Rumors are circulating that yey another addition to the WB's ambitious new DC Comics adaptation lineup is The Batman, with Ben Affleck taking the titular role. While a 2019 release date seems legit, it also means we'll be seeing the Dark Knight in both Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Justice League before it. Older and seasoned as Batman v Superman's Caped Crusader is going to be, by the time we get to The Batman he'll be even older, and more seasoned.
Which, along with the eight theatrical Batman films thus far (nine if you count Batman: Mask of The Phantasm!), means that it's time for filmmakers to plunge deep into the collection of Batman stories to find new narratives we haven't seen on the big screen yet. Characters like Hush, Azrael and Jason Todd have yet to get live-action adaptations, and stories that utilize an older, wiser Batman have yet to come to the forefront as movie material. We decided to pick through the clutter and grab 10 pivotal, iconic Batman stories, searching for the best choices for adaptation into the onscreen DC universe.
No Man's LandIssues Covered: Too many to name. This story ran through all the Bat-books in 1999, spaced out over fourteen separate titles.
Storyline: A 7.6 earthquake rocks Gotham City, effectively creating a no man's land where other governments won't intervene. With Batman missing in the conflict, villains converge and take over the city. Elements of this story were used in The Dark Knight Rises, but ultimately they eliminated the potential of an entire city run by colorful villains (though Scarecrow did make a pretty sweet judge). Exploring that idea in the next solo Batman movie would give them a great excuse to introduce a sea of new villains without needing laborious origin stories for each of them. It would also be a sign that this Batman is less ground-level, and must deal with massive threats. And finally, a no man's land would also exclude the Justice League: the fact that they don't intervene could cause conflict between Batman and the other heroes, one of the many ways the new DC films can distinguish themselves from Marvel: hell, Avengers: Age Of Ultron apparently begins with a party!
Beginning with this approach would also mean that, in the wake of Man Of Steel, the DC universe would be taking a serious look at the collateral damage that occurs, specifically in regards to what happens next. Metropolis makes a recovery for Dawn Of Justice, but after whatever occurs in Justice League, Gotham might not be so fortunate. This story essentially takes Batman into Mad Max territory, and what fan doesn't want to see that?
HushIssues Covered: Batman #608-#619.
Storyline: Batman is menaced by a villain with ties to his past who ultimately seeks revenge for a slight long-ago. While the concept is slim, it involves several different colorful avenues to pursue, including a romance with Catwoman, a plot by the Riddler to discover Batman's identity, and a memorable villain in Hush, who hides his identity behind elaborate bandages in a way that actually recalls Darkman.
This would also be a chance to delve into Batman's childhood in a way that hasn't seen before, calling into question the lives of Thomas and Martha Wayne as they contributed to the building of Gotham. The actions of the parent directly affecting the child is something we've seen in the recent Spider-Man movies, but they were unable to centralize a real message behind that idea. Here, you can trace the lineage of the Waynes' kindness - Thomas took care of the villain known as Hush years ago in a way that informed his character - as well as the indirect repercussions. Hush is a dense character, and this would give Affleck and the other actors in the film some heavy material to chew on.
Knightquest/KnightsendIssues Covered: Knighquest ran through 21 (!) separate titles from October 1993 to June 1994. Knightsend ran shorter, encompassing thirteen titles from July to August 1994.
Storyline: Batman seeks a replacement for the mantle of Batman after a debilitating injury, discovering the intense and violent Azrael. He trains the protege, but when the young avenger becomes a danger to those around him, Batman has to defeat the rogue hero. These stories took off from Knightfall, where Bane famously broke Batman's back - though that was already adapted in The Dark Knight Rises. It should be no problem to have Ben Affleck's Batman felled by a similarly catastrophic injury, only to take down a younger pretender to the throne, and this movie would have the promise of having two Batmen brawling it up.
Several fans were critical of the obviously-cynical decision to sideline Batman when these comics came out, replacing him with a "hip" and "edgy" version, but the newer version of the character won a small group of fans over. This Batman was lethal and efficient, and he took down Bane with ease before cleaning up the streets of Gotham. The character of Azrael ultimately had a boatload of other issues, but in the cape and the cowl he helped create a unique interpretation of Batman. To see that onscreen, and to see the older Batman assert himself as superior, is something that will prompt cheering in a future feature.
The Court Of OwlsIssues Covered: Batman #1-11, 2012.
Storyline: In this very recent story taking place during DC's New 52 universe, Batman discovers that Gotham has been controlled for centuries by a criminal illuminati made up of the richest and most influential people in the city. This story involves a lot for both Batman and Bruce Wayne to do, giving Ben Affleck a solid opportunity to spend a lot of time outside of the suit. It also establishes the chaos and upheaval of Gotham coming not from costumed criminals, but of the 1%, eager to discipline Bruce Wayne for his attempts at improving the city's infrastructure.
What this does also benefits the larger DC universe, explaining fully why Batman just can't waltz over to another city to save another hero. The Court of Owls are everywhere, keeping a presence both sinister and hidden as well as freely open and preying, commanding assassins to go after the Caped Crusader. Establishing such a storyline would go a long way towards affirming Batman's thoughts and feelings about not being able to trust those around him, while keeping Batman's rogue gallery fresh and giving the hero a lot to fight against.
The Killing JokeIssues Covered: Batman: The Killing Joke, issue one of one.
Storyline: In one of the most infamous Batman stories of all-time, the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and cripples his daughter Barbara, forcing Batman to encounter his demons in his final showdown with the Clown Prince Of Crime. It also features the much-debated origins of Joker, told in flashback. It's dark material, for sure, but Alan Moore's revered story presents, to many, the definitive Batman/Joker showdown.
On one level, as the "last Joker story" it seems to effect the chance of a franchise where the Joker keeps returning to threaten the hero. On another, do we really need that? We've had two iconic Jokers over the last twenty five years (three if you count Mark Hamill's). The fact that these two are eternal enemies is something we totally get, and showcasing a singularly terrifying single-movie vision of who the character really is (paging Ben Foster?) would be a total "dropping-the-mic" moment for this franchise, an attempt to distinguish itself from previous versions of Batman while also developing a villain with real malicious menace. It would also set the stage for Barbara Gordon to become Oracle in these films, while building the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon that would be crucial to later movies
A Death In The FamilyIssues Covered: Batman #426-429
Storyline: Robin discovers his parents' lineage to Lebanon, embarking upon a dangerous solo mission that brings him face to face with the Joker. By the time Batman is able to save his boy sidekick, it's too late and Robin is dead at the Joker's hands. This iconic story focuses on Jason Todd, the second Robin after Dick Grayson grew up to be Nightwing. But while Grayson is rumored to be grown up in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it's also been suggested that the Batcave has a monument to a dead Robin, which would match the comics' later dedication to the fallen Jason Todd. It's possible that A Death In The Family already happened to Affleck's Batman.
The question is, do you establish this Robin in Justice League? Or is this both the origin and death of Jason Todd? The real skeleton of the film would be an overseas trip, the vicious actions of the Joker, and the revenge of Batman, who ultimately stops himself from ending the Clown Prince Of Crime's reign of terror forever. The final parts of the story involve a ridiculous United Nations jaunt that makes the Joker into a major diplomat - political satire that played better in the eighties, and would definitely not work in live action after the brutal murder of teenager. There are a lot of minefields here, but introducing, then offing a Robin gives Batman legit pathos that previous Batmen couldn't manage.
Son Of The DemonIssues Covered: Batman: Son of The Demon issue one of one.
Storyline: Batman and Ra's Al Ghul end up pursuing the same assassin, entering an uneasy union that brings Batman closer to Ra's's daughter, Talia. A romance blossoms, resulting in a child, meant to be Ra's heir. This intense story has endless moments of nonstop action, but it also has Batman being manipulated by one of his greatest enemies, resulting a boy that would grow up to become the cursed Damien Wayne.
Again, echoes of the Nolan films. But for diehards, this is a chance to provide viewers the real Ra's Al Ghul, the aristocratic eternal who lives forever thanks to the power of mystical Lazarus Pits. Liam Neeson's Ra's wanted Batman to run the League Of Shadows, but this Ra's would want Batman to become the eternal ruler that he is, a ruthless force for evil that cannot be vanquished. Ultimately, the villains win, with Talia telling Batman she's had a miscarriage when in fact she delivered the young baby to birth. How great a cliffhanger would that be?
GothicIssues Covered: Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #6-10.
Storyline: Batman is recruited by the city's most nefarious mobsters to sniff out a killer picking off villains. The search leads him to come face-to-face with Mister Whisper, a seemingly immortal killer with an occult background. Grant Morrison's eerie story is paced in a way that emphasizes Batman being placed in the middle of an ages-old struggle between good and evil, and it would be a spooky but compelling adventure for the Caped Crusader.
This story is all about creepy atmosphere and imagery, and it would appeal to any film-buff director who sees the similarities between the comic and Fritz Lang's M. It would also give the films a chance to explore Batman and his relationship with criminals reaching an uneasy truth. What's scarier out there than Batman to a callous thug? Well, audiences would want to find out, no? Batman's existed for seventy five years, and it's important to note that Batman stories can encapsulate just about any genre possible.
The Last ArkhamIssues Covered: Shadow Of The Bat #1-4
Storyline: Batman purposely gets himself committed to Arkham Asylum to bust a killer who is orchestrating murder from inside Gotham's most infamous rehabilitation center. This fairly bananas plan of Batman's naturally backfires as the staff attempts to psychologically break him down, and the villains behind bars target the imprisoned hero. Arkham hasn't been given its proper due in the films quite yet, so having Arkham as a character gives Batman a chance to face something much bigger than him, a place deeply embedded in his past history.
This story also allows the character to come face to face with his own psychosis. These films so far have avoided addressing the 800 lb. elephant in the room: Batman is flat-out nuts. Being like that helps him fight crime, of course, but it's created this fractured mind that needs to feed on this quixotic quest for whatever represents justice in Gotham. This is a chance to deconstruct Batman, to challenge him psychologically as well as physically. It's also a chance to get Batman in the middle of a prison riot. I think we all want to see that.
A Lonely Place Of DyingIssues Covered: Batman #440-442, New Titans #60-61
Storyline: A young boy named Tim Drake discovers Batman's secret identity, and attempts to become the new Robin despite Batman's insistence on being alone. The Batman in this story is broken and distrustful, much like the rumored Dark Knight of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, who is said to use drones to do his dirty work. This would be a chance to introduce a new Robin into the mythology while giving an arc for Affleck's Batman, learning how to trust again after surviving a series of unhealthy working relationships.
Robin just hasn't been treated well in the Batman movies thus far. The Schumacher movies borrowed from Nightwing moreso than Robin, while the promise of the character appearing in The Dark Knight Trilogy was enough to make Christian Bale jokingly tell reporters he'd quit. As a result, an entire generation of fans see Robin as an inessential element to the Batman mythos, and not a crucial part of Batman's ongoing Bat-family: the ideal that's kept him sane throughout his life, filling the hole in his life left by his parents. The ideal ending for the character is Batman looking around him and seeing Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and Alfred, and knowing that their collective sacrifice wasn't for nothing.