The DCAU’s Dark Future Was Ahead of its Time, & DC Comics Proves It

Whenever DC wants to set a story in the future, it often draws cues and elements from the animated shows of the early 2000s like Batman Beyond.

Warning – Spoilers for Catwoman: Lonely City #3 and Batman: Beyond the White Knight #2 ahead!

While the future of the DC Universe is always shifting and changing, one thing seems to be constant as of late: Gotham’s future is heavily influenced by the DC Animated Universe. Part of this is certainly due to the long-lasting influence of batman beyond, with the exploits of future Batman Terry McGinnis receiving multiple comic lines over the years. But even when exploring brand new comics and ideas about a potential future Gotham, DC returns to plot lines from the DCAU time and time again.

Catwoman: Lonely City by Cliff Chiang and Batman: Beyond the White Knight by Sean Murphy each present visions of a future Gotham. The first depicts Catwoman pulling off one last heist in a Gotham cleared of super-crime by a militaristic Major Harvey Dent. Beyond the White Knight continues the tale of Batman: White Knight: following the Joker’s stint as a law-abiding public official, Bruce Wayne is in jail and Dick Grayson has removed super-villainy from Gotham as head of the Gotham Terrorism Oppression Unit (GTO). Both of these stories follow similar arcs of how Gotham would cope with costumed crime in a post-Batman world – and both pull straight from the DCAU’s handbook.


Related: Nightwing’s DCAU Origin Story Is The Best Version

The most obvious element taken from the DCAU is Gotham’s militarized police force. By the time of batman beyond, Bruce Wayne’s legacy is shattered and Neo-Gotham’s police are visibly armed with automatic-style weapons and heavily armed aerial crafts. Barbara Gordon plays a similar role in each story as well: in Beyond the White Knight, she reprises her DCAU position as head of the GCPD. While not on the police force, Catwoman: Lonely City‘s Barbara Gordon is still a civil servant as a member of the city council, leading protests against Mayor Dent’s authoritarianism. Her role of her remains as the DCAU cast it: setting aside vigilantism to work for justice as a public figure.

Characters and even plot points are likewise reminiscent of the DCAU. in a flashback, Catwoman: Lonely City shows Batman and Catwoman confronting the DCAU versions of the Royal Flush Gang, including their version of Ace. Batman’s relationship with the young criminal Ace was a major element in the DCAU and led to the reveal Bruce was Terry McGinnis’s father; the bulky android Ace of the comic’s continuity is very different than the DCAU’s psychic waif, and her inclusion of it here shouldn’t be taken lightly. Similarly, Batman: Beyond the White Knight reveals that the Joker (or his heroic, civilian self, Jack Napier) has reappeared after implanting Bruce with a microchip containing data of his old self. This is the exact same way a much more anarchic Joker came to terrorize the Neo-Gotham of the future in the animated film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker – by implanting Tim Drake with a similar chip, Joker was able to ‘possess’ the former Robin.

When DC tells future stories, they return to the DCAU time and time again. In part, this is because the DCAU contains one of the few viable futures for writers to explore. Outside of the optimistic future that hosts the Legion of Superheroes, most futures seen in comics tend to be post-apocalyptic visions. The DCAU is a bold departure, maintaining canon for its heroes decades past the present day and therefore providing a framework for writers who wish to speculate into DC’s future without having to create it from whole cloth (the world of batman beyond is a particular boon here). With just enough conflict to provide tension and relatable jumping-off points for the characters, the DCAU continues to call the shots for DC’s visions of the future.

More: Batman Beyond’s Return of The Joker Gets Adapted with One Twist

Catwoman – Lonely City #3 and Batman: Beyond the White Knight #2 are available now from DC Comics.

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