Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

Terry McGinnis’s terrifying rogues’ gallery would have given the original Bruce Wayne a run for his money, if not put him six feet in the ground.

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Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

In 1999, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Curt Geda, and Stan Berkowitz were called off the Batman/Superman Adventures to create a new series, the darker and slightly scarier Batman Beyond. Set 50 years in the future, the story centered on new Batman Terry McGinnis and introduced new and terrifying villains which likely would have given the original Batman a run for his money, if not put him six feet in the ground. The television show later evolved into a part of the mainstream DC universe, and with Terry came his monstrous and arguably overpowered rogues’ gallery.

Drug abuse, psychological exploitation of children, actual child trafficking rings, and simple cold-blooded murder, Terry’s rogues, much like the original Batman’s villains, reflected the dark side of the hero’s psychology, often with poignant and terrifying social commentary. What’s more is that, rather than being from established canon, by and large, these baddies were built from scratch by Timm and company, who actively wished to avoid retreading ground from Bruce’s old days (which they did with a few notable exceptions).


Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

First, the original archenemy, and a most tastefully executed one at that. Derek Powers was a simple business magnate with anger management issues and a less than scrupulous sense of business ethics. One day, after a misadventure that involved murdering Terry’s father and an illegal chemical weapons deal, he was exposed to a lethal nerve gas which, when combined with massive amounts of radiation used to save his life, turned him into the glowing green ghoul known as Blight. (Ok, he called himself that, but it’s an okay name). A black skeleton with translucent green flesh, Powers burns with so much radioactivity that he can melt walls with a touch, and can likely give people cancer just by being near him.

Derek Powers is a little like Lex Luthor with half the brain and none of the charm, but he more than makes up for it in his sadistic, calculating strategic acumen and utter savagery when forced out of hiding. Having taken over Wayne Enterprises (renaming it Wayne-Powers) by the time Batman Beyond begins, most of his initial plots involve hiring other villains to engage in corporate sabotage and assassinations. A celebrity in Gotham, nobody sorts out that Powers is the horrifying Blight due to a set of false skins he wears. These skins are expensive, and end up draining his resources quickly. By the end of the first season of Batman Beyond, the one-time business mogul has already been reduced to simple armed robbery simply to supply the chemicals for his disguise.

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What makes Blight such a tremendous villain is his mounting lust for destruction which only grows more depraved and intense as time goes on. Freed from the shackles of his public image, or perhaps driven mad by the despair brought about by his incurable condition, Blight is easily one of the most unrepentantly nihilistic of either of the Batmens’ rouges’ gallery. Some men just want to see the world burn, and Blight has the juice to make it happen.


Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

One of the continuing requests Warner Animation gave to Timm’s team was to center the stories around Terry’s high school, and while they no doubt were hoping that this would lead to less creepy villains than the original series, this motivation would’ve seemingly backfired, as all the villains from Hamilton High are incredibly unnerving. The worst would likely be the “psycho psychologist” Spellbinder, school counselor Ira Billings who mostly preyed upon young people by beaming elaborate hallucinations into their minds in order to induce them to commit thefts.

Initially based on a D-List DC mope, Spellbinder is a particularly terrifying villain due to his penchant for using virtual reality to turn peoples’ deepest fears as well as their most heartfelt desires against them. Often, this involves spurring teenagers into criminal activity. He specifically tries to induce addictive behavior in his victims through his hallucinatory fantasies in order to keep them under his thumb, and will go to quite elaborate lengths in constructing false dreams and illusions, perhaps indicating an obsessive compulsion towards manipulating people. His illusions are certainly powerful; even without super-strength or fighting ability, he once used a zombie illusion to make himself invisible to Terry and almost managed to bludgeon him to death with a rock. Thankfully, Terry had another set of eyes watching him with Bruce.

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Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

Unlike many of the villains of future Batman, Inque doesn’t have any personal connection to Terry and doesn’t even seem to care much about him personally despite their previous clashes. A woman with the ability to change into any shape, one could confuse her for a slightly veiled recasting of the classic villain Clayface, but the no-nonsense mercenary is a far cry from the deranged dramatist Basil Karlo (or Matt Hagen in the cartoon). A utilitarian saboteur and assassin, most of the time Inque is just trying to get the job done, or just stay alive. Nevertheless, she has been proven to be one of Terry’s most persistent and most powerful foes, managing to beat him in combat on numerous occasions, and almost killing Bruce once or twice as well. And it’s because, unlike most iterations of Clayface, Inque is a combat proficient, tactically brilliant living weapon. And she isn’t afraid to play dirty.

And despite her theoretically exploitable weakness, being water, Inque is so brutal in battle that she manages to overwhelm Terry almost every single time.

What’s most chilling about Inque is her cold and emotionless demeanor. Even when beating Terry to a pulp and nearly discovering Bruce’s secret, she never quite seems to care enough that one would think it’s a personal vendetta. To Inque, even after her defeats, the only thing that is important is the bottom line, and so Bruce and Terry are merely minor obstacles in her mind. Even with a relatively simple weakness like water, she always manages to slink away somehow. And with her shape-shifting powers, Inque can stay hidden for quite some time and always comes back one way or another, to take her cold revenge.

Willie Watt

Batman Beyond Has The Most Underrated Villains in Comics

Another byproduct of trying to center the stories around a High School setting was that some of the other students would sometimes end up turning into super-criminals, often with jarring results. Perhaps none of them were more jarring than Willie Watt, an outcast student and Jughead lookalike who clashed with school bully and Archie counterpart Nelson Nash, along with Batman. Willie went from one-note wannabe to an Akira-scale mega-threat when he absorbed the power of telekinesis from a mechanical golem he remote-controlled to terrorize his classmates.

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A cautionary tale on both schoolyard bullying and parental abuse, Willie’s villainous venting came in part from his unrequited desire for and subsequent obsession with fellow classmate Blade Sommers, granting the whole mess a bit of a Carrie feel. Regardless of his incarceration, Willie remains a viable villain because, unlike most of Batman’s rogues, he’s still a minor, and will most likely be allowed out of juvie at some point, powers intact.


“The sound genius with the unsound mind”, unsuccessful sound engineer and gizmo inventor Walter Shreeve needed some extra cash, and a meeting with Derek Powers set him on a dangerous path towards supervillainy when he hired him to kill Bruce Wayne and destroy Gotham’s historic district. A genius, Shreeve had built a suit capable of controlling all aspects of sound, from the destructive to the noise-canceling. The latter sounds like a positive thing in most situations, but turns extra-unsettling when used during a pitched battle sequence, with all ambient sound turned silent.

Aside from using his mastery of sound to throw earthquake-inducing sonic blasts, Shriek can also mass-distort peoples’ lingual abilities causing rampant mayhem and confusion, drive animals insane leading to a strange confrontation between Batman and a zoo elephant named Tiffany, and also amplify specific sounds to send messages only audible to specific listeners, which he once employed to cause fake hallucinations in an attempt to have Bruce declared insane. Shreeve also carries a person grudge against Terry, whom he blames for causing his self-induced tinnitus, so he’ll carry on his vendetta with Batman to the very last. In a spin that possibly influenced the later film, The Dark Knight, Shriek almost got the people of Gotham to turn against Batman Beyond, holding the city hostage while publicly calling for Terry to turn himself over to him to exact vengeance. Though brief, the episode showed just how far the villain would go to exact revenge.

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