Arrowverse Theory: Bruce Wayne Has Retired After Bane Beat Batman

Batman is yet to appear in the Arrowverse, but could that be because Bruce Wayne's retired - or worse? Gotham answers will surely come now that Batwoman is coming to the Arrowverse. The character will be introduced in this year's Arrowverse crossover event, which will also reveal the DCTV version of Gotham City.

The crossover will also serve as a back-door pilot for Caroline Dries's Batwoman TV show. Dries is no stranger to DCTV; she's worked with them before on Smallville. Assuming The CW execs approve of the pilot, the Batwoman TV series is expected to launch sometime in 2019.

Related: Comic-Con 2018 News Roundup: The Biggest Movie & TV Reveals

Batman has been referenced before in the Arrowverse, and some of his key villains have actually appeared in the various DCTV shows. But the decision to focus on Batwoman raises an interesting question; where is Batman himself? In the real world, TV production and distribution rights for the Dark Knight are actually owned by Fox. The network was responsible for the classic 1960s Batman series, and has retained those rights ever since (amusingly enough, that means that Disney's proposed purchase of the bulk of Fox's TV and film empire may see Disney gain the TV rights to Batman). But in-universe, what reason will be given for Batman's absence?

What We Know of the Arrowverse's Batman So Far

The first seasons of Arrow positioned Oliver Queen as a billionaire who uses his wealth to become a vigilante, going to war on crime. In terms of general tone and style, the series drew heavily upon Christopher Nolan's influential Dark Knight trilogyArrow was hardly subtle about its inspiration, even lampshading it in a number of scenes where Oliver quipped about the idea. "Well, you know us billionaire vigilantes," he snarked in the season 1 episode "An Innocent Man." "We do love our toys." That was only the first of these puns, and while it's never been stated that Oliver has met Bruce Wayne, let alone that he knows Batman's secret identity, the comments have brought delight to viewers. Of course, these are all meta gags: there have also been a number of scenes where hero's symbols have been projected into the sky, with the characters joking that they got the idea from a comic book.

Little by little, though, various references began suggested that Batman exists in Arrow's universe - and that he's been active as a vigilante for quite some time, with a well-developed rogues' gallery and a number of key friends and allies. Arrow season 2 had nods to Harley Quinn, with a deleted scene for season 2's "Unthinkable" showing Harley begging Diggle to free her from A.R.G.U.S.. Arrow had big plans for Harley Quinn, until higher-ups at Warner Bros. asked the show to back away in light of the Suicide Squad movie; they feared brand dilution could be a potential problem. Meanwhile, a running gag saw Felicity Smoak try to decide on a code-name, ruling out "Oracle" because it was already taken. Executive producer Wendy Mericle told TVLine that the Oracle name was "off the table," presumably in a similar way to the show's plans for Harley Quinn, but it didn't stop the showrunners taking a similar approach for Felicity when they crippled her. Most recently, Two-Face was referenced in the season 3 episode "Finish Line."

Gotham City itself has been referenced, too. The Flash season 2 episode "Flash of Two Worlds" included a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Blackgate Penitentiary, a prison and genetic modification facility located on an island in Gotham Bay. This prison is distinct from DC's more famous Arkham Asylum, in that it holds Batman's criminal enemies rather than his insane foes.

Related: The Arrowverse Will Finally Have To Explain Batman

Among all this, there have been two direct references to the Waynes. In The Flash season 1 episode "The Trap," Barry and his friends look at a newspaper cutting from the future that reveals the Flash is destined to mysteriously disappear. Attentive viewers spotted another headline on the front page; "Wayne Tech/Queen Inc Merger Complete", suggesting in that particular future timeline - since averted - Queen Inc wound up owned by another billionaire vigilante. But the most explicit reference was in Arrow season 6, when Oliver name-dropped Bruce Wayne. Arguing that photos didn't prove he was really the Green Arrow, he pointed out that these can be doctored. "They could have put Bruce Wayne's head on that body," Oliver observed, before jokingly asking whether Wayne had left Gotham anytime recently. This was actually Stephen Amell's idea; the script originally just referenced another famous name. He approached Warner Bros. execs with the idea of throwing in a Bruce Wayne reference, and they signed off on it.

Putting all these pieces together, then, we know that the Arrowverse's Bruce Wayne is indeed Batman, and Wayne was still active as recently as Arrow season 6. The Dark Knight's vigilante career has clearly been going on for a while, as several of his key friends and enemies have taken on their roles; in the comics, Barbara Gordon adopted the codename Oracle after she was crippled by the Joker, while Harley Quinn was originally the Joker's therapist; both references suggest even the Clown Prince of Crime is out there in the Arrowverse. So how will this next Arrowverse crossover, let alone the Batwoman series, explore Gotham City without introducing Batman?

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