Batman’s About to Die

November 26, 2008

At some point, very soon, Batman will bite it. Dead, killed, slain, whatever. It’s all over for Bruce Wayne.

Details are sketchy, but what comic book fans do know is that there will be a “war” for the right to take over the job, to step into the black mantle of the bat. Dick Grayson (the original Robin, now operating as Nightwing), Jason Todd (the resurrected second Robin) and Tim Drake (the current Robin) are mentioned as likely candidates, but knowing DC it could really be anyone.

Batman has been a big deal in my house lately. My five-year-old is on a major Bat-bender, and that’s fine by me, as you can well imagine. (This is the same kid who told his teacher he and I came to Earth on the Enterprise).

It took him a while to get his head around the idea that Batman doesn’t have any super-powers. He just didn’t believe it. Of course, all he really knows about Batman is that Lego game and a few episodes of The Animated Series; I’m hesitant to let him watch any of the Burton/Schumacher films, and no way he’s seeing Batman Begins or The Dark Knight.

Bruce Wayne has been running around in tights and cape for 70 years. Think about that for a moment. And the basic story hasn’t changed: a boy sees his parents murdered, then trains for years to become the ultimate crimefighter, and dons the bat costume to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers. Bob Kane wrote this in the 1930s, and Christopher Nolan told the same (but updated) story in 2005’s Batman Begins. It’s a perfect little origin story, as timeless as Robin Hood, King Arthur, Tarzan and Superman.

I’m not clear on why Bruce Wayne is being killed off in the wake of the character appearing in, oh, the biggest movie of all time (Dark Knight). But truth be told, there’s no way he’s staying dead. Superman didn’t stay dead. Green Lantern didn’t stay dead. Green Arrow didn’t stay dead. Bruce Wayne had his back snapped in the 90s, and a guy named Azrael took over the Bat-job, but then Bruce was healed and got back to work … nobody ever stays off the job in comics.

There used to be a saying: Only Bucky stays dead. Bucky was Captain America’s WWII sidekick, and he died in the closing days of the war. Marvel Comics insisted for decades that Bucky would never be revived the way every other character was (think Jean Grey).

Well, Captain America was killed earlier this year. A sniper shot the star-spangled Avenger dead. Soon, another man was fighting evil in the Captain America suit, with the Captain America shield … and it was fucking Bucky. Meanwhile, hints abound that the original didn’t die, or was cloned, or revived, or something, and it won’t be long before Steve Rogers is Captain America again. Maybe Bucky can die for good this time.

Shaking characters up like this is an interesting tradition. At one point in the 1980s, Marvel had different characters in the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor roles, with the originals off doing something else. It’s never permanent. It gets attention, it boosts sales for a bit, and then everyone gets excited when “the original” comes back. Think New Coke, Classic Coke, and you get what I’m saying.

So it’s pretty clear Bruce Wayne will be back in the cape and cowl before too long … probably before the next movie. Meanwhile, I’m hoping they give him a good, heroic death.

And I think the new Batman should be either Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), who would be a sensible, logical choice to assume the role of a detective, guardian and hero, or Ambush Bug, who could actually make me buy the comics again. Ambush Bug cracks me up.

Speaking of cracking up, I’m going to leave you with this panel from a 1960s Justice League of America comic, in which Batman makes the ultimate slip about how Robin fits into his world.



  1. I believe it is still unclear whether Batman will die or Bruce Wayne will retire. After the upcoming issue of “Batman” which will wrap up the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline, Neil Gaiman is set to write a two-parter called “Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader”. Alan Moore once (long long ago) did a similar comic entitled “Whatever happened to the Man of Steel”, which ended an era of Superman comics. DC rebooted Superman immediately after that. So I suspect that they’re planning to do the same with Batman. The thing is that in current Batman continuity, he exists in the DC universe at large, which means Superman & Co. exist in the same world (hence Batman comics like “A Death in the Family” where Superman appears). I think DC wants the reboot of Batman to resemble the Nolanverse more.

    Yeah, I’m a bit of a Batman geek.


  2. I suspect that this is precisely why I never could get into comics. You need a freaking degree in Algebra to keep track of all the permutations of each character.

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