Replacement Heroes: Batman

Replacement Heroes: Batman

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 Nightwing.

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? 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 Cowl

Tony Daniel on the Battle for the Cowl Teaser Image

Blog@: Battle for the Cowl: The Minor Leagues  

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