Could the world of Brightburn have its own Batman? One Easter Egg in the film not only suggests it, but confirms a connection between it and an earlier James Gunn film. It also paves the way toward an entire cinematic universe based around dark comedic parodies of the DCEU.
From the release of Brightburn's first trailer, it was clear that the film was meant to be a satire of the Superman mythos, particularly as envisioned by Man of Steel director Zack Snyder. Brightburn turned the story of a strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men into a horror movie, with 12-year-old Brandon Breyer developing all of Superman's powers while possessing none of his empathy or humility. This results in some truly astonishing moments of violence, as an enraged Brandon lashes out at the world while being made to feel like more and more of an outcast.
Many felt that Brightburn was created as a rebuttal of the many directors and producers who attempted to make Superman movies based around the idea of Clark Kent being a tortured outsider. This reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of Superman's character in modern times, which has always been built around his being more human than human and Brightburn shows what happens when that human element is removed. This theme has come up in many of Gunn's other works, including one movie that features a surprising connection to Brightburn.
James Gunn Is Building His Own Dark DC Universe
The ending of Brightburn contains a short sequence which hints at there being other super-powered beings in the world of the film beyond Brandon Breyer. The scene features Michael Rooker as a conspiracy theorist talk show host named The Big T, who rants about how the government is covering up the existence of honest-to-goodness super-villains like Brightburn - the name given to Brandon by the media, after the town where he first appeared. The Big T goes on to describe other unusual super-beings, including a "half-man, half-sea creature" who is terrorizing coastal towns and ships and a supernaturally strong murderess, who chokes her victims to death with a rope.
This report gives us the basis for a rudimentary dark Justice League. The sea creature is clearly a reference to Aquaman and the woman with the rope is meant to be Wonder Woman. Combine them with Brandon and that gives us the start of the classic line-up from the JLA comics and the Super Friends cartoons. But where is this world's Batman?
Is Crimson Bolt From Super The Batman Of Brightburn?
While not identified by name, The Big T's picture-board of super-villains features a familiar looking figure in a red bodysuit and cowl. Fans unfamiliar with James Gunn's work before Guardians of the Galaxy could be forgiven for thinking this character is meant to be a parody of The Flash. However, eagle-eyed fans of Gunn's earlier movies recognized this character as The Crimson Bolt - the main character of Gunn's film Super.
Released in 2010, Super tells the story of Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) - a simple man who is inspired to superheroism after having a vision of God in the form of a costumed kid's show host called The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion). This comes after Frank's wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), who is a recovering drug addict, falls off the wagon and into the arms of local drug dealer and club owner Jacques (Kevin Bacon). With the assistance of a comic book shop clerk named Libby (Ellen Page), Frank begins to wage war on crime by dressing up in a costume and beating people up with a wrench, honing his skills until he's up to the task of taking on Jacques and his gang.
Unfairly written-off as a rip-off of Kick-Ass (Gunn had the screenplay written for the better part of a decade before the original Kick-Ass comics were published), Super showed a surprising sense of depth as it explored the ramifications of what a real-world superhero would be like. The movie also explored the Quixotic nature of Frank's quest to do good in a world where people are apathetic to the presence of evil, while leaving all question of Frank's sanity (or lack thereof) up to the viewers to determine.
There is a degree of irony that Zack Snyder made the graphic novel Watchmen into a movie, but Super shows a greater understanding of the original book's themes (i.e. anyone who wants to be a superhero would have to be crazy to some degree) than Snyder's adaptation.
Crimson Bolt Isn't Like Batman - But Could Be
On paper there is very little similarity between Batman and The Crimson Bolt, beyond their being vigilantes without superpowers. Bruce Wayne was born to privilege while Frank Darbo is a working-class stiff, employed as a short-order cook at a greasy spoon diner. Bruce Wayne is a genius and a trained master of multiple disciplines. Frank is a bit on the dim side and learned everything he knows about heroism from a crash course in comic book tropes. The biggest difference between them, however, is the fact that Frank is more than willing to use guns and kill people - two lines that Batman will not cross.
On the other hand, the fact that Frank Darbo is so different from Bruce Wayne makes him ideal to fill the Batman role of this prospective evil Justice League. After all, the only thing separating Brandon Breyer from Clark Kent was a willingness to kill and a lack of empathy. A similar divide is the only thin difference between Bruce Wayne and Frank Darbo. And it isn't as if Batman hasn't committed fairly questionable acts in his time as a vigilante, even with his self-imposed rules.
The only flaw with this scenario is that Frank's madness (if it truly is madness) lies around his belief in Good and Evil as tangible forces with no acceptable grey areas in between them. It seems far more likely that Frank would challenge Brandon to a fight and be killed in about three seconds, given that he doesn't have the equipment, training or resources necessary to take down a super-powered alien. That being said, there is a remote possibility that Frank has grown more disturbed over time and might come to see all of humanity as being unworthy of saving, making him an ideal partner for Brandon in a Brightburn sequel.