Fans are already marking the new Batman reboot for developmental hell due to star Ben Affleck walking away from the director’s chair. This is something that’s plagued the DC filmverse as “The Flash” changed directors twice (Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Fumiyama) and is yet to find a new one, with “Wonder Woman” swapping Michelle MacLaren for Patty Jenkins.
Zack Snyder is one of the names being tossed around as he helmed “Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and this year’s “Justice League.” However, what loyalists are calling for isn’t just a director, but a solid script, which seems to be one of Warner Bros. Entertainment’s major weaknesses, as seen in Affleck’s struggle to finalize a screenplay. With that in mind, amid the turmoil, CBR decided to look at 15 stories we think make sense for the reboot!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for multiple Batman comics
15. BATMAN AND SON
In 2006, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert changed the Bat-family forever by placing Damian Wayne alongside his father, Bruce. Son of Talia al Ghul and grandson of Ra’s, the plot focused on threads from the 1987 storyline, “Son of the Demon,” with Damian now sent to Bruce to distract him from his duties as Batman. The youngster developed an intense rivalry with Tim Drake as he wanted to quickly usurp him as Robin and succeed Batman as a ruthless vigilante.
Bruce eventually takes Damian in to keep him from the evil ways of his mother and the League of Shadows, which makes for an action-packed, dramatic and emotionally investing piece. Affleck’s already of age to be a father in the film and it would also reflect Damian’s importance in the current DC Comics. Why not expand the family so that the filmverse includes the plethora of Robins as well? It could also follow the 2014 “Son of Batman” animated movie, which tied in Deathstroke (set to be played by Joe Maganiello) as the lead antagonist against the duo.
14. BATMAN INCORPORATED
Bruce is clearly in recruitment mode after Superman’s death because he knows what’s coming in “Justice League.” It would make sense that while he rallies a powerhouse team to fight the otherworldly Darkseid threat, he also assembles one for the streets of Gotham. This is where Grant Morrison steps in again with his 2010 “Batman Incorporated” book, which he penned alongside artists Cameron Stewart, Yannick Paquette, Chris Burnham and Frazer Irving. It fits Bruce’s cynical and over-protective mode that we’re seeing in the filmverse at present.
After dying in the “Final Crisis” comic event, “The Return of Bruce Wayne” saw him create a network of global heroes for the war on crime. Argentina’s El Gaucho and England’s Knight and Squire were part of this, among others, and if the movie decides to subvert the comic lore, then maybe it could just use popular faces from this book such as Batwing, Batwoman (Kathy Kane) and Cassandra Cain (ex-Batgirl). They could be added in to Bruce exploring the dynamic of Nightwing, Barbara Gordon (Oracle) and his Robins, taking the concept of the Bat-family to the next level.
13. ARKHAM KNIGHT
“Arkham Knight” was the most recent chapter in this video game franchise and it revolved around a militarized Batman-like figure, fighting crime viciously. In an Iron Man-esque armor, this Arkham Knight proved to be a relentless thorn in Batman’s side as Scarecrow threatened to release a toxin bomb over Gotham. Barbara Gordon was a key figure in this as she tried to help Batman, who was pummeled by the revelation that the Knight was former Robin, Jason Todd, tortured and released by Joker, to kill his former mentor.
It was his first step to becoming the Red Hood, enraged that Batman took on a new Robin after him. The story also dealt with a mental haunting of Joker inside Batman’s mind and the eventual release of his identity to the public, which would see Bruce and Alfred disappear in a fiery finale. This isn’t just an explosive story, but one that attacks every aspect of Batman and his philosophies. His failure with Jason could help shape this as one of his greatest battles on the big screen.
12. YEAR ONE
“Year One” was extremely influential to Christopher Nolan’s movies with respect to Bruce’s training, the corruption that plagued Gotham’s law enforcement and also how much of a struggle it was for Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent to fight the Falcone mob. It even ended with Batman saving Gordon’s child, similar to “The Dark Knight” film, as he began to grow into his vigilante role. Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s 1987 story was quite the gritty, hard-edged origins tale, for so many characters.
A decent bit would have to be scrubbed so as to avoid repetition from the Nolan franchise, but one thing they could play up here is Bruce’s interaction with Selina Kyle, who wasn’t Catwoman as yet. Nolan treated her as a conniving thug but Miller’s story was violently romantic and portrayed her as a more cerebral figure, helping shape Batman’s destiny. This could also tie in what made Bruce so violent and bitter if they went the pre-“BvS” route. If it comes after that blockbuster, there’s no reason why street-level rogues such as Calendar Man or Black Mask can’t be added into Batman’s tribulations.
11. EARTH ONE
In 2012, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank started off two volumes of another ground-level Batman saga that dealt with the fallout of his parents’ murders and how it fueled his anger, under Alfred, to become a crimefighter. Quite a few seeds in this Elseworlds story would influence Fox’s “Gotham.” Here, we saw a learning Bruce encounter Jim Gordon, an alcoholic cop Harvey Bullock, the Dent siblings, Mayor Oswald Cobblepott, Killer Croc and lastly, a darker Riddler. These stories really kept Batman constantly questioning his motivations for justice.
“Earth One” was a more human Batman: vulnerable, not just physically, but emotionally. There were tones taken from Nolan’s movies, but we saw a far more flawed superhero in the making. He was less of a detective and more of a brawler, which changed along the way. Fans have long called for Riddler to appear, so maybe the second volume, released in 2015, would be more appealing to adapt. A take on The Penguin as a politician could also be apt, given the current sociopolitical state of the world, as opposed to the outlandish Danny Devito from “Batman Returns.”
10. ARKHAM CITY
“Arkham City” finds Gotham under siege, with Joker yet again spearheading things. It gets quite complicated for Batman as he has to fight off a vast array of villains while seeking aid from a select few, such as Mr. Freeze, Talia as well as Ra’s al Ghul, to save his city and its people, some of whom have been infected with Joker’s deadly blood (mutated due to his Titan usage in “Arkham Asylum”).
With Catwoman and Clayface entering the fray, Batman ends up finding out that one doe not simply trust an al Ghul, in an epic finale that finally puts his feud with Joker to bed. In a battle for an antidote, Joker botches things and loses his one chance at survival, which Batman was ready to give him. He died in the video game, which could offer an interesting option in cinema, although we’re certain no one wants to see this dysfunctional relationship end. It definitely pushes Batman to his mental limit with the Clown Prince of Crime, as the Caped Crusader fights for the very soul of Gotham.
9. THE LONG HALLOWEEN
In 1996, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale built on “Year One” and continued Batman’s early days as a vigilante. He’s tasked with trying to find a mysterious killer, Holiday, who kills people on holidays; one each month. The story also influenced Nolan’s work as Batman worked with attorney Harvey Dent and then-captain Jim Gordon to stop the next murder, while also dealing with Calendar Man, who kept teasing from Arkham Asylum as to the killer’s identity.
What complicated things even more was the gangster war between the Maroni and Falcone families. The plot eventually spirals into Dent’s transformation into Two-Face while linking villains such as Mad Hatter and Riddler, too. This was an all-out ensemble story which could get convoluted on screen, but if distilled properly, we could see Batman racing against the clock to find this street-level thug, who proved to be just as much brains as he was brawn. It’s a ground-level thriller to say the least, which would see Affleck in full-on detective mode.
8. A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
In 1988, Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo created one of the most gruesome Batman stories of all time in “A Death In The Family.” This plot saw Robin, Jason Todd, seeking the mother he never knew, only to be tricked by Joker. He was eventually held prisoner and beaten to death with a crowbar, with a call-in hotline to DC editorial helping decide his fate. It was very controversial and still polarizes fans to this day, despite Jason returning as the anti-hero known as the Red Hood in modern comics.
We already glimpsed a Joker-defaced Robin costume suit in the “BvS” Bat-cave so maybe the studio would be up for going back in time and fully fleshing out what transpired, as a lot has been kept hush-hush on Jason as part of the filmverse. This particular comic event was done to remove the unpopular Robin from the DCU back then but its emotional impact is very lasting, which could be perfect to dramatize on-screen. It would be a bold stroke and one that’ll certainly freshen up a Batman franchise.
7. DARK VICTORY
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale followed up “Long Halloween” in 1999 with this plot, continuing the drama of Two-Face, the Falcone family, the Holiday killer as well as a new murderer, the Hangman. While Bruce tended to this, he also became embroiled in more romantic drama with Catwoman, who got more than she bargained for when she dug into her past. The story also involved the history and destiny of Dick Grayson as Robin.
It was one of Batman’s more personal tales as it hit close to home on all counts, as a lover, father and with Dent, a friend. This story felt like more of a psychological affair as it focused on the theme of family a lot. If anything, the pieces that Nolan didn’t use could make great fodder for Affleck because he’s ideal for the torment and struggle that Batman faced in this book, while trying not to repeat the mistakes of the past, especially in “Year One.” If you want a heavily introspective Bat-story, this is made for you.
In 1993, DC Comics put Batman through the wringer by having him face a multitude of villains in the “Knightfall” arc, such as Joker, Riddler and Poison Ivy, only for Bane to confront him (after deducing his identity) in the Batcave, and break his back. The fallout saw Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, take over Bruce’s mantle, only to grow unstable after a clash with Scarecrow went awry, forcing Bruce to return to claim his cowl.
While Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” focused on Bane’s back-breaker, this movie could focus on Bruce’s struggle with Azrael, who would ironically be providing him with a reflection of how volatile Bruce was in “BvS.” Azrael also alienated Tim Drake, so this story could touch on Bruce stitching his family back together for the sake of Gotham, as well as mending his rift with the distanced Dick Grayson (Nightwing). There’s serious potential here as Bruce’s team would end up facing a monster they created, and who they could have become at some point themselves in their crusade against evil.
5. COURT OF OWLS
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo lit 2011 afire with this secret society that laid roots in the Wayne heritage and shook Bruce to his very core. This violent cabal controlled Gotham for centuries and boasted some of its oldest and wealthiest families. They used murder and riches to wield political influence throughout history with bases of operation hidden in some of the city’s oldest structures.
The leaders of the organization seemed to be humans wearing owl masks, but some lower-ranking members appeared to actually be human-owl hybrids. The Court’s soldiers were a breed of skilled assassins called Talons, who were deployed to quell the threat of Batman and the Bat-family. Having been seen on television in “Gotham,” there’s no reason why this arc can’t be done justice on film, as it involves all of Bruce’s teammates and also pins his legacy to Gotham like never before. It’s a self-contained roller coaster ride filled with crazy fights and creates a threat that tugs at the heartstrings of everything Bruce holds dear, from his city to his loved ones.
4. THE KILLING JOKE
Alan Moore’s 1988 one-shot graphic novel with Brian Bolland is one of the most revered (and contentious) Batman stories of all time. “The Killing Joke” even became DC’s first R-rated animated adaptation because of its popularity. The story dealt with the origins of the Joker and his descent into madness, which sees him shoot and paralyze Barbara Gordon, with sexual assault also more than implied (hence the controversy surrounding the book). At its core is Joker trying to deconstruct Jim Gordon’s psyche, which sets up a wild climax between the Joker and the Bat.
Batman takes the fight to Joker and, after defeating him, an ambiguous joke-filled ending still has comic lovers to this very day arguing if Batman strangled Joker to death in the rain. The animated movie took several (even more) controversial liberties with the story, but if you’re adapting this, you can’t hold back from painting Joker as a sick, twisted maniac. Jared Leto’s Joker fits this mold, so if we really want him and Batman in an intimate fight to the death, this is the best card to pull from the deck. It’s provocative and disturbing but the mind games are worth it all.
In 2002, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee dropped a stunner of an arc with Batman being stalked by a mysterious stranger, who still felt familiar. The story would also link to Bruce’s romance with Catwoman, as well as the connection to several other Batman rogues, including Ra’s al Ghul and Clayface, who had a field day toying with Batman. In the end, it was revealed that the true culprits were the new villain, Hush (Thomas Elliot, an unstable youngster linked to Bruce’s father) and Riddler, who finally appeared to have the upper hand knowing Batman’s identity.
This was a story of pure subterfuge and manipulation with decoys, twists and turns at all corners. It would definitely have the audience guessing and on their toes consistently. “Hush” is an intelligent and intricate plot that is right up Affleck’s alley, so even though the villain may not be mainstream, just having him and Riddler pull Batman’s strings would be enough to elevate them to possible A-list status within the minds of cinephiles. If you want an unconventional yet impressively extensive Batman mystery, you want this on screen!
2. UNDER THE RED HOOD
Judd Winick’s classic brought Jason Todd back from the dead after Joker killed him, spawning an animated movie, as well. The story mainly revolved around Jason, under the guise of Red Hood as an homage to Joker, doling out justice in a deadly manner, starting with Black Mask and his partners. This eventually leads to Red Hood and Batman locking horns, with Jason also taking his rage out on Joker as he felt Batman didn’t avenge his death at the mad clown’s hands.
Further revelations would tie Ra’s al Ghul in as having helped resurrect Jason, kickstarting his violent rampage in Gotham. This was one of Bruce’s biggest mental challenges as he felt like he failed Jason and had him contemplating why he kept letting Joker live. Jason also proved an epic combatant, matching Bruce in the field. Snyder has already left seeds on film for us to see Jason, so why not have him unleash his wrath on the hero that he felt let him die? The Bat-family would be rocked like never before, from someone who was on the inside and who harbors a serious vendetta.
1. ARKHAM ASYLUM
“Arkham Asylum” is probably the simplest yet most effective storyline the movie can go with. This video game plot dealt with a captured Joker pulling the strings at the Asylum, now overrun, with Scarecrow also helping try to destroy the Bat. This was all part of Joker’s plan to unleash an evolved form of Bane’s Venom serum called Titan. Batman would cross paths with all these villains, as well as the likes of Poison Ivy and Killer Croc, to stop Joker’s plan.
This was pure chaos, but it stood out as one of Batman’s most thrilling adventures to date because of how he found himself at the mercy of so many enemies, unhinged and uninhibited, and trapped within the grounds of Arkham. He’d eventually overcome and head back to Gotham City to stop Two-Face’s wave of crime, leading to “Arkham City,” but this was a concise, daring story that threw everything at Batman, testing his mettle in the field and overall resolve when it came to killing Joker. This would make an amazing movie as Batman took on villains galore and barely made it out alive, with his final showdown against a Bane’d-up Joker proving an immense spectacle!
What Batman stories would you like to see in the reboot? Let us know in the comments!
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