The next DC animated movie, Batman: Bad Blood, will go on sale February 2016. Ever since DC and Warner Bros. Animation established a shared animated universe back in 2014’s Justice League: War, the Dark Knight’s new mythos has been receiving a lot of spotlight. Not only does Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, appear in the Justice League movies (War, Throne of Atlantis), but he’s also had two solo spinoffs which offered a new approach to the vigilante’s rich history. 2o14’s Son of Batman took inspiration from Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert’s Batman and Son story arc; 2015’s Batman vs. Robin pulled story elements from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Court of Owl’s event, as well as Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Born to Kill arc.
2016 will see the release of two Batman animated movies: Batman: Bad Blood and Batman: The Killing Joke. At the time of writing this, Bad Blood appears to be inspired by Morrison’s work, because it sees Dick Grayson, a.k.a Nightwing, becoming Batman and working with Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin. Additionally, Heretic, a physically imposing and lethal villain, plays a role in the upcoming movie, and he was co-created by Morrison. Later in the year, Batman: The Killing Joke will presumably be non-canon (meaning it’s a standalone story that isn’t connected to the shared universe) and it’s, of course, inspired by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s frequently discussed comic of the same name.
Obviously, these animated movies aren’t focusing solely on DC’s most popular hero. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis placed Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman front and center; Batman: Assault on Arkham highlighted the Suicide Squad; Justice League: War attempted to juggle each member of the Justice League. With the DC Extended Universe giving other heroes – like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Shazam – spinoff movies through 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising if the animated projects attempted to capitalize on the boosted interest those Justice Leaguers will receive. However, given Batman’s immense popularity, it’s understandable the iconic character will receive a number of his own animated features. Thankfully, the Caped Crusader has been the center of attention in dozens of excellent comic book stories throughout the years. Great comics like The Dark Knight Returns, Under the Red Hood, and Year One have already been turned into animated movies, but if more Batman spinoffs are to come in the next few years, we believe there are several Batman comics that should be turned into animated movies.
Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Hush is pure popcorn entertainment. Lee’s pages are attention-grabbing and the story refuses to slow down as it throws familiar face after familiar face into the journey. Everyone from Huntress to Ra’s al Ghul pops into the picture, and each of them offer memorable – and often exciting – scenes. Many will recall Batman’s brief struggle with Superman (who’s fallen under Poison Ivy’s influence), and Loeb makes sure to give both of the iconic heroes the respect they deserve in the short fight.
The ending may not leave everyone satisfied, and many will likely predict Hush’s identity from a mile away, but the path getting there makes good use of so many Batman allies and villains – there’s the potential for a whole lot of fan service here. And in the midst of all of the fast-paced chaos, the story manages to delve into Bruce’s dynamic with Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. Seeing as Lee’s pencils are often considered to be the biggest selling point of the storyline, it would be especially important to find a character designer who can produce something similar to the popular artist’s striking style for the animated movie. Hush is a fun ride and, with the right writer, it could be trimmed to fit perfectly into a 70 minute or so runtime.
The Black Mirror
Gotham City can do terrible things to a person’s mind…
Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Mirror could be a terrific animated movie that focuses on delivering tension and horror. In the comic, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. the first Robin and then Nightwing, has become Batman and he, along with James and Barbara Gordon, attempt to figure out who’s behind some recent bloodshed. The mystery that unfolds is petrifying while also offering a detailed look at Gotham and a few of its prominent characters. It’s a story that proves someone doesn’t need powers or an elaborate costume to give you nightmares. Assuming that many of you haven’t read the tale (which we highly recommend doing asap), we’ll gloss over specifics and simply say that Snyder’s mystery is one that refuses to let go of your intrigue and it’s perfectly complemented by Jock and Francavilla’s haunting visuals.
This wouldn’t be an animated movie that younger viewers could also enjoy, but considering the fact The Killing Joke is being adapted (and several other animated movies have had graphic content which justifies at PG-13 rating), it’s safe to say The Black Mirror‘s dark tone and chilling events don’t eliminate from being a potential candidate. Also, depending on how Bruce’s absence is explained, this movie could technically pave the way for a Batman Incorporated spinoff…
Bane made his debut in 1993. Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan’s Batman: Vengeance of Bane revealed the intelligent and dangerous fiend’s origin story, while also justifying why he has Batman in his sights. Later that year, Bane put his plan into action in a story called Knightfall (which was followed by Knightquest and KnightsEnd). To break Batman’s spirit and body, Bane made sure Gotham was flooded with criminals. When Batman was at a low point, Bane violently attacked the hero in his own home and then broke his back. This motivated Jean-Paul Valley, a more aggressive man, to take up the mantle of Batman and eventually defeat Bane. It’s a long story with plenty of follow-up after Bane has fallen, but the non-stop flood of action and cameos makes it a tale that people often reread and recommend to others. But could it be crammed into a 70 minute runtime? No. Could it work if it gets a two-part treatment, just like The Dark Knight Returns? In the right hands, yes.
Knightfall would be a difficult story to adapt. It isn’t the most elaborate journey, but it has a lot of pieces. Jean-Paul Valley must be established in a satisfying way – as well as his dynamic with Batman and Robin – while making sure Bane isn’t overshadowed. Then there’s the numerous cameos. Of course, a fair amount would need to be cut and reworked – especially what occurs after Bane is defeated – to fit a shorter amount of time allowed to tell the narrative, but just like Hush, Knightfall has what it takes to be an incredible dose of action-packed fun. (Well, it wouldn’t be fun for Bruce…) If DC and W.B. Animation are determined to adapt classic Batman stories (which appears to be the case, so far), then Knightfall is surely on their list of possible animated movies. It wouldn’t be easy to cram this one into the limited amount of time – even with two-parts – but it definitely has what it takes to be an exhilarating and dark adventure.
Grant Morrison is known for his thought-provoking and trippy stories. He’s had quite a few opportunities to delve into Batman’s world, and elements from those stories have already been sprinkled into the DC animated movies. While Batman R.I.P. absolutely has potential for an animated movie, it’s his 1989 story with artist Dave McKean that we’re choosing to highlight. Haunting and immersive, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is a gripping and twisted story that aims to explore Batman’s psyche. Arkham is where the criminally insane go, but is it where Batman should be, too? Just like many of the murderous villains, Batman is obsessed with his mission – many believe Batman is the hero’s true identity, and Bruce Wayne has become the mask. As the story offers insight into Batman as he encounters several well-known enemies (including a brutal fight with Killer Croc), it also reveals how Arkham Asylum came to be.
Adapting Morrison and McKean’s captivating story for a DC animated movie runtime – which tends to be around 70 minutes – wouldn’t be challenging. The real challenge comes in finding the right character designer for the job. Duplicating McKean’s stunning – and often terrifying – visuals would be no easy feat. Morrison’s script is engaging and it keeps the reader hooked as it focuses on being a horrifying character study, but McKean’s atmosphere and character work – especially with the Joker – sells the claustrophobic and creepy story extraordinarily well. Just like with Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, Arkham Asylum is a story that should only receive an animated movie once the unforgettable visuals can be recreated well enough.
Batman’s rogues gallery has several popular villains. For many fans, characters like Joker, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and even Killer Croc immediately come to mind. Several villains have left a lasting impact on Gotham’s hero, but one foe tends to be overshadowed: Hugo Strange. In the early ’90s, Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy took comic book readers on a trip into Batman’s earlier years as one man – Hugo Strange – forced the Dark Knight to question his entire mission. Strange’s twisted obsession with the Caped Crusader torments the hero’s psyche, and the dilemma forces Batman to take a good look at whether or not he should continue wearing the cape and cowl. And as Strange messes with Batman’s head, a new vigilante, Night-Scourge, is attempting to prove he’s better than Batman, and that concludes with an epic – and vicious – brawl.
Prey is character-driven, features an often underrated villain, and incorporates intense action scenes. Everyone knows about the first time Bruce put on the cape and cowl, and they’re aware of just how formidable he’s become, but Prey could be an excellent animated movie that throws viewers into one of the lesser-known struggles that Bruce faced when he was less experienced. The conflict didn’t break his back or result in the death of an ally, but it absolutely tested his determination.
Ten Nights of the Beast
Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo’s four-issue story from 1988 is one that puts Batman’s physicality and mind to the test. Taking place during the Cold War, a ridiculously deadly and enhanced Russian assassin travels to the U.S. with one objective: to kill people who play a key role in the country’s Star Wars program. The assassin’s name: Anatoli Knyazev, a.k.a. KGBeast. This story has one thrilling scene after another as Batman struggles to figure out how and where the Beast will strike next. The Beast is a step ahead of Batman and more than a match for Gotham’s vigilante in a direct fight. As if that didn’t make matters difficult enough, the Russian super-assassin would be granted diplomatic immunity if the Dark Knight did manage to capture him. So, how can Bruce defeat such a highly trained assassin, and how many lives will the Beast take in the process?
Yes, Tens Nights of the Beast focuses on a dated topic, but thanks to its well-crafted, frequent action sequences, and its engrossing story, it holds up quite well (unlike some of KGBeast’s costume in his debut, but that can be modified – and has been in the comics). The comic already informs the reader which day it is, and simply adding the date to that in the animated movie would immediately let people know which era they’re delving into; it really shouldn’t be jarring. KGBeast’s first story arc makes him a threat that Batman won’t forget anytime soon, and it holds the potential to be a thoroughly entertaining and exciting animated movie.
Gotham by Gaslight
Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola took Batman’s incredibly well-known story and then expertly applied an intriguing twist. Bruce Wayne still witnesses the murder of his parents (yet there’s a noticeable difference). He still travels the world, training both physically and mentally to become a crime fighter. And then when he returns to Gotham, he puts on the cape and cowl, and then attempts to strike fear into Gotham’s criminals. But what if Bruce Wayne was born in the Victorian Era? And what if he was training in London when Jack the Ripper was savagely attacking women, and then infamous killer happened to travel back to Gotham City when Bruce did as well? This would not only make Bruce Wayne seem like he’s the true killer, but it would also be a hugely challenging way to make this rookie Batman – or “Bat-Man” as he’s called in the papers – put his detective skills to the test.
This Elseworlds story doesn’t feel the need to bring in familiar faces just to show you how each of them are different in this era. Instead, it remains focused on a small cast of characters, and the narrative remains solid as it sticks to the main mystery. That said, there is a very brief cameo in here and it’s one that most Batman fans probably will appreciate. If a character designer can capture even a fraction of Mignola’s distinct style, then Gotham by Gaslight has what it takes to become an animated movie that many viewers should find to be a clever take on Batman’s origin.
The Long Halloween
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween is regularly regarded as one of Batman’s best mysteries. Just like in Hush, Loeb fills the story with several popular characters, but Gotham’s mob scene, a pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent, and Commissioner Gordon all play pivotal roles as a younger Batman attempts to figure out who’s committing murder on every holiday. Sale’s artwork is mesmerizing and Loeb has an excellent handle on the large cast of characters, even reinventing Calendar Man as a creepy enemy. There are many must-read Batman stories, yet it’s fair to assume that, thanks to its strong mystery and brilliant artwork, The Long Halloween is almost always going to appear on someone’s recommendations list. Just like in Year One, The Long Halloween is a fascinating look into Batman’s past – except this time around, it’s also a hugely important story for one of his most well-known rogues, too.
The Long Halloween is a mystery that’s worthy of the World’s Greatest Detective, and it’s without question worthy of being adapted for the small screen. Sale plays a ginormous role in the effectiveness of the comic, but the story is so well-told that this is one of the cases where having character designs that don’t follow Sale’s work all that closely can be overlooked. Obviously, it would be greatly preferred if the animated movie duplicated Sale’s panels, and that’s something DC and WB Animation is more than likely aware of. Point being: it’s a good story.
Death of the Family
The DC animated movie universe is slowly expanding Batman’s family. Son of Batman introduced his son, Damian Wayne, and Batman vs. Robin showed more of their dynamic, while also giving Nightwing, more attention. In 2016, Bad Blood will see the debut of Batwoman and Batwing. As of right now, it’s not certain whether or not there are plans for characters like Batgirl , Tim Drake, Jason Todd, or Huntress in the years to come. Still, a Batman family is being established, and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Death of the Family is a great way to tear it apart and alter the status quo for the next few canon Batman movies.
Scott Snyder sure knows how to write some superb horror. Some fans believe the Joker is an overused enemy and understandably so; however, Snyder and Capullo brought the Clown Prince of Crime back in an appropriately warped way. Furthermore, Joker has yet to make his big debut in this animated universe, and drawing inspiration from Death of the Family – a story which already treats him as an established and frightening villain and then sets him on a new path – would be a fitting way to introduce the sadistic man and take full advantage of the cast of characters that have been developed.
Batman: Bad Blood will be available on Digital HD January 19, 2016, and Blu-ray/DVD on February 2, 2016; Justice League vs. Titans and Batman: The Killing Joke will be released later in 2016.
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