As we get ever closer to the release of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, fans are eager to learn more about the enigmatic new take on the Dark Knight. While there are only a few trailers and clips out there, like any comic book movie we have a wealth of brilliant stories to look at. So after much reading, digging, and detective work, here are the comics we think will influence the film.
The Batman’s Comic Book Basis
During DC Fandome 2020 Reeves teased some of the comics that influenced the movie. Seeing as the movie is almost on our screens it’s the perfect time to dive into some classic Batman comics that we think could have influenced Reeves’ version. You’ve probably already read some of the most obvious suspects, like Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, so we’ve picked a few lesser known reads as well as highlighting some of the comics that Reeves himself has pointed to as having shaped the murder-filled movie.
Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 1
Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Gardner Fox, and Jerry Robinson
Seeing as this film will focus on the early years of Batman, it makes sense to go back to the beginning. Though you may think of Golden Age comics as wacky and often weird—which they were—Batman’s early appearances were plenty dark. He was very much the hard-boiled detective that Reeves’ film will focus on. He even killed people, which it seems like the new iteration might also do. It’s a far cry from the no-killing mythos that was later created, and even further from the militarized Bruce of the Nolan series.
These stories often center on a theme we’ll hit again and again in this piece: Batman as an actual detective. A ground level hero who uses violence and wits to get what he wants. That was lost in later, more wacky iterations, and the detective aspect has often been what fans most want to see translated to the screen. If Reeves takes from these classic tales then we could finally get the live-action “world’s greatest detective” that we’ve all been waiting for.
Batman: Year Two
Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Todd McFarlane, Alfredo Alcala, Adrienne Roy, Todd Klein, Richard Starkings, Augustin Mas, and John Costanza
Reeves confirmed that his Batman movie will take place in the so-called “Year Two” era of Batman. That means we had to suggest this sequel to the lauded Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli. Year Two opens with Jim Gordon being promoted to Commissioner, something that we’ll likely see at some point in The Batman. There’s also the factor of Leslie Thompkins, a key part of Bruce’s backstory. Tonally, this is another dark tale that centers on Batman taking down a murderous vigilante. Fans of the theory that the Bat-symbol on his chest might be made of the gun that killed his parents might also want to note that Joe Chill’s weapon plays a key part in the finale of this tale…
While Leslie Thompkins doesn’t seem to be a part of The Batman, it is proudly a detective story. It also follows the chaos and crimes of a Zodiac Killer-inspired Riddler. Plus, as always, this film will reckon with the truth about the Waynes and likely who was behind their death. But whether we’ll finally see a real live action Joe Chill is another question entirely.
Batman: The Long Halloween
Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Gregory Wright, and Richard Starkings
This ’90s classic will likely be one of the key influences on Reeves’ film. Even though Year Two is obviously the official sequel to Year One, The Long Halloween also continues the narrative of Year One. Loeb and Sale focus on a burgeoning Batman hunting down a brutal and theatrical serial killer… which, after watching the trailer, seems very familiar. This is a rare contemporary Batman story that leans into the World’s Greatest Detective of it all, which is part of what makes it such a popular pick among fans. It’s also interesting as a piece that shapes the origins of some of Batman’s best-known rogues, which Reeves stated was key to The Batman and its approach to the Penguin, Catwoman, and of course, the Riddler.
Another obvious influence is this serial killer detective story. Could The Batman take directly from the Halloween and date-inspired murderer here? Probably not as it seems that the Riddler is the culprit in Reeves’ film. But the Riddler does play a key part in The Long Halloween alongside the film’s other rogues. So what could we see translated to the screen? In the story Riddler is hired by Carmine Falcone to solve the mystery of who the so-called Holiday Killer is. John Turturro will be playing Falcone, so we could see him team up with Dano’s Riddler. Reeves could also take inspiration from the Catwoman / Batman relationship here. The Long Halloween’s Catwoman is a detective in her own right who saves Batman during the story. That seems a likely route for the film to follow here with its focus on the two young vigilantes.
Batman: The Scottish Connection
Alan Grant, Frank Quitely, Matt Hollingsworth, and Bill Oakley
I wrote extensively about this ’90s oddity when set photos revealed Bruce Wayne in a graveyard in Glasgow. Though it’s unlikely that the movie will be even partially set in Scotland, Reeves did reveal that his take on Gotham was inspired by Liverpool, so the British Isles are at least coming into play. This is an exceedingly fun book that follows Bruce as he heads to Europe on Wayne family business only to discover a strange mystery. The Scottish Connection centers Alfred Pennyworth—whom we hear speaking to Bruce over the graveyard scene in the trailer—and a historical mystery connected to the Waynes. If you were paying attention at Fandome, then you’ll know that could be key.
Darwyn Cooke and Jonathon Babcock
Another comic that Reeves mentioned during his Fandome panel is this one-shot by the late, great Darwin Cooke. If you’ve read the story it’s clear why. An introverted and conflicted Bruce Wayne fights against the fear that lives inside him after a horrific murder he was complicit in. Working as both a reimagining of his classic origin and a metatext on the nature of Batman and his role in the crimewave of Gotham city, this makes a lot of sense for Reeves’ more humanist and complex look at the Dark Knight. Ego also positions Batman and Bruce as two almost completely separate entities, which could be an intriguing route for the film to explore.
Much can be made of the fact that we barely seem to see Bruce Wayne in the trailers for Matt Reeves’ The Batman. That could be a representation of Ego’s influence on the film. In that case we’d essentially see Bruce and Batman living separate lives. It would be a brave and likely controversial choice. The most obvious inspiration, though, will be the exploration of the Bruce/Batman relationship. What drives Bruce to be Batman? How does his violence impact those around him? Does it really make the city a better place? Those are all key questions in Ego and could come into play when The Batman hits the screen.
Batman: Heart of Hush
Dustin Nguyen, Paul Dini, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Though Hush might have come to mind when we first got a glimpse of the masked killer—who is likely the Riddler—I’m not including that smash hit series here. Instead, you get Nguyen and Dini’s sterling slow-burn sequel. As for what Reeves could take from the book, Selina and Bruce fight side by side here, which is a definite possibility. Dano’s Riddler could potentially take notes too as the mastermind uses Selina against Bruce to devastating effect. Plus, there’s also the gorgeous noir aesthetic which Nguyen imbues with a beautiful darkness and just enough light to let the shadows in.
As for what else Reeves could take from the book, Selina and Bruce fight side by side here which we are pretty sure will happen in the film. Without spoiling too much, that relationship is used to taunt and tease Bruce in a wildly bleak way so there’s definitely plenty of notes that Dano’s Riddler could potentially take to heart. Plus, there’s also the gorgeous noir aesthetic which Nguyen imbues with a beautiful darkness and just enough light to let the shadows in. It’s clear that Reeves is going for a contemporary noir, so that’s another potential inspiration.
Batman: The Court of Owls Saga
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and more
The Batman wasn’t the only big Dark Knight announcement that came out of Fandome. DC also revealed a new Bat-Family video game featuring the Court of Owls. But that’s not why we’ve recommended this one. While Reeves chatted with Aisha Taylor, he described how The Batman would center on dark secrets, corruption that goes to the center of Gotham, and the battles between the high-powered families who have built it. If you’ve read this sprawling story, it will surely have come to mind. There are also echoes of Ego here as Bruce grapples with a new threat that forces him to look at himself, his family, and his role as Gotham’s most famous protector.
While it seems unlikely that the Court of Owls will appear in what seems to be a more intimate and small-scale Batman story, there are tonal things that could be taken from here. Much of the Court of Owls focuses on Bruce struggling to find the truth about the Wayne Foundation. And him being targeted by a shadowy group that doesn’t want him to better Gotham. Those seem very easy to translate to The Batman, especially in Matt Reeves’ more grounded take on the hero.
by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, with Jared K. Fletcher
If you read our piece about Colin Farrell’s recent Batman purchase then you’ll be aware of this particular collection. This late New 52 era series boasts Manapul and Buccellato’s stunning visual storytelling alongside another exploration of Gotham’s corruption. We know those themes are at the core of the story that Reeves is telling. This immersive and experimental book would be a great framework for trying to look under the hood of both Batman and Gotham.
If we were to guess what Reeves might directly take from this story we’d say it’s likely the close working relationship between Batman and Bullock. But with Gordon (Jeffery Wright) playing a big part in The Batman, it’s more likely that we’ll see that relationship reimagined with Batman and Gordon working together. In the comics they’re taking down a drug ring and a dangerous street drug, which is a popular Hollywood trope, so we definitely could see that come to life here. Reeves has also talked a lot about corruption at every level of Gotham, which this Detective Comics run really leans into. So if there’s one Batman book to check out, this is probably it.
Whether or not Reeves will pull directly from any of these stories is still to be seen. But as a huge fan of Batman and a storyteller invested in exploring the rich history of the character, it seems likely that he’ll be drawing from the incredible well of yarns that comics creators have created over the eight-plus decades since the Dark Knight first debuted.
Featured Image: DC Comics