Batman’s skills as a detective are paramount to his persona–he debuted and stars in Detective Comics, after all–but most of his live-action films have barely covered the investigative side of the character, focusing more on the vigilante. It looks like director Matt Reeves is looking to change all that, based on statements he made in an interview with New Trailer Buzz that The Batman will be about an “almost noir-driven, detective version of Batman.”
So which Batman comic book stories feature noir-style storytelling and detective skills the best? These five stories would serve as excellent inspiration for the type of film Matt Reeves and Ben Affleck are looking to make, and some could even just be lifted almost word for word.
Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (1996-1997)
One of the most famous Batman epics of the modern era, right along with The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, this 13 issue series by the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale is still considered one of the definitive Batman mystery stories ever. The original comic takes place about a year into the Batman’s career, and deals with a year-long murder mystery which begins and ends on All Hallow’s Eve. A serial killer going by the moniker “Holiday” is killing people every month, on that month’s particular celebratory day, and Batman, Jim Gordon and DA Harvey Dent are at their wit’s end trying to crack the case.
Almost every major villain from Batman’s rogue’s gallery makes an appearance in The Long Halloween, and in pretty important roles too, which would make this one super memorable entry in the Batman film series history. Since our Ben Affleck Batman is an established hero with a long history, this story could be easily translated to film almost intact with very little changes. The only drawback? This story is a long one, and Warner Brothers might not want a three hour long, broody Batman movie.
Batman: Broken City by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (2003)
This one ran in the pages of Batman back in 2003, and finds our favorite Dark Knight Detective hunting the murderer of a small boy’s parents, a small boy whose circumstance of course remind him of his own. Broken City by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso then finds Bruce Wayne plunging into an investigation that has him reflecting on the life he has led and the choices he has made in his career as the Batman.
But when Batman gets too mentally and emotionally compromised, he gets caught off guard and winds up suddenly falling prey to a deadly new pair of killers that have been stalking him. This noir-inspired story features appearances by the Joker, the Penguin, Killer Croc, and Scarface, two of which have already been cast for the DCEU. It seems this one would be a perfect story to adapt as a Batman feature film.
Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee (Batman #608-619, 2002-2003)
Hush is technically a mystery story, since it introduces an entirely new Batman villain that has a personal history with Bruce Wayne, and figuring out just who this Hush guy menacing his life is has Batman using all of his detective expertise at his command. A large number of Batman’s most famous enemies become involved, as Hush attempts to bring down the man that he believes to be responsible for ruining his life (that’s Batman, by the way).
The storyline features a number of Batman’s most well known villains and is also well regarded for having one of the best fights between Batman and Superman in their long history, and some great romantic moments with Catwoman too. Again, this is a great story to use the Ben Affleck Batman in, because it features a Dark Knight with a pre-established history and an already established rogue’s gallery, not to mention a pre-established animosity with Superman, all things this version of Batman has. It all lines up perfectly for a potential blockbuster.
Gothic by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson (1990)
This story from a young and up-and-coming writer named Grant Morrison (what became of him??) is an underrated classic from the now long gone Legends of the Dark Knight series. Morrison’s story features what seems to be an immortal killer named Mr. Whisper who begins killing off mobsters, so the criminals of the city try to recruit Batman to help get to the bottom of the mystery of just who this Mr. Whisper really is. Despite categorically refusing at first, he soon realizes that this killer has some mysterious ties to his own past, and decides to help.
Gothic combines elements from the Faust legend, the opera Don Giovanni, and Fritz Lang’s film classic film M. It might be a little too adult and serious for the kind of movie the studio probably wants to make, and lacking in familiar villains, so Warner Brothers to attempt it as big screen movie seems slightly far fetched . But if Matt Reeves were to get enough clout to adapt this baby into a film, I’d be a very happy camper.
“Black Mirror” from Detective Comics #871-877 (2011)
This would be a tough one to adapt, because although it’s a Batman story, it features Dick Grayson as the Dark Knight, not Bruce Wayne. This was in the aftermath of Final Crisis, when Bruce Wayne was “dead,” and his ex sidekick had taken over. In this story, a series of horrific murders pushes Batman’s detective skills to their limit, and forces him to confront one of Gotham City’s oldest evils. Batman finds himself helpless and trapped in the deadly Mirror House, from which he must escape.
This is writer Scott Snyder’s first major work with Batman, and his subsequent work with the character in the New 52 is one of the most beloved runs in the character’s history, but the mystery of the Black Mirror was a solid precursor to that, and establishes why Snyder is the definitive Batman writer of the 21st century. Also, the artwork by Jock is just gorgeous. It would be hard to adapt in its current form though, as it stars Dick Grayson and not Bruce Wayne, but with some changes? The best elements could be used for a Bruce Wayne-centric feature film.
Which detective style Batman stories would you want to see serve as inspiration for Matt Reeves’ The Batman? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.
Images: DC Comics / Warner Brothers