Batman Beyond is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the love for the animated series was clear at San Diego Comic-Con, where cast and creators reunited for a packed panel in Hall H, where it was revealed that a newly remastered HD version of the series is coming to Digitial on October 15 and Blu-ray on October 29.
Shortly after the panel, the stars of the series, Kevin Conroy (“Bruce Wayne”) and Will Friedle (“Terry McGinnis”) stopped by to chat with Fandom about the enduring popularity of Batman Beyond.
Batman Beyond is now a beloved series, but when it was first in the works, there were plenty of fans that were very concerned – if not outright angered – by the idea of focusing on a new, teenage Batman.
Conroy, who was already several years into his run as Batman at that point thanks to Batman: The Animated Series, said he too was uncertain at first, explaining, “That was interesting. because the audience was so devoted to Batman: The Animated Series and Batman and Robin; that visual, the noir, that 30s New York, gritty quality, the full symphony score – It was a very classic, hero show. And then to come up with this new teen Batman and a whole different slant to the art work, I didn’t know if it was going to fly.”
Friedle was a newcomer to the franchise, but acknowledged, “People were very skeptical. When I recorded the show I was 21, 22. I was a huge Batman: The Animated Series fan. And even coming off of that, knowing they wanted to do a younger Batman, even I thought to myself ‘I wonder if they’re going to go cartoony? What’s it going to be? How are they going to make him younger?’ And then you read the scripts and it’s just that he happens to be younger. It’s still the same amazing storytelling and visual quality. There wasn’t anything that teened it up. Some people at Warner Bros. I think were not happy with that at the time because they thought it was going to be young, afterschool Batman. I think Bruce [Timm] tells the story about somebody at our first premiere screening halfway through just getting up and walking out and going ‘Nope this is not what I thought it was,’ and that’s when I knew it was going to be good.”
A core aspect of Batman is the duality he represents, most obviously between who Bruce Wayne projects himself as vs. who the Batman is, something Conroy explained he discovered for himself when he got the role.
Conroy recalled auditioning for Bruce Timm, “And Bruce said, ‘What’s your background in Batman?’ And I said ‘Well, I know the Adam West show from the 60s.’ And he said ‘No, no, no. We love Adam West but that’s not what we’re doing here. Don’t you know about the Dark Knight and the legacy of the Dark Knight and his parents being murdered when he was eight?’ And I said ‘Are you serious?’ I had no idea. It was a total improvisation, the audition for me. So I approached everything in a new way.”
Conroy continued, “When they told me all this I said, ‘Wait a minute, he’s the richest guy in Gotham. Everybody knows him and he puts on a little mask and nobody knows him? Seriously? Can’t we do this a little more realistically where it’s a more complete disguise where it’s a different voice?’ And Bruce said ‘Yeah, let’s play with it.’ That was my take on the character was that it should be a more complete duality.”
While he certainly had huge obstacles, Terry wasn’t as tortured as Bruce, so when it came to figuring out how to make Terry and his version of Batman distinct, Friedle remarked, “It was one of those things where the voice change for me was about the fact that Terry was a kid. So if you go to foil a bank robbery and sound like a 17-year-old, most people aren’t going to be intimidated by you. So that’s why we wanted to put it in a register where he was in a suit.”
Friedle added, with a laugh, “I had an easier time playing my character than almost anybody playing Batman because I didn’t have to be Bruce. So I had nothing to step into. I’m by far the best Terry McGinnis there’s ever been because there has only been one. I’m the only Terry McGinnis. So it’s one of those things where I didn’t have to have the weight of Kevin Conroy. I got to fumble along with the character which worked because he was fumbling along being Batman.
Check out our full video interview with Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle at the top of the page for more, including Friedle making his case for Batman Beyond to get an Honest Trailer!