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The World's Finest Presents

Stan Berkowitz
by Stu

Having written episodes for the like of Spider-Man, Batman and Superman, veteran scribe Stan Berkowitz was presented with an all new challenge - a teenage Batman. The Worlds Finest caught up with Stan for a look back on his work on Batman Beyond.

March 14th, 2006

What was your original reaction to learn that Kids WB! Wanted an all new teenage Batman series and later learning that Bruce Wayne was to become an elderly mentor?

I guess my very first reaction was the same as everyone else's: doubt. Could they really duplicate the success of the first Batman series starting basically from scratch? But after I saw the preliminary art and written work that Bruce, Glenn, Alan and Paul had done, I felt that this show had the potential to be my favorite series of all the ones I'd worked on at Warners. For me, the problem with the original Batman comic book was that Bruce Wayne would never have made a kid like Dick Grayson a part of his costumed adventures. Too dangerous. Dick was there because the writers of the comic needed a young character for their young readers to identify with. They also needed someone Batman could explain the plot twists to - a Watson to Batman's Holmes, so to speak. But with Batman Beyond, the characters really needed each other. Terry couldn't have been Batman without Bruce, and there wouldn't have been a new Batman without Terry. And yet, they didn't particularly like each other. Bruce didn't think Terry was wise enough to do the job, and Terry thought Bruce was over the hill -- a fairly common generational conflict, but from the writers' point of view, it added lots of spice to their interactions.

Unlike The New Batman Adventures and Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond was a completely original endeavor. Was it any different going into this area where you could create and make up the lingo and characters, rather than look at years of comic history to draw from?

Incredibly difficult, especially if you're trying to avoid the three main cliched views of the future: Idealistic ("The Jetsons"), totalitarian (Fritz Lang's "Metropolis") and dystopic (or post-atomc-war) ("The Road Warrior"). For me, Batman Beyond's futuristic technology was basically our own, but cranked way up. Beyond that, people are basically people, no matter what year it is.

Speaking of the lingo, fans of the show have adopted some of the frequently used phrases (such as “schway”) into their vocabulary. Do you ever find yourself using these phrases, even today?

Truthfully? Never. Not even back then.

How much of the process of creating new villains for the show was done artistically, and how much was done from a writing point of view?

Many of the villains, including Shriek and Inque, were drawings first, and the writers were then told to figure out origins for them. Having the image right in front of you really helps the creative process.

You wrote “Dead Man’s Hand”, which introduced the Royal Flush Gang. They later showed up in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, even playing a key roll in JLU’s season two finale “Epilogue.” What was it like seeing your original story expanded throughout the animated DC universe?

It wasn't my original story. The Royal Flush Gang originated in the comics long before I started writing, and the decision to keep using them in the different series wasn't mine. So I don't really have any particularly paternal feelings for them.

How did you go about creating the new villains for the series? Did you ever think that Robert Vance or Big Time would reach the status of all of Batman’s big-name rogues, or did you just create them as one-shots?

As I mentioned earlier, most villains arrived in the writers' hands as sketches, and we then had to create their backgrounds and powers. Whenever a new character is created, there is hope that he or she will be around for many episodes, but it all depends on how they are received in their first episode. With Big Time, there were higher than average hopes that he would be around for a while because of his unique ties to Terry's past. Lost Soul's Robert Vance was really just a supporting character in a larger story that asked if Terry could still be Batman, even if he didn't have his powerful costume to rely on.

Having written all of Shriek’s appearances, was it cool to have created a character that fans consider one of Batman Beyond’s key villains? What thought originally went into the character?

It's not cool yet. But if I'm ever at a comic convention and someone comes up to me and says, "Hey, you wrote the Shriek character, let me buy you a drink," - then it'll be cool.

Glenn drew the first picture of Shriek, Alan told me he was a villain who had something to do with sounds, and my very first thought was that by the end of the first episode, he would have to lose his hearing. His return appearance in Babel was fun because of all the double talk we forced the actors to do.

What was your opinion on Max, Terry’s friend who soon learned his secret identity? Did you find it a burden to include her in most episodes, or was it fun having someone Terry could talk to about his secret?

None of us liked the idea of including Max, but the network wanted someone girls could identify with. She always seemed superfluous to me - Terry could talk to Bruce about his dual identity issues, and the show already had a younger gateway character in the form of Terry's little brother. You can see what I thought of Max in the way Bruce treated her in "Where's Terry?".

Which episodes do you consider your favorites? Alternatively, is there any episodes that aren’t fond of and feel you could’ve done more with?

I'm not objective about my own work; I usually see the shows as I first envisioned them, rather than the way they actually turned out. It's a bit like the old man who looks at his elderly wife but still sees the hot young 25 year-old that he married. (Insert your own J. Howard Marshall/Anna Nicole Smith joke here).

Among the scripts I've worked on, my favorites were "Shriek" and "Babel" because of the experiments we did with sound and dialogue; "Where's Terry?" because it showed what a badass Bruce could still be; "Lost Soul" because it helped show who Terry was; and "April Moon" because the minute Alan said it could be about a doctor who created super-villains, I realized I would have a chance to exorcise some of my EC Comics nightmares... or at least hand them off to a new generation.

"Joyride" was a episode that I had high hopes for, but it didn't turn out to be as fast-paced or scary as I would have hoped. I still don't know why, though.

Were there any stories you wanted to do in Batman Beyond but couldn’t?

"The Last Resort" was conceived in response to the Columbine Massacre, and it turned out to be the only script the network didn't want to do. It was originally supposed to be a gritty prison story, but a lot of the grit was lost when we made the revisions we had to make in order to get the network to approve the episode.

The series brought back a small amount of villains from Bruce Wayne’s heyday. Are there any villains you would’ve liked to bring back, and what were your plans for them?

Only Killer Croc, and only because reptiles have such long life-spans that KC could still be active 50 years from now.

You worked as a series story editor on the first two seasons of Justice League Unlimited. What was it like revisiting Terry McGinnis after so many years?

I didn't really revisit Terry. My colleagues were just starting preliminary talks on that episode when I left to go work for my friends in Europe.

Seeing “Epilogue” tie Batman Beyond all the way back to Batman: The Animated Series pleased many long times of the animated DC universe. What did you think of all the revelations occurred in “Epilogue”?

I was bouncing around so much between LA, Toronto and London, I never saw how "Epilogue" turned out. Maybe in reruns...

The World’s Finest would like to thank Stan Berkowitz for his participation in this Q & A.

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