Like any good version of Batman, the Batman Who Laughs has plans prepared for every eventuality, even after being defeated. One of those schemes will be been revealed in Batman/Superman #1, and it has potentially devastating ramifications for the world.
Before he was captured by Batman at the conclusion of The Batman Who Laughs, the twisted version of Bruce Wayne from the dark multiverse secretly infected multiple heroes across the DC Universe with a strain of the same Joker toxin that created him in the first place. This, in turn, will twist them into beings like him. They will all be featured throughout a series of "Infected" tie-ins and one-shots later this year.
While this initially seems like an opportunity to create evil versions of established heroes to appear throughout Batman/Superman, series writer Joshua Willamson doesn't see it that plainly, and specifically said that they were "not evil," but if the corrupted heroes aren't evil, then what are they?
The Batman/Superman writer revealed during an interview that the Joker toxin used against the various heroes doesn't create evil out of nothing. Instead, it follows a similar thread to the specific madness that affects the Batman Who Laughs. The Joker toxin that transformed the Batman Who Laughs before Dark Knights: Metal has honed his ability to defeat any opponent by any means necessary but removed his restraint.
Part of the way it did this was by removing the self-imposed morality that always held Bruce Wayne back when he was the heroic Batman. Likewise, the toxin he used on other heroes will utilize buried frustrations and pent-up anger within the heroes to shape the kind of dark person they become.
Williamson explained that "some of the characters have real reasons to be angry in the DCU. They have real things they're pissed off about, but they've kept some of that anger buried, and now it's going to be unleashed. There are some instances where they're not evil. It's just this version of them that is very angry. Now that's going to be unleashed, and they're going to take it out on some people."
That statement suggests that when the heroes are corrupted, they're not just going to become evil for the sake of it. Instead, without any restraints or morality holding them back, these new versions of the heroes will be targeting specific people for revenge. This could make their missions more compelling as a result, letting the newly darkened versions of the characters have a method to their madness. This could be worse for the heroes than if they were just dealing with full-blown evil versions of their allies.
This is why it's so fascinating to see the specific heroes being targeted. For the most part, it's characters like Blue Beetle, Shazam and Supergirl. All of them are relatively averse to cruelty or villainous intentions, which means seeing their darker aspects brought to the forefront might present a new way to see the characters. It's also more engaging if the dark aspects of them that fuel most of their actions come from within their personalities, helping them feel genuine. It allows the characters to grow, even when they've become demented, and will make any terrible things they do feel all the more authentic and painful. Their actions will be easier to incorporate into the rest of their stories following "Infected" as a result.
Part of what makes the Batman Who Laughs such an interesting villain is that he hasn't lost any of his personality after becoming a monster. He's still Batman, just a broken and mad version of the character. He's not just mindlessly evil for the sake of it. There's a giggling fury to his actions that helps make his moves against the heroes all the more diabolical. Hopefully, the Infected will be the same way.
Instead of being merely evil, they'll become cruel and furious in a way that's unique to their personalities. Seeing these twisted versions of nominally innocent characters, instead of just a more predictable and basic evil incarnation of the heroes could help "Infected" stand out as a more personal and affecting take on the more standard "heroes turned evil" storyline.
Batman/Superman #1 is written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by David Marquez. It is scheduled to go on sale on Aug. 28 from DC Comics.