As the reviews begin to pour in and the excitement begins to rev up for Friday’s The Dark Knight Rises premiere it is hard not to realize that Batman is at an all time high. Not only in Nolan’s trilogy conclusion sure to be epic and defining, comic books geeks are aware that the Batman comic book (the one truly great relaunch in DC’s New 52 initiative, a book that is already getting comic book of the year consideration) has just completed the best Batman story arc in years with the end of Night of the Owls. So where does Batman go now? Sure we will all bask in the brilliance of what we have just read and are about to see for a time, but DC and Warner Brothers don’t really have that luxury. They need to make a plan for the most successful comic book character of all time (when you look at both its comic book impact and how well the character has translated to other mediums including the brilliant video games Arkham Asylum and Arkham City it is hard to make an argument for anyone else). And that is why I am here to help with some entirely unsolicited advice.
In no particular order, and with some concession that some of these are conflicting ideas (you’ll see why when you read on), her are some of the things Warner Brothers and DC should be thinking about.
Warner Brothers, Forget Marvel, Forget The Justice League, The Universe You Should Be Building Is The Universe Of Batman
|Do You Really Want
To Throw This World Away?
Look, you can bang your head trying to replicate the success Marvel Studios has had with their stable of superheroes or you could move on with the world you have already created. Anything you do in the super-powered superhero movie realm will feel like you are just copying Marvel. I know, its not fair, you were first, but the problem is through mismanagement you let your brand slide in the eyes of moviegoers to the point of irrelevance while Marvel has, and continues to, make fun superhero movies. So, if you make a fun superhero movie you are suddenly just copying Marvel. The point is, why bother with it? Nolan has created a world where Batman makes sense and with mild tweaking why couldn’t it be a world where Night Wing, Red Hood, Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman and so on exist. You have already done this with your comic books. Of the original New 52 you had 11 Batman or Batman adjacent titles (Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Batwoman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwoman, Batwing, Batman, Batman and Robin, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Birds of Prey). The world of Batman, absent superheroes, is plenty broad and full of more than enough characters and stories that you will never need someone with super strength to make it work.
Not only is the world broad enough and DC through the years has given you more than enough heroes and villains to fill it (heck, you could even have Green Arrow exist in that universe) it would separate you entirely from Marvel. You keep it dark, you keep it “real” and you keep it very human with heroes that can die very easily.
DC, Pay Scott Snyder Whatever You Have To To Keep Him Building His Batman Universe
The Court of Owls and Night of Owls tie in were awesome! Honestly, I have only read comic book occasionally and in spurts because they usually don’t hold my interest story wise for too long, but I could not wait each week to see what was going to happen in Batman, and I bought all of the tie-ins to see the stories impact on the other titles. In was fun, interesting, brought something new out of all of the characters and was the first real triumph of The New 52. Now I can’t wait to see what he does with the next story arc “Death in the Family” and I am on the edge of my seat to see how he brings the Joker back this fall. Well done! The entire Owls story arc should be made into movie, it would be great.
Warner Brothers, Don’t Forget Batman Can Make Movies No Other Superhero Can
One of my all time favorite movies is LA Confidential. It is a rich story with plenty of plot twists and a lot of characters who you both love and hate. Why do I bring up LA Confidential? Because you could remake it as a Batman movie and it would work. Batman plays Bud, he is viewed as muscle and a vigilante because people don’t see all that he does behind the scenes, and that makes him feel isolated. The rest of the characters could almost stay the same. It could really work. You wouldn’t have to change the tone, the plot points, nothing. So what is my point? There is no other superhero you could make an LA Confidential with. Can’t you see Batman and Jim Gordon doing this scene?
The problem with superheroes is that their powers force their stories to be big. Thor can’t solve a murder. Spiderman might be the only other superhero who can work well on screen solving small crimes, for other superheroes it just seems like overkill. Batman doesn’t need to save the world from alien invasion or even take on a super villain who has superpowers. Batman can take on the mob, just the mob, and you can make a great movie out of it. Heck, Batman, being the world’s greatest detective, could pursue a serial killer and if done right it would be awesome. That is the genius of Batman and the advantage Warner Brothers has. While Marvel is going to be forced to continually put the world at risk to have an excuse to assemble The Avengers (which will eventually strain our collective suspensions of disbelief) Batman can team up with anyone in his “bat” universe just because the Joker is threatening to blow up a building.
Recognize the advantage Warner Brothers and make the Batman LA Confidential movie. Catwoman can be the Kim Bassinger character. I’m telling ya, it works!
Warner Brothers, If You Aren’t Going To Build Off Of The World Nolan Created Than Go Straight To The Justice League
I have said this before, the huge advantage DC has is that there is no need for an origin story for many of their characters. We know who Superman is, we know who Wonder Woman is, we know who Flash is and Aquaman and heaven knows we know who Batman is. So forget back story, just make a kick-ass Justice League movie where the league has to immediately fight an enormous threat. I have long been on the record that a tweaked and reworked Death of Superman storyline would be awesome, but heaven knows there is no shortage of great Justice League stories. Use the Justice League movie as a way to launch the individual movie franchises, not the other way around. Use the Justice League to redefine and introduce Batman and go from there. Its not the way I would do it (see points above, and now you understand the conflicting comment at the start), but if you are dead set in being in the super powered superhero movie business than this is the only way to go (we don’t want another Green Lantern do we?)
DC, Keep Making The Video Games (Both The Arkham Games and the Lego Games)
|It’s Like Playing A Movie!|
My son and I can and do spend hours playing Lego Batman (and now Lego Batman 2) and while he is still too young, I have played both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and they are amazing (its like you are playing a movie!). Keep it up. Let’s be honest, comic books is not going to be the best way to bring new people to these characters, video games might be.
WB and DC, Don’t Panic, Batman Will Always Survive
I saw an interview with a TV sports executive a while back and he said, when asked why football was so popular, that if there were no sports and you were hired to invent the perfect TV competition you would invent football. It has violence, but not so much violence to turn people off. It is easy to understand and complex enough to obsess over. It has natural breaks to allow the viewer to digest what they are watching and it produces enough spectacular things that make you want to watch it again and again. He went on and on, but the point was that while they had no idea what they were doing when they invented the game, they happened to invent the perfect game for the technology age. You could say the exact same thing about Batman.
Batman works because you can go dark, darker than any other superhero, because at his core he is a dark character. You can go real, because Batman doesn’t have superpowers and because of that things are hard for him and he is constantly in real danger. You can go funny, because Batman has always been DC’s secret weapon as the best straight man in comic books. You can go huge because Batman and Lucious Fox will always invent something that will even the playing field. Batman is perfect, he only falters when you screw it up.
But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.