Batman Beyond: How DC's Future Saved Gotham's Forgotten Villains

In the DC Animated Universe, Batman Beyond used its future time-setting to introduce new villains to challenge the next generation of Gotham City’s heroes. While some characters were entirely new creations, other villains took inspiration from past eras of Batman stories to reimagine villains for the future.

Now, we’re taking a closer look at how the futuristic world of Batman Beyond took a number of largely forgettable DC villains and turned them into futuristic threats who completely redefined the characters that originally inspired them.

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Spellbinder was created by John Broome and Sheldon Moldoff in 1966’s Detective Comics #358, where he was Delbert Billings, a professional artist who used optical illusions and hypnotic techniques to distract and control his enemies. He became a minor recurring Batman villain and even came up against the likes of Superman but was defeated every time. He remained a minor character until the events of Underworld Unleashed.  When Neron approached Spellbinder about potentially empowering him, he refused. However, his girlfriend Fay shot him in the head and took the power upgrade instead.

The character was reimagined in Batman Beyond as Dr. Ira Billings, the psychologist at Hamilton High, the high school attended by Terry McGinnis. Growing dissatisfied with the students, he designed VR technology that could be used to make students commit crimes for him. He became a frequent enemy of Batman, utilizing more and more new technologies to try and extend his control over others and trick them into doing his bidding.

Since the Royal Flush Gang debuted in 1966’s Justice League of America #43, there have actually been miltiple versions of the playing-card-themed villains over the years. The first Royal Flush Gang worked with Amos Fortune and battled foes like the Justice League and even other villains like the Joker. However, that team fell apart. A second Royal Flush Gang was introduced, utilizing cybernetically enhanced suits before an entire nationwide organization of minor criminals united in the imagery of the Royal Flush Gang.

A future incarnation of the Royal Flush Gang was introduced in Batman Beyond, utilizing suits and technology to carry out crimes across Gotham. Notably, the Ten of the group — Melanie — actually became something of a romantic interest for Terry. The impact of the DCAU Royal Flush Gang has been felt since their debut – the DC Rebirth version of the Royal Flush Gang bears a striking resemblance to the animated version, and Melaine has become a major recurring character in the current Batman Beyond comic series.

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Chronos was originally not even a Batman villain. Instead, as initially introduced, Chronos was a specific nemesis to the Atom in Gardner Fox and Gil Kane’s The Atom #3. He began as more of a time-conscious criminal, who utilized time-associated items to fight the heroes. His obsession eventually led him to develop time-traveling abilities of his own, making him a genuine threat to the entire Justice League and igniting a vendetta that still burns in the current DC Universe.

Chronos appeared in the DC Animated Universe in Justice League Unlimited in a storyline that took Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern across the timestream to stop his actions from bringing about the end of the entire universe. Introduced as a meek inventor in from the era of Batman Beyond, Chronos developed a way to travel through history, which eventually leading him to steal historic artifacts from across the world and lord over the Batman Beyond time-period. It took the Justice League working with the heroes of the future — including Batman Beyond — to stop Chronos. They eventually figured out how to trap the villain in a time-loop, saving the timeline and effectively locking him away forever for his crimes.

Payback was a minor character across the DC Universe, with different versions of the character appearing over time. A version of the character was a member of Milestone’s Dakotaverse — the home of Static Shock — where he was a hero who used his power to transform into a lizard body, and another was a minor cosmic villain in the DC Universe. However, Batman Beyond largely reinvented the character with a new origin and motivation which ended up being recreated in Batman Beyond’s post-Flashpoint version of the DC future.

Payback was a Gotham vigilante who targeted people who had endangered children across Gotham City. He was eventually revealed to be Kenny Stanton, the neglected son of the child therapist Dr. Stanton. Using an exoskeleton, he hoped to be like his hero, Batman. He only appeared in a single episode before being arrested. However, the Batman Beyond comics have revealed that after his death, his father took up the mantle of Payback to try and get revenge on Batman.

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The world of Batman Beyond took several forgotten, minor DC villains from comics and reimagined them for the future of the DC Animated Universe.

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