Well, the grand Batman v Superman experiment didn't really hit the mark with critics, with Zack Snyder's direction taking much of the flak, in particular. However, there is one aspect of the movie that is garnering near-universal praise: Ben Affleck's Batman.
The man nobody wanted underneath the cowl turned out to be one of the film's saving graces, and while the guy seems to be coming to grips with the film's poor reception, it's pretty clear that audiences are still all about the Caped Crusader.
With Snyder (*sigh*) prepping to shoot Justice League in April, we'll see the Bat of Gotham on the screen again soon enough. Hell, we'll even see a quick bit of Batfleck in Suicide Squad this August. But let's be honest: solo Batman films get people into theaters, so don't be surprised to see more of Ben's Bat flying solo in the near future.
While that's all well and good, the studio needs to avoid reheating old leftovers from the Batman universe. We've seen Batman take on Joker, Ra's al Ghul, Scarecrow, Bane and Two Face more than enough times; we need new villains and stories on the big screen, or else we'd all be better off just watching the Nolan trilogy at home.
Because I'm sure the bigwigs at WB are reading this, I decided to go through my old long boxes and pick a few Batman stories that would be perfect for his next solo outing. My gift to you.
Court Of Owls (Batman #1-11)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
This story right here is perhaps the best Batman epic of the 21st century. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did the impossible for modern superhero comics: they introduced a new villain that actually worked. Think of the Court of the Owls like part Illuminati, part Hellfire Club and part Peoples Temple. This is a cult made up of Gotham's elite, pulling the strings of power from behind the scenes without anyone noticing — not even Batman himself.
How does Batman, the World's Greatest Detective, not know this Court exists? Simple: his pride gets in the way. He's never found any evidence of the Court, so he chalks all of the rumors and legends up to nonsense. But the Court is all too real, and its connection to Gotham City's history and the Wayne family is downright chilling.
Under The Red Hood (Batman #635-641, 645-650, Annual #25)
Writer: Judd Winick
Under The Hood is an interesting story to adapt for various reasons. The actual comic book could never be adapted straight, because it ties into Infinite Crisis and involves Superboy punching reality itself and changing the DC timeline (seriously). However, the animated movie based on the comic boiled the story down in a much more straightforward way that WB should take its cues from.
In the story, Batman finds out that Jason Todd, the formerly deceased Robin, is back from the dead and has taken on the mantle of Red Hood, a murderous vigilante modeled off the Joker's old alias. Batman, then, has to come to terms with his own failure in Jason and figure out a way to stop his former protege's killing spree.
A dead Robin is already established in the DC Cinematic Universe, and coming back from the grave is nothing new for comic book movies, so this is a no-brainer, really. While Joker does play a part in the story, he's in more of a supporting role, and the inclusion of Red Hood would add enough freshness to make it feel unique.
Hush (Batman #608-619)
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Jim Lee
I know, I know — there is a lot of hate for "Hush." However, with some tweaks, a big screen version of the story could give us a Batman movie we've never seen before: a murder mystery. For being the World's Greatest Detective, Batman certainly hasn't done much sleuthing on film. "Hush" could change that, as the Dark Knight needs to figure out who the mysterious, titular villain is under that bandaged mask and what connection he has to Bruce Wayne's past.
In the comic, there is an endless supply of cameos from Superman, Catwoman and every other character who has ever been in the same room as Batman. Those could easily be pared down a bit to move the story along. The reason "Hush" works is because it's such a personal story; it's not about Batman fighting a CGI Doomsday or trying to track down an enchanted MacGuffin. It's as much Bruce Wayne's conflict as it is Batman's, and it would be unlike any other Dark Knight story we've seen on the screen.
Writers: Paul Dini, Dan Slott, Grant Morrison
This is a bit of a cheat since it's not one single story, but you get the idea. Countless Batman stories have been set inside Arkham Asylum, but the holy trinity of insanity includes Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Dan Slott's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, which was written by Paul Dini.
All of these stories dump Batman into the Asylum and explore not only his rogues' gallery, but how, in the eyes of some, the Dark Knight should be in a cell right next to them. These stories peel away the layers of Batman's psyche and explore his impact on the villains in his life.
A story set mainly in the Asylum — which is largely ignored in the movies — could open the doors for plenty of fresh storytelling opportunities. It could make a Batman movie transform from superhero fare into something more horrific, more psychological and perhaps something with a twisted sense of humor, too.
Prey (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15)
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin
You know who doesn't get enough love from Batfans? Doug Moench. I get that he doesn't have the brand recognition of Frank Miller or Alan Moore, but I dare you to find a better character piece for Batman than "Prey."
For a movie to adapt "Prey," there would need to be some tweaks, such as the time period: the book is set in Batman's early days, but meanwhile, Batfleck is much older. Still, the central conflict with Dr. Hugo Strange and his public media crusade against the Bat is just as relevant as ever, especially in our sensationalized Dr. Phil world. This story explores the public perception of Batman and his impact on the collective psyche of Gotham and its villains.
Despite technically being the first supervillain Batman ever faced, Strange hasn't gotten any big screen love yet. But his appearances in Arkham City and Gotham have bolstered his recognition for fans. The story would have to be beefed up to obviously include more action and maybe another physical threat, but the nuts and bolts are all there for a compelling Batman story.
Friendly Advice: Use The Bat Family
There's an entire Bat Family out there just waiting to be adapted for the screen, and any of the above stories are perfect to introduce them. Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing — the list goes on and on. They can help add levity to Gotham City and give audiences something a little bit more relatable to grab onto. Everyone loves Batman, but sometimes he can be a bit of a downer. The Bat Family can help the Dark Knight from turning his next movie into a pity party.
To find out which comic books helped inspire Batman v Superman, check out the video below:
Photos: DC Entertainment