The 1993 DC feature film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm introduces Phantasm (below left), a new villain with a mean right hook (excuse the inevitable bad pun). Phantasm wreaks havoc on Gotham’s gangster underworld, until crossing paths with the big Bat–and the Joker doesn’t help matters much either. (If you haven’t seen this film yet, this is my plug for you to do so.)
The villain disappears from the continuity until about a decade later. Phantasm makes a brief but important cameo in one of the final episodes of Justice League.
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Danger, Will Robinson: Batman Beyond major spoiler alert!
Epilogue is the final episode in Justice League Unlimited season 1, but also serves as a final episode of Batman Beyond, in which we learn that Terry McGinnis is the biological son of Bruce Wayne, thanks to Cadmus’ Amanda Waller.
Waller realizes that Wayne is growing older, and that the world must always have a Batman. So she begins Project Batman Beyond, and overrides Terry’s father’s DNA with with Bruce Wayne’s, so Terry is born with half of Wayne’s genetic code. And when Terry is eight years old, Waller hires Phantasm to murder Terry’s parents to bring the Wayne destiny full-circle.
But as Waller tells Terry, there was one problem: “My assassin wouldn’t pull the trigger. I argued with her, but deep down I knew she was right. People will say Batman’s obsessive, that he’ll do anything to achieve his goals, but he’d never resort to murder. So if I was to honor all he stood for, neither could I.”
In a twist of fate, or perhaps destiny, Warren is still murdered and the rest is history.
By the way, in another layer of irony, Phantasm is really Andrea Beaumont, formerly Bruce Wayne’s lover. It really is incredible how far the creators go to give the DCAU a sense of inter-connectedness, and that no villain is just a villain. You only have to be geek enough to really appreciate it. :)