BATMAN BEYOND Writer & Director on a Possible Movie

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Aug. 22, 2019


Years after Bruce Wayne has grown too old to continue his war on crime, Terry McGinnis is the new Batman, and he’s keeping the Gotham of the future safe in the animated series ‘Batman Beyond.’ The hit television show is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, and is doing so with a remastered HD Blu-Ray release on October 29th. DC Universe subscribers, however, will be able to stream the remasterd first season in HD this Friday, August 20th  -- one of the many perks of being a member! To celebrate the occasion, we chatted with producer Glen Murakami, director James Tucker, and writers Bob Goodman and Stan Berkowitz, who shared their memories of what made ‘Batman Beyond’ so special, and the possibility of the show returning as as animated movie...



Creating the World




Murakami: “The idea behind the Gotham of the future was the city has grown so big, it's almost like they built a new city on top of old Gotham. We wanted it to almost feel like everything Bruce Wayne helped build or protect, a new city has kind of been built on top of that. It's almost like Bruce Wayne was getting covered up, kind of buried a little bit.”


Tucker: “We had to come up with villains, we had to come up with a whole new city. We couldn't reuse anything we'd built. None of the models would work because they were all dressed like the 1950s. It was a total redevelopment from ground zero, which was really exciting.”


Berkowitz: “Alan [Burnett] and Paul [Dini] wrote the outline for the pilot. And then Alan and Paul went back and wrote the script for part one of the pilot and they handed off the outline for part two and said I would do the script. In part two, you first see Terry in the Batman costume, and suddenly the question becomes, 'What do we call him.' Do we call him Batman Beyond? Do we call him the other Bat? What do we call him? In that very first episode that I wrote, Terry shows up at some plant and there's a security guard, and the security guard says something like, 'Hey, there's some clown here who thinks he's Batman' and Terry takes a line from the Michael Keaton movie and says, 'I am Batman.' So there's a play on that.”


Murakami: “I would say we were kind of influenced by 'The Dark Knight Returns.' It's probably not the same timeline. I think we were building off of the continuity of 'Batman: The Animated Series,' but I think you can see some similarities to 'The Dark Knight Returns.' I think we kind of approached it in the same vein.”



Favorite Episodes




Goodman: “When I wrote the 'Zeta' episode, nothing was on my mind other than just a one-off episode. In fact in my original pitch for that episode, I included that he got destroyed at the end. I was thinking about that sort of classic James Whale Universal monster movie structure where someone or something shows up and you think it's horrible, and that they're a monster; and then you come around to sympathize with them and you realize they're not the monster, the humans are, and then the thing you've come to care about gets destroyed anyway. That was kind of my story I was going to tell, and Stan Berkowitz said, 'No, let him live at the end.' I kind of took time to come around and he talked me into it, and I'm glad he did. While the show was in preproduction, when it was all being storyboarded and everything was being designed, I was at a bar with Alan Burnett after the Emmys and we were all pretty loosened up, and I said 'You know, 'Zeta,' a thing I just did, that could be its own series.' I pitched him a little bit and he said, 'Sounds great, on Monday morning pitch it to the studio.' So I did.”


Tucker: “My first episode was 'Eggbaby,' so anything after that was going to be better, even though it got an Emmy. I like it now but back then fans didn't like overly humorous episodes. Thank God the internet isn't what it is now, but even back then the one little message board was trolling us hard. Oh my God... 'Out of the Past' was great, it was the best script I'd ever read up to that point. I think Dini wrote it and it had everything in it I liked to do and stuff that later informed my work in other shows because it started with a musical number, and I boarded that. The whole twist and turn and the dark messed up quality of that script, I just loved it. It was funny on one hand but very perverse on the other, but yet heartfelt. The moment of Bruce being able to turn young again, and that moment he has with Terry, I think it was one of the best episodes written for the series and I was really lucky to get it.”


Berkowitz: “The 'Babel' episode with Shriek is on my favorites. In the original script I simply wrote, 'Actor says gibberish' and I just figured the actor would go and record [mumbles gibberish]. Andrea [Romano], our voice director, she looked at the script and said, 'Stan, you've got to rewrite this. You have to rewrite the gibberish. You have to rewrite every word "gibberish."' Well, being a TV writer I'm very good at writing gibberish, and we did and Andrea said, 'Stan there's still a problem. You have to translate it, because the actors need to know what emotion they're going to be saying with the gibberish. Go back and translate the gibberish to make sense for the actors.”



The Villains


bb inque.jpg


Tucker: “The temptations when the show was greenlit were 'Oh, now we'll do future Two-Face, we'll do a future Riddler, we'll do a future version of all these characters and tie it all neatly together.' Which I think would have undermined Terry's uniqueness as a Batman. He needed his own rogues gallery. He needed his own set of people, so that when Joker did come back eventually it was a big deal.”


Tucker: “Everyone was able to contribute ideas and come up with concepts. I came up with Inque. I was in a room and we were sitting around. They were open to it, which was a very unique experience for those of us who were still doing boards and character designs. It was just a unique situation for that show and so our first, purist instincts were represented in it. I think if it has legs, it's because we did it from a genuine place. I doodled it on a piece of paper, I wrote the name. We were all in a room together and this was when Bruce [Timm] just told us that we needed villains. Nothing was off the table. Normally that wouldn't have been my function. I was a storyboard artist then. I had done designs, but basically at that point anyone who could draw and had an idea, their input was welcome.”



The Iconic Intro Sequence


Murakami: “[Then future comic book legend] Darwyn [Cooke] came from more of an advertising background, and he was always into comics and stuff like that. He was more familiar with the early stages of, like, after-effects and stuff like that. He kind of came in and said, 'I can make something like this.' And Darwyn focused on helping to put that title sequence together.”



Why Blight Never Returned




Goodman: “I remember receiving instructions, because I was a junior writer at the time, to assume that we were moving on. We had done the Derek Powers story, said everything we wanted to say there, and we were going to move into different stories in the future seasons. But obviously, it's one of those 'The Monster is Dead?' kind of episodes, where I left it possible that he had survived.”


Tucker: “The thing about those shows back then is that they weren't continuity heavy. Now we would probably do it totally different, like 'Young Justice.' Back then we weren't supposed to do the show in order, meaning we could deliver the show in an order of 13, but the network had the choice of which 13 they could air. So we couldn't follow an arc very specifically. There was a little frustration with that on some of the crew's part because we were setting up certain things and very little of them carried over all the time. Powers was one of them. But it was a different time.”



Fan Reaction


Tucker: “I don't think any of us thought in 20 years we'd be still talking about the show. By the end of the series, when 'Return of the Joker' had been done, we realized regardless of what the fans at the time thought of the show, by the end they had started coming around. But the first two seasons were just a bloodbath. They just weren't having it. By the end it was a show we were proud of. When we started this show we were still working on 'Batman' and 'Superman' so there was no time for them to mess with it, there was no time for them to second guess us, which is always a sweet spot. It's bad for working conditions, because you really are working yourself to death, but it's great creatively, because no one can give you notes. The first season was just an all-hands-on-deck labor of love. Everybody who could draw or write was involved in that show, which is unusual.”


Goodman: “Anybody drawing from what we did is flattering. I'm really proud of the work we did, and I think 'Batman Beyond' was the best series we did, both in terms of the art and in terms of the writing. So the fact that it has had an impact on the culture, the fact that it moved the needle in what it's done in the Batman universe, I'm very proud of.”



The Possibility of a Revival




Goodman: “I certainly bring it up every now and then. Once every couple of years we get to sit in front of the studio executives and they ask what we want to do now, and I'll bring it up sometimes. The sort of blessing and curse of working in the Batman universe is there's always something big going on with Batman. That's one that Warner Brothers is always doing something with. There are big sort of corporate strategy decisions made about what they're doing and what they're not doing. Anything I'm going to pitch is a small cog in a much bigger machine. So I guess the moment hasn't been right yet. But I think creatively it is so timely, it's time to do that again.”


Tucker: “There's the end of the 'Batman Beyond' series and then there's [the 'Justice League Unlimited' episode] 'Epilogue'. But there's this whole middle part that we haven't touched on. We could also go beyond 'Epilogue,' I mean Terry IS still Batman. It's come up several times where they are open to an idea for a 'Batman Beyond' movie, it gets on the schedule, and then something else happens that pushes it off. I think having a Blu-Ray set out -- and hopefully the sales are good – will put it firmly on their radar. Because it's been twenty years. It's one of those shows that people still talk about.”



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