In 2002, Jeph Loeb and fan fave artist Jim Lee began a Batman comic run that would become legendary. Beginning with Batman #608, the 12-issue story arc Batman: Hush (also called Hush) became a massive smash hit for the company, and would go on to be seen as one of the great Batman stories. Now, as Matt Reeves’ The Batman heads to cinemas, many fans have begun to see parallels between the classic story and the dark new Dark Knight film. So it’s a great time to revisit Hush and see what The Batman could and should take from the famed comic, as well as exploring the parts that should definitely be left in the past.
A Dark Secret From Bruce’s Past
There are two key reasons that The Batman trailers have made readers think of Hush. One is the victims of the Riddler with their faces wrapped in tape. The brutal aesthetic immediately recalls the villain’s bandaged face. And the entire movie apparently revolves around the Riddler uncovering the truth about Gotham and Bruce.
Hush is a story about deep-seeded family secrets with a connection between Bruce and Dr. Thomas Elliot aka Hush that takes 12 issues to be revealed. That’s reflected in the Riddler’s obsession as we’ve seen it so far. We also know that Edward Nashton—the name of the Riddler in The Batman—is the birth name of the Riddler in some of the comics. In those he’s an orphan, just like Bruce Wayne. If the film follows that route then we could see Riddler become a dark reflection of Bruce just like Hush is in the comic.
A Roster of Rogues
Each issue of Hush sees the Dark Knight face off against one of his most famous villains. It’s an interesting inversion of the more classical “villain of the week” trope that comics were built on. But here each one is part of a wider conspiracy aimed at Batman. One of the most interesting things when we look at Hush in relation to The Batman is that the Riddler is a key player in both. The Batman is unlikely to feature villains as varied as Killer Croc, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul, Clayface, and Hush. But we do know that it centers on at least three rogues who all feature in Hush: Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman. Could Riddler play a role in organizing the trio against Batman? If so, that would be another unexpected Hush inspiration.
The Bat and the Cat
Matt Reeves’ take on the Dark Knight isn’t just about Batman. Just like Hush, it’s a story that seems to be deeply concerned with his relationship to Selena Kyle. Zoë Kravitz is the latest person to take on the iconic mantle, and her streamlined catsuit bares more than a passing resemblance to Jim Lee’s recognizable Catwoman design in Hush.
If The Batman chooses to take more than an aesthetic from Hush, it’s likely it will come from Selina and Bruce’s relationship. Hush shows the pair as a dynamic team. Their attraction is obvious and their brutal crime fighting companionship means every kiss could be their last. Another aspect that The Batman could replicate is the fact that, while Bruce knows that Selina is Catwoman at the beginning of the story and their romance, Selina has no idea that Batman is also Bruce Wayne.
Batman can often be a shadowy and emotionless figure who struggles to anchor his humanity. But his love for Catwoman adds a level of complexity and connection to his Bruce persona that’s key to keeping Batman grounded. That’s on full show in Hush where that push and pull between Selina and Bruce encourages the latter to keep his feet firmly rooted in the real world. And as they both have alter-egos, it even gives him a greater grip on his humanity when he wears the cowl. Selina’s impact on Bruce and his ability to be a hero and a caring figure cannot be understated, and that would be intriguing to explore in The Batman’s early years of the hero.
The Power of Jim Lee
Unquestionably the best thing about Hush is Jim Lee’s art. Collaborating with his longtime artistic partner inker Scott Williams and colorist Alec Sinclair, Lee’s art is the heart of Hush. Without it this story literally wouldn’t exist and would never have been remembered as fondly. Vibrant action, inventive fight sequences, quiet and romantic figure work… it is perfection.
As this is Jim Lee post-X-Men work, some of his more raw tendencies and energy have been reigned in. But to many fans this is his best, and it’s easy to see why. Sadly, a live action Batman cannot bring Lee’s unique talent to the screen, but there’s plenty Reeves can take from the visual landscape of Hush including Lee’s striking use of shadow and light. There’s also those dynamic costume designs, and Lee’s grimy and grim representation of Gotham.
Though Lee’s specific illustration style might not make it into The Batman, his influence certainly will. Not only is he (rightfully) one of the most celebrated comics creators of all time, but he is currently the Publisher and CCO of DC Comics. His ascension through the ranks means that he’s continuing his legacy of shaping the publishing arm and comics from the company, without which none of these films, including The Batman, would exist.
The Wider Bat-Family and the Ties that Bind
Just as Hush features numerous iconic Batman rogues, it also plays heavily with Batman’s allies. Those human connections are the light in Bruce’s bleak life. The people he cares for are the reason he pulls a punch that would be fatal. They keep him from falling into the violence of Batman and never coming back. So it fits that they’d feature heavily in Hush.
Huntress, Tim Drake, Jim Gordon, and a version of Jason Todd all appear. Alfred is never far and we even meet a new friend of Bruce’s who has been integral to his life since childhood. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not The Batman understands that side of Bruce. He needs his found family, the people who keep him afloat even when the corruption of Gotham drags him down.
As this is a new cinematic iteration of Batman in his earliest years, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any sidekicks. But we do know that Selina and Jim Gordon (Jeffery Wright) are in the film. There’s also Andy Serkis as his ever-present caretaker Alfred. So even as Reeves delves into Batman’s darkness, those figures offer the potential to explore the more human side of the Dark Knight.
Metropolis and a Certain Blue-Eyed Boy Scout
Hush, like so many other comic book arcs, is far more expansive than most superhero movies. While the central mystery of who is messing with Batman and Gotham is key, the creative team uses the story to build out a larger tale in the wider DC world. That’s not something we expect to see from Matt Reeves’ take. Hush has a large Superman and Metropolis subplot which pits Superman and Batman against each other.
The pillars of DC have long been at odds even as allies, so this is par for the course for Batman. But in the more limited, intimate scope of the post-Justice League DC films exploring that seems a little too ambitious. Saying that, though, we wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see a nod to Lex Luthor or other DC characters who fit into the larger landscape of the more grounded and gritty world of The Batman.
Over Militarized and Overly Dark
Like much of the comic book and superhero landscape of the time—just look at the 2000 X-Men movie—Hush is an incredibly militarized version of superhero storytelling. Batman spends a lot of time talking about his real world tech. There are mentions of the FBI and CIA throughout. In that way, Hush very much represents the era in which many comic books were almost ashamed of being just that.
These were serious stories with high stakes and real world implications. No one wanted them to be mixed up with the brilliant campiness of Silver Age stories past. That’s not something that we want The Batman to take from. For years superhero movies from both DC and Marvel have been far too concerned with the military and realism. It would be nice to see Reeves bring a little radical imagination to the streets of Gotham.
We’ll find out for sure when The Batman hits theaters on March 4.
Featured Image: DC Comics