Batman Beyond was a show in the late 90s about a teenage prodigy, Terry McGuinness, picking up the Bat Suit to take over the bat shaped cowl in a retrofitted Neo Gotham City for a Batman who has aged past his prime. Borrowing elements from Blade Runner, Akira, Philip K. Dick, Metropolis, The Dark Knight Returns, and countless other science fiction sources, Batman Beyond was one of the best adaptations, nay cartoons, of all time. With all 52 episodes available now on Netflix, you may be wondering if you truly have the time to delve into a fresh new world of all things Batman. First and foremost, there is always time for the Bat, or Bat-time as my imaginary girlfriend calls it, and second, if you can’t get your hands on Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, then check out these top 10 episodes of the next evolution of the Caped Crusader.
In “Rats!”, the focus of the tale is Dana, Terry’s oftentimes neglected and infinitely flaked upon girlfriend getting fed up with Terry’s constant excuses, almost breaking up with a guy who has the coolest after school job ever. Due to Batman’s neglect, Dana picks up the stalking affections of one Rat Boy, a guy with a rat face who turns to a life underground in order to escape the rodent-based ridicule of society, spending his free-time scavenging things and persons that no one wants, in addition to training radioactive rats to be his friends.
Now, I don’t have rodent-like features or anything, so this is just speculation on my part, but if I wanted people to not call me Rat-Boy, the last thing I would do is be a self-proclaimed pack rat and hang out with gigantic rats. Seems as if it is only asking for further comparisons.
Essentially, Rat Boy is the hobo Penguin from Batman Returns with a hint of a WALL-E based Stockholm syndrome mixed in for good effect. Sounds like a memorable villain right? Well he’s not actually. Rat Boy is crazy lame, and only serves as a means of showing Dana going from hot-levels of you should not be wearing this outfit on Crime Alley – with kicky pumps, to a golden shower yellow dress with feces-caked footwear over the course of the episode.
So why does the episode with the lamest villain make it onto the top 10 list? The B-plot:
“Rats!” features the premiere of Mad Stan in a one scene fight. Stan is a bomb-strapped explosive enthusiast who is not mad in a psychotic sense, but rather mad in a socio-economic state of the world with a pinch of Unibomber and potassium sulfide manner. In the best example of impeccable voice-actor casting since Robocop voicing Batman in The Dark Knight Returns, Mad Stan is voiced by Henry Rollins, the Black Flagg frontman and individual whose growling in-your-face-and-yet-the-exact-opposite-of-Poochie presence improves any work of media to cosmic levels, with “Rats!” being the best example of what I now deem The Rollins Postulate in action.
Mad Stan’s bombardment against the Batman and media over-saturation is literally an opening monologue from The Henry Rollins Show complete with handfuls of cluster bombs, claymores strapped to faces, Frankensteiners, suicide vests, a Rollins reference to Johnny Mnemonic, and a pile driver that leaves the Bat suit’s pointy ears stuck in the ground like a fence post. As Bruce explains, once Stan is on a rant he is unstoppable, making Rollins the Juggernaut of soapbox speeches.
Oh, and Dana, in her sewage soaked dressed and doo-doo dusted feet, hugs Terry close at the episode’s end, appreciative that her neglectful boyfriend at least isn’t a rat faced kidnapper. Though Terry says nothing, I like to imagine that if the episode continued for a moment longer he would’ve said, “Your hair smells terrible.”