The 'cave needs a new resident.
Everyone assumed that the recent Batman R.I.P. storyline
referred titularly to the familiar phrased “Rest in Peace”. Perhaps it
means, as DC Comics Executive Editor Dan Didio noted at a couple of
convention panels last summer, “Replacement is possible.” After the
events of “Last Rites” and this week’s Final Crisis #6 , it
would seem that the Bat Office is in need of a new occupant. This
measure has been tried before, with varying degrees of success. Let’s
take a look at a few of the memorable men would be Batman.
Azrael as Batman
Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley): Introduced in the Batman: Sword of Azrael
mini-series by writer Denny O’Neil in 1992, Jean-Paul Valley had been
conditioned and trained by the Order of St. Dumas to be an assassin (in
the name of justice, of course). Batman helps Azrael overcome his
programming. Interestingly, the artist on the book was Joe Quesada, a
guy who’s been in charge of a few replacements and revamps at Marvel.
Also beginning in 1992, the “Knightfall” story arc began. Its climax
was the breaking of Batman’s back by the villain Bane. Azrael assumes
the identity of Batman, later taking on an armored costume.
Unfortunately, his conditioning overtakes him, making him increasingly
violent. After battling Batman and his allies, Jean-Paul surrenders the
cowl back to Bruce Wayne. Jean-Paul became Azrael again, and actually
helmed a solo series that ran 100 issues. The character apparently died
at the series’ end in 2003. (Though there is a new Azrael coming back to Gotham City in March)
Verdict: Though AzBats had his supporters, the most widespread fan sentiment was against Jean-Paul and his look.
Nightwing takes the mantle
Nightwing (Dick Grayson): The original Robin, Dick Grayson took
on the more mature Nightwing persona in 1984. Long-viewed by most at
Batman’s eventual successor, Dick got his chance to fill the cowl in
the “Knightfall/KnightsEnd” follow-up, “Prodigal”. In that story, which
stretched from fall of 2004 and into 2005, Bruce Wayne passed the
mantle to Dick, whom he had raised after the death of Dick’s parents,
while he did some soul-searching over his role. After brief period,
Bruce returned to the Batman role, and Dick went back to being
Verdict: Fans seem pretty comfortable with Dick Grayson becoming
Batman. If someone has to be there instead of Bruce Wayne, the readers
would likely want it to be him.
Doctor Hurt cannot make Batmen
Three Ghosts?: Part of a complicated story born from Grant Morrison’s run as Batman
writer, the “ghosts” are three characters that were revealed to have
trained with Batman as possible replacements. They were all taken from
the Gotham City Police Department, and a Doctor Simon Hurt participated
in order to monitor Batman’s skills and motivations. The three
potentials were never able to take Batman, so Dr. Hurt (in reality, a
villain) subjected the three men to torture, experimentation, and the
murder of their loved ones. Batman would fight them all again, but even
though they wore versions of his costume, they never came close to
supplanting the real thing.
Verdict: Never go to a doctor named “Hurt”.
The once and future Batman?
Batman Beyond (Terry McGinnis): Though the character has only
made a couple of appearances in the regular DC Comics canon, usually in
reality-bending stories, among the most popular Bat-placements is
Batman from the animated series Batman Beyond. In 2039, young
Terry McGinnis takes over for an aging Bruce Wayne; using Wayne’s
guidance and an experimental Batsuit, Terry fights to keep futuristic
Gotham safe. The show ran for 52 episodes between 1999 and 2001, with
one direct to video movie (Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker). Terry McGinnis’s story received a coda of sorts in the later Justice League Unlimited series; a flash-forward episode (titled “Epilogue”) took place 15 years after Batman Beyond
and revealed that conspiratorial machinations had actually imprinted
McGinnis with Bruce Wayne’s DNA. Thus, McGinnis was, in a sense,
Wayne’s biological son.
Verdict: Years after the series ended production, McGinnis and his
universe remain extremely popular. Mattel released a Batman Beyond
figure in their DC Universe Classics line just a couple of months ago,
and will release an animated-style three pack (with Batman Beyond, the
older Bruce Wayne, and super-hero offspring Warhawk) in 2009. It’s safe
to say that many fans would like to see more Terry in the comics.
JLA: The Obsidian Age: Readers know that Batman always has a
plan. When the entire Justice League disappeared during the “Obsidian
Age” storyline of 2002, Batman’s back-up protocol kicked in. A
replacement League was summoned, and at its helm was Batman’s
hand-picked leader . . . Nightwing. The regular League would eventually
return, and Nightwing would go back to his solo role, though he did
take leadership of both the Outsiders and the Titans (whom he had
formerly led at different junctures).
Verdict: It seems pretty clear; when Batman needs a solid, he calls Nightwing.
Granted, we’ve seen others try to take the cowl. Villain Dr. Hugo
Strange memorably masqueraded as Batman. Superman has pretended to be
Batman on more than one occasion.
You can argue that it’s the symbol, and the power and fear that it
represents, that sends shockwaves through the criminal community.
Still, it’s not just the clothes that make the man. Who has what it
takes to be the next Batman? Is replacement even possible?
Tony Daniel on Battle for the CowlTony Daniel on the Battle for the Cowl Teaser ImageBlog@: Battle for the Cowl: The Minor Leagues