The Dark Knight Rises is almost sure to be Christopher Nolan's last Batman film. But one thing's for sure: Warner Bros. won't let the Dark Knight die — another Batman film series is inevitable. And Will "Dr. Batman" Brooker, author of the new book Hunting the Dark Knight, has four ideas for rebooting the Batman films, that could take Bruce Wayne to a whole new level.
People already speculating about what shape Batman's next movie after Nolan's trilogy will take — with IMDB listing an Untitled Batman Reboot for 2015, although that's probably wishful thinking.
Right now, it seems likely that Warners will try to tap the success of Marvel's cinematic universe by tying in Batman with the new Man of Steel Superman movie, rebooting the flop Green Lantern without Ryan Reynolds (it worked twice with the Hulk) and finding stars to play Flash, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter. But if Nolan manages to finish his dark, gritty trilogy on a high, surely any rebooted Batman, with the Dark Knight as a guy without any superpowers on a 3D CGI spaceship full of gods and aliens, is going to feel like a come-down?
So here are some alternative ideas, with original art from Susan Shore, Sarah Zaidan and Clay Rodery.
1. The Syndicate
The pitch: The 1939 Batman meets Boardwalk Empire and The Wire.
Cast includes Jack Huston (Harvey Dent), Steve Buscemi (Joker)
When Bob Kane first sketched his 'Bat-Man', around 1934, crime lords like Al Capone were still very much at large, and classic gangster movies like Scarface, Little Caesar and The Public Enemy were still playing in cinemas. Batman hit comic book racks before the United States entered World War Two. It was a different world; a world of tommy guns, Cadillacs, suits and hats.
So let's take the Bat-Man back there, and name the show after his first adventure, 'The Case of the Chemical Syndicate' from May 1939. Bruce Wayne is a drawling playboy who smokes the occasional pipe with his pal Commissioner Gordon. Gotham is run by mobsters and hired thugs, and Gordon and his boys are powerless to break the racket. But all that changes when a stranger appears one night — a muscular figure in a gray leather get-up, built like a linebacker with a helmet covering his face — and starts bringing his own justice to the city.
The Syndicate is a 24-episode drama, a mosaic told through the lives of the heroes and villains, but most importantly, the ordinary people of Gotham — the institutions, the police department, the schools, the society balls, the businesses. And the real twist? We never actually see Bruce Wayne change into costume. Even dedicated fans will start wondering: is Wayne actually the Bat-Man in this show? Expect discussion boards to go crazy with speculation every time The Syndicate drops a clue.
Art: Clay Rodery.
2. The Bad Man
The pitch: 1960s Batman meets Mad Men.
Cast includes Jon Hamm (Bruce), Christina Hendricks (Barbara), Elisabeth Olsen (Kathy)
The last time a Batman TV show was made in the 1960s, it became a high-camp classic. Let's try something very different.
Bruce and Betty Wayne are Gotham's golden couple; she's an ex-model, he's a business executive. But the gossip is that Betty's unhappy and Bruce is secretly cheating — every night he stays in town, coming back rumpled, tired, armed with elusive excuses. Art: Susan Shore, www.smuze.net
Bruce has secrets, but they're not what everyone suspects. He's investigating a series of crimes — a shower-bath murder, a gay man strangled with a rope, a flock of deadly birds, a photographer who witnessed a killing — with the help of his two secretaries, curvy Barbara and bookish Kathy. And he's keeping his double life in check, until his jealous business junior Pete decides to dress up in a circus costume, name himself after Robin Hood and uncover Bruce's secret identity...
Art: Sarah Zaidan, http://ateliermitti.tumblr.com/
3. Gotham Heights
The pitch: Smallville, Twilight and The Hunger Games meet Batman Year One.
Cast includes Robert Pattinson (Bruce), Jennifer Lawrence (Selina), Ezra Miller (Joker)
If Batman is going to be rebooted along the lines of Amazing Spider-Man, with a younger, moodier actor in the main role, here's a way to do it right.
Bruce is 25, just returning from his self-imposed exile around the world, where he's trained, studied and travelled for the last six years. The city's turned rotten in his absence; corrupt cops run extortion schemes in league with the mafia families, and the Wayne name has almost been forgotten.
20-year old Selina Kyle lives in a rough district, and her mom's had to bargain with the local enforcers to pay rent. When she can't meet their demands, the Kyle household is torched overnight. Selina leaps from an upper window, grabbing the family pet; her mother and little sister don't make it out. Selina, driven by loss and revenge, hits back against cops and gangsters: the newspapers are soon calling this local vigilante 'Cat-girl', and Bruce finds himself drawn into her neighbourhood, out of his depth.
Meanwhile a troubled High School senior has just killed his father and little sister in a suburban home outside Gotham. He laughed in the faces of the arresting officers, telling them life was just a joke. He was christened Kevin. Now he's painting his lips red with blood in solitary and calling himself something very different...
Art: Clay Rodery.
The pitch: Gran Torino and Harry Brown meet The Dark Knight Returns
Cast includes Clint Eastwood (Bruce), Patricia Clarkson (Selina), Burt Ward (Dick), Chloe Moretz (Robin)
Twelve miles outside Gotham is Wayne Manor, the run-down mansion owned by a grouchy eccentric and patrolled by Alsatian dogs. Bruce, in his eighties, spends his days scaring punk kids off the property and his nights alone writing memoirs his youth — or are they fantasies, an old guy's confused wish-fulfilment? Former partners, male and female, implore him to sell the old pile and move to an apartment in the city: this is my home, he growls, checking the elaborate security and man-traps.
Only one thing can bring this veteran back into Gotham: the homophobic beating and murder of his old war buddy, Dick Grayson, lights a fire inside Wayne. Selina Kyle, his last remaining friend, tells Bruce he's not ready to take on the new breed of criminals, begging him to leave the costume in its case. Old man Wayne brushes dust off a forgotten console, the keystrokes and passwords coming back to him. A spotlight powers on, shining down on a pristine Bat-suit. The Hell I will, he tells her.
Art: Clay Rodery.
Will Brooker is head of film and television research at Kingston University, London. His books include Batman Unmasked, Using the Force, Alice's Adventures, The Blade Runner Experience and the BFI Film Classics volume on Star Wars. His new book, Hunting the Dark Knight: 21st Century Batman, is published by I B Tauris in June 2012.