As Batman’s father from an alternate universe — the Thomas Wayne known as Flashpoint Batman — just showed up in the Batcave in Batman #60, you might be wondering… wait, where did he come from?
The answer to that question might be connected to the similarities between a moment in “The Button” and the origin story of Mr. Oz.
During the two-plus-years story of “Rebirth,” readers have learned that Dr. Manhattan saved Superman’s father, Jor-El, at the last moment before his death.
And in “The Button,” readers saw what looked like the death of Flashpoint Batman as he blew his house up while his universe collapsed around him. But…his universe was only being kept alive because of Dr. Manhattan.
Might Dr. Manhattan have saved Bruce Wayne’s father in the same way he saved Jor-El?
And might this all be part of the build-up to the end of Doomsday Clock next year?
Let’s take a look at the continuity that brought Batman’s father into his universe and into the Batcave, looking for clues about why he would work against his own son.
1) First Came Flashpoint
In 2011, DC published a mini-series called Flashpoint in which Barry Allen had traveled back in time to prevent his mother’s murder by Eobard Thawne.
Barry succeeded in saving his mother in the past, but when he returned to the present-day, he discovered a greatly changed DCU.
Among the many changes was the origin story of Batman. Instead of Bruce Wayne losing his parents to a gunman that fateful night, the Flashpoint version of Bruce Wayne was the one who got shot.
In this timeline, Thomas and Martha Wayne lost their son, an event that was so traumatizing that Martha eventually became the Joker, and Thomas Wayne became Batman.
This “Flashpoint Batman” was a much more brutal version of Batman that was willing to kill to meet his goals.
Barry also discovered that the world of Flashpoint was not an alternate Earth, but was instead his own reality, but overwritten.
Eventually, Barry restored the timeline, albeit with a lot of differences. Thus the “New 52” was born, a reboot that altered the timeline, the characters and many of the concepts of the DCU.
2) Letter Survives
But just before Barry restored the timeline (and eliminated the Flashpoint timeline), Thomas Wayne/Flashpoint Batman gave Barry a letter to give to Bruce.
The letter survived the timeline change, and after Barry gave it to Bruce, it hung in the Batcave for years.
It was the only artifact that proved the Flashpoint ever happened.
And because the new timeline overwrote the old one, it was assumed that the Flashpoint timeline no longer existed. Thomas Wayne was dead. Long live Bruce Wayne.
3) Dr. Manhattan, You Rascal
But this is comic books. And nothing’s ever quite that simple.
In “The Button” storyline of spring 2017, the Flashpoint Batman returned.
First, he suddenly appeared in the Batcave for a split-second, surprising his son. But then he just as quickly disappeared.
According to Batman, his father’s appearance was the result of a rip in the Speed Force. And it was caused by a reaction between two items that Batman was studying — the bloody smiley face button from Watchmen and the Psycho Pirate mask.
Eventually in “The Button,” five important things happened regarding Flashpoint Batman:
A- Thomas’ letter to Bruce was destroyed.
B- Batman and the Flash discovered that the Flashpoint timeline still existed within the Speed Force.
C- Batman and The Flash actually visited Bruce’s father briefly within the Flashpoint timeline. And his father told him, “Don’t be Batman; find happiness, please.”
D- The Flashpoint timeline started coming apart during the visit, prompting Thomas to stay and sacrifice himself to allow his son to go home to his own timeline.
E- Thomas Wayne set off some type of explosion device as his timeline collapsed. In Thomas’ last scene in “The Button,” the space around him was fading to white so much that readers were shown what looked like the end of Thomas Wayne, either in an explosion or within the destruction of his timeline.
OK, but how did the Flashpoint timeline even exist? Wasn’t it overwritten?
The answer to that question isn’t clear, but “The Button” implied that Dr. Manhattan was keeping former timelines alive. (In fact, Flash and Batman discovered that there are a lot of former timelines that still exist in this fashion.)
“The Button” also implied that Dr. Manhattan was the one who took Batman to the Flashpoint timeline to meet his father — and that there was a nefarious motivation behind the meeting.
In fact, Dr. Manhattan appeared in “The Button,” although for just a moment (and technically just his hand). And neither Batman nor Flashpoint Batman saw him.
However, there’s no doubt Dr. Manhattan was involved.
At the end of “The Button,” Batman arrived home, but all indications were that the Flashpoint timeline and its Flashpoint Batman were gone.
4) What the…?
Then at the end of Batman #50, Flashpoint Batman showed up in the absolute least likely location.
(Like, nobody would ever guess this one in a million years.)
On the final page of Batman #50, Thomas Wayne was in his Flashpoint Batman costume, standing inside Arkham Asylum. And he was one of several characters who were helping Bane screw up Bruce Wayne’s life.
Yeah, we still don’t know what’s going on. But we do know that Bane has enlisted the help of lots and lots of characters to “break” Batman mentally. And Flashpoint Batman is one of them.
In fact, Flashpoint Batman showed up again in Batman #58. When Penguin went to Bane’s cell to visit him, he discovered that Flashpoint Batman was still there in Arkham Asylum, standing in Bane’s cell, apparently acting as the villain’s right-hand man.
5) Present Day
Now, in Batman #60, Thomas showed up in the Batcave to speak with Penguin. And he used the term “we” to refer to himself and Bane, so they’re definitely in cahoots.
And by the end of the issue, Thomas is about to once again meet his son.
There are couple reasons this whole thing makes no sense. First of all, why would Thomas help Bane? After all, Bane was revealed to be happy that Bruce Wayne didn’t marry Catwoman, a union that would have given Bruce some of the “happiness” that his father wanted for him. So why would Thomas Wayne be supporting this dude?
Also, how did Flashpoint Batman get to the current DCU timeline? Is this Dr. Manhattan, continuing to mess with things? Did Bane figure out a way to access another timeline? Or did Thomas escape during “The Button” and nobody noticed?
Maybe the answer lies with then ending of “The Button” and the story of Mr. Oz…
6) Fathers Saved from Death
Keep in mind that this is just a theory, and there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Batman writer Tom King is using Dr. Manhattan to inform his Bane story.
However, a recent story in the DCU showed that Dr. Manhattan apparently caused Superman’s father Jor-El to be alive. According to that story, Jor-El was teleported away at the split-second the explosion was about to happen on Krypton.
After he was saved, Jor-El was corrupted in a way that made him an adversary to his son.
Could something similar have happened to Thomas?
In “The Button,” Thomas Wayne was also about to die in an explosion. And “The Button” already involved Dr. Manhattan.
Might Dr. Manhattan have also saved Thomas Wayne at the last second? And if that’s true, could Thomas have been corrupted somehow after his rescue?
Whatever the explanation, one thing is clear. Batman has had a really rough year-and-a-half since the last time he saw his father. His plans for a marriage fell apart, his adopted son Dick Grayson was shot in the head (and pretty much abandoned him), and now everybody (including Jim Gordon) thinks he’s going nuts.
Come to think of it, this feels like things are heading toward the beginning of Doomsday Clock, where nobody in Gotham City trusts Batman anymore. We already saw Jim Gordon destroy the Bat Signal.
Maybe Thomas Wayne’s involvement in Bruce’s life, combined with Bane’s evil schemes, is the reason Batman becomes so hated in the future of the DCU. And this is all part of Dr. Manhattan’s grand plan.