I saw a video recently claiming that Spider-Man Unlimited came about as a response to Batman Beyond, as if that was the only reason. There’s a whole story there and if there was some inspiration, which wouldn’t be new for Fox Kids, it’s a minor part of the story. However, could it be that Terry McGinnis was DC’s Spider-Man before Sideway? No, you could make a better case for Firestorm beating both of them.
However, the host of Nerdstalgic actually does see a connection between Terry and Peter Parker, and uses the episode “Out Of The Past” to highlight this connection. One of the few episodes to not only bring Bruce into focus while featuring one of his old foes, but actually giving us a team-up between Terry and Bruce. In the video he focuses on this being a perfect episode of Batman Beyond and he makes a good case. As far as the Spidey connection…judge for yourself.
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This is admittedly one of my favorite episodes. Seeing Terry and Bruce team up, a use of Bruce’s old foes in a way the later attempt at bringing Terry’s world to the DCU proper failed because Terry still mattered, and a rather good but creepy twist. The host also dropped the joke about Bruce noting that “Talia” kissed him, which is fine. A bit more disappointing, and it’s been so long since I’ve seen it I had to be reminded by someone in the comments of the video bringing it up, is when Bruce calls Ra’s out for being so afraid of death. After the Lazarus Pits no longer worked for his body, Ra’s used Talia’s overly devoted love of her father to take her body in order to keep going and thus killing his own daughter to cheat death. That’s a certain level of fail as a father and a human being. Ra’s is so convinced he’s the only one to save the world that he would do that to his own flesh and blood. That’s a level of obsession even I didn’t see coming, and I wrote about how obsession is one of the themes of Batman’s story. His villains are driven by their obsessions towards evil while Batman and company resist going over the edge and stay on the side of justice and the innocent. Ra’s is another example of obsession not only ruining him but those he supposedly cares about. Damien got out of there before it was too late.
As far as the Spider-Man connection, I do see where he’s coming from, but it’s not quite the same. Venom and Inque have similar powers but Eddie Brock seeks redemption and the symbiote seeks brains while Inque seeks money to cure her condition. She’s closer to the DCAU version of Clayface. Shriek and Shocker you could make a closer case for given they’re both losers with a gimmick. Spellbinder (one of the original DC villains) is more interested in controlling others while Mysterio is a show-off proving he’s the greatest illusionist and special effects artist of all time. Stalker and Kraven are probably the closest to each other given their driven to hunt but that’s not a new villain trait. You could go back to The World’s Most Dangerous Game, the book that the often used plotline comes from, but they’re close enough that I can see it. Blight and Norman is probably a coincidence at this point but outside of killing Terry’s father and the company absorbing Wayne Enterprises the Powers have no connection to Terry or Bruce. Paxton isn’t Terry’s friend and in fact takes over for Derek after tricking Batman into helping get rid of his father to take over the company. Except for Stalker and Kraven the connections are limited at best given their powers have been seen in numerous DC and Marvel characters as well as other villains in superheroes, science-fiction, and horror.
Even the idea that Terry is driven by his father’s death and Terry blaming himself really doesn’t go beyond (no pun intended) the debut story. Terry made many bad decisions out of his anger concerning his parents’ divorce. They tried to help him, and Dana saw something in him to keep dating him, but he still sees being Batman not as forgiveness for not being there for his dad but redemption for his actual sins, ones that almost led to him going to jail and having a serious criminal record. One of the character moments of Return Of The Joker is when Bruce tells him that it isn’t Batman making a better Terry but Terry that makes a good Batman. The movie’s arc for Terry is accepting himself as Batman, which he hadn’t declared himself as since “Rebirth”. He calls himself Batman but he didn’t really lock into the identity until he solved Joker’s scheme and brought him down once and for all while saving Tim. So Terry doesn’t share Peter’s motivation. His story isn’t “with great power comes great responsibility” but a redemption arc, where the one who most needs to forgive Terry isn’t his parents, or his girlfriend’s father…it’s Terry McGinnis. Just being a teen hero isn’t enough.
So it is a great story but the connections to Spider-Man are tangential at best. Terry should be allowed to be his own person, and that’s the problem I have with the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue” as it ties Terry to Batman’s world almost from the start, but still tries not to be a massive retcon where Waller was behind everything in his life. Others call it a great episode but someday I’ll tell why I actually think it doesn’t work and damages Terry a bit. At any rate if you haven’t watched Batman Beyond, or Batman Of The Future depending on where you live, you really should. It’s a great series.