Welcome to the five hundredth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and ninety-nine. This week, in honor of the five hundredth edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, you’ll get a TRIPLE-sized column this week, in three parts (today, tomorrow and Sunday). The special theme this week is comic book anniversaries, as each part will spotlight a different superhero celebrating an anniversary this year. Friday was Wolverine, yesterday was Daredevil and today is Batman. Today, did we almost have a homeless Bruce Wayne in a Batman movie? What company sued Warner Bros. over Dark Knight Rises and what was their surprising reason for suing? Finally, what famous comic book writer was the model for Batman in Arkham Asylum?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Frank Miller wrote a script for a Batman Year One film where Bruce Wayne is a cab driver.
STATUS: Specifically False but Roughly True
One of Frank Miller’s most acclaimed works is his origin story for Batman (with artist David Mazzacchelli), Batman: Year One (which also served to work as an origin series, of sorts, for Commissioner Gordon, as well – Miller’s take on Gordon would inform the character in the decades since).
The story of Batman: Year One was roughly brought to the screen in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the start of Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
But that was not the first time that Year One was nearly translated to the big screen, and the first time, Frank Miller was involved!
Reader David wrote in to ask:
Did Frank Miller really pen a Batman script that portrayed him as a taxi driver?
The answer is no, but I think David’s confusion comes from the fact that while Bruce Wayne is not a taxi driver in the film, he is very similar to Travis Bickle from the FILM Taxi Driver…
You see, in Miller’s script (written in concert with director Darren Aronofsky, who would have directed the film), after the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne disappears and is basically homeless for years. He gets taken in by an auto-mechanic named Big Al (his son, Little Al, becomes Bruce’s mentor and boss). Bruce is a bit of an electronics wizard, so he works for Al and he also eventually decides to become a vigilante. His approach is more similar to the creepy Travis Bickle manner of being a vigilante. After some failures as a “regular” vigilante, Al decides to give Bruce one of the only things he had on him when he was found by Big Al – a ring Bruce’s father wore, with a T and a W intersected. This “inheritance” inspires Bruce and he becomes a successful vigilante (including using his technological knowhow to make devices to aid him in fighting crime) and soon, the mark of him punching people on their faces (the T and the W) soon begins to look like a bat to people and he is referred to as “the Batman.” He takes that idea on and begins to dress like Batman.
Selina Kyle and Jim Gordon are both major presences in the film, as well.
In the end, Bruce inherits his family fortune (just within the nick of time) and he is now set up as the traditional Batman.
All in all, while it was definitely an audacious idea, it didn’t necessarily sound like a BAD idea for a movie. Ultimately, though, it was too dark and too uncommercial.
Aronofsky discussed Warners dropping their approach:
I think Warners always knew it would never be something they could make. I think rightfully so, because four year-olds buy Batman stuff, so if you release a film like that, every four year-old’s going to be screaming at their mother to take them to see it, so they really need a PG property. But there was a hope at one point that, in the same way that DC Comics puts out different types of Batman titles for different ages, there might be a way of doing [the movies] at different levels. So I was pitching to make an R-rated adult fan-based Batman — a hardcore version that we’d do for not that much money
Here is Miller’s script.
Here is some concept art for the film…
Thanks to David for the question!
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: What teenage son of a movie director got the chance to write “the stupidest song ever” for one of his father’s movies, only to see the song to go on to make the teen millions?
On the next page, what company sued Warner Bros. over The Dark Knight Rises?
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