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Batman Beyond had some next-level body horror
Batman Beyond, the sequel series to the classic Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, tells the story of Terry McGinnis, a high school student that comes under the wing of an elderly Bruce Wayne. Terry takes on the mantle of Batman and with the help of Bruce, fights crime in a high-tech futuristic Gotham. And that's what Batman Beyond is mostly known for — the technoscape of this crime-infested city leads to not only a different vibe from the earlier Bat-series but a whole new wave of villains and threats.
Batman Beyond should also be known for some truly wild body horror, too.
Sure, Batman: The Animated Series featured numerous scenes of humans being physically and terrifyingly warped. You had the after-effects of Joker's laughing gas which left victims with a permanent rictus grin, Man-Bat's transformation, Poison Ivy's plant humans, Clayface falling apart (and at one point trying to suffocate Batman by stuffing him inside his body,) and the climax of the first Bane fight, in which Bane overdoses on his own Venom and scars a generation of children for life. Batman Beyond went, well, beyond that.
With a chance to tell so many "science gone amok" stories in its future setting, Batman Beyond took this body horror to the next level. For example, Batman's main villain in the first season was billionaire Derek Powers, an unscrupulous jerk who, through an accident, gets turned into the villain Blight. This is, of course, something he only realizes when chunks of his face start to fall off.
Blight, when not covered in fake skin, would be a glowing skeleton with abilities were rarely logical but always awesome.
That above gif? That's from the episode "Meltdown" where Mr. Freeze, a relic from Gotham's past, is a talking head in a jar that's given a new body and a new chance at life. Of course, he gets manipulated by Derek Powers and at the end would rather allow himself to die in a collapsing building than face this uncaring world again. Oh yeah, Batman Beyond is super sad, too!
And though Bane would come back from that, ahem, over-bulging incident a few times, all that Venom didn't do his body any good in the long run. Batman Beyond finds him as a comatose husk of a man, being fed small amounts of Venom to keep him alive. Of course, no one in Gotham every truly learns a lesson and so Bane's caretaker develops a new Venom patch and begins to sell it to high school athletes. And this is all pretty "Don't do drugs, kids!" Batman afternoon special until Batman flings that caretaker into a bunch of his own patches.
There were even more parallels to old villains in new Gotham. For example, while there was no Clayface, there was an oversupply of Inque, a shape-shifting villain who made for great pathos and better action scenes. And when I say "oversupply," I don't mean that she showed up too often. I just don't know of a better way to describe the fact that, at one point, she tries to kill Batman by forcing herself down his throat.
Some of y'all might be into that, and I won't judge. I also won't judge if you're into what happened in the next Inque episode, where she tricks a guy into letting her free and then, when he asks to be like her, gives him his wish.
But Batman wasn't the only hero in Gotham. He also faced the Terrific Trio, a Fantastic Four parody that, like most people in this series, were manipulated for the personal gain of someone else. In the climax of their episode, Freon gets sucked into the air vents, something that the creators of Batman Beyond decided to show us in the scariest way possible.
But one of the scariest moments in Batman Beyond didn't come from anything gruesome. In fact, it was the sheer idea of it that left me shaken. In the episode "Out of the Past," Bruce Wayne runs into Talia al Ghul, his old lover and the daughter of famed terrorist and poor maintainer of facial hair Ra's al Ghul. Wayne has been feeling especially weak lately, and can barely fight off some muggers. So he takes up her offer of hopping in a Lazarus Pit and getting his old body back.
Of course, it's all a ruse. It's revealed that, on the brink of death, Ra's forced Talia to sacrifice her own body so that he could house his soul in it. Then, he planned to insert his soul into the now-rejuvenated body of Bruce Wayne. That attack by the muggers? Ra's set that up. But he cared so little for his own daughter that he stole her body just to keep himself alive. In the end, Bruce can only look back on his time with Talia and say "Rest well, beloved..." while knowing her terrible fate.
Man, that's heavy. Let's end this with a happy scene...
Oh, that's just Terry getting battered? Well, that's Batman Beyond for ya.