There’s an excellent new video out from IGN about the creation of Batman Beyond, the sequel to Batman: The Animated Series — and a show that, in a sense, happened by accident.
Bruce Timm did not come to work one day and suddenly have the epiphany that he should take Batman into the future. The individual that got the ball rolling in that direction was Jamie Kellner, Stereotypical TV Executive. Kellner spent his days doing the things Internet critics love to hate: meddling in perfectly fine shows, chasing trends without understanding how or why they work, etc. Pinky, Elmyra and The Brain happened under his watch. And the reason Batman Beyond happened was because Kellner wanted Batman to be more like Felicity.
After an aimless first couple of years, The WB had finally found its niche with teen dramas and supernatural comedy-thrillers. Kellner thought maybe one of the shows on their children’s block would benefit from adopting that trend, and summoned Timm and Dini into his office, requesting they replace their “New Batman Adventures” TV series with something about a teenage Batman.
Timm’s immediate response was that Kellner couldn’t have a teenage Batman because, canonically, a teenage Batman doesn’t exist. Bruce Wayne spent his teenage years training on mountains with mystical ninjas. But then he started spitballing ideas and concocted something about maybe, in the future, a teenager could team up with an elderly Wayne and become the next Dark Knight. Kellner loved the idea so much he greenlit the show with his next breath. No pilot, no sketches, nothing. That stuff would have to be figured out on the fly.
The crew now had less than a year to wholly invent a new universe WHILE finishing up the current Batman and Superman TV shows. Hard enough, but Timm couldn’t help making it harder by insisting the new series could not simply repeat the Rogue’s Gallery of the original — it had to stand out on its own with new villains. The crew spent several nights sketching around their table and came up with the designs for Inque, Shriek, Curare and other characters, then came up with backstories for them.
Under less than skilled hands, Kellner’s whim could have turned into a disaster, but the same minds behind B:TAS took the challenge head-on and managed to whip up another classic. Batman Beyond lasted three seasons and 52 episodes, generated a spinoff that lasted two seasons of its own, and — the ultimate honor — was given its own comic years after the show’s cancellation, proving that fans had truly accepted the concept. The comic still runs today even as the DC Universe cycles through reboot after reboot.