WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman #47
The murder of Batman's parents may be a tragedy, but DC Comics has shown that if the Waynes actually lived... the entire world would have died. On the small scale, it's a confirmation of what most comic book fans know: the world is a better place with a hero like Batman in it. And just as great heroes are forged in tragedy - especially those in comic books - Thomas and Martha Wayne took a big one for the team.
Of course, Bruce Wayne's life would have been a whole lot happier with his parents alive to see it. At least, that used to be accepted as fact before Batman and Catwoman decided to get married. It's that quickly approaching 'happily ever after' that brings a look at how the world would have turned out if Bruce dodged his childhood tragedy.
And believe us, no comic fan is ready to see just what a nightmare the Waynes' murder prevented.
For those who may have missed out on the recent Batman comics, it should come as no shock to learn that Booster Gold's idea for Batman's wedding gift effectively ruined the entire world. The plan was to save Bruce's parent from being killed, show his adult self the heroism and friendships he lost as a result, and let Bruce actually decide to accept the early tragedy for the greater good.
Not a bad plan, despite how badly it went. Yet even he is shocked at the impact Batman had on the planet, as 'the world (or timeline) without Batman' is the stuff of nightmares. First, there still IS a Batman roaming the streets. The good news is that it's Dick Grayson. The bad news is that without Bruce's guidance, he commits murder openly and without hesitation.
With Joker Venom having spread across at least Gotham, if not the United States, citizens have taken to arming themselves (since President Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin can't deal with the issue on his own). When Batman first encounters Booster, his acknowledgement of the time traveler as a superhero doesn't have the desired impact. Dick sees it as reason to kill Booster. Not because he's evil, but because he has powers, and must therefore be killed before he is "Jokered" and turns them against the innocent.
There's nobody to stop him, since the entire Justice League was killed without Batman to form a battle plan. And the threat of a Joker-ized hero is demonstrated on the first page of Batman #45, as Hal Jordan uses his Green Lantern ring to blow his brains out. Considering what damage other heroes have seemingly inflicted on the public, a relatively harmless act.
It also appears that without a figure like Batman to both oppose Ra's al Ghul, and entice him as a possible heir and mate to his daughter Talia, 'The Demon's Head' has risen unchecked. Ra's al Ghul now openly controls all of Eurasia, with a conversation between the League of Assassins' leader and his daughter suggesting "our Joker" is what's pushing America to the brink. There will be no heir beyond Talia, either.
In the most tragic twist, Thomas Wayne laments that his son never got to see Gotham City as anything but a corrupt, war-torn, disaster zone of an urban center. As sad as it may be, this timeline has proven the old words of comfort offered to Bruce: that his parents' death may have had an even greater impact than their life could have. They got the chance to spend decades trying to save Gotham... only to watch it crumble anyway.
By the end of Booster's misguided time travel, he manages to undo the timeline by returning to the night in Bruce's childhood, and actually causing the death of The Waynes himself (returning the DC Universe to the way it should be). But it's only the reader who gets to truly appreciate the necessity of Batman that the story from Tom King and Tony S. Daniel illustrates.
If the Waynes lived, the world died because of it. With their death, the Batman was born... to ensure the world could live on. A worthwhile trade, in the long run.
Batman #47 is available now from DC Comics.