WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #996 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin and David Baron, on sale now.
It might surprise you how many comic book characters didn't originate in the comics themselves. In many cases, writers and artists have translated concepts from other mediums and turned them into successful comics properties. This practice has been going on longer than you think. After all, Jimmy Olsen was originally created for the Superman radio drama.
DC Comics has been uniquely successful in bringing characters from adaptations like Batman: The Animated Series into the comic book medium. Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya, for instance, have been met with unprecedented success. Changing Mr. Freeze from a two-bit afterthought to a complex and tragic figure helped revitalize interest in the character. It makes sense that DC would return to that well in Detective Comics #996.
In the march towards Detective Comics #1000, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke have explored the rich history of Batman. So far, in their short run, longtime supporting characters have been killed and video game characters like Arkham Knight are expected to become part of DC canon. Now, over 25 years after his debut, DC brings another B:TAS character into the DCU.
Batman Enters the Night of the Ninja
Someone is attacking everyone who has played a role in Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. A monstrous assailant was responsible for the death of Leslie Thompkins last issue, and now it is moving onto those who trained Batman. Henri Ducard, Master Kirigi and Thaddeus Brown have all been put in mortal danger in Detective Comics #996, but one escapes unscathed.
Kirigi, the man who taught Bruce Wayne the art of ninjitsu, is attacked in his hidden mountain retreat. Seeing the pattern, Batman comes to check on his former master, only to find the place in ruins and the students all killed. Kirigi himself is spared, though, thanks to the intervention of one surviving student -- Kyodai Ken, a character Batman fans will remember from Batman: The Animated Series.
Not trusting the sudden appearance of Batman, Kyodai Ken fights off the Dark Knight, and the two appear to be equals. That is until Batman lets loose and shows off his masterful ninja techniques to finally put his opponent down. The two ultimately find common ground under the tutelage of Master Kirigi, and Batman promises he will return to help them rebuild.
Remembering the Day of the Samurai
Batman: The Animated Series, with its long-standing continuity, has an in depth history with ninjas. Kyodai Ken first appeared in the 1992 episode "Night of the Ninja," and then returned to the series for the 1993 sequel "Day of the Samurai." In B:TAS continuity, he was a student of Yoru Sensei alongside Bruce Wayne in the days before he became Batman.
While Bruce went on to graduate, Kyodai Ken ultimately lacked the honor and morality to remain at the dojo, and he was expelled. Years later, Batman had two run-ins with Kyodai Ken, which ultimately led to the ninja's demise. Fans of the series will probably most remember the character for his fatal death touch technique.
This version of the character seems to have very little in common with what we remember from the show -- at least for now. While he seems to be a man of honor in Detective Comics #996, things could ultimately change down the road. If Batman's promise to help them rebuild is a hint at a future storyline, we may see how this Kyodai Ken is similar to his animated self. If that proves to be the case, then it is just a matter of time before he comes to blows with Batman again.