"The Call" is a two-parter of Batman Beyond, composed of the forty-sixth and forty-seventh episodes. Part I originally aired on November 11, 2000 and Part II on November 18, 2000. Terry McGinnis is initially starstruck when Superman appears and offers him membership in the Justice League Unlimited. However, Terry is troubled by the hostility he receives from the other Leaguers, and further troubled when Superman confides that he suspects one of them is a traitor.
In Metropolis, a commuter monorail loses control and starts speeding down the wrong track, on a collision course with another. Micron boards the train and manages to uncouple the passenger cars and evacuate the engineer to safety. However, as soon as Micron tries to exit the train, a force field pops over the door, making it impossible for him to escape. In the ensuing crash, Micron is badly wounded.
In Gotham City, Batman is chasing down Inque, who catches sight of a nearby civilian, and wraps herself around him to hold him hostage. However, the 'civilian' spins at superhuman speed, splattering Inque in all directions, and revealing himself to be Superman — a bit older, a bit grayer, but still as strong and active as ever. Terry is awestruck.
The two return to the Batcave, where Superman pauses to look at Bruce's more-familiar Batsuit in the display case before greeting his old friend. Bruce requests that they cut through the small talk and asks Superman the reason he's visiting Gotham. Superman responds that he wants to offer Terry membership in the JLU. Bruce ponders, due to Micron's injuries, if Terry is supposed to be a replacement, but Superman says that Terry has earned a spot. He asks Bruce to approve of it as Terry's mentor, but Bruce feels that it's not up to him, and the two legendary heroes silently await Terry's decision. Terry is taken aback, but accepts Superman's invitation to visit the Watchtower.
Terry's arrival is immediately greeted with hostility from a surprised Big Barda and Warhawk, as Superman decided to invite him without first consulting his teammates first. Terry receives a more civil but no less suspicious reception from Kai-Ro and Aquagirl. Superman insists that his decision is final, and his teammates walk out, leaving Terry to think this was a bad idea. In private, however, Superman confides to Terry that he suspects one of the League members of trying to sabotage and kill the others. Superman reveals Micron's current state, as he is recuperating in a stasis tank. Superman explains to Terry that Micron was taken down by a method that only an insider would know how to use.
Terry is reluctant to suspect Earth's greatest heroes, but begins reviewing the files of each League member. Mareena (Aquagirl) appears and apologizes for her initial coolness, and invites Batman to join her on her training swim. He politely declines, as he has a lot of JLU homework to catch up on.
Once Mareena leaves, Terry watches her entering the tank through security cameras, along with the rest of the League in other parts of the tower: Big Barda and Warhawk are practicing in a training room, while Kai-Ro meditates in a quiet garden sanctuary. Terry contacts Bruce, revealing he can't imagine how any of them could be traitors. However, having been betrayed before himself, Bruce tells Terry to continue to work as the answers are there somewhere. Having looked away during the conversation, Batman turns back and sees that the camera focused on Mareena has gone blank, rushes down, and sees her in trouble. Terry discovers the tank to be malfunctioning as it's beginning to overheat, and the door refuses to respond to the controls.
Terry's initial attempts to break open the door fail, he rushes to the training room, seizes Barda's mega-rod from her hand, then runs back and blasts the door open, flooding the antechamber with water and rescuing Mareena. While alive, Mareena has been injured, and Barda demands Batman to explain "what he did", but Marneea defends him revealing the tank malfunctioned. Warhawk asks why didn't he call them through the intercoms; Terry can only admit that he didn't think of it while Barda cuts him off. She takes Mareena from him and berates Batman for acting without the others and leaves with Warkhawk. Superman and Terry investigate the tank's control panel, finding it has been sabotaged. Superman confirms his suspicions: there is a traitor among the group.
Later, Terry does a flyby patrol of Metropolis while at the same time confiding his feelings to Bruce, revealing how everyone in the League except for Aquagirl doesn't want him to join. Just then, a distress call comes, saying that a large portion of the city is threatened by a series of explosions. The League, including Batman, helps save civilians and minimize the damage. Batman is accompanying Warhawk, who apparently receives another distress call on the JLU frequency. Batman, confused, says he is not receiving anything. Warhawk dismisses this and tells Batman to stay behind, while he flies up to meet the threat — an incoming ballistic missile. Batman ignores him and follows along in the Batmobile. Warhawk seals his armor and clamps onto the missile, pushing it off course.
Batman congratulates him when suddenly the missile explodes, taking Warhawk with it and embedding his helmet in the windshield of the Batmobile. The explosion from the missile causes the Batmobile to crash down to the city, where Batman retrieves Warhawk's helmet. The rest of the team arrives and are devastated over Warhawk's death. Barda demands to know happened and Batman begins to explain, revealing how they were following a distress call, but the rest of the team reveal they never got a signal either. Batman further reveals that only Warhawk got the message, but Barda doesn't believe him. Superman arrives and tells Barda to back off on her accusation, telling everyone that once they find out who set the bombs then they'll be closer to finding Warkhawk's killer.
In the Batcave, Bruce reviews the footage from the Batmobile's recorder. Terry speculates that the missile must have been on some kind of timer and Warhawk was unlucky, but Bruce doesn't buy it. Bruce applies a spectral analysis, which shows the missile being hit by a beam of some kind just before it exploded. Bruce tracks the beam back to its source: Superman's heat vision. As unbelievable as it seems, the traitor is Superman himself.
Terry prepares to go back to Metro Tower determined to warn the others, but Bruce states he needs to do more. Bruce reveals a hidden vault behind the Bat costume display case, and unlocks an ultra-high-tech, high security system, giving Terry his only recourse: inside a lead container lies a large sliver of Kryptonite about the size of a nail. Bruce explains that this is not the first time Superman went rogue, but even though he entrusted Bruce with the green mineral should anything happen to him, Bruce hoped he would never have to use it. While the radiation might prove fatal to Superman, Bruce orders Terry to do whatever necessary to stop the Man of Steel. Reluctantly, Terry accepts the Kryptonite. Removing a belt compartment and extending a pair of retractable tweezers from it, he stores the shielded mineral at his waist.
Batman shows the footage to the rest of the JLU, excluding Superman. Barda, having known Superman the longest, refuses to believe it, instead suspecting Terry of fabricating it. The two quickly begin to argue and Batman, finally having enough of Barda's attitude towards him, reveals they won't be able to figure anything out until she sees things clearly and stops being "pigheaded". Angered, Barda attacks Batman but before she can do any further harm to him, Kai-Ro stops her and traps her with his ring, while Mareena tends to Batman. Barda demands to be released but Kai-Ro refuses until she calms down. They suddenly they hear a voice agreeing with Kai-Ro: Warhawk reveals himself to be alive and well.
Everyone is overjoyed Warkhawk is alive and when asked of how he survived, he confides that he became suspicious when he received a distress signal when Batman didn't, and thus what tackled the missile was an empty suit of armor, remotely controlled. Warhawk has also gained new respect for Terry because of his refusal to stay behind, and believes his suspicions of Superman.
The team confronts Superman, caught in the act of tampering with Micron's stasis field. Superman becomes defensive and denies their accusations. Mareena steps forward to reassuringly touch his chest, when to their shock an alien eye pops a hole in his tunic, and Superman attacks. The others are no match for him, and Batman is about to use the Kryptonite, but hesitates, and the belt compartment is knocked out of his hand.
Micron, awakened from stasis, seizes hold of Superman, which allows Batman to retrieve the Kryptonite from a vent it fell in. Superman breaks free and knocks Micron out, but is forced away from confronting Batman by Barda's mega-rod and flies away. Micron is returned to stasis while Warhawk is treated, and Kai-Ro searches for any news sightings on Superman but finds nothing. Terry admits his hesitation to Bruce, because of Superman being one of the greatest heroes that ever lived and thinking that there must have been another way; Bruce notes that now (because of Superman's power) Terry knows better. The others speculate that Superman has escaped to his Fortress of Solitude, and although none of them know where it is, Terry knows that Bruce does.
The team boom-tubes to the Fortress, and find Superman waiting. After a brief fight, Batman manages to disable him with the Kryptonite. Pulling off his tunic, they see a starfish-like creature planted on his skin. Galactic travelers Kai-Ro and Barda have never seen one, and Kai-Ro doesn't know how they can separate an unknown alien from another alien being. Mareena connects telepathically with it, and learns its story:
- Several centuries ago, the creature occupied an aquatic world, but was abducted from its home by the Preserver. The Preserver later kidnapped Superman, but Superman broke free and sent the Preserver into space to his death. Having no way to return the beings to their rightful worlds, Superman adopted the collection of creatures and housed them in the Fortress. Though it was still little more than a prisoner, now Starro had a plan: Starro decided to gain control of Superman since it witnessed the Kryptonian's strength.
- Decades later while Superman was feeding the star creature, it leaped onto his face and took control of his mind. It has been controlling him for years.
The others ask why then has it waited so long before trying to kill the rest of them. Mareena opens a door to another chamber, and sees hundreds, maybe thousands of the star creatures nesting in an underground pool; under the creature's direction, Superman was breeding them. There are now enough of them to possess a large portion of the planet.
As they look closer, several other creatures jump out of the pool and attach themselves to the other Leaguers. Only Batman remains free, able to electrocute them off his Batsuit. Superman is released, and the Kryptonite shard is flung away. The others attack Batman, but he flees in the Batmobile, sent by Bruce as a precaution. Bruce can only suggest informing the military through Commissioner Barbara Gordon to ensure that the creatures don't escape; as their job would be to bomb the Fortress, Terry turns the option down. Starro/Superman pursues, while the others prepare to open an underwater door that will release the creatures into the ocean.
Starro catches up with the Batmobile and cuts off one side with Superman's heat vision. Starro confronts Batman, offering him a chance to "be one of us". Batman declines, luring Starro close enough to hit it with a grapple from the Batmobile that electrocutes the creature, disrupting its control and allowing Superman to pull it off his chest. Superman recovers, not remembering what he's been doing. Terry quickly fills him in as they fly back to the Fortress.
Superman attacks, freeing Warhawk, Barda, and Kai-Ro from the spawn, while Batman dives into the pool to stop Mareena opening the door, but he is too late. Superman starts tearing huge rocks free and dropping them down, saying they have to block the exit at any cost, even if it means killing Batman and Mareena. The others reluctantly aid him. They succeed in blocking the entrance, knocking out Mareena, but Batman narrowly saves both her and himself. Superman's heat vision stuns the spawn attached to her for removal.
The League collects all of the creatures into a Lantern-construct tank, with Starro, struggling away from the electrified grapple, being the last one. Barda and Warhawk are all for exterminating them, but Superman refuses as it was never their choice to leave home. Mareena communicates with Starro, and discovers the location of their homeworld. She borrows Barda's Mother Box and booms them to the coordinates, where Kai-Ro drops them into their native ocean. Starro is finally home, and with so many living spawn, given a chance to reestablish its species from near extinction.
Terry has now earned the heartfelt respect and gratitude of the other Leaguers, who are eager for him to join. But Terry can't overlook that the others almost sacrificed him and Mareena. Barda reminds him that joining full-time will put him one up on the first Batman, who wasn't always a team player, to which Terry coolly replies that maybe he and Bruce have something in common after all.
As Terry walks away to the Batmobile, Superman fondly comments, "More than you think, son. More than you think".
- Inque last appeared in "Inqueling" where she apparently died of dissolution after being poisoned by her own daughter but was shown spying on her daughter afterward. This episode (which was produced later) doesn't explain how she survived or whether or not she went after her daughter.
- Superman escapes from Inque using the same trick he used in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Fun and Games" to escape from Toyman's "Dopey-Doh".
- Big Barda's file contains a photo of her in full-body armor as well as a photo of her husband. Both are prominently featured in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Ties That Bind".
- While talking to Terry McGinnis on the phone, Bruce Wayne is shown in the Batcave's garage working on the Batmobile's second version seen from Batman: The Animated Series.
- Bruce tells Terry that Superman has gone rogue before, referring to the events of the Superman: The Animated Series finale "Legacy".
- Batman (Terry McGinnis) uses a sliver of Kryptonite to confront Superman with. The Justice League episode "Injustice For All" shows Batman (Bruce Wayne) taking a hand-sized chunk of Kryptonite from Lex Luthor but this chunk is later destroyed by Amazo in the Justice League episode "Tabula Rasa". However, Superman implies in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Doomsday Sanction" that there's another piece of Kryptonite that Bruce kept as insurance which is likely the one which Terry is now using.
- This episode indicates that the Fortress of Solitude's location is a secret kept even from the other JLU members but Batman (Terry McGinnis) reveals that his predecessor knows its location. The Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" confirms this fact when Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Wonder Woman visit the location to celebrate Superman's birthday.
- Batman (Terry McGinnis) awkwardly gets out of the Boom tube while the other JLU members calmly come out. The Justice League episode "Twilight" shows Batman (Bruce Wayne) experiencing nausea after using the Boom tube portal unlike Wonder Woman.
- The flashback sequence that Aquagirl refers to are the events of the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Main Man" in which Superman and Lobo were kidnapped by the Preserver, and after which Superman adopted the collection of alien creatures. Also, the serpent that Batman stumbles upon earlier is the same that Superman and Lobo fought together in that episode.
- Aquagirl also indicates that Starro witness Superman's powers firsthand. This either occurred in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Main Man" when Superman was fighting the Preserver, or in the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" when Superman was fighting Mongul, or even a combination of both scenarios.
- Big Barda and Superman tell Batman (Terry McGinnis) that his predecessor was never more than a part-time member. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited stay consistent with this fact with Batman (Bruce Wayne) being a part-time member of the Justice League.
- When Batman comments that he and his predecessor may have something in common after all, Superman remarks "more than you think, son". This is one of three foreshadowing remarks about their kinship (also see "Disappearing Inque" and "Inqueling").
- Several of the JLU members are featured and/or referred in the Justice League Unlimited episodes "The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time, Warped" and "Epilogue".
- Batman wonders how a member of the Justice League could be a traitor, and Bruce insists that he keep looking into it, probably knowing what the situation is like, having faced a similar one with Hawkgirl in the Justice League episode "Starcrossed".
- Interestingly, Supergirl goes unmentioned for the entire episode.
Home video releases
- Batman Beyond - Season Three (DVD)
- Batman Beyond - The Complete Series (DVD)
- DC Comics Super-Villains: Justice League Masterminds of Crime (DVD)
- A working title for this episode was "The League".
- In the "Close-up On..." DVD special feature for Part I, Bruce Timm claims that they could not use Wonder Woman for the JLU line-up so they used Big Barda as a placeholder.
- At the roundtable, Bruce Timm admits that Warhawk's survival is a "total cheat". He also says that there are many "logic flaws" throughout the whole episode.
- When the episode's plot was being developed, Bruce Timm suggested showing Superman caring an 80 year old invalid wife Lois Lane. However, according to Timm, Glen Murakami, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett disliked completely the idea.
- The star creature is never named in the episode but Bruce Timm and others on the episode roundtable refer to it as "Starro". Starro The Star Conqueror is famous as the Justice League's first enemy. In its appearances in the comics, it has been variously portrayed as a gigantic starfish and/or as a hive mind inhabiting millions of smaller starfishes, capable of possessing people.
- At the time of the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Main Man", Starro's appearance wasn't meant to be anything but a cameo.
- When Superman is blasted through the Watchtower in Part II, there's an explosion that is reused footage from the Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest" where one Wayne/Lex T-7 blows up another droid.
- Superman is voiced by Christopher McDonald (Jor-El's voice actor). On the special feature, Bruce Timm said that Tim Daly was available but the producers chose to use McDonald's voice as a sign of Superman's advanced age. Ironically, Daly was later unavailable to voice Superman in Justice League and was replaced by George Newbern.
- Aquaman's file photo attached to Aquagirl's file matches his original appearance on Superman: The Animated Series, not his revamped appearance on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. It lists his status as "whereabouts unknown".
- In the flashback, Superman is wearing his modified costume when he is first possessed by the creature, which indicates that this event takes place after Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. In a roundtable on the episode's special feature, Will Friedle and Bruce Timm debated this point: Timm insisted that Superman was wearing his old costume, which raised the distressing possibility that he was possessed during some of his years with Justice League, while Friedle correctly insisted otherwise.
- In the beginning of Part I, a civilian refers to the JLU headquarters as the "Watchtower". However, the building bears a striking resemblance to the Justice League's Earth-based center of operations. Moreover, in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue", Bruce tells Terry to meet Superman at the "Metro Tower", presumably the same building.
- In Part I, the glow that Green Lantern emits only surrounds his body, but in Part II, it covers him completely.
- After Superman breaks free from Inque, Batman steps on and holds her on the ground. In the shot showing both Superman and Batman, however, Inque disappears.
- In the end of Part I, Terry is in the Batcave still in his Batsuit but his costume can be seen on display next to Nightwing's. However, this suit has always been regarded as unique and that display has been always empty in other episodes (but this has also occurred in "Eyewitness" and "Out of the Past"). In the beginning of this episode, when Superman was in the Batcave, the display was empty.
- When Starro first reveals himself and right before Superman uses his heat vision against the League, he becomes translucent for a frame.
- There's no point in the scene with the missile where Warhawk can exit his armor without being spotted by the viewer or Batman.
- Though it is revealed that Superman had been possessed for some time, no explanation was given for why he sought out Batman or if it was actually his idea or Starro's.
- Wayne Brady is credited for voicing Micron in Part II, even though he did not have any lines.
- When Batman is going over Aquagirl's file, a picture of her father Aquaman can be seen. After the initial shot, the colors in the image, except for his skin, all go black.
- In Part II, when Superman is escaping, Batman attempts to stop him, but the background briefly changes to the outside of the water tank.
- Though short, Inque's appearance on this episode makes her the only villain (not including Derek Powers unless he's Blight) to appear on Batman Beyond more than three times.
- Part I won an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Television Production.
- The musical score playing during Batman's chase of Inque is a re-edited version of that playing in "Disappearing Inque" during their fight in the laboratory.
- Part I is the third episode since "The Last Resort" and "April Moon" in which Batman does not throw a single Batarang.
- When Superman says he can't see any more bombs, he should be using X-ray vision, which normally makes his eyes glow blue, but, instead, his eyes are glowing red, hinting that he is the one causing the explosions in the first place.
- Aquagirl is voiced by Jodi Benson, the voice actress of Ariel of Disney's The Little Mermaid.
- Christopher McDonald later voiced Hego, a superhero on Disney's Kim Possible. Hego is a parody of Superman, having the same superstrength and built physique, but portrayed as somewhat dim-witted and given to making ridiculously obvious statements in a melodramatic tone (several such lines were written for Superman in the first season of Justice League, and were later parodied in the second season episode "A Better World").
- Though they never worked together on it, Christopher McDonald and Jodi Benson both starred in the 1997 movie Flubber as Wilson Croft and the flying yellow robot and Professor Brainard's assistant, Weebo respectively.
- A dark version of the Superman: The Animated Series theme can be heard after Superman defeats Inque, when Superman lifts cargo tank with one hand, and when Superman is chasing the Batmobile.
- Big Barda refers to Superman as "Kal", a nickname sometimes used by fellow superheroes like Wonder Woman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Batman asking Bruce if the Batmobile's top speed is "faster than a speeding bullet" is a nod to the opening narration of the Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s.
- Though the Justice League existed since Bruce's time as Batman, this is their debut in the DC Animated Universe.
Warhawk: I wasn't in the armor. I was operating it by remote. That's the only reason I'm not dust right now.
Warhawk: I told him not to tag along, but he disobeyed. I like that.
Warhawk: Fine, let him explain... And then I'll rip his arms off.
Green Lantern: You see those blue things?
Green Lantern: Whatever it is, it appears to have somehow imbedded itself into his skin.
Big Barda: So, where should I boom them to? Some empty galaxy? Or maybe the surface of the sun?