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It’s Not About The Batman

Generally speaking, there have been two types of Batman stories given to us in recent years.

There’s the stories where Batman is in a dark and sullen Gotham, contending with a who’s who of his rogues gallery, all of them later made irrelevant when the Joker makes his de facto appearance. And then there’s the larger cosmic stories where Batman takes much more center stage than you’d expect from a rich furry....and also maybe involves the Joker for some reason. We’ve seen this in comics, we’ve seen this in various movies, we even saw it in the games. Even the most diehard Batman fans would have to admit these two tracks for the hero wore out their welcome by the time Batman had to fight seven evil versions of himself, one of whom was also the Joker. Add all that up with ever tireless online conversations about why he doesn’t just pour his money into Gotham’s resources, plus WB’s refusal to give this treatment to literally anyone else in their library of characters, and anyone would be reasonably exhausted by the Bat-content on the horizon.

All of that seemingly vanished after this weekend’s DC FanDome, featuring a glut of media for the Caped Crusader. The big one was naturally the trailer for Robert Pattinson as Batman in...well, The Batman. Even with only 1/4 of the film actually done pre-pandemic, there was a lot to love about the trailer, from the Zodiac killer angle on the Riddler to Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne brooding while wearing eyeliner. (He’s already become a meme, because of course.) The trailer has largely won people over, many of whom were more than a little tired at the idea of another “gritty” Batman that would be more hard edged and feature Colin Farrell in a truly astounding makeup job. For others, it doesn’t look that different from the other Batman stuff we’ve been getting lately. Admittedly, that’s true — so what is it that’s got people won over? Are people that easy a mark for well done Batman trailers?

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...Well, yes, but I think everything comes into clearer focus when combined with the other Batman media present at the event.

The Batman was the closer for FanDome, but there was still plenty of Batman content between the show’s beginning and end. WB Montreal finally revealed Gotham Knights, a co-op game starring Batman’s entourage after he’s died (he didn’t); John Ridley revealed a Batman comic featuring a black man under the cowl; and news that the upcoming Flash movie will feature Ben Affleck’s Batman and Michael Keaton’s Batman from the 1989 movie. It felt like there was an actual range to Batman this year instead of “fights everyone, but Joker is the mastermind” or “the star of an absurdly otherworldly event”. Just about every type of Batfan under the sun got to eat some food at FanDome, from Batfamily fans to DCEU and old school fans — even people who just want a Batman story without Bruce Wayne, which they’re getting with Ridley’s comic and Javicia Leslie as the CW’s Batwoman in 2021.

Who knows how The Batman or any of these other pieces of media involving him will turn out until they’re in our possession. But the fact that Batman media can actually feel different from one another beyond which actor is in the suit is a good sign that maybe we’re on the way to a creative resurgence for the character. Even when you’re — *checks notes* 81 years old — you could stand to mix things up a little.

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And nary a Joker in sight. How about that.

Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.

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