One of the spectacular aspects of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga is how rewarding it is for Batman fans who are well-versed in Batman comic book lore. Nolan and his writers draw upon dozens of great moments, themes, concepts, and set-pieces from various comic stories to build an incredible single story. For example, The Dark Knight was a delicious blend consisting of parts of the 1996 maxiseries Batman: The Long Halloween, the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run on Detective Comics in the 1970s, the 2003 comic series Gotham Central, and, crazily enough, a lot of 1940’s Batman #1!
However, outside of WB/DC’s direct-to-DVD animated features, there have not been any direct adaptations of a Batman comic or series. Now that Nolan is finished, Warner Bros. is guaranteed to go back to the DC Comics well and try to mine some new gold. The wonderful thing about Batman is that he can fit into any genre, any tone and the character will always work. He’s just that great. WB will probably try to stay within the tone of what has worked so well over the decade, the dark, realistic Bat-world. I doubt they are going to change much. I say, let’s look at some other stories in the Bat-canon that would not only make potentially fantastic movies, but also spur the powers that be to think outside the box a little when it comes to the Caped Crusader.
This 2005 mini-series, along with its sequel Batman and the Mad Monk, take place in the early years of Batman’s career, but it’s not Year One. Batman has had some success. Bruce Wayne is courting the beautiful Julie Madison. The Gordon/Batman relationship is blossoming. The story is a re-exploration of 1941’s Detective Comics #41, with the villain being Hugo Strange (a character not yet seen in film) using the mob’s money to perform radical experiments on Arkham Asylum patients. What’s great is that this story allows filmmakers to draw on Matt Wagner’s incredibly atmospheric art and creepy monster designs. It also relies heavily on the detective side of Batman, at the same time that he’s fighting giant monster men, which is Batman territory not yet ventured to: the crazy-ass 1940s Batman stories when the creators were experimenting all the time trying to see what made Batman tick. Giant monsters certainly do.
There are so many great things to say about what is unquestionably, in my opinion, the best Batman comics work of the last decade. The series is a view inside the Gotham City Police Department Major Crimes Unit (day and night shifts). The series, written by both Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, is a character study into what it means to be a cop in a city where they can flip a light switch on top of their building and guy no one knows comes in to do their job for them. It also explores how normal, hard-working cops deal with living in a city with a literal rouges gallery of psychopathic criminals, some of whom invade their personal lives. While Gotham Central might make for a better television show, a low-budget film by a hungry director would do wonders for an audience. It would be a bold choice to use delve into this source material not as the Batman series reboot, but a film that runs alongside. Let the Batman reboot go ahead, but have a film that is smaller, where Batman is only mentioned, is a shadowy weight in the film, but not really seen.
Why not? Everyone knows Batman, everyone knows Robin. Start a film where we don’t need an introduction for them; we’re launched into a new film, but there’s a totally new lead character. This isn’t the boys’ film, this one is Batgirl’s. Published in 2003, Chuck Dixon, Marcos Martin and Scott Beatty’s Batgirl: Year One expands on her original Silver Age comics debut. A younger Barbara Gordon graduates college early and wants to follow in her father, Commissioner Gordon’s, footsteps. Her dad forbids her from being a cop, so she does what any rebellious teenager does, becomes a crime-fighter anyway. Inspired by Batman, she dons her own cape and cowl as Batgirl. It’s a classic story and plays a lot on the single dad raising a teenage girl angle, which is fantastic. Batman and Robin are supporting characters which I think is really fun. Robin, of course, is attracted to her and I believe that would be a fun romance for the audience to watch. The Bat-universe is huge, and so is the family, why can’t the films expand too?
Talk about expanding the universe. Talk about low-budget. Talk about creepy Batman-ness we’ve never seen before… this one’s a doozy. Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s 1989 graphic novel paints a picture of Batman and his rogues gallery as how they really might be if Gotham was a real place, with the kind of psychosis and insanity these people really have. The plot is pretty simple, the inmates have taken over the asylum and Batman is alone inside with Joker, Two-Face, and the Arkham staff have been taken hostage. The characterizations are brutal and terrifying. This could be another smaller Batman film. By no means could this be the blockbuster they are looking for, but if they ever wanted to give a very dark, visually talented director and R-rated Batman picture, this is the place to start.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that The Dark Knight Rises uses bit and pieces of Frank Miller’s 1986 classic, but The Dark Knight Returns is so iconic, so classic and so cinematic it lends itself to have a filmed version do it justice. Frank Miller and Zack Snyder have publicly talked about making this a reality and I think the two would work well together on this project. A literal, live-action adaptation, done only as a one-off would be really spectacular. Again, this isn’t the franchise blockbuster WB wants, but is also still proof, they can make 100 Batman movies 100 different ways and we’ll always line up to see the Dark Knight any way we can get him. P.S. George Clooney should play Batman again in this one.
Fuck it. Go crazy. Published in 1989, it’s thought of as the first Elseworlds story–a term used by DC comics for stories that are outside of all continuity and are vastly different takes on their characters often switching up time, settings, look, and character relationships. This story–by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola, and P. Craig Russell–chronicles a Bruce Wayne and James Gordon living a Gotham City in 1899. The tale is what if Jack the Ripper came to Gotham and Batman must investigate. Sure, it sounds a little cheesy, but the book works remarkably well. Face it; we all know the tale of Jack the Ripper. We all find it interesting. Add Batman. What do you get? Awesome. It’s a radically different way to approach a Batman movie, but my point is, Batman is unbreakable. Yes, the previous modern Batman film franchise wasn’t the best and had some bad movies, but that wasn’t Batman’s fault. Even after Batman & Robin tanked the franchise, we were disappointed but the next question out of our mouths was still, “when’s the next Batman?” I don’t think we’ll ever stop, we’ll always be interested. So, Warner Bros., what I have to say to you is: go crazy, be adventurous.