I want to start by saying I don’t hate Batman. In fact, I very much like Batman…
However this morning I woke and checked the news coming out of DC FanDome and I felt more of a Batman event than a DC event. There has been more news coming through-out the day of other announcements however it felt, at least to me, that Batman and his world is the driving force behind the extended DC universe as it stands. I will go into them in more detail later but just to recap the numerous ties to Batman and Gotham; we have an Arkham sequel, Gotham Knights, a new Arkham-verse game called Suicide Squad; Kill the Justice League, The Batman trailer, confirmation that the Titans are relocating to Gotham and the addition of Batman-verse heroes and villains as well as not one but two Batmen appearing in the Flash film… We also had Wonder Woman, Shazam and Black Adam news but the dominating headlines are clearly Batman/Gotham-centric. Now, I will admit I haven’t delved into the other news to have come out (ie more on the Snyder cut, comic news etc) but that is kind of my point. Without delving deeper you could be forgiven for thinking this was a Batman Convention and not a DC show. He is everywhere, either in character or in legacy and its pretty overwhelming.
Now don’t get me wrong I know why. Batman sells. He always has and he likely always will. He is a dark, brooding character of late with some incredible films and games under his utlity belt but can’t you have too much of a good thing? I have been very pleased with myself for coming up with the term for this Batman barrage; Batigue (Batman + Fatigue… get it?). Although I am sure I am not the first person to have used this and I am certainly not the first person to have discussed this, but the idea behind it is that DC are focusing on Batman a lot and he gets a lot of love due to his commercial successes and his popularity. And you can’t blame DC for leveraging this, especially as they aim to compete with Marvel on the silver, and sometimes small, screen. But I am also tired of it. Let him rest. I am a Marvel fan but I will admit that, when properly utilised, DC has some of the greatest heroes and villains available in the comicbook world but they aren’t given the focus and attention that they deserve. It almost feels like DC don’t have the confidence in other heroes outside of their comic book pages and this is a real shame.
If Iron Man is a subtle glue that holds the MCU together, with small nods and appearances that become more apparent as the films grow, Batman is a powerful duct tape, indescriminately covering everything in a need to keep it all together.
Speaking to my friends about it this morning, it is difficult to not compare Batman to Iron Man and not just due to the fact they are both billionares in super-suits. These two characters have played crucial cinematic roles and have been the connective tissues between teams; Iron Man was popping up alongside S.H.I.E.L.D in early Marvel films while Batman was a key founding member of the Justice League. The crucial difference is how they are used. In a now deleted post that I may revisit, I spoke about the world building of Marvel v DC and how the MCU became such a juggernaut while the DCEU has stumbled and staggered along behind it’s rival and a lot of this in my eyes is based on how the films are fundermentally connected. If Iron Man is a subtle glue that holds the MCU together, with small nods and appearances that become more apparent as the films grow, Batman is a powerful duct tape, indescriminately covering everything in a need to keep it all together. There is very little subtly in the way he is used meaning that most DC films have to have a nod to Bruce in some way or another. Consequently, this also means that these films and characters struggle to grow from underneath he huge caped shadow he casts.
If you take this point and you then think of the upcoming announcements, you see the likes of Keaton coming on board with the Flash film alongside Affleck and you think, ‘great but what about Barry Allen’s story?‘ Apparently Flash’s new suit was created by Batman… Okay but Barry is a smart fellow and even in the JL film they even make a point of saying that he created his suit so why should Batman be influencing something which was part of Flash’s introduction in the JL? Maybe it will get resolved but I wish that Barry could be afforded the room to grow outside of these two Batmen. You then think of Gotham Knights; love the four characters and I am super excited to play as Nightwing, but it is focused on Batman’s legacy. The crucial point here is that these characters need to grow from Batman’s legacy and not be bound to it which the Arkham games in general have a real risk of doing. I also really believe that Batman isn’t dead but is instead faking it in order to defeat the Court of Owls. And I really hope that if that is true, when he is reintroduced, it doesn’t undermine any growth seen by the four side-kicks up till that point. You then consider that Batgirl and Scarecrow are also being added to Titans and you think, well that again is a very Batman-centric influence creeping in. Combine this with the move to Gotham when they have barely spent any time in San Francisco from Season 2 and it leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth as the whole point of the Titans is for them to try and break away and define themselves as individuals away from their mentors. By doing this you are putting two Robins back on the doorstep of the very mentor they were seeking to break away from. Don’t get me wrong, it could serve as a way to demonstrate their growth but it also runs the risk of making this a Gotham based super team.
I want to stress here, I am not saying that these will be bad choices. They are cool narrative shifts and they, hopefully, serve a greater purpose but I also feel that the everlooming prescence of the Caped Crusader is beginning to define some of these characters and franchises more than they should. There is HUGE potential within all of these announcements and you can see that DC are trying something different… but there is also HUGE risk that if push comes to shove the studios and writers will be forced to choose an almost guarnteed commercial success over genuine, character growth and development, by not taking risks with new characters and instead rehashing stories and locations that they know sell.
As you can see from my psychedelic gif above, Batman has always been surrounded by his Super Friends but for me, seeing these headlines this morning and the content coming out of the event, I can’t help but see it as Batman AND his Super Friends. I know that Wonder Woman 84 has had her new trailer and it looks cool, while the Black Adam and Shazam; Fury of the Gods announcement is very welcomed but they all felt very secondary to a very Gotham focused event. The Suicide Squad film looks like it will be a lot of fun and to be honest could well be very distanced from the Dark Knight which I would welcome. It would allow James Gunn to explore some of the quirkier aspects of DC, even if some of it stems from Gotham. It shows that there are fresh areas to explore within the universe and the DC are willing to experiment but it feels like a toe dip rather than some of the riskier but arguably more exciting leaps they could take into other source materials. I defer back to Iron Man again, yes he is a huge narrative force in later films, especially in his role with Spider-Man, but he was afforded the time to grow independently while other characters were also afforded space. Remember, Iron Man himself was a B lister at the point of the first film which meant he could be developed with a growing and maturing fanbase; Batman hasn’t got the luxury of this. I mean how many more times do we need to see Thomas and Martha Wayne die?
On that point and I know I haven’t mentioned it yet and don’t worry this post will be over soon I promise, but the new Batman film looks great! But also why? Why do we need another Batman story? I know this one will be more detective focused which is welcome news but again this is resource that could be used to develop new characters and introduce the audience to some of the honestly great creations that sit within their pages. Bear in mind as well, these criticsms of Batman also, to a certain extent, extend to the Joker too. The two are immensely popular but again they are being milked for all they are worth. I would not be surprised (especially with the very suspect clown face paints on the thugs) if the Joker isn’t revealed to be either the big bad/driving influence/unintentional creation of the new Batman film. It looks great but I am genuinely more excited at this point about seeing the way that the Shazam family will evolve and how Black Adam will fit into these stories.
Basically, and I have stressed this a lot as I know that it could sound like I am bashing on Batman, but I am excited about what has been shown! I just have a lot of reservations and really wish that DC would have some confidence in their other characters and faith in the community to explore new, unwalked paths. Give me Booster Gold or Zatanna! Hell, at this point I would be fine with a Plastic Man film. Just give Batman time to rest and let someone else take centre stage for a few years.