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It has been confirmed by producer Michael Uslan that in Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice we are indeed going to get a version of Batman that's older than we're used to. After all, every big screen incarnation of the Caped Crusader has followed a handsome, young brawler whose hunger for justice was as big as his muscles. If the rumors are true, Ben Affleck's "mid-40's" version of the character will be a more seasoned crime stopper who's already lost a Robin and is at odds with another one. He's taken his punches, and it's starting to take its toll on him. Some might complain about this approach, but it's actually rather brilliant when you think about it.
Imagine a Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy that isn't merely about dispensing justice, but about a man who's starting to lose faith in what his ultimate cause is all about. Imagine a man who wants to pass the mantle onto someone else, but has a past that makes him question whether he actually can. The possibilities are plentiful, and for the sake of brevity we've picked six Batman stories that would be perfect big screen adaptations to feature a more aged, but no less badass version of The Dark Knight.
Just a quick warning before we go: comic book continuity WILL be broken in the name of a bigger cinematic narrative and to weave these stories together into one overall arc. I apologize in advance to those of you who frown on this sort of thing.
A Death In The FamilyTo start our new Batman series off right, they'll first need to revisit the events that supposedly inspire Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. As was mentioned in recent rumors, the Batcave will reportedly feature a memorial to a fallen Robin - most likely Jason Todd, as it is on the page. Now, while this would be a step back for the Batman plotline, it would assuredly be a vital one, as it properly sets up Batman's motivations in this overall arc. A Death In The Family is one of those iconic and rich stories that if you get a chance to tell it, you do. You don't just leave an image like a Robin memorial hanging in the air; you either tell the story or don't even mention it.
At the start of A Death In The Family, we find Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd at odds as to how to fight crime. Jason wants to punish criminals through harsher means than Bruce is willing to go. This creates a rift between the dynamic duo, leading Jason to be dismissed. Coincidentally, this is the same time that the current Robin finds out that he was adopted, which sends him on a worldwide hunt to find his true mother. Things come to a head when both Batman and Robin wind up on the trail of The Joker, who is currently brokering instability in a foreign nation. (The story takes place in the Middle East in the book, but it can always be changed for modernizing/cultural sensitivity.) By the end of the story, Robin dies in the crossfire, and Batman is saved by Superman, of all people. It would perhaps be the most tragic Batman movie to hit screens, but it would pack an incredible punch.
Under The Red HoodIf you're going to tell the story of A Death In The Family, then you've already got your work cut out for you when selecting a direct follow up. Under The Red Hood could come after and work perfectly as a full on retelling of a classic story. I've gone on about this story before, but if you're going to introduce the Jason Todd mythos to the DC Continuum, you need to tell both parts of the story. A Death In The Family and Under The Red Hood would make a good back-to-back release combo, slaking the public's thirst for new Bat adventures. Also, the story's structure lends itself to a dual pronged storyline, following both Batman and the Red Hood..
Under The Red Hood tells the story of Jason Todd's resurrection via Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pit - which drives him insane and causes him to adopt the identity of The Red Hood. Unlike Batman, Red Hood has no problem getting cozy with criminals, as he takes over the drug trade and starts offering protection from Batman and fellow criminal Black Mask. However, Todd is serving his own agenda, and everything he does is moving towards his endgame, which is to kill the Joker. After a period of silence and regret, Batman and Nightwing team up and not only discover that Jason Todd is the Red Hood, but also must take him down before he hurts anybody else. After a climactic battle, Red Hood is assumed to be dead, but you know how comic books are with death…
Batman RIPAfter all of the events that have taken place by now, any normal person would be starting to crack. However, Bruce Wayne/Batman is no normal person, and as such it's going to take a lot for him to break. This is exactly what happens in Batman RIP, as a criminal syndicate specifically targets Batman for death, and ends up pushing the Caped Crusader into a full-fledged psychological break. This break is the catalyst for a Batman story so huge and so momentous that Nightwing, Robin (no longer the Red Hood), Damian (Batman's son with Talia al Ghul) and the League Of Assassins all come in to help save the day.
The story begins as the criminal syndicate known as The Black Glove, an Arkham Asylum psychologist named Dr. Hurt, and famous model/Bruce Wayne's girlfriend Jezabel Jet all join together to condition Gotham's sworn protector to have the biggest mental breakdown he's ever had. The breakdown is so great that he actually starts to kill his enemies, and creates a new, very interesting costume (as seen above.) Strangely enough, it's the Joker who ultimately bails Batman out of sudden death, as he sabotages the Black Glove's goons as Batman inevitably digs his way out of a shallow grave. The RIP part of the comic title comes in during a climactic battle between Batman and Dr. Hurt – which results in a helicopter crash. Of course, at the end of the comic (and in this film) the Bat signal turns on, and the city of Gotham is revealed to still have its protector.
Batman IncorporatedDrawing the second act of Bruce Wayne's tenure as Batman to a close could be Batman Incorporated, a volume that allows us to position Batman to expand his reach beyond Gotham and strengthen his net around crime. Given the short length of the series, the filmmakers could also probably pick and choose elements from the whole Batman Incorporated run to put into one film. What’s more, it’s going to lead us to one of the Dark Knight's greatest stories yet.
Right after Batman R.I.P, we find out that in Bruce Wayne's absence, Dick Grayson has become the new Batman with Damian as the new Robin. Of course, Bruce Wayne eventually resurfaces and not only reclaims the mantle of Batman, but also decides that in order to truly and seriously fight a war on crime, he's going to have to go global. This leads the three of them on a globe-trotting trip that finds them recruiting new members, and fighting the crime syndicate Leviathan across the world. By the end of Batman Incorporated, Bruce Wayne will be Batman in a limited capacity, but he'll have a huge crime fighting force working on his behalf.
The Dark Knight ReturnsThe influences of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns are expected to have a root in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. You can see it in the costume, in the place where Batman is at in his life, and even in his relationship with Superman. That said, it looks like Zach Snyder is merely dancing around these themes at the moment, and in order to seriously give the audience a "Bang! Zoom!" moment at this juncture in the franchise, they’re going to have to dive full-bore into this seminal volume in the Bat Canon. Also, as an added bonus, audiences will see the first (and so far, only) female Robin, Carrie Kelley, on the big screen.
A couple of years after the events of Batman Incorporated, all of Bruce Wayne's compatriots have either retired, suffered irreparable (if not lethal) damages, or have just plain disappeared. Justice, clearly, cannot be served by one man (or his organization) alone, and as such, Wayne hangs up the cowl and retires. Decades later, Gotham has become a neon nightmare of sex, drugs, and corruption. The streets are more lethal than ever, and ultimately Bruce can only handle so much before he decides that he's still got one big fight left in him. This isn't a fight he plans to survive, but it's a fight he plans to win... even with Superman being sent in by the government to take him out. The two spar harder than ever, and in the end Bruce Wayne goes underground and resurrects Batman Incorporated to take the battle to the streets.
Batman BeyondIgnoring Frank Miller's extremely sub-par (and extremely weird) sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the next and "final" Batman film is none other than Batman Beyond. If these films are on a regular enough production schedule, Ben Affleck should be aged enough to play a Bruce Wayne of the required age-set. Of course, this means the studios need to pick someone to play the "Beyond" role. Well, since The Dark Knight Returns gave us Carrie Kelley as a female Robin, we could use her character as the initial future Batman. Don't worry, Terry McGinniss could pop up somewhere in there as well.
Batman Beyond could start with Terry McGinniss' father being murdered due to some information he has about some dirty dealings going on at the newly merged Wayne-Powers corporation. When Terry goes to Bruce Wayne for help, only to be denied, he steals the Batman suit for himself. After an initial period of distrust, Wayne decides that two apprentices could work instead of one. It is at this point that we discover that Carrie has been training to be a new Batman as well (it’s established that the position of "Batman" is kept for continuity reasons, much like it's assumed at the end of The Dark Knight Rises). This way, criminals are terrified to face what they think could be an immortal force. When the big mystery is solved, the huge fight is had, and a new trust forged, at the end of Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne can be safely shifted into a supporting role, and the focus on the new crime fighters can begin (until the inevitable reboot occurs).