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Summary:  Batman and Green Lantern have lunch in the Watchtower's commissary, where they trade barbs about each other's love life.  Meanwhile, fifty years in the future, physicist David Clinton, inventor of a belt that enables him to travel through time, unknowingly traps himself in a temporal loop after a fight with his wife.  Frankly, I don't know why they did this as a two-part episode.

JL Mission Roll Call:  Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern

OW Roll Call:  Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, El Diablo, Ohiyesa Smith

JLU Mission Roll Call:  Batman II, Bruce Wayne, Static, Warhawk

JZ Roll Call:  Bonk, Chucko, Dee Dee, Ghoul, Woof

Featured Characters:  Batman, Green Lantern

Villain:  Chronos

Supporting Villains:  Tobias Manning, The Jokerz

 

Cartoon Network on “The Once and Future Thing, Part One:  Weird Western Tales”:  “Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern chase a time-traveling villain to the past, where they team up with the greatest heroes of the Old West (courtesy of The World’s Finest).”

Cartoon Network on “The Once and Future Thing, Part Two:  Time, Warped”:  “The Justice League’s adventures in time take them to a futuristic Gotham City, where they join forces with that era’s Batman and his super team:  the Justice League Unlimited (courtesy of The World’s Finest).”

Bruce Timm on a potential Batman Beyond crossover (circa 2004):  “We're talking about doing something similar with Batman Beyond and our show, kind of like what they did with the Static Shock / Batman Beyond crossover episode this past season [on Static Shock] (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Dwayne McDuffie on “The Once and Future Thing” #1:  “Time travel stories let us do things we couldn’t do normally.  As much as we enjoy doing them, we’ve only done three in all the years we’ve been on.  They’re just memorable episodes (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”

Dwayne McDuffie on "The Once and Future Thing" #2:  "I'm really excited about this.  'The Once and Future Thing' is a really, really fun story that's going to surprise a lot of people.  A couple of major revelations for our characters and several guest shots that we couldn't have done any other way...it really is an apocalyptic season finale (and that's not a Jack Kirby pun).  I can tell you that the bad guy is Chronos and the League will be going to the Old West and meeting a lot of the DC Comics western heroes, including Jonah Hex and (my favorite) Bat Lash, among others.  They will also be going into the future of the DC animated universe; Batman from Batman Beyond will appear, as will Static (from the Static Shock animated series, which I co-created).  Static's a pretty old guy at the same time the episode occurs.  And, speaking of old guys, we'll also see...oops, almost gave too much away.

"It might be my favorite show of Season Three.  If you like Batman Beyond, if you like Static, if you like the original Justice League show or DC's western heroes, then you don't want to miss this (courtesy of Silver Bullet Comic Books)."

Dwayne McDuffie on time travel and “The Once and Future Thing” #1:  “Several of us on staff disagree, but if you’re asking my opinion, this episode places Batman Beyond firmly into continuity about five different ways.  […] Here’s one:  Chronos made a time machine and before changing history used it to go from his time (Batman Beyond’s future) to our Batman’s present (the Justice League’s Watchtower).  At the end of the episode, our Batman trapped him in a loop in Batman Beyond’s ‘present.’  In the repaired timeline, Batman and Batman Beyond both exist [and] Terry and the future JLU were never killed.

“Vandal Savage has benefited from cyclical causality at least twice before (and this includes ‘Hereafter,’ by the way) and to Superman at least once.  It’s a fact of time travel in our universe (and for the Barry Allen Flash in the comics, whose death creates the lightning bolt that gives him his powers [initially]).  More to the point:  young (Bruce Wayne) Batman never heard future Batman being called ‘Terry.’  All he knows is that there will be someone after him who calls himself ‘Batman.’  When he meets Terry in the first episode of Batman Beyond, he either suspects that this might be the guy (unlikely), or that some punk kid stole the suit he’s going to eventually give to the real guy, whenever he shows up.  There’s nothing in the pilot or the episode that contradicts either of these interpretations.

“Batman and John Stewart are the only people who remember the events of ‘The Once and Future Thing.’  Terry, Old Bruce, Static, Warhawk, and the rest of the future Justice League Unlimited don’t remember those events because—from their point of view, since Chronos never took over Gotham —those events never happened.  […] Batman caught Chronos in the time loop before he went back to the Old West.  Terry never met Chronos [and] Chronos never souped up the Jokerz, so Terry never died at their hands.  Ditto for Static and the rest of the future League (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

Dwayne McDuffie on time travel and “The Once and Future Thing” #2:  “Batman didn’t know what conversation he dropped Chronos into, but […] he did know (from the belt’s activity log) to loop Chronos just before the trip that brought him to the Watchtower.  He chose that point hoping to minimize changes to ‘our’ timeline.  If Batman simply returned Chronos to that point without the belt, Chronos would have simply built another belt and attacked again—this time with pre-knowledge of Batman’s strategy.  I imagine Chronos took several shots at various JLU members before finally succeeding in killing them.  Batman looped Chronos because it was the only non-lethal way to protect the time stream.

“A time machine has to be able to communicate with itself achronally to work at all.  Batman (with help from old Bruce, but it was edited out) took advantage of this.  At the end, Chronos never gets to press the belt control, time loops before he touches it and he is unaware of anything unusual happening.  What Batman did is retroactively program the belt to, instead of carrying David to the Watchtower as it did in Part One, put himself in an infinite loop of about ten seconds duration, which is what we saw at the end of Part Two (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Dwayne McDuffie on “The Once and Future Thing” #3:  “Everyone involved knew that it is a very bad idea to gain knowledge of your own future.  Terry pointedly didn’t talk much to Bruce and John, even scolding Warhawk when he started to talk too much.  Terry never even took off his mask.  So, no, there was no scene written or even seriously considered where Batman talked to Terry about anything he didn’t have to.  [...] I don’t think [Bruce knew that Terry would be Batman].  He knew he would give the suit to someone someday, but he didn’t expect some punk kid to steal it.

“Static met Green Lantern three times on Static Shock.  [Finally], the Jonah Hex time travel references were to the comic book ‘Hex,’ a series I wasn’t much of a fan of but it did give me a couple of good gags for this episode (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

Bruce Timm on nitpicking in “Weird Western Tales”:  “You’ve got to be kidding.  The one time we’re gonna be in [Jonah Hex’s] neck of the woods and you’d rather have seen Zatanna, Flash, and J’onn than fake-Maverick, fake-Tonto, and fake-Zorro?  For Pete’s sake, you can see those other guys any day (well, except for Flash, of course).

“Has anyone mentioned the Jonny Quest pteranodon screech?  I go to all the trouble of having my sound effects guy dig up that exact sound and you guys didn’t even notice (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Dwayne McDuffie on Batman’s plan:  “It’s just a sequence that was cut for time.  Our Batman and old Bruce [came] up with the plan.  Computer programming by the time of Batman Beyond is pretty much telling the computer what you want it to do, waiting for it to assemble efficient code to do it, then testing the program.  The hard part was getting past Chronos’ security software.  Hard for young Bruce, that is; old Bruce has been doing this for fifty years longer than our guy.  He added the part of the program to breach Chronos’ security, copied the thing onto a commercial 12 terrabyte DVD, and they were off […] sequence cut way down for pedantic boringness (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

Bruce Timm on Kevin Altieri’s return:  “We were one board guy short for [‘The Once and Future Thing, Part One’] (don’t recall why), [and we] knew Kevin [Altieri] loved that kind of story material (see BTAS:  ‘Showdown’), [so we] called him up, [and] he happened to be available.  He boarded a lot of the ‘ranch shootout’ finale.  The exploding outhouse is a dead giveaway.  That whole sequence pretty much screams ‘KEVIN’ to me (courtesy of DrawingBoard.org).”

Joaquim Dos Santos on “The Once and Future Thing”:  “I remember looking through the script thinking, ‘We’ve got old Bruce, current Bruce, and Batman Beyond all in one scene.’  When all three of them are talking together, I took that from the storyboard guys and boarded it myself.  I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”

Dwayne McDuffie on the aftermath:  “Batman trapped Chronos in a time loop before he went back to the Watchtower.  That means in the corrected timeline, Wonder Woman never went to the future, the future Justice League never met Chronos, Static and Batman (Beyond) never died, the Jokerz were never augmented, and the Metrotower and its inhabitants, including Superman, were never killed.

“As Warhawk was born to Shayera Hol and John Stewart before Chronos ever polluted the timestream, that future is intact (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

 

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Image courtesy of The World’s Finest.

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