Seventy-five years after debuting in the comic books, Batman has finally met his match: himself.
The Caped Crusader first appeared in May 1939 on the cover of "Detective Comics No. 27," and in the three-quarters of a century since, he's been constantly reinvented in print and on screen. As part of the year-long celebration, DC Entertainment commissioned a new short film based on the animated series "Batman Beyond" from the award-winning writer and artist Darwyn Cooke ("D.C.: The New Frontier").
The short premiered at WonderCon in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, but you can see it online exclusively here on Yahoo Movies before it airs on Wednesday, Apr. 23 at 6:30 p.m. after a new episode of "Teen Titans" on Cartoon Network.. And not only does the short feature the return of the elderly Bruce Wayne and his protégé Terry McGinnis from "Batman Beyond," it features several Easter eggs with some of Batman's most famous incarnations of the past.
Like in the series "Batman Beyond," the short takes place in the future, with Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy, who has been portraying Batman for 22 years) semi-retired from being a superhero and his young pal Terry (voiced by Will Friedle, returning to the role for the first time since 2005) taking up the mantle of Batman. As the short begins, Bruce has been attacked by someone looking exactly like his younger self from "Batman: The Animated Series" (1993-95).
It turns out to be a robot double, and Terry and Bruce (along with some assistance from the Batmobile) are able to take the creature down. But the Dynamic Duo realize that they aren't done yet, and another wave of Bat-droids are raring for a fight. And as the camera pans across the adversaries, sharp-eyed viewers will catch several different incarnations of the Dark Knight.
From right to left, here are the origins for the multiple versions:
"Beware the Batman" — animated TV series (2013-present)
"The Batman" — animated series (2004-08)
"Batman: The Brave and the Bold" — animated series (2008-11)
"The Dark Knight Returns" — Frank Miller's 1986 graphic novel, also adapted into a animated film (2012-13)
"Batman" — Tim Burton's 1989 live-action film starring Michael Keaton
"Batman" — Live-action TV series starring Adam West (1966-68)
The original comic-book design by Bob Kane
It's a very clever way of distilling 75 years of iconography down to one six-second shot. The short end appropriately enough with Bruce Wayne strapping on his utility belt one more time for the fight of his life.
The anniversary celebration will continue throughout the year. The 1989 "Batman" movie marks it's own 25th anniversary this summer, and it will get a new Blu-ray release this fall. Also, the '60s-era TV series will get its first ever complete home video release this year after decades of legal wrangling over the rights. Add to that a pair of new animated films including May's "Son of Batman," a new video game, and an upcoming prequel TV series featuring a very young Bruce Wayne called "Gotham," and there should be plenty to keep Bat-fans occupied for a while.
Who knows, we might even get our first look at Ben Affleck in costume for 2016's Batman/Superman movie before too long. And we bet he'll look great for a 75-year-old.