Which Comics Inspired Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN?

As we get ever closer to the release of Matt Reeves’ The Batman in 2022, 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, we have a wealth of brilliant comic stories to look at when considering where The Batman‘s plot might go. So after much reading, digging, and detective work, here are the Batman comics we think will influence Matt Reeves’ film. Though 2022’s The Batman may not be 100% based on any one of these comics, several of them almost certainly offered inspiration.

The Batman‘s Comic Book Basis

During DC FanDome 2020, Reeves teased some comics that came into play when creating the new Batman movie. 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. We’re also highlighting some of the comics that Reeves himself has pointed to as having shaped the murder-filled movie.

Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 (1939) – Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Gardner Fox, and Jerry Robinson
Batman golden age comics collection cover
DC Comics

Seeing as this The Batman‘s plot will focus on Bruce Wayne’s early years, 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 came across as plenty dark. He was very much the hard-boiled detective that Reeves’ new Batman movie will focus on. He even killed people, which Robert Pattinson’s new Dark Knight iteration might also, at least, think about doing. It’s a far cry from the no-killing mythos DC Comics creators later created, and even further from the militarized Bruce of Christopher Nolan’s film series.

These stories often center on a theme we’ll hit again and again in this piece: Batman as an actual detective. It’s Batman as 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 from the comics has often been what fans most want to see translated to the screen. If Reeves pulls from these classic tales then we could finally get the live-action “world’s greatest detective” that we’ve all been waiting for. Basing 2022’s The Batman on these early detective tales from the comics would be a smart way to go.

Batman: Year Two (1987) – Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Todd McFarlane, Alfredo Alcala, Adrienne Roy, Todd Klein, Richard Starkings, Augustin Mas, and John Costanza
The Batman Year Two cover
DC Comics

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 Mazzucchelli. Year Two opens with Jim Gordon getting the Commissioner promotion, something we’ll likely see in The Batman. There’s also the factor of Leslie Thompkins, a key part of Bruce’s backstory. Tonally, this dark tale 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, the Reeves film 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. Either way, the Year Two Batman comic may offer some basis for the 2022 movie.

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996) – Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Gregory Wright, and Richard Starkings
Batman The Long Halloween cover
DC Comics

This ’90s classic comic will likely be one of the key influences on Reeves’ The Batman. 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. After seeing trailers for The Batman, this feels familiar. This is a rare contemporary Batman story that leans into the World’s Greatest Detective of it all. It’s also interesting as a comic that shapes the origins of some of Batman’s best-known rogues, which Reeves stated was key to 2022’s 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 from this comic? In the story, Carmine Falcone hires Riddler 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 Paul Dano’s Riddler. Reeves could also take inspiration from the Catwoman and Batman relationship in this comic. The Long Halloween‘s Catwoman is a detective in her own right. She 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: Scottish Connection (1998) – Alan Grant, Frank Quitely, Matt Hollingsworth, and Bill Oakley
Batman: Scottish Connection comic cover
DC Comics

I wrote extensively about this ’90s oddity when The Batman 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 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. Scottish Connection centers Alfred Pennyworth—whom we hear speaking to Bruce over the graveyard scene in The Batman trailer—and a historical mystery connected to the Waynes. If you were paying attention at Fandome, then you’ll know that could be key.

Batman: Ego and Other Tails (2000) – Darwyn Cooke and JonathAn Babcock
Batman: Ego and Other Tails comic book cover
DC Comics

Another comic Reeves mentioned by name as an inspiration for The Batman is this one-shot by the late, great Darwyn Cooke. If you’ve read the story it’s clear why. An introverted and conflicted Bruce Wayne fights against the fear living inside him after he was complicit in a horrific murder. 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.

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 from this comic, 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 on March 4, 2022.

Batman: Heart of Hush (2009) – Dustin Nguyen, Paul Dini, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz
Batman: Heart of Hush comic cover
DC Comics

Though Hush might have come to mind when we first got a glimpse of the masked killer, 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 comic book, Selina and Bruce fight side by side here. 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 that Nguyen imbues with a beautiful darkness and just enough light to let the shadows in. It’s clear Reeves is going for a contemporary noir, so that’s another potential visual inspiration for The Batman. 

Batman: The Court of Owls Saga (2011) – Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and More
Batman: The Court of Owls Saga comics cover
DC Comics

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. Reeves 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 The Court of Owls Saga, it surely came 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, tonal things 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 comic themes seem very easy to translate to 2022’s The Batman, especially in Matt Reeves’ more grounded take on the hero.

Batman (2014) – by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, with Jared K. Fletcher
Batman the deluxe edition comic book cover
DC Comics

If you read our piece about Colin Farrell’s interesting 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 Reeves’ The Batman. This immersive and experimental book could serve as 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 comic story we’d say it’s likely the close working relationship between Batman and Harvey 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 Batman and Harvey Bullock take down a drug ring and a dangerous street drug; we definitely could see that come to life in The Batman. 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 comic to check out, this is probably it.

Whether or not Reeves will pull directly from any of these comic 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 he and The Batman will draw from the incredible well of yarns comics creators have shared over the eight-plus decades since the Dark Knight first debuted.

Originally published August 25, 2020.

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