In Zack Snyder's visually stunning adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen, the world of superheroes is different from the ones we're used to. It's a universe where the heroes are filled with moral doubts and grounded complexity, and the common folks aren't very welcoming of their super-heroics. Evidently, it's hard for a superhero to save the day when they might not be able to save themselves. Nevertheless, during the film's highly memorable opening credit sequence, which plays as a stylish montage throughout the years that gives an overview on the history of this world's superheroes, there is a subtle background detail that suggests that Batman doesn't ultimately exist.
At least, not in Zack Snyder's vision for Watchmen. While the contentious filmmaker would ultimately tell the character's story in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and (to a more modest extent) Justice League, it would appear that Bruce Wayne's parents were not killed during that fateful night in the alley in the Watchmen world, likely preventing the character from adopting the cape and cowl and become Gotham's bat-fearing crusader. While the universe of Watchmen has no shortage of troubled superheroes, it would seem that this small detail suggests that Batman is simply not one of them. But what exactly does that mean? If there is no Batman, what becomes of his greatest foes and his biggest allies? And what did Bruce Wayne turn into instead?
Let's speculate on the possibilities of Batman not existing in Zack Snyder's divisive cinematic adaptation of Watchmen.
Nite Owl Rescued Bruce Wayne's Parents From The Mugger Outside Gotham Opera House
As it was spotted by one eagle-eyed Reddit user, the famous opening credits in Watchmen show us a snapshot where Nite Owl is punching an armed masked burglar square in the jaw, in front of a camera flashing, while a well-dressed, well-to-do middle-aged couple is seen fleeing the scene. While the movie doesn't outright say that this couple is Thomas and Martha Wayne, the large sign in the background that reads Gotham Opera House is a pretty big giveaway that this is meant to be the most famously slain progenitors in comic book history. Thanks to Nite Owl, they walked away with their lives.
If Bruce Wayne didn't lose his parents on that tragically fateful night, then there's a very high chance that the character found no need to become the Caped Crusader. More like than not, Bruce likely took over his family business and just became your average handsome multi-billionaire. We're sure you know a few. In any case, if Bruce Wayne didn't lose his parents and didn't become Batman, what exactly does Gotham look like then?
Bruce Wayne Still Becomes The Head CEO of Wayne Enterprises, But He Probably Sticks To Business Affairs And Socializing
Though it's hard to know what a character would be like when his most defining life moment is taken away from him, one's best guess is that Bruce Wayne — no longer robbed of his parents — would likely take over his wealthy father's capital, still be the head of Wayne Enterprises and ultimately enjoy all the privileges that come from being an extremely rich, good-looking millionaire/billionaire playboy at the very peak of Gotham's upper class.
There's a good chance that, after some time partying and philandering with assorted acquaintances, Bruce Wayne will probably settle down, get his affairs in order and raise a family of his own. His sullen demeanor is mostly likely gone, with practically little-to-no reason for Mr. Wayne to adopt such a grim disposition in life, and he would carry with him no fears of forming a family and building the Wayne legacy. There's also a good chance that Bruce would not form such a tight, familial bond with his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, since the professional acquaintance of the family wouldn't need to become a secondary father to the boy outside of making sure he is orderly and decent. Bruce Wayne would live an exceptional — if not heroic — life.
Thomas Wayne Would Probably Have A Tough Stance On Crime
With his life barely intact after this near-fatal encounter with a mugger, there's little doubt that Thomas Wayne — have nearly kissed death — would be living the second half of his life much differently than he did before. Specifically, after his harrowing encounter, Thomas Wayne would likely adopt a tougher stance on crime, and his business perspective (as well as possibly his political perspective) might be drastically changed by this difficult night.
If Thomas Wayne continued to hold court on the company, there's a possibility that — after this terrifying encounter with a low-life criminal — he'd change his business perspective and focus more on protection and safety for the citizens of Gotham. Either this would dispel crime in the area, with criminals feeling more discouraged to partake in any unlawful activities, or they would simply feel more emboldened to do so, and they would simply need to be craftier in their approach. Either way, Thomas Wayne would clammer down on petty crimes and make a point to try to stop it at the root. If not as a businessman, then perhaps as a politician, or at least backing the politician who'd try to prevent widespread attacks.
Batman's Most Famous Rivals Might Not Find The Inspiration To Become Gotham's Biggest Foes
With a man running around in a bat costume, it's hard to know for certain if some of the zany villains that run amok in Gotham would be the people they are in the comics. Sure, they would be criminals (at least, some of them would still be), but would they adopt their over-the-top appearances, notably since they would still live in the Watchmen universe (which is filled with costumed crime-fighters), or perhaps aim for something more subtle?
It's hard to know for sure, but there's a good chance that a lot of these familiar villains might not find their true sense of purpose with Batman/Bruce Wayne. For instance, would Joker still become the Clown Prince of Crime as we know him to be? It's difficult to say. More likely than not, he would still be a madman, running in-and-out of Arkham Asylum, but he would probably be more in line with your typically criminally insane individual, with the clown aspect being less likely. Though last weekend's Joker suggests that even without Batman, there would still be a clown running around town.
Dick Grayson, i.e. Robin/Nightwing, Would Probably Not Be The Crime Fighter We Know Him To Be Today
Without his special interest in orphans, since he would still have two living parents who love and care for him, Bruce Wayne would probably not spend as much time providing for or caring after orphanages in the surrounding Gotham area. Therefore, he would likely never be acquainted — not in any strict or professional sense, at least — with Dick Grayson, the boy-turned-man who would become his sidekick known as Robin (and later Nightwing).
There's a possibility that Dick Grayson would still feel emboldened to solve Gotham's growing crime problem, but he probably wouldn't become a Boy Wonder and don the tights with Batman. Instead, he would likely join the local police force or join the crime division as a detective or something else, without any real physical confrontations involving punching and kicking criminals. It's likely a quieter, less hectic life, and Grayson would probably find himself either in the orphanage for the remainder of his childhood years or perhaps be adopted by a different foster family altogether. Of course, in this butterfly effect scenario, who is to say that Dick Grayson's parents died as well? Maybe in the rippling effect, they also found themselves living as well.
The possibilities that arrive from Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne avoiding death are vast and nearly endless. It is a fun little aside in Watchmen, but it raises a bunch of questions that the movie has no time to answer. Let us know your own personal theories for what Bruce Wayne's life would be like if his parents survived that terrible night in the comment section below. We're sure you have your own ideas that are both fun and thought provoking.
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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