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Summary:  Superman approaches Terry McGinnis—the future Batman—and asks him to join his superhero team, the Justice League Unlimited.  In addition to his desire to have the Tomorrow Knight among his ranks, he has an ulterior motive:  he suspects that there is a traitor walking the corridors of the Watchtower, and needs an outside agent to investigate the charges.  Now, in a new city and surrounded by heroes that distrust him, Batman must uncover the identity of this traitor, not knowing that this investigation will lead him not only to a conspiracy to enslave humanity, but also to a battle with the world's greatest hero.

JLU Roll Call:  Superman, Barda, Warhawk, Aquagirl, Green Lantern, Micron

Featured Character:  Batman II

Villain:  Starro

 

Kids’ WB on “The Call” (circa 2000):  “Superman drafts Batman into the League of superheroes when he suspects there is a traitor among them.  Batman ferrets out the traitor, and the reason for his treasonous behavior.  It all comes down to a one-on-one between Batman and one of the greatest heroes of all time (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Paul Dini on “The Call” (circa 2000):  “I just looked at the episode yesterday; it came in in animation.  One change now:  it’s called the JLU.  It’s now forty years in the future, and it’s the Justice League Unlimited.

“There are some old, familiar faces in there, but there are new characters you’ve never seen before—sort of a second generation of classic characters.  But the basic JLU line-up consists of Superman, the senior member; Barda, from Apokolips, who is sort of second-in-command; Aquagirl, who is the daughter of Aquaman and Mera; a character called Micron, who is sort of like the original version of the Atom mixed with a little bit of Giant Man [from Marvel Comics’ Avengers titles]; a character called Warhawk, who is sort of like Hawkman, but who is also the bad-ass of the group; and a new Green Lantern, who is an Asian child, […] about eight, and is sort of like the Dali Lama—he just sort of hovers and is mystical all the time.

“Superman goes to see Bruce and says, ‘I think it’s time for Terry to join the League.’  We say that Bruce was an original member, although kind of a reserve member because he wasn’t one for joining up.  Superman needs Terry to come in because he’s somebody he can trust and there may be a traitor in the League.

“It’s really cool—all the characters look great.  Superman’s got elements of Kingdom Come Superman to him—a little gray in the temple—but he’s still the same guy.  His suit’s a little more Kryptonian, oddly enough.

“There’s kind of a licensing problem [with Wonder Woman].  If we wanted to do Wonder Woman as a series, we could do that.  If it was a guest-shot, it was a little more problematic.  I don’t really understand it; it just turned out to be easier all the way around [not to use her].  With Barda being a full-time member of the League (in the comics), we figured Barda’s from Apokolips and nearly immortal [as well], so let’s put her in there and it has a link to the temporary book.  We love Wonder Woman—Bruce [Timm] did that great design for her, which is now a maquette at the Warner Bros. store.  At some point, we’ll do Wonder Woman.  We just need to fight that battle when we get to it.

“If we do more Batman Beyond, we’ll definitely do more JLU (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Bruce Timm on “The Call” (circa 2004):  “I […] have to say that on the Batman Beyond episode, ‘The Call,’ where we had the Justice League Unlimited—the future Justice League—that was almost a trial run for a Justice League show.  We said, ‘How difficult is this going to be?  Let’s find out within the scope of a Batman Beyond episode.’  And it was actually quite difficult; just staging an action sequence that has that many players in it is the single hardest thing to do about the show.  Just trying to keep everybody moving all at the same time and not losing the audience [is hard]—if you spend too much time with what Batman’s doing, then you forget about what Wonder Woman’s doing.  It’s hard to keep a group dynamic going during an action sequence.  It’s easy enough if you’ve got Batman all by himself fighting the Joker or even a group of thugs—it’s easy to follow his storyline.  An action sequence isn’t just action, it’s still a part of the story; it’s integrated into the story so that it starts at a certain point and it ends at a certain point.  It’s not just fight, fight, fight, fight, stop; in the best of all possible worlds, it also advances the story.  It’s really easy to get lost on tangents; it’s a difficult balancing act.

“[In terms of eliminating JLU members to free up space], no, I think [‘The Call’] just developed that way.  I don’t think that was intentional.  As we were beating it out, we realized we wanted the climax of that story to be Batman Beyond versus Superman Beyond.  That was why we took the Justice League out one by one and ended up with that scary, possessed Superman chasing Terry throughout the Arctic.  Specifically what I was talking about was that big action sequence at the climax of Part One, where the city’s being bombed and the Justice League are all running around to save people.

“And, also, the thing that was a textbook example of what I was worried would be a problem with Justice League was the action sequence in the beginning of Part Two, when Terry has told the other members of the Justice League about Superman going rogue, and then he goes crazy and starts attacking them.  The way it was storyboarded, because the storyboard artist was trying to constantly remind the audience of where all the players were, you’d have a bit of action taking place with one character and then the camera would pan over and find out what was happening with another character.  It was a nightmare in the editing room.  Just as you were building up a head of steam pacing-wise, suddenly you’d have to stop and pan over to somebody else and it was like, ‘Aagh!’  It was driving us crazy.

“It was a learning experience; we learned it’s better to just cut to a character who’s doing something and then cut to another character rather than just panning over to them.  Or, the other way to keep track of the characters is to have something happening in the foreground with one group of characters while something’s happening with another group of characters in the background, and then cut.  But panning from one to another, that panning is dead time—it slows the pacing down and actually makes things more confusing.  We sat there in the editing room pulling our hair out, but we developed a list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ about how to stage an action sequence with a large group of characters.

“But there is no rulebook—to this day, every show has its own problems.  Every time we get in the editing room we’re kind of going, ‘Okay, Batman’s story is coming along fine, but what about Wonder Woman’s story?’  It’s a constant struggle of trying to juggle all these characters (courtesy of Modern Masters, Volume Three:  Bruce Timm).”

Bruce Timm on “The Call” (circa 2005):  “Oh, ‘The Call’ is a freakin’ mess, no denying it.  I appreciate everyone’s attempts to explain away the plot holes […] but, yeah, we knew all along it was full of holes back in the day.  We were just so far behind schedule; the writers didn’t have a chance to work out the bugs before it had to go out on the floor.

“Besides the humungous lapses in logic, the thing that bugged me the most about it was that it was yet another ‘mind-controlled Superman goes rogue’ story, uncomfortably similar to Superman’s last appearance in the DCAU [the two-part Superman episode ‘Legacy’].  I complained about it to the writers—‘Out of all the different things we could do with “Superman Beyond,” and we’re doing this again!’—Alan conceded it was a fair point, but it was just too late in the game to do anything about it.

“[In fact], a few months back I happened to be discussing the swiss cheese that is ‘The Call’ with Alan Burnett […] and I asked him, ‘Explain to me again why the Starro-controlled Superman recruited Terry, with the expressed intent of finding out who the traitor was, when he himself was said traitor?’  Alan told me with an absolute straight face that it was Superman himself (not Starro) subconsciously fighting Starro’s influence.  I looked at him for a long moment; he grinned, shrugged, and said, ‘Yeah, I know.  Pretty lame, huh?’

“And why exactly is Starro forcing Superman to blow up Neo-Metropolis in Part One?  I guess it’s all a distraction so Superman can take out Warhawk without being noticed but, nah, that’s loco.  […] Also, Starro isn’t really ‘the last of his kind,’ as Aquagirl says, if he can suddenly, spontaneously reproduce lots and lots of baby Starros without the help of a Mrs. Starro.

“But even with all its flaws, I do think it’s an extremely fun show with an excellent cast, [an] interesting line-up of heroes (Dave Johnson and Shane Glines’ character designs are really sweet), awesome score, full of ‘Wow!’ moments, and the ‘scary Superman’ bit is somehow fitting within the darker, bleaker context of the Batman Beyond world (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Bruce Timm on a deleted scene:  "When we were plotting 'The Call,' I actually suggested showing still-young Supes caring for his eighty-year old invalid wife Lois.  I don’t know, I thought it was kinda sweet, but Murakami, Burnett, and Dini just about 'EEEEWWWWWW-ed' me out of the room (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

 

Images

The Call Image

 

Commentary

"What's the top speed on this thing?"

"Mach Three."

"Is that faster than a speeding bullet?"

An exchange between Batman and Bruce Wayne from "The Call"

Commentary coming soon!

 

Images courtesy of Toon Zone and DC Cartoon Archives.

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