Saturday, May 18, 2024

Top Eight Characters That Batman Beyond Rebirth Needs

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Batman Beyond Rebirth has been a mixed bag of a comic so far. It starts arcs well, but has an unfortunate tendency to shove Terry aside and let Bruce take over the climax. Enemies personal to Terry get killed off to show the superiority of enemies personal to Bruce. But as the most recent issue has shown, this book can be fantastic when it lets the new characters reign.

The Batman Beyond cartoon did occasionally let Terry face off against some of Bruce’s old enemies, most notably Mr Freeze. But, it also established its own gallery of popular villains and allies. Nissa, Batgirl of Tomorrow, wasn’t in the cartoon, but characters like her are exactly what this comic needs. Characters like…

8: Stanley “Mad Stan” Lewbowski

Look, certain aspects of Mad Stan could definitely use a rewrite, possibly including calling him Mad Stan. He’s a conspiracy theorist who regularly gets so riled up by news stories that he starts bombing the target of his ire. Stan’s particularly memetic for his long rants about how they need to “BLOW IT ALL UP!” He’s a fan favourite who can be outright funny, and he’s a pretty straightforward villain for Batman to fight. What I always liked most about him, though, was how Terry treats him outside of the fighting.

Stan’s clearly mentally ill and on several occasions Batman’s distinctly kinder to him than most of the other supervillains that he fights. Most notably, in one episode Terry notes that the source of Stan’s upset is a change to how dog licenses are handled. Stan’s pet dog, Boom-Boom, is extremely important to him. After arresting Stan, Terry sees to it that Stan’s allowed to keep Boom-Boom with him while locked up. It’s implied to have a positive effect on his temper and mental health that he’s allowed to keep Boom-Boom.

Stan’s a good breather enemy, since he’s rarely up to anything complex or difficult to handle. I liked the way that Terry handled him after the bombs had been put away in the cartoon. In the comic, I’d like to see more of Terry getting to handle enemies compassionately, so Stan’s a good choice. And, everything’s better with more dogs.

7: Shriek (Walter Shreeve)

Walter Shreeve was a sound engineer who was pressured into using his unconventional inventions for murder by Derek Powers. After losing his hearing in a fight with Batman, Dr. Shreeve became Shriek and dedicated himself to revenge. Shriek was a great example of a supervillain who blamed his evil on Batman, even though he wasn’t up to anything great to begin with. He also occasionally tried to kill Powers, blaming him for getting Shreeve into crime in the first place.

Shriek’s destructive soundwave powers are pretty straightforward, but Terry came up with a number of creative ways to fight him. He’s a good villain if you just need somebody to smash some shit until Terry smashes him, one who has personal beef with both Terry, and was one of his major supervillains. He’s got a pretty cool design, too—gotta love the speaker paws.

Plus, I can’t think of a Bruce-era villain with similar powers who could kill Shriek off.

6: Infiltration Unit Zeta

Does anybody else at all remember Zeta or his incredibly cheap spinoff cartoon? Probably not, and it’s a shame because I love him. Originally a spy/assassin robot, after Terry proved that Zeta’s latest target was innocent, he developed a conscience. Zeta set off alone to discover what he was and who he should be, taking on Batman’s no-kill policy and developing a sweet, gentle personality. He also picked up a runaway teenager called Ro who helped him escape the government and learn more about humans.

Look, I am always a sucker for “non-human character gets into a series of adorkable situations while trying to learn how to human”, especially when guided through it by a human friend who cares about them. I liked The Zeta Project, even if the animation budget looked like it was about five cents and a box of crayons. Zeta and Ro are characters entirely unique to Terry who have great personal arcs, and Zeta has a huge range of abilities. Somebody let them into the comics and let them shine, please!

5: Charlie “Big Time” Bigelow

Big Time is great because he’s a villain who’s incredibly personal to Terry, yet offers a parallel for Bruce and Terry to connect over. Formerly a friend of Terry’s before he was arrested, Charlie and Terry lost contact when Terry decided to go straight. They met again after Terry became Batman, with Charlie getting ever deeper into a life of crime, dreaming of one big job that would make his name. He got fixated on getting Terry’s help, but Terry refused, as, aside from being Batman now, it was Charlie’s fault that Terry went to Juvie in the first place. After getting exposed to some experimental super serum, Charlie becomes a gigantic, deformed hulk with super strength. He loves this, because it gets him the criminal cachet he always wanted. Terry offers Charlie several chances to go straight, but Charlie never takes them.

A former friend who gets physically altered and becomes an extremely dangerous criminal? Of course there’s something familiar to Bruce about all of this. Still, Charlie’s distinctly different from Harvey Dent in that he was a criminal before he became Big Time. Terry stopped being friends with Charlie before he was a supervillain, which in Big Time’s last (possibly fatal? It’s very unclear) appearance gave us the odd situation of Bruce trying to reach out to Terry sympathetically and Terry brushing him off. Charlie’s never been in any comic, and it’s a shame because he’s perfect for a story that’s primarily about Terry, and yet offers Bruce something to brood on and the pair of them to connect over. Just so long as Two-Face doesn’t murder him at the end of it, anyway.

4: Inque

Inque is one of my personal favourite villains. Her visual design is absolutely fantastic. I love the creative way her shapeshifting powers were used and how they looked. At first, Batman could just freeze her, but she figured out how to counteract that weakness, forcing Terry to come up with increasingly inventive ways to fight her. Inque became a freelance saboteur after signing up to be a test subject for a powerful mutagen. So, unlike a lot of Terry’s villains she’s always purely in it for the money. I think she could look incredible on the page in the hands of a good artist, yet she’s never once appeared in any comic? Who’s responsible for wasting all of this potential?

She also comes with an estranged daughter who’s Terry’s age called Deanna Clay. The only time we see the two meet, we see Deanna try to kill Inque for her money. There’s potentially another money-hungry villain in the making for Terry, one with an interesting built-in connection to another villain. Neither of them have a damn thing to do with Bruce to boot, so long as they don’t secretly turn out to be related to Clayface.

3: Blight (Derek Powers)

Blight’s only had one comic appearance since the reboot so far, and that was in Gotham Academy, of all things. It’s a little odd for the supervillain who’s responsible for turning Terry into Batman in the first place. Derek Powers killed Terry’s father, driving Terry to steal Bruce’s old Batman suit to get revenge. In their first fight, Powers was exposed to the very nerve gas he’d killed Warren McGinnis for discovering. He used an experimental radioactive treatment to stay alive. Side-effects included glowing green translucent skin and killing more or less everything he touched.

Powers is interesting. He’s sort of an enemy of Bruce’s in that he took over Wayne Enterprises and led it into weapons dealing, but he’s much more important to Terry. He turned Terry into Batman and was one of his most dangerous recurring foes. Yet, he’s nowhere to be seen? Not even in Terry’s flashbacks to becoming Batman? Plus, you’re missing the endless satire options of a successful businessman being literally slimy and toxic.

2: Melanie Walker/Ten

While there have been plenty of different iterations of the Royal Flush Gang over the years, the version that Terry faced was a crime family. Of all of them, the one I most want to see is the daughter, Melanie—AKA Ten of Spades. Melanie was the only one who tried to leave crime behind and live a normal life, but was pulled back repeatedly by her family. She actually dated Terry for a while when trying to live a normal life, but never knew that he was Batman.

She’s an interesting character because her personal arc is both complicated and tragic, with her desperate attempts to go straight never working out. Melanie is also interesting because of what she brings to Terry’s personal life. She’s practically the manifestation of the conflict between Terry-as-Terry and Terry-as-Batman. She could be a great wrench to throw into Terry’s current attempts to balance his life and make things work with Dana. She also served as a good showcase of how Terry deals with the women in his life very, very differently from Bruce.

1: Ace

Ace just seems to straight up not exist post-reboot, and this is a tragedy. He was Bruce’s sole companion for years after Bruce rescued him from a dogfighting ring. He helped Terry out on a few cases, even fighting the Joker once. He’s Bruce’s dog, dammit! And with Damian back in the picture, he could potentially either be introduced as a gift from Damian (a descendant of Titus?) or as an excuse for Damian to come visit.

And, as I said earlier, everything’s better with more dogs.

Images from the Batman Beyond cartoon courtesy of DC and Warner Bros. Entertainment

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