Superhero Adaptations As Completely Separate From Superhero Comics: Why Adaptations Can Tell Different Stories

I’ve made multiple posts about the nature of adaptations of superhero comics – one about why we don’t need word for word translations, one about the impact they have on how we perceive characters,  one about how adaptations sometimes displace the material they’re based on in public memory, and a few more. But now I have to make yet another, because a while back, I saw a post saying that you can’t make comic adaptations realistic without completely changing the heart of the comics, and I disagree with all my heart. Because I think that’s why adaptations are nice. By their nature, they’re not going to continue for decades. And that lets you explore topics that will, no matter how good the writing or the art, always end up falling flat in the comics themselves.

You cannot really delve into certain topics in comics because the nature of the medium means they’re never going to change. Take Robin. Obviously, I adore the concept of Robin, the characters to have borne the mantle, and all that. I think Robin is so essential to Batman, that you cannot have a Batman story that rings true without them – or, at least, one of them. But I’m also well aware that, if you apply that to a real world setting, it goes from being a lovely concept of a found family of misfits and strays that don’t fit in anywhere but with each other saving other people so that no one has to suffer the way they did to a frankly disturbing story of reckless child endangerment. This is especially true when you consider the not-Dick Robins, because Dick’s case was unique. He had skills that the others most definitely did not, and the same anger/grief/what have you that Bruce did. By the end of it, he came out shockingly well adjusted. This combination makes it easy to believe that Bruce did more good than harm, and that Dick would have got himself killed had he been left on his own. The others? Not so much! They didn’t have the same skills and training. They didn’t have the same motivation where they were going to do it regardless of what he did or said. They were brought into vigilantism because of the precedent Dick set…and the fact they looked up hugely to Batman. The person that was supposed to be the responsible adult telling them, no, you most certainly cannot go out at night and fight supervillains, these guys are killers. However, Robin – as a concept – is so much part of the foundation of DC that it’s not going to die anytime soon.

My feelings about the oversaturation of the Batfamily aside, Robin as a legacy matters, no matter who’s using the nameSo you can’t have meaningful stories questioning whether or not the legacy should exist. Not really, because even if you have a great story challenging how heroic someone can be if they’re taking a child into combat situations…it’ll fall flat, because nothing changes. It doesn’t matter. It’ll be a forgotten Aesop in a month. You probably think I’m exaggerating, right? After all, we don’t forget about Jason! But even though he’ll always be remembered as the Robin who died and his death had a huge impact on Bruce and Dick, it didn’t really last, because Death In The Family and Under the Red Hood didn’t end the Robin mantle. Court of Owls and all the unflattering parallels drawn between Bruce and the Court didn’t end the Robin mantle. So despite how great those stories were, themes alone don’t really mean anything unless there’s follow through.

You can make plenty of arguments as to how Tim, Steph, and Damian were different from Jason. Sure, Bruce tried to dissuade them more than he ever tried with Dick or Jason. Tim knew full well what he was going into. Stephanie, like Dick, had personal reasons motivating her and was already in costume before she became Robin. Damian was raised to be an assassin. But the fact of the matter is that Robin continues to exist, not because the post-Jason Robins were different from Jason, but because the legacy is too iconic to let die.

Comics work because they’re not set in a real world. They’re in a fantasy where people can have problems that are either like ours or just similar enough to be relatable, but where the solutions they have are not the solutions that should work in a real world. They’re in a world which is just different enough that when something seems weird, we can just shrug and accept that that’s how this other universe is. Comics can delve further into topics like, how healthy is it to deal with your trauma by going out at night and beating up criminals? or is training a sidekick the same thing as using a child soldier? but the second they do, the whole damn universe falls apart, because once you start trying to apply real logic, you can’t stop until there’s nothing left. Once you start trying to ask these questions, more and more will arise. You simply cannot try to apply comic book tropes to a real world setting.

That’s what’s nice about adaptations. Things like Titans and the Under the Red Hood  movie can contextualize comics. They can apply the issues raised to a real world setting. And that’s okay, because they end. When we’re watching an adaptation, we can see things change for the better, we can see characters learning lessons, without having to deal with the fact they’ll inevitably forget those lessons so that the story can continue, because in adaptations, the story isn’t supposed to continue! I talked about something similar in this post about how Jason isn’t a sustainable character. My reasoning revolved mostly around how I didn’t think he had a place to go as a character while still being a vigilante, and I think the heart of that argument is basically the same as this one: conclusions give stories weight. That post is largely about how Jason’s character development keeps getting reversed because he can’t really exist without the angst over his death, and this one is about how in adaptations, he doesn’t need to. In an adaptation, we can have a character that completes an arc, then doesn’t go back on it, because it ends. We can have a story that means something continue to mean something, because it doesn’t continue on only to for the moral of the story to be forgotten.

Death doesn’t mean much in comics. Not just in terms of people coming back, but in terms of the impact on other characters. It can’t. Not when there’s so much going on. It’s not that a death will never be brought up again. But it’s rare that it has a consistent, continuous impact on others, unless it’s relevant to the story being told, like Bruce’s after Final Crisis. And deaths and resurrections are now so common that they lose their impact on the reader. The greatest comics are those that have a point, and when the story is endless, those points almost inevitably get confused.

Furthermore, the writers of adaptations thinking critically about the source material and making changes keeps things fresh and interesting. It gives us things that are different, stories of which we don’t know the outcome going in. That’s not a betrayal of canon. The specific changes made might demonstrate a lack of love for the source material, but it might also demonstrate an enduring love for it. Take Gotham. A lot of people used to – not so much anymore – complain about how it “messed up the chronology”. To be fair, I used to kind of agree. Gotham was sold as a gritty crime drama about the mob families. As a prequel that would tell the story of how Gotham got to becoming the city that needed Batman, the city where supervillains thrived. And that was great. Except that, with a few exceptions, most of the villains that are traditionally around Bruce’s age were aged up so that they were already fully grown adults at the start of the series, while Bruce was only twelve. Meaning that, if the writers followed the traditional timeline, the villains would be well into middle age by the time Bruce put on the cowl, and by the time most of the Batfam showed up, they’d be fighting senior citizens. Which is why it was so great that by seasons two and three the writers had completely abandoned that premise. It became very clearly an Elseworlds tale, because instead of being a Batman prequel, it became what was, essentially, a Batman story, if Batman were a teenager. It’s about Bruce having to get his training from within Gotham, not outside it, and finding ways to help well before developing fighting skills. It’s an awesome take on the mythos and a sign of writers that care about the long history of Batman and telling a good Batman story while also making something we’ve never seen before.

Comic fans are impossible to please, and we all know that. You have people that complain about Gotham being too little like the comics and people that complain about Watchmen being too much like them. So the best way to tell a story based on superhero comics has to be embracing the new medium. As great and universal as the characters are, comics are different from animation are different from live action, and different stories are best suited for each medium. The more that idea is embraced, the better stories we can get.

Advertisements

World Building And Lived In Universes

When the second episode of Titans – “Hawk and Dove” – came out, one of the things I thought was that it felt like Batman v Superman. Coming from me? That’s about as high of a compliment as I can give something.

It’s strange, because in a lot of ways, they’re very little alike. Batman v Superman was a sequel, not the start of a new universe that Titans is. But they still feel similar, because they’re both set in already established worlds. In Titans, there were obviously the big details, like how Dawn, Hank, and Dick all knew each other prior to the series and the fact that Dick isn’t working with Bruce anymore. But there were the smaller things, too – Dawn’s Superman T-shirt. The photograph of what was presumably this universe’s first incarnation of Titans. Dick’s contacts list, which included not only Bruce and Alfred, but Donna Troy and Lucius Fox, as well as an assortment of minor characters – Bridget Clancy, Bonnie Linseed, Lori Elton. This is a continuation of the same pattern in the pilot, where Dick’s coworkers are talking about how he’s from Gotham, and how it’s anybody’s guess what happened to his old partner – he could have even been gassed by the Joker. That’s how everything about Gotham feels in BvS.

Like I said, Batman v Superman was a sequel. But while it continued plot points from Man of Steel, it introduced Batman as an already established hero that’s gotten much more brutal recently. He’s twenty years into his career. Losing everyone that’s ever mattered to him has left him jaded and brutal. We don’t see much of Gotham, but we know it’s a crime ridden cesspool with a pretty bad reputation. The Joker doesn’t play a role, but we know that Gotham has a history with him. Even in regards to Superman – we know how he started off – we saw that in Man of Steel. But we weren’t shown all the details of his life since then. We see the gist of it, not the details – he saved a bunch of people, moved in with Lois, is in a good place.

By contrast, there are shows like Gotham. That’s my favourite comic book show. I love it with all my heart. And it has a very different vibe. The city feels like one with a lot of history, like a city that was holding on by a thread until the Wayne murders. But the show, the characters…that all feels fresh and new. However lived in the world may be, there’s a new world order coming and a new status quo that the residents will have to live with. That’s because the show is a prolonged origin story, and over the seasons, we’ve been there for just everything that makes Bruce Wayne who he is.

We were there when he watched his parents’ murder. We were there when he failed to deal with it. We were there when he met Jim Gordon, when he met Selina Kyle and found a reason to smile. We saw him train and grow and confront villains, saw him regress and pick himself back up and start fighting crime for the first time in a world where the new phenomenon of supervillains is emerging. That’s not at all what it’s like in Titans or Batman v Superman, because they start in the middle, not at the beginning.

Sure, we see the basics of Dick and Bruce’s lives and traumas in those stories. In the case of the former, we’ll probably see more as Titans progresses. But how we see that is very different. In both cases, it’s through flashbacks, not what’s occurring in the present. More than that – with many shows and movies, flashbacks are just regular scenes set in the past, sometimes with a different colouring to indicate that it’s not the usual timeline. Not so in Titans and BvS. There, there’s a separation. Stylistically, it comes across as a memory.

In Titans, the first flashback to the Flying Graysons is from Rachel’s perspective, not Dick’s. We hear voices as echoes, we don’t see every detail of what happens, it’s more like flashes of images than a scene. And in one of Dick’s very first scenes, we see him years older wearing a costume we never saw him put on, much less for the first time, and confronting criminals who already know who he is, even though we didn’t see when he got that name. We know that he had a life before this show, one that we’re never going to know all the details of. In Batman v Superman, it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s a compressed telling. It’s stylized. We don’t hear voices or see every frame, we just hit the main points – what Bruce is never going to forget.

This particular brand of storytelling appeals to me so much – sure, it’s great to be with characters through the entire journey, but when flashbacks are a major part of it, I like not seeing all of it, or piecing it together slowly. It’s not all thrown at us at once. It’s enjoyable.

Every Insane Thing That’s Happened On ‘Gotham’: Jim Gordon

Oh, Jim. Jim Gordon, Gotham’s protagonist, is one of the most recognizable characters in the Batman mythos – supposedly, he’s the one good man in the GCPD that will go on to become the famed Commissioner Gordon, but Gotham being what it is…well, no one really has the protection of canon. Here is a partial list of the stuff he’s done and that’s happened around him:

  • Pretended to kill Penguin, launching an arc of a pair of detectives from the Major Crimes Unit (Including Renee Montoya!) thinking he’s a murderer and trying to find the evidence.
  • Jumped on a rising balloon with the Balloonman to force Bullock to shoot it down.
  • Got arrested for killing Penguin. When he insisted he didn’t do it, Bullock backed him up, only to be surprised and angry when a very much alive Penguin walks in.
  • Bullock threatened to shoot him.
  • Found Butch holding Barbara hostage, rescued Barbara, and told her to get out of Gotham for a while. That’s just common sense, Gotham is a horror movie, no one should live there.
  • Tried to get an arrest warrant for Falcone and the mayor (Mayor James, the first mayor, Gotham goes through mayors disturbingly quickly.)
  • Had a shootout with Victor Zsasz right in the middle of the police station. In a city like this, is it really any wonder that someone decides, ah, yes, I should make this better by dressing up as a giant bat and fighting crime?
  • Got rescued by Allen and Montoya! I miss those guys, remember when they were actually around? And their department  did stuff?
  • Used Major James as a hostage to get into Falcone’s estate, but Falcone had Barbara. Nobody dies!
  • Got reassigned to guard duty at Arkham Asylum, where he met Leslie Thompkins. That only lasted a couple episodes before he wound up back at the GCPD.
  • Broke up a fight between Dick Grayson’s future parents when he went to the circus with Lee.
  • Blah, blah, solved some crimes, did some stuff, dated Lee, found out his former fiancée had started killing people, the season ended.

Okay, here’s the thing about season two: an absurd amount happened. What may be considered either a strength or a flaw about Gotham is the number of subplots. That’s been the case in all the seasons. There’s always a huge amount going on, which can make the show feel overstuffed, but also means that there’ll probably be at least one storyline that interests you. Season two…well, it’s a ride. To keep this a reasonable length, I limited this list to t he weirdest events.

  • Started the season as a patrol officer and not a detective, does a favour for Penguin to get his old job back.
  • A bunch of Arkham escapees killed a bunch of people in the police station. I’m starting to think this is the least safe place in the worst city in the world.
  • Complained about Lee saying yes when Ed asks them to go on a double date with him and Kristen.
  • Decided to support Theo Galavan’s mayoral candidacy, demonstrating why he’s a terrible judge of character.
  • Got taken hostage by Barbara, along with a bunch of other people, a priest, and Lee. Oh, a wedding! And a further demonstration of how Jim is a terrible judge of character. He nearly married this woman.
  • Got arrested once or twice for the whole Galavan subplot, I don’t even know.
  • Got framed by Nygma for killing what’s-his-face the police officer and sent to Blackgate.
  • Shot Galavan-resurrected-as-Azrael a couple of times. Didn’t work.
  • Got replaced by Clayface impersonating him.
  • Bullock accepted it when he said he was acting strange because he had the flu. It took Barbara realizing he wasn’t Jim and hitting him in the face, causing it to deform, that made it register for everyone else. The GCPD, everyone: the most incompetent group of people imaginable. No wonder this city needs Batman.
  • Interpreted Ethyl Peabody’s plea for water as her suggesting he use water to defuse a bomb. He’s not that bright, but he does his best.
  • Quits his job and uses Bullock’s car to leave town and find Lee, who had a miscarriage and left Gotham a few episodes before.

Yeah. This show is weird.

  • Spent some time as a bounty hunter.
  • Started dating Valerie Vale.
  • Jervis Tetch tried to hypnotize him into killing himself.
  • Got Valerie shot. Wow, Jim. That’s a dick move.
  • Got infected by some kind of hallucinogen, and guided through all his guilts and fears by Barbara.
  • Got punched by Mario.
  • Shot Mario, who was infected with the Alice Tetch virus. Just to reiterate, that’s his ex-fiancée’s new husband. (The ex-fiancée being Lee, not Barbara.)
  • Zsasz warned him that Carmine was going to order him to kill him, but that it wasn’t personal. After all, he didn’t even like Mario.
  • Carmine called off the hit that he himself had ordered. Make up your damn mind, dude.
  • Saved Alfred from Jerome’s goons, then later punched off Jerome’s face.
  • Joined the Court of Owls for the brief period of about two days.
  • Lee thought he killed his uncle and made it look like a suicide. It was the other way around.
  • Got buried alive and injected himself with the Tetch virus to get  out.
  • Shoots off Barnes’s hand when Barnes gets sent to kill him. Stabbed Fish while under the influence. Jeez, Jim.
  • Ends the series determined to be a good cop.

Okay, so season three could well have been a series finale. It wasn’t, but it left everyone in a place where we could see them getting to where we know they’ll be in the future, including Jim. Season four? It kind of threw that out the window and got weirder.

  • Went to Carmine Falcone for help dealing with Penguin and his licensed crime. You know, Jim, it’s really not that smart to ask the father of the guy you shot for help.
  • Met Ra’s al Ghul, and later arrests, Ra’s al Ghul. Wait, what?
  • Slept with Sofia Falcone, his ex-fiancée’s sister in law. You know, the sister of the guy he shot. Jim. Jim, please. Make better choices.
  • Warned Alfred that Ra’s is going to be released because he has diplomatic immunity.
  • Didn’t report Bruce for killing Ra’s, which, fair enough, Ra’s is an assassin, but you know, that’s probably taking Gordon a step further away from being the token good guy he’s supposed to be.
  • Started investigating a serial killer that’s hunting down corrupt cops. Hi, Professor Pyg!
  • Found out Bullock is on Penguin’s payroll. Oh, come on! Wasn’t his “become a better person and start caring about helping people again” arc way back in season one?
  • Got offered the captain job.
  • Got framed by Sofia for shooting Pyg, which apparently forced him to lie about it to prevent Gotham from descending into chaos, but I don’t exactly buy that as plausible – Gotham is always in chaos.
  • Shot a masked Bruce. Well, that’s just rude.
  • Got shot repeatedly by Sofia before Lee showed up and shot her. So dramatic.

I’m starting to think this series of posts was a terrible idea. There’s too much nonsense that happens in this show.

Six Gotham-Based Characters That Should Show Up In the DC Extended Universe

We’ve been introduced to a lot of the DC Extended Universe’s interpretations of DC characters, and we have confirmation that there are plans for several more, but DC has been publishing comics since 1934, and it has a lot of characters. Knowing that there are plans for Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing movies in the works, I started thinking about characters specifically tied to Gotham and the Bats. Here are some of the ones I want to see most of all in a future Batman related movie.

1. Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Black Bat)

I’m a huge fan of the Bat family. When the still from Batman v Superman where Bruce looks at the case containing Jason’s Robin suit, with the Joker’s writing still covering it, first came out, my heart broke into a million pieces. When I first heard that Nightwing will get his own movie, I completely freaked out and spent the next few days alternating between joy that my favourite character is going to get his own solo and terror over how if it’s not good, I’ll cry for years to come. So, naturally, I want Bruce’s daughter to join the party as well.

Cass is the most skilled fighter in DC. That’s completely canon. No non-meta can beat her because she knows what everyone’s going to do before they do it, and she’s in peak physical fitness. She was trained from birth to be an assassin. She’s also incredibly compassionate, unable to effectively express herself, and oftentimes, very conflicted. She’d be a beautifully human edition to the cast of characters – hers would be a story of self discovery, of family and kindness and growing past abuse and a poor upbringing.

My ideal scenario would be Cass as Batgirl in the upcoming Batgirl solo, as I mentioned here, potentially with a brief character introduction in the Batman solo. However, as I strongly doubt that Cass will be introduced so soon and the Batgirl movie will probably be centred around Barbara, I’m instead hoping for her to show up in a future Batfamily team up movie.

2. Katherine Kane (Batwoman)

batwoman kate kane bad blood.jpg
Batwoman in ‘Batman: Bad Blood’. Credit: Warner Bros.

Kate Kane, the soldier kicked out of the military for refusing to lie about her relationship with another woman, fits very well with the already established characters in the DCEU because of her strong sense of ethics. The DCEU is all about hope, love, and justice in dark times. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may have been repealed, but it’s far from a distant memory, and Kate will almost certainly be about Bruce’s age in the DCEU, meaning she would have absolutely been affected by military prohibitions on same sex relationships. Her going on to fight crime and protect civilians after her poor treatment at the hands of the military for her sexuality would be a beautiful parallel to Clark still fighting for humanity after being rejected and ostracized for what he is.

Kate is one of the members of the Batfamily that’s most often forgotten. She’s still well known, of course, especially as DC’s most high profile LGBT character, but since she mostly does her own thing, it’s easy for her to slip under the radar when compared to the core members of the Gotham heroes – Batman, Robin, Batgirl. That’s a shame, because Kate is an excellent character. She’s not my favourite member of the Batfamily, but she’s a solid character that would continue to present themes that have been present in the DCEU from the beginning, and by being a Jewish lesbian hero, would contribute to building a more diverse cast.

3. Artemis Crock (Artemis/Tigress)

artemis young justice.jpg
Credit: Cartoon Network.

While Artemis does exist in the comics, Young Justice remade her as a new character bearing almost no resemblance to her original incarnation, one that’s a much more fully realized character and extremely interesting to watch. I think the Young Justice version deserves to shine in live action.

She’s not a meta-human. She’s the daughter of two supervillains, one of whom is retired and paralyzed. She’s an archer that’s also highly skilled in hand to hand combat. She started off on her own, without a partner or a mentor. Her own hero, no one’s sidekick or protege. And she did that without the money that most non-meta heroes have. Batman, Green Arrow, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle – they all have the advantage of billions of dollars to help them out. Artemis didn’t. She had a bow, great aim, and determination.

She’s the type of character that would fit in very well with the DCEU’s brand of realism if handled properly. Affleck’s Bruce can handle himself in this universe, whereas Bale’s Bruce would be completely outclassed. The focus that these movies so far have had is on the political, philosophical, religious impact of people with superpowers making themselves known to the world. It’s a realistic take on what the world with these heroes would be like. Having Artemis in there would be fascinating, because, like Bruce, she’s also a human – in a world with Superman and Wonder Woman, she’s breakable. Being an archer makes so much sense for a human with no powers in this world – she can fight at a distance, which would be much more effective than hand to hand with people that have super strength. Her constant awareness of all of this would make for some great internal conflict.

The season one episode Homefront of Young Justice explored a lot of Artemis’s insecurities as one of the only two regular humans on a team of people with superpowers and as the last person to join. In this episode, she demonstrated just why she belongs, and how good she is at what she does. It would be great to have that in live action – a further demonstration of why it’s not superpowers or money that makes the hero, but tenacity and a desire to make the world a better place. And it’s more than just wanting to help people – being a hero is who she is, what she does. She loves it. After leaving the team to go to college, she came back the instant Dick asked for her help.

Having Artemis around would also further develop Gotham as a city, as well as the heroes protecting it, because while she’s another of the many characters that call it home, she isn’t a bat. She doesn’t wear the symbol or work regularly with Batman. She doesn’t come from money. She doesn’t have powers. She’s something else – an average Gothamite that wants to protect people and not follow in her family’s footsteps. Through her, the audience could gain a greater understanding of what Gotham is, what it’s really like to live there, and why the heroes that do are so dedicated to protecting it.

Her relationship with Dick was one of the more interesting dynamics in Young Justice. They were both nonpowered humans on a team of metas. They were both from Gotham. Their parental figures had both started training them from a young age – Bruce training Dick to be a hero and Lawrence training Artemis to be a criminal. They have a lot of similarities, as well as vastly different ways of thinking, and a deep level of trust. It would be fascinating to see her appear, perhaps not in a Batman movie, but in a Nightwing one.

4. Edward Nygma (The Riddler)

ed nygma riddler gotham
Credit: Fox.

I’m a little hesitant on this one, because I sincerely love the Gotham incarnation of the character, and it’ll be hard to imagine someone else in the role at the same time. Having the TV version is probably enough for me right now. But the Riddler is a great character, and I’m so tired of just seeing the Joker in all Batman media when there are so many Batman villains that I find much more interesting.

Gotham, has, in a lot of ways, spoiled me for Batman related media. It’s over the top and ridiculous and the timeline is kind of weird, but it’s so much fun to watch, none of it matters. It’s black comedy at its finest, while also managing to pull off the emotional scenes well. Best of all, it has incredible casting. Its version of Bruce is one of my top two live-action Bruces and top three if we include animation. It took the Riddler and made him absolutely terrifying.

Nygma has so much flair. He’s very, very smart, which is both his strength and his weakness. He’s Lex with even more flamboyance. He’s an entertaining character to watch, and he hasn’t been overused. The Riddler would be a wonderful villain to use to show off Bruce’s detective skills.

5. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow)

scarecrow jonathan crane.jpg
Credit: DC Comics

Batman is a flawed, broken, traumatized character. I’d love to see a Batman movie take advantage of that by being a psychological drama. And what better villain to use for that than the one that’s weaponized fear even more than Batman himself has?

One of the most important things about Bruce in my view is that he’s a father. In this universe, he doesn’t have his entire family yet, but he has at least two sons, one of whom died violently and the other of whom he’s estranged with. He has a lot to be afraid of. A movie centred around fear and Bruce’s love for his children would be very different from any Batman movie we’ve seen before, and it would fit in perfectly with the more human, genre defying movies we’ve gotten so far. It would be an interesting lead in to movies about other members of the Batfamily in that it would show off just who the people are for whom Bruce is so afraid.

Bruce absolutely has not conquered his fear. He’s just learned to use it. And his biggest fears? They aren’t bad things happening to him. They’re bad things happening to other people that he can’t do anything to stop. Jason’s murder. Barbara’s paralysis. The deaths in Metropolis. That’s why he was so fixated on killing Clark in Batman v Superman. A movie completely revolving around all of these fears would be terrifying and heartbreaking to watch. It’d be fantastic.

6. Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze)

mr freeze btas
Victor and Nora Fries in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. Credit: Fox.

Bruce is a hugely compassionate character. We saw that in Batman v Superman – the man took a helicopter to Metropolis as soon as he heard what was happening, then ran straight into a disaster zone to rescue people. He hauled a fallen beam off his employee. He comforted a little girl that had just lost her mother. He took the time when rescuing Martha to reassure her and tell her he was a friend of her son’s. He paid for Clark’s funeral. Batman: The Animated Series is one of my favourite interpretations of Bruce in an adaptation, along with DCEU Bruce and Gotham Bruce, and it did did a great job with humanizing Bruce and giving its villains depth. It was the start of Victor Fries as the tragic villain he’s been in all media ever since, and I’d love to see that in the DCEU.

He’s an excellent character to have as part of the Batman mythos, because while he’s a villain that’s done indisputably terrible things and should be in prison, he’s also someone that it’s very easy to sympathize with – he just wants his wife back, and his love for her was the motivating factor for his crimes.  He’s one of the most sympathetic members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery.

The villains that Batman has interacted with so far haven’t been hugely sympathetic. Lex certainly wasn’t. Nuanced and complex, yes, but not redeemable or sympathetic. Deadshot and Harley may have had some redeeming qualities, and they – Deadshot, especially – were somewhat sympathetic, but they were definitely not as tragic characters as Mr. Freeze. I’d love to see more of Bruce’s compassion in a movie where he’s the main character, and I think Mr. Freeze would be the best of his villains to demonstrate that trait.

Harley and the Joker don’t deserve Bruce’s sympathy. A major trend in fandom is to woobify Harley as just a victim! And yes, the Joker is abusive, her relationship is very unhealthy, and she needs treatment. But that’s an explanation, not a justification. So she has moments of conscience. Doesn’t change the fact she’s still a murderer. In this universe, she was an accomplice to Jason’s murder. Bruce doesn’t owe her a thing, least of all his sympathy. He’s just a man –  he can understand mental illness, but he doesn’t have to forgive her for murdering his son in cold blood. But Mr. Freeze? He’s a villain, too, one that Bruce will fight against to protect the innocent, but his crimes were born of desperation, not any kind of malice. Bruce would find it much easier to sympathize with him, because it’s not personal there. He can understand that anger, and that desperation to protect a loved one.


Of course I’m excited to see Nightwing as I discussed in this post. And once I get past my apprehension about the way Barbara will be handled, I’m excited to see Batgirl, too. I’m certainly excited to see more Batman. But Gotham City is more than just Batman and his children, and I’m incredibly ready to see the world expanding with new characters, each of which could provide more insight into Bruce as well as being fantastic characters in their own right.