Followers of this column, as well as its predecessor somewhere over there, are well aware of my observation that our friends over at DC have a tendency to hit the reset button as though they were voting against Trump. The latter is admirable. The former is… confusing.
Case in point: The Batman. Or, as more popularly known… Batman. This has been his 80th birthday year, and it’s being celebrated by the complete lack of a major motion picture showing at a theater near you. I’m not being sarcastic — at least, not in this instance. After the past decade’s worth of Batman theatricals, the most respectful celebration is sans-movie.
That’s okay. Long before there were Batman movie features, and even a couple years before there were Batman movie serials, Bill Finger and Bob Kane created an act that not only endures but has attracted the gifts of possibly the most remarkable list of writers and artists the comics world has ever known. There have been many changes and many reboots prior to what surely must be called “the Mighty Redundant Age of Comics.”
But according to Tom King, the current writer of the lead title and a well-deserved fan favorite, you ain’t seen nothing yet. He’s not spilling the beans (has anybody ever really spilled beans, I ask digressionally?), but it’s going to start happening in something like a year. Pulling off this event required the approval and cooperation not only of the various navigating honchos at DC but of DC’s parent company, WarnerMedia, as well as the approval and cooperation of WarnerMedia’s parent company, AT&T. You know, the company with the Deathstar corporate logo.
Tom told The Hollywood Reporter “I’ve been talking to, not just DC, but Warner Bros and AT&T. What we’re going to do for (my) last 15 issues is something no one’s ever seen for the character. It’s something that’s going to change the character for a generation, or maybe more. Maybe forever… this is a change that’s going to shake the world of Batman and it’s going to leave my mark on the character.”
I have enough faith in King’s abilities to make this work as a comic book story, but history has shown us time and time again that for every major change in the DC universe there is an unequal and opposite reaction, usually in short order and often so fast that even fans with Alzheimer’s mutter “what the hell?” This goes back at least as far as the original Crisis On Infinite Earths, which was invalidated almost immediately after its conclusion when Superman and Wonder Woman each got a hard reboot.
So I’m interested because of the writer, but I’m not the least bit enthused. “Oooh, what will the new Batman be like?” you might ask. I dunno. Maybe Lassie?
History provides us this lesson, but the events in the issue of Justice League that came down the pike just this past week — another “everything you know is now wrong” free-for-all of Photoshopped plotting — ends with the Batman enduring his “final” costume change (art over to your right). This one sort of looks like the popular 2000 AD character Nemesis, but after he got trapped in an expensive anime series. What goes around… makes me dizzy.
Batman has entered his ninth decade, and that’s a very big deal. The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Flash Gordon and a few other one-time A-list heroes made it well past 80, but outside of a dwindling number of septuagenarian fans few people who presently walk the Earth know much about them… or care. I’d hate to see Batman suffer this fate, but if DC continues to threat its family jewels like shape-shifters on somatotropin, Bruce Wayne will be hitting on Miss Fury at the Old Comics Characters’ Home.