Storytelling Breakdown Blog Entry 022

Thoughts On Batman After Watching The Snyder Cut – By Ben Clemmer.

What I’m about to say is not a new idea, but it is one that has been thrown around every time a new Batman movie comes out.

It feels like the creators of Batman films, or films featuring the character, have read the same two or three, maybe five or six books.

To be clear, this is not to say any of these books are bad or that their inspiration isn’t understandable. The books are iconic and the inspiration found in the pages makes perfect sense. When one thinks about some of the decisions made in the world of Batman on film since Batman Begins, you can see the influence of Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns from Frank Miller. You also have The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. The influence of the works of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale also is pretty easy to spot and those three titles are Haunted Knight, The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory. The other two obvious influences are Knightfall by Doug Moench and Batman: No Man’s Land, which featured dozens of writers and artists.

We’ve had three on-screen Jokers that have all pulled inspiration from Moore and Miller’s dark portrayals.

The trilogy from Loeb and Sale offers a similar structure to the Nolan trilogy, though you could arguably substitute Batman: Year One for Haunted Knight. Ironically, one of Scarecrow’s most iconic lines in Batman Begins came from Haunted Knight.

“Professor Crane isn’t here right now, but if you’d like to make an appointment.”

I am oversimplifying a bit. The biggest omission so far would be works focusing on Ra’s and Talia Al Ghul by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Our fifth episode on Denny O’Neil highlighted those works. We should also credit Paul Dini for the original writing that eventually led to Harley Quinn’s boom in popularity the last several years.

And I guess that brings me to my inspiration for this next list. Let’s give some other characters, plotlines, and themes a chance to boom on the big screen. Here’s five(ish) Batman stories and what they could bring to the big screen.

5). Batman: Venom (1993)

This one was also mentioned in episode five of the Storytelling Breakdown podcast. The story opens with Batman attempting to save a young girl from an underground cave slowly filling with water. The Dark Knight is in no more danger than usual, but his path to the girl is blocked by a large boulder that he will have to move before her part of the cave fills with water. He tries to move it and he fails to before the girl drowns.

Denny O’Neil knew how to write an introduction. This inciting incident in the first few pages sticks with Batman as he encounters a scientist making pills that are clearly performance-enhancing drugs. What follows deals with addiction and shows a deeply human side of Batman that other stories don’t often touch. The first season of The Boys showed how amazing an addiction and PEDs superhero story can be on the small screen. Batman: Venom could bring that to the big screen.

4). Batman: Gothic (1990)

Grant Morrison has written a ton of Batman in the 21st century, so this one might feel like a bit of a deepcut by comparison. Gothic shares some similarities with arguably the best Batman film ever made, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. There is a mysterious antagonist murdering gangsters with impunity. The killer is someone from Bruce Wayne’s past. 

Other than that, the stories have their own background, lore, and themes that work very well. There’s an amazing scene where the surviving gangsters manage to access the roof of the GCPD and call Batman with the Bat-Signal. Despite their desperate pleas for help, Batman refuses and endeavours to find the killer on his own without offering the gangsters any comfort.

Batman: Year Two by Mike W. Barr is often cited as an inspiration for Mask of the Phantasm. The two books and animated film taken together could make for an amazing Batman film that leans heavily on noir style, mystery, and supernatural antagonists rooted in some of humanity’s darkest tendencies.

3). Batman and the Monster Men (2006) & Batman: Prey (1990)  

Yes, I am a huge fan of DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight series. I’ve now used three of the first four stories from the book’s run. Doug Moench and Matt Wagner penned very different stories here, a decade and a half from one another, but they used the same antagonist, Hugo Strange. 

Strange has popped up in TV, fan films, and videogames, probably most notably as an antagonist in Batman: Arkham City. His profession ranges wildly. In Prey, his focus is more as a psychological foil for Batman. The conflict in Batman and the Monster Men finds Strange himself entangled in Gotham’s criminal underbelly in order to fund his scientific experiments. Hugo Strange makes for a phenomenal antagonist and I’m sure he’ll make it to the big screen soon.

2). Batman: Battle for the Cowl (2009)  

It looks like the videogame Gotham Knights is going to ask a question that could easily inspire a film too. What happens in Gotham City after Batman dies? The entire crossover event that shared the banner with this follows Batman’s allies and enemies confronted with the ultimate power vacuum.

This is a concept that interests me even more after seeing the Snyder Cut. We have multiple actors playing Batman within a very short span of time and at least one of them is dealing with the death of a close ally. What if it was the other way around? From the nineties until now, Batman’s allies haven’t gotten an abundance of compelling stories on the big screen. 

1). Batman: Earth One (2012) 

I made this one number for a couple of reasons. This Geoff Johns work is likely an influence for The Batman film slated for 2022. Beyond the fact that it’s Johns’s work, you don’t need to look much further than the fact that Robert Pattinson is clearly playing a younger Batman. Earth One is a retelling of the origin story. The villains of The Batman also overlap with this particular book. The Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman all appear, along with Killer Croc and one of the characters named Harvey.

Villains like Penguin and Riddler have at least sat on the shelf a little while longer. We’ve had three Jokers in eleven years. We’ll be getting another Catwoman after a decade. I am particularly excited for Riddler. He’s one of my favorite villains. I cosplay as him. He can’t match Batman for brawn, but brains are his domain. We’ve seen classic manic portrayals in green spandex in the sixties and nineties. When I read the character, I hear John Glover’s voice from Batman: The Animated Series. I’m sure Paul Dano’s version will be something else entirely.

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