In celebrating Detective 1000, we celebrate the legacy of Batman. How, in the 80 years and 1000 issues of Detective Comics, Batman has shaped and reflected us as fans. How he has grown and changed and shifted into the vigilante he is today. In celebrating this massive milestone, we can look back and see exactly which version of Batman resonated with us as fans at any given point in his timeline, and in our lives. In celebrating Batman and his achievements as a character, it’s as good a time as any to really live in the legacy that the mantle of The Bat has left open, and to whom the title has shifted over the years.
It has been 20 years since Batman Beyond first came to our screens and completely changed the way that I saw Batman. I grew up watching Adam West as Batman in the 90s. That is forever how I see Batman – a gentleman during the day who genuinely loves his friends and cares about his villains enough to try and help them, to save them. To me, that was always what Batman was and forever how I view him now.
The Animated series was a staple for me too, watching the WB Kids shows after school and Batman ‘66 after dinner. But the Animated Series never quite grabbed me the way that ‘66 did. It was never as big of an influence, never felt exactly the way that I wanted to imagine Batman.
Batman, and alternatively Bruce Wayne, had always been sort of an immortal figure, at least to me. He was a hero, always able to get back up in the face of danger. He was unkillable, never aging, even though mom pointed out Adam West in other media as I got older. I didn’t matter, that was Batman, the campy, ridiculous, morally upright Batman who pointed out that we were all worth saving. TAS never quite filled the hole in my heart that Batman ‘66 did.
And there was never anyone to take over for Batman. My headcanon was that Bruce Wayne would never die, would never get old. Robin would be Robin forever, or at least he would grow up a bit and be his own superhero, but Batman would always be Bruce.
Batman Beyond was the first show to ever show that Bruce really wasn’t immortal, that he would eventually get old and would eventually need someone to replace him. It also showed us that Gotham really, truly did need Batman to keep the abnormal amounts of crime in check.
Terry wasn’t the same as Bruce in so many ways, but at the same time, he was. He was the mirror of young Bruce; troubled, and angry and desperate to do something. It was very much a mirror moment for Bruce. He sees himself, he sees shadows of Dick Grayson, his long-time partner, and friend. And within all of this, we see the legacy of Batman unfold.
As Bruce reluctantly gives Terry his mantle and allows him to become the new Batman, we get to see the new villains of Gotham, the new ways that the same kinds of evil have infected the city again, and how the ideologies were passed down.
It is very much a show that reminds us that symbols and ideas only die when there is no one left to carry them on and that there is always a chance for us to grow and become more than what we are. We all have the capability of becoming that hero, to show the world that there are still good people, willing to fight to protect those who can’t protect themselves.
We all have a little bit of the Night in us. And while maybe we can’t all wear the mask the way Batman does, we sure can grow into something with a legacy. We can grow into something bigger than what we are alone, and we can overcome our trauma and hurt and be the hero that Gotham needs.