The DCU’s Batman movie is high priority for DC Studios co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran. It makes sense since the Caped Crusader is a moneymaking machine for both DC and Warner Bros., so they want to get the bat-ball rolling as soon as possible. The Flash director Andy Muschietti is already confirmed to helm The Brave and the Bold, and Gunn has mentioned that this iteration of the Dark Knight will be heavily influenced by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert’s Batman and Son.
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When asked by a fan about his favourite Batman stories on Threads, Gunn posted images of Morrison’s Batman run, as well as Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sales and Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. They are all excellent stories, and The Long Halloween, in particular, has served as an influence for both Christopher Nolan and Matt Reeves’ DC films; however, there’s yet another interpretation of The Bat that Gunn and his collaborators should be looking at, but probably won’t: Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman: The Animated Series gets Batman
Ask anyone which is their favourite Batman comic book storyline and there will be several answers. Ask anyone which is their favourite Dark Knight cartoon and there is only one. It has been three decades since Batman: The Animated Series debuted on television, and it remains one of the most definitive versions of the Caped Crusader. A major part of the show’s lasting success is how it doesn’t try to pander to children; it just tells good, uncomplicated stories.
“It seems like we cherry picked stuff from the entire history of Batman in the comics, and the movies, and the serials, and the TV show, and we took things and kind of messed around with them,” the show’s co-creator Bruce Timm told Science Fiction. “But for the most part we really stayed faithful to the spirit of the character and the spirit of the comics. We had a feeling that it would go over really well!”
Batman: The Animated Series still hits the mark because it captures the soul of this part of the DC Universe. Rather than try to recreate decades’ worth of stories and canon, it honours what came before it by staying true to the characters and their core motivations. Every hero or villain in Gotham City has a purpose, want, or need – and it’s about showcasing this in a manner that doesn’t become convoluted. Timm said “it’s not brain surgery,” and he’s right. The problem is people are overcomplicating it.
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Let’s face it – the comics are complicated
Here’s a fun exercise: Walk up to any friend and ask them to explain the past 15 years of Batman in comics in less than five sentences. Chances are they won’t be able to because there have been several reboots, convergences, and other general comic book-related nonsense. Unless someone is deeply invested and following it religiously, it’s difficult to unpack.
Comic books also can’t be looked at in isolation since they are serialised storytelling. Batman and Son, for example, is linked to the cogs of various other comics over the years. To fully understand Morrison’s vision, it’s necessary to have familiarity with what came before it. This is where it becomes difficult to adapt to a movie, as the audience needs to be treated like they have never read a Batman book in their lives. Sure, they may know the basics such as how Bruce Wayne became Batman and the names of his sidekicks, but the nuts and bolts of events need to be laid out fresh for a movie.
While it’s entirely possible James Gunn, Andy Muschietti, and everyone else may crack the story code here and deliver a cohesive film, many questions have already been raised by fans in the lead-up. By skipping ahead to Damian Wayne in The Brave and the Bold, theoretically this means Batman has already gone through several Robins, such as Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. That’s a massive timeline to gloss over. If not, fans aren’t going to be impressed with how the film is retconning established canon. See how difficult this is now?
The template is laid out for an entire universe
Batman: The Animated Series paved the way for Batman, while Superman: The Animated Series did the same for Superman. Eventually, the heroes found themselves in the Justice League animated show with other heroes. All these series proved to be a hit with the same fanbase because their storytelling followed the same model: simple and engaging narratives. Sure, Batman stayed grounded, while Superman embraced more of its sci-fi elements, but the tales never overwhelmed the audience and remained popular.
If James Gunn and Peter Safran haven’t spoken to the likes of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett yet, they should really plan to do so. These individuals built a highly successful and fan-favourite shared universe in the ’90s – while everyone else at DC and Warner Bros. have faltered since then. It might not be brain surgery, but it would sure help if they had the right architects building the foundation for the future.
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Would you like to see the DCU use Batman: The Animated Series as an influence for its movie universe?