Zack Snyder has made it a recent trend to start shedding light on some of the creative decisions via his Vero social network account, including the opening scene, why Superman is evil in the Knightmare, fun Easter eggs, the themes and imagery, and more from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The latest twist is a cryptic comment that forces fans to reconsider a key scene in Batman v Superman. It suggests Snyder had drawn up a backstory for the Batman that was very different to the comics - and had actually killed off one of DC's key teenage superheroes.
The Death Of Robin
The Batman of the DCEU is an old, seasoned hero who's seen tragedy strike time and again. One chilling sequence in Batman v Superman suggested he'd actually lost a Robin, at the hands of the Joker. Bruce Wayne was seen considering a battered Robin costume, on which the Clown Prince of Crime had spraypainted a grim message: "HA HA HA," the Joker had scrawled on the costume, "The Joke's On You, Batman." Warner Bros. was confident enough by the scene to release it in promotional imagery, teasing fans that this Batman had suffered greatly over the years. Snyder described this as a crucial moment in his Batman's backstory.
Set photos revealed during production cast an ominous light on this. They actually showed a tombstone for Richard Grayson. But that tombstone was never seen in the film itself, and the set photo was swiftly forgotten, leaving fans to assume Batman's backstory hued closer to the comics, but when a fan asked Snyder about Jason Todd's backstory on Vero, Snyder coyly responded "what makes toy think that's Jason Todd?" lending credence to the idea that the tombstone from set photos was in fact Dick Grayson - the DCEU's only intended Robin.
In the 1980s, Batman's first sidekick Dick Grayson had passed on the mantle of Robin to Jason Todd; Grayson, for his part, took on the identity of Nightwing. 1988 saw tragedy strike the Batman comics, though, with the classic 'A Death In The Family' arc actually killing off the character. Of course, these are comics, and so Todd was eventually resurrected to become the Red Hood. But the impact of that story has never been forgotten. The spraypainted Robin costume suggested 'A Death In The Family' had played out in the past of the DCEU. Given this was an older Batman, it seemed reasonable to assume events had happened in a similar way to the comics.
Snyder's comment suggests this may not have been intended to be Jason Todd at all. It seems he was likely intending to streamline Batman's history; rather than introduce a complex backstory with multiple Robins, he was suggested that Dick Grayson died at the Joker's hands. Scarred by Dick's death, Batman had then remained isolated and alone, never again taking on a sidekick.
That's Probably Changed
Of course, the reality is that a director's intent isn't particularly binding on the studio. All the movie actually establishes at the end of the day is that an unspecified Robin fell afoul of the Joker. There's a reason comic book fans assumed it was Jason Todd; that's because the character's death is a famous part of the Batman mythos, and his later identity as the Red Hood is a much-loved plot twist. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is a popular character in his own right. Warner Bros. have actually announced a Nightwing movie, although it's anyone's guess whether or not that will actually happen.
What makes this particular fascinating, though, is that Batman V Superman is a complex film that faithfully adapted some sophisticated themes, ideas and character arcs from the comics. It's ironic that Snyder may have originally intended to stray from the DC canon, making Grayson the Joker's victim. No doubt he considered this a subtle rewriting of the mythos in order to make his Batman a little more accessible to viewers. Ironically, fans immediately assumed this was actually Jason Todd, and the Internet swiftly filled with speculation. Now Warner Bros. are likely to go in a very different direction, one that makes both Nightwing and the Red Hood available as characters in the DCEU.
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