by Jeremy DeFatta
Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I want to look at my favorite (or soon to be favorite) non-canonical depictions of Bruce Wayne. This is a sampling that I’ve assembled in no particular order. Please feel free to respond to my list or give me one of your own in the comments below.
1. Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Several entries on my list will be Elseworlds comics, but I felt that Kingdom Come deserved first mention. This is a daring romp through a future world where all of DC’s familiar superheroes have grown old and retired, leaving the world to descendants who do little more than run about unchecked causing all sorts of havoc. That is, until Superman decides to get a few friends back together.
This is rightfully regarded as one of a few great archetypal superhero stories. Though it consists of most of DC’s Golden Age (and then some) roster, I want to include this book because of its depiction of the Batman/Bruce Wayne character, especially by the end of the story. Here, Bruce is old and unable even to stand without mechanical aid because of how brutal he was to his body in his time as Batman, but his mind and detective skills are as sharp as ever. Add to that a moving scene showcasing the lasting friendship within DC’s holy trinity—Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman—and you’ll understand why this book is a highly regarded classic.
2. Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola
The first of DC’s Elseworlds books, Gotham by Gaslight creates a scenario in which Bruce Wayne actually lived in the late1800s, becoming Batman just before the turn of the century. Add to that the idea that Jack the Ripper only stopped committing murders in London because he moved to Gotham City to continue his rampage and you have one of the greatest non-canonical Batman tales of all time. The early artwork of Mike Mignola (who later went on to create, write, and draw Hellboy) is, effectively, the cherry on top of the entire package. There is also a sequel called Batman: Master of the Future that I have not yet read.
3. Superman: Speeding Bullets by J. M. DeMatteis and Eduardo Barreto
Don’t let the title fool you; this is another Elseworlds story about Bruce Wayne, albeit of a different parentage. The basic idea is this: baby Kal-El, last son of Krypton, crashes into the middle of Gotham City instead of the endless cornfields of Kansas (a twist similar to that used in Superman: Red Son).
The orphaned alien is taken in by a childless Thomas and Martha Wayne, who name the boy Bruce and raise him as their son. The Waynes are still murdered, and young Bruce vows to rid Gotham of the evil that claimed their lives. He grows up to become Batman, but with Superman’s abilities. (Let that one sink in for a moment). I won’t say anymore about this one because I will be reviewing it at a later date.
4. Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham by Mike Mignola, et al.
Mignola’s second entry on this list is another Elseworlds story and probably one of the single hardest to find Batman comics in existence (depending on how much you’re willing to spend on it, anyway). I’ll admit I have never read this one and do not own it, but I have wanted it for years.
This is a Batman story set in the world of H. P. Lovecraft, or a Lovecraftian horror story of elder gods and monsters set in Batman’s Gotham City, depending on how you want to look at it. Either way, I cannot see this one being anything but a pleasure to read.
5. Batman: The Animated Series by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, et al.
I’ll admit I may be biased toward this cartoon, having grown up with it in the early 90s. Either way, this show still contains some of the best character moments of any non-comics iteration of Batman. Seriously, this cartoon had some of the best voice actors imaginable for Batman’s villains—Ron Perlman as Clayface, Roddy McDowall as the Mad Hatter, Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze, David Warner as Ra’s al Ghul, and (of course) Mark Hamill as the Joker.
Believe it or not, whenever I read a Batman comic, I still imagine him with Kevin Conroy‘s voice. Conroy also went on to voice Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, as well as a few of DC’s more recent animated films, including Justice League: Doom and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. You’ll also recognize his voice (along with Mark Hamill’s) in the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City video games. Though those games are not quite meant to be part of the same continuity as the animated series and films listed above, I decided to include them here because of Conroy and Hamill’s involvement.
Slightly deviating bonus: Sad to say, Mark Hamill has effectively retired from voicing the Joker, but one of the reasons is that he’s beating himself back into shape to play Luke Skywalker again. So, a mixed bag. However, a younger voice actor named Troy Baker has taken over as the Joker in future installments of the Arkham video game series. Here is a video of him reading from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke in his Joker voice. Chills, people. Chills.
My comic book picks for this week:
Batman #28 (of course)
Thor: God of Thunder #19.1
You can find this week’s picks and some of those I discussed in today’s blog post at your local comic shops, so go out and support them! Tweet me @quaintjeremy.
Batman: The Animated Series: Toonbarn.com
The Doom that Came to Gotham cover: Lovecraftzine