Taking Batman out of Gotham’s Continuity

Written November 3, 2014 by Satish Jayaraj

I believe every Bat-fan has our own version of Batman running around in our heads.

The seven year old who invested his time, body, mind, and resources to become a hero is someone that everyone can relate to. Who he is and what drives his war on crime will always be under debate. Is it heroism, pain, hope, anger, guilt, a feeling of responsibility, or maybe boredom? Has he been planning on this course of action for so long that he just doesn’t know how to do anything else? For me, there will always be a part of Batman who is that seven year old boy who just wants to see his city safe. Who but a seven year old would even dare to dream of actually becoming a superhero, especially when you consider that there were no super heroes or super beings of any kind when Bruce Wayne’s world changed.

One thing that Nolan‘s Batman got right is that it is about a real man fighting against real criminals and real evils. There is no alligator hybrid meta human called  Killer Croc, There’s no mention of Rha’s al Ghul living a day more than a regular life span and Bane doesn’t even have his trademark venom pumping into him. Yes, there was a Transformers-style motorcycle and a flying car but, overall, this was a Batman rooted in a non-superpowered world. A Gotham Central-Batman is also much more realistic for viewers, and because of this realism can even more inspiring. Gotham, the city, might always be a hotbed for criminals and corruption, but it is still one city and not the entire world. Bruce Wayne has considered one problem with his city (crime) and he is handling it.

I love superheroes not just for the pure entertainment but for being a source of inspiration. Every one of us (truly every one of us!) can look at the city we live in, choose one problem – big or small – and one thing we can do about it on a regular basis to make it a better place, and then do it. Maybe while wearing a baseball cap with the Bat logo like I do.

‘Super-save the world Batman’, on the other hand, is so much further removed from our reality.

I don’t know what to expect with the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I am intrigued as much as I am worried. All of a sudden we are going to see a cinematic version of the human and mortal Batman sharing a story with Superman – you know, that fella who accidentally broke a mountain! Again, this Batman needs to be able to compete with someone who broke a mountain! I know there are some people who are upset that Christian Bale will not be reprising his role, but let us not lie to ourselves. The Batman of those movies has no place in a world with Supermen. To try would be a bigger slap in the face than Batman & Robin was to the original Burton movies.

We’ve seen some evidence of what this metamorphosis from “Gotham Batman” to “Super Batman” will look like from the comics and from looking at DC’s animated universe. In the original Batman animated series, it is mostly Batman fighting and outsmarting real criminals. Only a fraction of the villains were metahuman, none of whom were even close to being on Superman’s level. Ultimately it is still believable that mortal Batman is able to triumph over evil with his human mind, body and wits.  It is supposedly this same Batman from The Animated Series who fights alongside Superman, Wonder Woman and the other super-beings in the Justice League series. Aside from points in the story that confirm this, this is a very different Batman.

The first change in Justice League Batman is that all his physical attributes have been upped. He is at least twice as strong, fast, and agile, as he was in his own series. At times, he is even able to handle just as much damage as the other leaguers – though the show is smartly vague about the science behind whatever weapon is keeping the league incapacitated. More often than not it’s an alien weapon with a randomized color effect. I know that Batman is meant to be at his physical peak at all times, but this Batman still looks like he’s been sipping more super soldier serum than average to keep up with his fellow super heroes.

More than his body, Batman’s intelligence has shot through the atmosphere. What I love about “Gotham Batman” is that there is no evidence to suggest that he was born with anything above human intelligence. His smarts come from him constantly working on his mind. He has studied various languages, martial arts, criminology, etc. To me, he is no more intelligent than any other human being (with a billion dollars to fund a life-long obsession) can become. The Justice League Batman, on the other hand, has an intelligence that rivals Tony Stark and Lex Luthor. Now, he is a truly a superhero and no longer someone whom we can relate to as closely as we could.

DC has not been as concerned about continuity as Marvel has, and I might be in the minority that is happy about that. I like that after Dawn of Justice comes out, there might still be places where I can see the Gotham-based Batman that tells more human stories. I think one reason that the Batman Animated Series trumps the Justice League series (which is still very good) is because, being primarily about a man in a Bat suit, the series was harder to write and thus better stories were written. We got to see some real foibles in Batman’s personality. We got to see him break down and come close to giving up. We got to see him make mistakes (Justice League Batman never made mistakes). We got to see real people become villains because of unrequited, lost or broken love, and not just because they wanted to blow up the Watch Tower. My favorite episodes of Batman The Animated Series centered on the relationship between two brothers who grew up on the streets of Gotham. One chose to overcome the powerlessness he felt growing up by joining the mob and becoming a boss. The other chose to bring peace to himself and others by becoming a priest. Where, in a world of superheroes and super-villains fighting to save and damn the world, is there room for beautiful stories such as these?

I’m excited to see this new Batman who will go toe to toe with Superman, because I did enjoy Man of Steel. Mostly I hope that this is not an end to seeing more Batman movies that are contained within Gotham. I’m not totally sold on this new Gotham series yet, but I do appreciate that they are at least trying to answer the question of where Batman came from. I also see it as a promise that Gotham Batman is not going to be completely replaced.