Riddle me this, reader: what hides in plain sight and can be hard, soft, or deep cut? Yes, it’s an Easter egg. After the monumental undertaking of The Batman, we’re here to break down all the references, hidden details, and Easter eggs that the movie has to offer. While Matt Reeves is most concerned with telling an engaging and emotional story, this is still a comic book movie so there are a ton of awesome moments plucked right from the comics. Reeves is also a cinephile who drew from a number of classic neo noir flicks for the film. And if there were some names you didn’t recognize or nods you wanted to double check then we’ve got you!
Naturally, there are millions of spoilers below, so please beware.
Bruce, Is That You?
The establishing shot of the film plays with some classic Batman visual gags. We see a young boy dressed as a ninja playing with his father. It’s hard not to wonder if this is Bruce. Are we seeing him and the Waynes before their fateful night at the movies? The fact he’s dressed as a ninja is also a nod to Bruce’s complex history with martial arts and, of course, his deep connection with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins. Of course, we soon learn it’s actually the son of Mayor Don Mitchell who’s about to meet a grisly fate.
The Influence of the Zodiac
David Fincher’s fingerprints are all over The Batman. Not only is the Riddler based on the real life Zodiac Killer, but Fincher’s Zodiac movie about that crime and his serial killer thriller Se7en are both clear influences. Speaking of Zodiac, The Batman echoes that film’s opening as it begins with a brutal murder set to unsettlingly peaceful song. It’s a clear homage, and just like Zodiac it immediately unsettles the audience and sets up the harrowing tone of the film.
This was one of the first Easter eggs/clues that eagle-eyed fans caught in the first trailer for The Batman. On the wall of Don Mitchell’s home we see a newspaper celebrating a huge drug bust on “Maroni.” Bat-fans will know that Boss Maroni is a long running foe of the Caped Crusader. First debuting in 1942’s Detective Comics #66, Maroni played a key part in the origin of another famed Batman villain, Two-Face. In the issue, Harvey Kent (nee Dent) is the DA prosecuting Moroni (nee Maroni), who throws acid in Harvey’s face and creates his villainous alter ego.
A Self-Aware Batman
This little moment is one of our favorite kinds of references. As Batman describes his burgeoning time as the hero, he realizes a brutal truth: since he took on the mantle things have only gotten worse. Crime and murder rates are rising. Poverty is spreading. It’s a great acknowledgement of one of the biggest and most constant conversations about Batman. Does he really make things better? Or does his presence inspire more crime and chaos?
Mutant Gang, Come Out to Play
One of the big Batman action scenes comes early on in the movie. A group of face-painted youths follow a man off a train. Attempting to initiate a new gang member into their crew, they corner their victim. But soon out of the shadows steps vengeance. The gang immediately evokes Walter Hill’s classic street gang movie, The Warriors. That’s not their only relevance, though. The crew also looks a lot like the Mutant Gangs from Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley’s iconic The Dark Knight Returns. And they have another likely inspiration too…
The Influence of the Arkham Games
If you’ve played the Arkham games then you might have noticed the gang looks similar to the Joker gangs that roam the streets. But that’s not the popular game franchise’s only impact. When Batman begins his brutal beatdown, the melee style fight feels really Arkham. This is a Batman who regularly fights multiple foes at once and uses whatever’s around him.
Lots has been made about how this film is not an origin story. Instead, it follows Bruce in his second year as Batman. That’s made text in the film by showing his notebook that says “Gotham Project: Year Two.” It’s a nice way to let people know where Bruce is at. But it also references the classic Batman: Year One story arc and its less well known follow up, Year Two. The former of which played a large part in shaping Matt Reeves’ vision for The Batman.
The Long Halloween
Bruce reveals that the murder took place on Halloween. It’s an appropriately eerie moment that also nods to one of the big comic book influences of the movie. The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tells the tale of a series of killings in Gotham. Although the movie is in no way a direct adaptation, it’s clear that The Batman is taking inspiration from the thrilling mystery. Another interesting thing that the film takes from The Long Halloween is the friendship between Bruce’s father and Carmine Falcone after Thomas Wayne saved the mob boss’ life.
Speaking of Halloween
Keeping it spooky, The Batman also features two direct references to the iconic John Carpenter movie Halloween. In the opening murder, the Riddler steps out from the darkness, emerging from the shadows just like the Shape. Then, when the nefarious criminal kidnaps Gil Coulson in his car, we get another nod. As he strangles the DA from behind, the car begins to fog up. Good creepy stuff from Reeves who is clearly a huge fan of horror cinema.
In the beautiful and unexpectedly gothic Wayne manor, Bruce and Alfred live alongside a third party. The elder woman is named Dory and seems to act as a housekeeper and secretary. Fans of Batman ’66 likely immediately made the connection to the series’ Aunt Harriet. The controversial character was added to the comics and the TV series to make the notion of two men living alone less homoerotic… seeing as Reeves is a big ’66 fan, this is likely a nod to Harriet.
A Chilly Lair
Though it’s hardly surprising seeing as this is a story about the early days of the Penguin, we get a new vision of the Iceberg Lounge here. In the comics, the fancy upmarket bar first appeared in 1995’s Detective Comics #683. It’s also an important location in Batman: Arkham City. It’s also appeared in numerous cartoons, animated movies, and even Gotham. Here, though, it’s more of a grimy rave that works as a cover for the real club, 44 Below.
That Looks Familiar
While Bruce and Alfred’s home is different to any Wayne Manor we’ve seen before, we do see a recognizable artifact in the homestead. Shakespeare’s bust was a vital part of the Batman ’66 series. When its head was pushed back, there was a secret button which revealed the Batpoles that led to the Batcave. Reeves includes a version of the bust in his Wayne Manor. Cute!
The Power of David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis
It’s clear that David Mazzucchelli and Frank Miller’s Year One is a huge influence on The Batman. Not only is the movie a dark noir detective tale, but Mazzucchelli and colorist Richmond Lewis’ art is a huge aesthetic influence too. The first moment it becomes obvious is when Bruce follows Selina home. The shots of her in her apartment seem almost directly taken from Year One. There’s also the fact she looks after her young roommate/potential partner just like in the comics, and the pair are clearly implied to be escorts/sex workers. That’s canon in Year One and Mazzucchelli and Lewis’ art brings the badass iteration of Selina to life brilliantly. While this isn’t the first year of Reeves’ Batman, Year One is the biggest comics influence on the movie.
Telltale Games and the Horrorification of the Riddler
Reeves’ iteration of the Riddler is one of the most horrific yet. But we have seen a Saw-inspired trap utilizing killer Riddler before. In the Telltale games entry Batman: The Enemy Within, Riddler returns to Gotham with a dark new twist. Creating a series of “death traps,” he engages Batman in a battle of wits to save the lives of his would-be victims. Sound familiar?
Real World Influence and Impact
Although The Batman is a movie about a man who dresses up as a bat to fight crime, Reeves’ take was clearly influenced by real life political corruption. Not only did he state that All the President’s Men was a huge influence on the film, but there are actually characters named after real people involved in the Watergate scandal. Corrupt DA Gil Coulson takes his surname from Charles Colson and his corrupt colleague Mayor Don Mitchell Jr takes his from John N. Mitchell.
Bruce’s Mother Is a WHAT?
In a movie filled with gasp-inducing moments, there was one that really got audiences going. As Bruce digs into his past we learn that his mother was an Arkham, one of the two founding families of Gotham alongside the Waynes. It’s a shocking reveal but it’s one that does have comic book precedent. In DC Comics in the late 00s continuing through the 2010s, most notably during Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s (2012) comic series Batman: Earth One, a version of Bruce’s mother is Martha Arkham-Wayne. So in that continuity—like the movie—she’s descended from the Arkhams who are, of course, most famous for building Arkham Asylum.
That Batmobile and Francavilla’s Aesthetic Impact
Ever since the first images of The Batman were revealed, fans have rightfully been shouting out Francesco Francavilla’s brilliant Batman ’72 art. The 2013 concept pieces showed his designs for a more grounded and real Batman including a new costume and new Batmobile. In the movie, the influence of the artist’s designs are even more obvious. Bruce’s muscle car Batmobile, his more stripped back outfitting, and even his Bat-collar attire all hark back to Francavilla’s awesome vision.
Hush, the Riddler, and the Elliots
Another influence on The Batman is the Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb story Hush. Like all of the other comics, this isn’t a direct adaptation but instead plays with themes, ideas, and notions presented in that comic. The story introduces a new ally and a new villain for Bruce. It’s only in the final issue that we find out they’re one and the same. Hush is revealed to be Bruce’s childhood friend, a dark reflection of Gotham’s most famous son. That’s echoed here in the dueling journeys of Bruce and the Riddler. Interestingly, in the animated adaptation of Hush, the film reimagines Hush as the Riddler, which seems even more similar to this version.
There are some more direct references to Hush too. The journalist who was investigating the Waynes and Martha’s past was called Edward Elliot. In the comics, he’s the great-grandfather of Thomas Elloit, the man who would become Hush. In that version he’s also one of the architects of Gotham. There’s an even more obvious reference too in a note that literally says HUSH.
In a delightfully retro moment, Batman and Gordon communicate with the Riddler through a chatroom. Though this takes on a much darker tinge later on in the movie, in the moment it reminded us of another fun tech-heavy Bat-story. In Detective Comics #845, Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen crafted a shocking murder mystery that centered around a chat room. Starring Selina Kyle, the Riddler, and Batman, it feels very appropriate here. There’s also a lot of fun to be had as Bruce joins an amateur detective chat room to try and decipher the crime. He’s not the only one, though, as both the Riddler and Detective Chimp are also regular contributors.
Selina’s Shocking Origin
In one of the movie’s most powerful and interesting twists, we learn that Selina Kyle is the daughter of Carmine Falcone. It comes as a great contradiction to Bruce’s grim assumption that Selina was in a relationship with the mob boss. There are a lot of historical layers to this moment in the comics. Her post New 52 origin revealed she was the secret daughter of a mob boss known as Rex Calebrese. But there’s also a comic book story where she implies that she’s the daughter of Carmine Falcone. In the sequel to The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Selina claims that she thinks the mob boss is her dad. This also made it into the animated adaptation of The Long Halloween, introducing the concept to more Bat-fans and the wider world.
“Enjoy Your Night at Blackgate, Carmine”
As Falcone is led out of the Iceberg Lounge by Batman, the Penguin appears. Oz states ominously, “Enjoy your night in Blackgate, Carmine. It’ll probably be your last.” Blackgate is the notorious Gotham prison that first debuted in 1991’s Detective Comics #629. It’s an alternative to Arkham for those criminals who are not deemed insane. Many of Batman’s foes have stayed there and the prison has appeared or been referenced in multiple adaptations and games.
One Last Sick Burn
Before Carmine breathes his last breath, he gets a little sass into Bruce, calling him Zorro. This is a reference to the movie that Bruce and his parents were historically seeing on the night they were killed. In the case of The Batman, we’re not sure what the exact events of their death were. But if Carmine did know that was the movie they were watching, it would be an extra brutal burn. Either way, this nickname he bestows on Bruce is a nod to classic Bat-canon.
The Riddler’s Real Name
Most people know the man behind the Riddler as Edward Nigma. But in Matt Reeves’ more grounded version he goes by the name Edward Nashton. This is not a Reeves invention. The New Earth version of Riddler is called Edward Nashton and later changes his name to Nigma. Similarly to Paul Dano’s villain, this Riddler had a tragic origin as an orphan just like Bruce Wayne.
Selina’s Next Steps
The Batman is as much a romance as it is a bleak action-noir. Selina Kyle and Batman are the beating heart of the movie and as they part ways Selina references a famed Gotham location. Bludhaven was first introduced in Nightwing vol. 2 #1. Since then it has become inherently connected to Dick Grayson and his life after Robin. Matt Reeves world seems like a tough fit for a child-sidekick but introducing Dick as an adult feels likely. Regardless, Selina heading to Bludhaven is a really fun Easter egg to this cult DC location.
Unseen Arkham Prisoner
The biggest talking point in the world of theories and Easter eggs will likely be the “Unseen Arkham Prisoner.” As Riddler sits crying in his cell, he’s comforted by an unseen friend. When that friend encourages him to keep his chin up and make a comeback, the pair share a laugh. It’s then we get to see the eye, hair, and mouth of the character who is clearly the Joker. Reeves also confirmed this at a Q&A we attended. So, yes, Barry Keoghan is the Joker. And if we get another Batman movie in this universe you can expect him to return in a big way.
No Man’s Gotham
As the movie comes to a close, we find Gotham underwater. It’s a really interesting choice and as I explained in our spin-off and sequels explainer “it leans heavily into multiple comic book arcs. During Year Zero, the Riddler blows up the sea walls of Gotham and floods the city. That was a clear influence here, but what comes after could influence the future of The Batman. In that story, Riddler takes control of the city and Batman has to battle to stop him. That seems like it could definitely happen in a potential Batman sequel.”
That’s not the only comic it’s drawing from, though. There’s also Batman: Cataclysm and No Man’s Land. Those arcs focused on Gotham during and after a natural disaster that left the city in ruin. If you want to learn more about what could happen next, definitely check those out.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.