The Dark Knight’s sixth decade brought with it a brand new millennium and new innovations in technology, which soon made their way in the Batman storylines of the era. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight reestablished Batman’s relevance in film and won newfound appreciation of the character and his potential from audiences. Around the same time, Batman found success in the highly competitive realm of console video games with Batman: Arkham Asylum, the debut game in what would ultimately become single most successful video game franchise based on a comic book character.
In 1999, Batman was propelled into the future with the debut of Batman Beyond, an animated TV show set in an alternate timeline where an aged Bruce Wayne had passed the mantle to a young man named Terry McGinnis in the year 2039. As Batman, Terry was entrusted to watch over Neo-Gotham, which was beset by a gang of masked villains who called themselves Jokerz. The show finished out its three-season run in 2001.
The 12-part “Hush” story in 2003 by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee brought new energy and a huge audience to the ongoing Batman title. The story featured an array of the Dark Knight’s worst foes and introduced a new adversary—the bandaged Hush, eventually revealed to be a figure from Bruce Wayne’s childhood.
The year 2004 saw the debut of The Batman, the first new animated series to focus on the Caped Crusader since the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. Despite some uncertainty from fans of the earlier series, which had found further success on DVD, The Batman ran for five seasons until 2008, winning six daytime Emmys along the way. Each season of The Batman focused on a central character, ranging from members of the GCPD to Batman and Robin themselves.
In 2005, a new live action legacy was forged as Christian Bale starred in Batman Begins, the first film in an eventual Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan. Batman Begins explored the origins of the Dark Knight and his emergence as a force for good in Gotham City. Compared to the Batman films of the 1990s, Nolan’s vision of the Dark Knight was more grounded and reflective of today’s society, but with a clear creative vision that many consider a defining one. Batman Begins was a creative and commercial success and laid the groundwork for its even more impressive sequel.
The 2008 follow-up, The Dark Knight, featured an Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker and became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, grossing over $1 billion in the worldwide box office. A resounding critical success as well, The Dark Knight has come to be regarded as one of the best superhero movies ever made, in part due to the timely questions it asked about privacy, security and the nature of humanity, as well as Ledger’s performance and Commissioner Gordon’s iconic closing monologue.
From the 1980s onward, DC published special crossover events that often had “crisis” in the title. The 2008-2009 crossover Final Crisis shocked readers by offering up what appeared to be the death of Batman after he fought the godlike villain Darkseid. With Bruce Wayne presumed dead, Dick Grayson became the new Batman, taking on Bruce’s newly emerged son, Damian Wayne, as Robin.
In 2009, the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game became one of the best-selling and best-reviewed console games of all time, marking the beginning of a new era in superhero video games. Featuring Batman: The Animated Series’ Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin in the roles of Batman, Joker and Harley Quinn, respectively, the game put players in the role of Batman as he attempted to subdue a Joker-led uprising at Arkham. Along with its intuitive controls and innovative combat system, the game emphasized stealth attacks, something pivotal to Batman’s fight against crime, but not utilized in Batman’s earlier video game endeavors. Developed by Rocksteady Studios, Batman Arkham Asylum would eventually inspire three additional games in the series, a comic book tie-in series and an animated movie set within its universe.
Look for more on Batman’s long history of heroics next week as part of DC’s Batman 80th anniversary celebration.