I think we can all agree that Batman is pretty awesome, right? He’s a great character with almost limitless potential, and yet the stories he stars in don’t often take advantage of that potential. I feel like there’s a lot of great Batman stories being left on the table because DC is afraid to rile up their fanbase or upset the status quo. There are simply places Batman stories don’t go, which is unfortunate because a character as rad as Batman shouldn’t have limits.
Here are five Batman stories I wish would happen, but probably never will…
Bruce Wayne Shuts Down Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum needs to go. Not only is it less secure than a YMCA homeless shelter, but it absolutely fails as a mental hospital. Arkham’s never made anyone better ever. Not even a little bit. Worst of all, it’s often implied that Bruce Wayne heavily funds the place. The guy with a cave full of sci-fi technology, his own spy satellites and detailed contingency plans to beat up every hero in the DC Universe is just, “Eh, this ramshackle old loony bin should hold the Joker”. What?
A story in which Bruce Wayne finally bulldozes Arkham and builds a new facility to hold his many foes would pose a lot of intriguing questions and scenarios. For instance, why the hell did Batman stick by Arkham for so long in the first place? How would Bruce approach the new facility? Do you just build a super prison, or do you double down on trying to heal the inmates? Would the new prison/Asylum come crashing down in dramatic fashion, or perhaps even more interestingly, would we, for the first time ever, actually see Bat-villains being cured? Holy s–t! A world with happy endings! Where Batman actually gets to achieve lasting victories! Imagine it!
Why DC Will Never Do It
At any one time there’s what, 20 different ongoing Bat-books? Okay, that may be overstating things, but it’s a lot, and they all want to use the same villains.
I suppose all the writers could coordinate and decide that “No, the Riddler is in Arkham right now, and we’re going to keep him there for a while so the last Riddler story feels like it meant something”, but it’s a lot easier to just say, “These guys can all escape from Arkham at will, so everybody can use whatever villains they want”. If you build a decent prison for Batman’s rogues gallery, you have to come up with believable ways to get them out of said prison every time you want to use them, which is like, hard and stuff.
Also, it’s a great setting for climatic showdowns. There’s a reason the first Batman video game to really work took place in Arkham. Still, I think we’ve seen enough “Batman meets his greatest foes on their own turf!” stories over the past few decades. Maybe it’s finally time to fill in the gaping plot hole that is Arkham Asylum.
Batman (Accidentally) Kills
Batman doesn’t kill, and I’m not suggesting that should change. That said, the fact that Batman has never even accidentally killed anyone whist pummelling men into hamburger on precarious rooftops seriously stretches credulity.
In an even moderately realistic world Batman can’t always save the villain after he knocks him off the gargoyle. How would that affect Batman? Would a few accidental deaths cause him to rethink his policy on intentional killing, or would he become so cautious about accidentally killing criminals that it becomes a liability? What would happen if the incident was very public? What if it was just an errant punch that sends a purse-snatcher to the concrete at the wrong angle in some random alley? It would certainly be dramatic, and might lead to a more realistic, reasonable approach to killing for Batman.
Why DC Will Never Do It
Over the years Batman writers have really pounded it into readers’ heads that BATMAN NEVER EVER KILLS, making it an absolutely central part of his character. But why are they so adamant? Most superheroes that “don’t kill” make exceptions. Superman has offed a few. Spider-Man too.
The problem is, certain things about Batman just don’t work if he kills — most notably his buddy-buddy relationship with the GCPD. If Batman kills, even once, there’s no more Bat-signal, no more Jim Gordon rooftop meetings. Batman is this shadowy, scary avenger and all that, but a lot of what he does depends on most Gothamites thinking he’s an okay dude on the whole. Batman killing somebody, even unintentionally, would bring a lot of dominoes down — but hey, it might be fun to see them fall.
Batvanced Interrogation Techniques
Okay, it’s time to stop looking other way — guys, Batman has a torture problem. He’s constantly hanging guys off rooftops or breaking their ribs or threatening to drown them and worst of all, in Batman comics it always works. Unfortunately in the real world, torture almost never works, or if it does it certainly isn’t the fast, effective, tidy process we see in the Bat-books. I think it’s high time Batman got his comeuppance on this front.
It’s time for a story where Batman beats some information out of Two-Face or whoever only to follow that information into one of the worst, most humiliating traps of his career. Cut to Two-Face laughing his ass off despite his broken fingers. Or give us a new supervillain who’s entire motivation is, “When I was just a random street thug you held me down and methodically punched out all my teeth to make me talk, and I’m going to f–king hate you forever for that.” Or maybe it’s just time for Batman to look in the mirror after a particularly brutal interrogation session and ask himself what the hell he’s doing. I know it’s heavy stuff, but what good is a hero being “dark, serious and gritty” if he can’t actually tackle some dark, serious topics sometimes?
Why DC Will Never Do It
Batman’s advanced interrogation techniques are just too convenient a storytelling shortcut. Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, but plotting mysteries is tough, so Bat-writers just give Gotham the most loose-lipped, easy-to-interrogate criminals in the world. Aside from that I just don’t think DC will ever want to admit their multi-billion dollar corporate mascot has a torture addiction.
Gotham Gets a Superman
I hate to say it, but Superman is much better at his job than Batman. Aside from the occasional alien invasion, Metropolis is a futuristic wonder city, while Gotham seems incapable of rising above “crumbling s–tpile” status. Now, we could try to delve into the historic and socioeconomic reasons why Metropolis has it better than Gotham, but the reality is, in the DC Universe a city is as good as the superheroes protecting it. Metropolis basically has a living God in Superman and is doing great, and Gotham just has some guy with a fancy car and is in the crapper.
So, what would happen if Gotham, which traditionally hasn’t had many superpowered heroes, suddenly got itself a Superman? How would Batman respond to that? Would he be willing to sit back and let Gotham Superman do his thing if it seemed like he was helping? Or would he strike up a rivalry with him, even at the cost of Gotham’s future? Either way it would be a great way to explore what Batman means to Gotham — to show readers than Batman really is the best guy to clean up the city despite his limitations.
Why DC Will Never Do It
“How the hell do Batman and Superman exist on the same planet?” has pretty much been the DC Universe’s top problem since day one. Two or three guys created most of the Marvel Universe over a short period of time, so everything slots together comfortably there. The DC Universe on the other hand is mad collection of different characters from different companies that were never meant to fit together.
How does one normal dude in grey pyjamas and pointy-ears get a whole major city to protect when the world is lousy with guys strong enough to move planets? The answer for some 70-odd years has been “that’s just the way it is”. Gotham is a semi-independent fiefdom where none of the heroes have powers and everyone fights evil clowns and chubby dudes who are into umbrellas. Every once in a while Superman comes to town and Batman beats him up with gloves made of kryptonite or whatever to explain why Supes doesn’t just fix up Gotham in his spare time on the weekends.
So yeah, there’ll never be a major superpowered hero in Gotham, because that wouldn’t be doing things the way things have always been done, which is just about the worst thing you can do in the DC Universe.
Batman Goes Bust
There have been plenty of stories where we’re told, in vague terms, that Wayne Enterprises is “in trouble” or whatever, but the company’s never outright failed. Even when Wayne Enterprises is on the verge of bankruptcy Bruce Wayne still seems to be able to afford a near endless array of new Batmobiles and gadgets.
But imagine if Wayne Enterprises straight up pulled a Blockbuster Video and disappeared. What if Batman couldn’t afford to buy bat-shaped stealth jets anymore? How would he solve crimes without his supercomputer? How would he keep his grip on Gotham without having his financial fingers in all the pies? Can a street-level vigilante actually make a difference without the billions to back him up?
Why DC Will Never Do It
All those wonderful toys, that’s why. The Batmobile, Bat-plane, Batcomputer and all the rest are almost as marketable as Batman himself, and DC definitely doesn’t want a Batman without easy access to an unlimited supply of toy-friendly gadgets and vehicles. Also, Batman without money is basically Daredevil, and the last thing the world needs in Ben Affleck in another Daredevil movie.
How about you folks? Any Batman stories you’ve always wanted to see, but fear you never will?