes are fully remastered, while 11 are up-resed, as they were too time-worn.

"We really tried to avoid just bringing back all the old villains," Timm explained. "We used them as archetypes."

"The classic villains that did show up were the ones that made sense to show," Goodman added. "Once this show was established and we know what it means for Bruce to show up now... This was more of a sci-fi show than classic Batman. We were doing something futuristic... We had a lot of chemical vat villains and mutations and genetic splicing... The rogues gallery... fell somewhere between Batman and Superman."

Timm also touched on the Justice League Beyond episode. "We did not actually have the rights to Wonder Woman at that time, but we wanted a strong female character for the show, so it was easy to swap in Big Barda," he said.

"Catwoman was going to be our leading villain in the second movie... she was the one who cloned Bruce Wayne to create Terry, but that was going to be our big surprise in our next movie," Timm revealed. The idea was eventually integrated into another animated film.

A young boy dressed as Terry McGinnis asked when the next season will be released. "I'll tell ya: if this thing sells like crazy on Blu-ray and creates a giant buzz, that will make it more possible that it would happened. We would totally do it," Timm replied.

"Terry likes being Batman. Terry isn't tortured the way Batman is," Murakami weighed in.

Asked about Mark Hamill's work as the Joker, Romano said, "He loves to ask questions and bring ideas... he knows so much about the DC world, so he could speak to Bruce about things that are beyond me..."

"I wish you could see Mark in the booth the way do. He's got a Jim Carey face. It's so rubbery!" Conroy added, recalling how Hamill spits during his performances.

"It's so worth it," Friedle pitched in.

"He's a character actor. He got a nailed as a young leading man because he was so damned handsome... but he's really a character actor. He invests so much in these roles," Conroy said.

"We never tried to put an on-screen date," Timm explained. "50 years in the future, period. It's always going to be a little futuristic. We got a couple things really, really wrong -- you'll notice Terry has a ginormous flip phone."

"It's sort of amazing to have had a job turn into something that has helped so many people and resonates with so many people," Conroy marveled. He recalled how a fan once approached him for a hug because Batman had helped him through a rough childhood.

Batman Beyond ran January 1999 through December 2001 on Kids WB. The story has since continued as an ongoing comic series at DC.

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