Cool Visions of the Future: Batman Beyond


Batman Beyond was conceived of as a way to create a cartoon featuring a teenaged Batman. Taking place in 2039, Bruce Wayne has retired from being Batman after a series of personal tragedies which culminated in him threatening a criminal with a handgun. A twist of fate brings Terry McGinnis, a troubled 17 year old, into his life. McGinnis takes up the mantle of Batman wearing a high tech nano machine batsuit.

Putting aside the superheroic action, (as well as a significant amount of nostalgia) Batman Beyond is a cool vision of the future because it renders a traditional superhero story in a cyberpunk setting.  We get Batman by way of Blade Runner. In fact many of the visual inspirations for Batman Beyond probably came from Blade Runner. Classic sci-tropes like artificial intelligence, cloning and genetic engineering are explored. Spicing is a futuristic form of body modification where a person alters their genetic code to resemble animal parts. Though it is equated to body piercing or tattooing, spicing causes people to become more violent. Though it is used as a vehicle for several super fights, designer genes for radical body modification may one day come to pass. Another episode has a man program himself into a computer in an attempt to gain immortality. Basically it is dealing with the concept of brain mapping. In the episode Hooked Up several teens are manipulated by their addiction to virtual reality games, and left in commas. Though virtually reality appears frequently in science fiction, this is example which shows its dangers. In Star Trek the Holodecks were always a relaxing past time. In Batman Beyond, VR simulators can be crippling. Which is more realistic as there have been serveral cases of video game addition in the real world.

Neo-Gotham City isn’t too far into the future, so the world needs to be both advanced and recognizable. The world depicted is a vivid rendering of the future. Technology is everywhere, heralded in by a mega corporation Wayne-Powers. Omnipresent televisions reporting on the current give the vibe of a big brother watching.  Though there are flying cars and giant robots it never feels unnatural. Neo-Gotham is a megalopolis with towering skyscrapers, but in between them are the old Art Deco designs of Batman the Animated series. Even stubble elements like the addition of a recognizable but odd lexicon of slang terms help give the feeling a futurism.

What could have been a cheesey kid friendly interpretation of the Dark Knight became a dark sci-fi version of Gotham City. Neo-Gotham definitely Qualifies as a “Cool vision of the Future.”

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