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This is a big year for Batman for several reasons. For one thing, 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of when the Caped Crusader debuted in the pages of Detective Comics #27, and at the end of March, that same publication will reach its 1000th issue. Cinematically, while attention is now turned towards The Batman and who will replace Ben Affleck under the cape and cowl, we can’t forget that this is also the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman, which reshaped how the general public saw the eponymous character. To celebrate this important chapter of Batman’s history, DC Comics should take a page from the Batman TV series’ book and start publishing comic book stories set in the Burton Batman universe continuity.
For those unaware, back in 2013, DC Comics began publishing the Batman ’66 comic book, which was set in the same continuity as the popular TV series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. So not only could fans experience more adventures featuring the Dynamic Duo clashing against familiar foes like The Joker and The Riddler (all of whom were naturally illustrated to look just like the actors who played them on the small screen), but they were also treated to campy adaptations of villains who never appeared on the original show, like Poison Ivy, Bane, Harley Quinn Scarecrow. And that was just the main series, which lasted 30 issues. Several miniseries have also been published depicting Batman and Robin crossing over with other properties, like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Steed and Mrs. Peel (a.k.a. the British Avengers) and Wonder Woman ’77.
Batman ’66 expanded the mythology of a TV series that had ended decades before, but still kept a sizable fanbase. After all, for many folks, Adam West was their first Batman. The same can be said for Michael Keaton in the 1989 Batman movie, so why not take that chapter of Batman history and bring it to the printed page as well? Even if DC Comics doesn’t already have such a plan in motion, it could be possible to get a Batman ’89 comic book series rolling in the latter half of the year, thus not only celebrating this movie’s 30th anniversary, but also giving fans of Tim Burton’s first two Batman movies at least (ideally) several more years of adventures set in that world.
Just to be clear, if DC were to move forward with a Batman ’89 comic book series, it would be set in a purely Burton-ized world. Batman and Batman Returns are the only in-continuity movies, and Batman Forever and Batman & Robin would be ignored. While part of me is curious to see more adventures set in Joel Schumacher’s wacky world, the fact of the matter is that Burton’s Gotham City doesn’t resemble Schumacher’s Gotham City whatsoever. If it weren’t for Michael Gough and Pat Hingle’s presence in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, you might as well consider those movies a complete reboot of the Batman film series that weren’t nearly as critically acclaimed as their predecessors.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of Batman material to be mined for a Batman ’89 comic book series. Obviously these stories could explore unresolved plot points from the Tim Burton Batman movies, such as show what happened to Selina Kyle after she survived electrocution in Batman Returns and explain the specifics behind why Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale broke up. More importantly, we could see numerous unique, Burton-ized spins on Batman’s rogues gallery and other prominent characters. For example, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face.
You’ll recall that Billy Dee Williams had a minor role as Harvey Dent in Batman, and had Tim Burton stuck around for what was then just Batman 3, the plan was for Williams’ Dent to have half his face scarred and become a criminal mastermind. However, once Joel Schumacher took over on what we now know as Batman Forever, he started fresh on Two-Face and cast Tommy Lee Jones in the role instead. A Batman ’89 comic book series finally gives us the opportunity to see Williams’ Dent fall from grace and become the duality-obsessed antagonist he was meant to become.
Naturally if Two-Face could be Burton-ized, so could the other Schumacher-era villains, i.e. Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane. Those movies adapted those baddies through a zany lens, but just imagine how they could be portrayed in Tim Burton’s darker and gothic Gotham City. They’d be more serious, but there’d still be that sense of fantastical fun that was in Batman and Batman Returns. And needless to say that Batman villains who haven’t didn’t have their time to shine in the Burton/Schumacher film series, or at all so far, are on the table, like Hugo Strange, The Ventriloquist, Killer Croc, Man-Bat, etc.
But a Batman ’89 comic book series doesn’t have to just be about Michael Keaton’s Batman fighting the forces of evil on his own. We could also see Batman’s circle of allies expand past just Alfred Pennyworth and a loose partnership with Commissioner Gordon. Batman Forever saw Dick Grayson joining Bruce Wayne’s life and become Robin, so let’s see that happen with Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, perhaps taking in a younger Dick as opposed to one who’s on the cusp of adulthood. Let’s get a Batgirl who is actually Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and becomes so enamored with Batman that she turns to vigilantism. Bring in some of the more obscure members of the Bat-Family, like Azrael, Huntress, Lucius Fox, Bluebird, etc.
1989’s Batman wasn’t just a landmark achievement for Gotham City’s Dark Knight, but also a huge stepping stone for the superhero genre. It’d be a worthwhile endeavor for DC Comics to honor this period of Batman’s history by expanding that particular mythos on the printed page. Considering how popular Batman still is and how often DC publishes out-of-continuity stories (Elseworlds, Black Label, whatever you want to call it), you can bet such a series would pique a fair amount of interest. The key is for whoever writes and illustrates this series to to envision how Tim Burton would have handled all these characters had he been allowed to continue his Batman film series for as long as possible.
Whether or not DC Comics moves forward with a Batman ’89 comic book series, there’s plenty to look forward to on the Batman front both on screen and on the printed page this year. As far as the character’s cinematic future goes, The Batman is scheduled to hit theaters on June 25, 2021, and director Matt Reeves is reportedly looking for a younger, big name actor to succeed Ben Affleck. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for updates.