One of the biggest losses in comic book movie history is the failure to continue the Burtonverse, featuring Michael Keaton’s Batman, in the ’90s. After Tim Burton pumped the brakes on his version of Batman Forever, the actor followed suit, deciding against returning without the director’s participation. The franchise laboured on under the late Joel Schumacher’s care, but the what-if question remained: What more stories could have been explored in the Burtonverse? Well, prepare for Batman ’89: Echoes, a universe in which Batman has to face Scarecrow and fear itself.
Before Andy Muschietti’s The Flash brought back Keaton for a multiversal adventure, an in-canon comic book series titled Batman ’89 carried on the story. Written by Sam Hamm (who co-wrote the story on both of Burton’s Bat films), illustrated by Joe Quinones, coloured by Leonardo Ito, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, the miniseries showcases Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent’s descent into the villainous Two-Face, as well as the introduction of Drake Winston as this universe’s Robin. At the same time, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman purrs her way back into the action and Bruce Wayne’s heart.
The Dark Knight is back for Batman: Echoes
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Michael Keaton's Batman Returns to Face the Fear of Scarecrow
Michael Keaton's Batman Returns to Face the Fear of Scarecrow Comic
The Dark Knight is back for Batman- Echoes
Keaton's batman scarecrow
Batman ’89 ran for six issues and piqued the interest of the fans, who wanted to know more about this iteration of the character and what other stories were left in the tank. So, DC announced the release of a follow-up series titled Batman ’89: Echoes, which sees the same creative team return. Set after the death of Harvey Dent, this story sees Batman disappear from Gotham City, as the citizens take justice into their own hands. Not only is there civil obedience running wild, but there’s also the rise of two new villains in the Burtonverse: Scarecrow and Harley Quinn.
Both Scarecrow and Harley are villains tailormade for Tim Burton’s world. They fit the eccentric mould that the director tends to favour, but there’s also the chance that Batman ’89: Echoes could be pulling inspiration from an unproduced Dark Knight script known as Batman Unchained, which is often also referred to as Batman Triumphant. The full story of this unmade movie is fascinating and filled with nuggets of trivia, as it would have followed immediately after 1997’s Batman & Robin.
In one version of Batman Unchained‘s script, Harley Quinn is introduced as Joker’s daughter – a controversial change to the origin story for sure. The actor linked to the part was rocker Courtney Love; however, there was no confirmation that she even received an offer to play the Clown Princess of Crime. The other main villain is Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow, and Joel Schumacher wanted Nicolas Cage for role, telling Vice: “I even met with Nick Cage on the set of Face/Off because I was going to have him play the Scarecrow.”
Much like in the comic books, Scarecrow utilises his fear toxin to break Batman’s psyche and mind. The villain also works with Harley, who is a toymaker in this version, as she plots revenge for the death of her father at the hands of Batman. This all culminates in a hallucinogen-powered showdown where the Caped Crusader is forced to fight all the villains, such as Penguin and Riddler, from the movies before. Of course, Dick Grayson swoops in to help Bruce in battling his foes while also setting up a potential Nightwing film for the future.
At the moment of writing, it’s unclear what twists and turns Batman ’89: Echoes contain for the reader. Regardless, it certainly hits the spot for fans of Michael Keaton’s Batman and stories set in the Burtonverse.