Happy new book day, everyone! First off, a spoiler warning: in continuing my series of thoughts on Batman as a character more at home in the Marvel Universe than at DC, I am looking at Thomas Wayne this week. This furthers and clarifies one of my earliest posts in this column on the Earth 2 Batman. All of that said, if you have not yet read/watched Flashpoint, Batman: Knight of Vengeance, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, or the New 52 Earth 2 but intend to, you should turn back now unless you don’t care about spoilers.
Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, has resurfaced in several forms in recent years as a grittier alternative to his son. Notably, he was showcased as Batman in Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. In this alternate universe, young Bruce is killed in the mugging that originally claims his parents’ lives while Thomas and Martha Wayne emerge unharmed. Wracked with rage and survivor’s guilt, Thomas uses his knowledge and wealth to become his world’s Batman. This iteration of the character, at the time of the Flashpoint story, is far grittier and more violent than most popular depictions of Batman in recent years. In fact, there’s quite a bit of the old, grizzled Frank Miller Batman at play in Thomas Wayne’s conception.
A gun-toting alternative to this character is also featured in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the recent animated film largely based on the Flashpoint comic. The transition from comic page to screen remains largely faithful to the original version of this character, but he somehow comes across as even darker. Both iterations of this same version of Thomas Wayne are merciless killers who keep a much tighter grip on Gotham City than Bruce ever has. This has not been the only story to use Thomas Wayne in this manner, however.
Though planned during James Robinson’s tenure as writer on the title, the new Batman of the New 52 Earth 2 title has been revealed during Tom Taylor’s run (paired with original artist Nicola Scott) to be the still-living Thomas Wayne of that world. On the night that Joe Chill guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne, Thomas is apparently too stubborn to die. He uses his connections as a doctor at the hospital to which he is rushed to check himself out and go into hiding due to a somewhat convoluted, shady past in which he’s had dealings with the criminals who sent Chill after him.
Leaving young Bruce in Alfred’s hands, Thomas goes underground for years in his quest for vengeance. As he grows older, he develops a dependence on a drug that augments his physical abilities, making him stronger, faster, and more agile than even Bruce with all his advanced training. Though he and Bruce later have a run-in, confirming that Thomas is indeed still alive, Bruce never accepts him back into his life once he sees what Thomas has become. Later, following the deaths of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman at the beginning of Earth 2, Thomas Wayne, now in his 70s, emerges from the shadows to take up his fallen son’s old mantle and protect the world as a Batman far more willing, even preferring, to use lethal violence in his war on crime. Check out Taylor and Scott’s run on Earth 2 to see what happens next.
That’s it for this week. Let me know your thoughts on Thomas Wayne or anything else related to Batman in the comments below. Confused about the multiple timelines and alternate universes at play in the DC Universe and how they relate to Batman? If so, I may have an idea for the next shift in this column. Come back next week to see what I’ve put together.
My (numerous) comic picks for this week:
Batman Eternal #14
Grayson #1 (possible review forthcoming)
Injustice: Year Two #7
Justice League United #3
Infinity Man and the Forever People #2
Spider-Man 2099 #1 (possible review forthcoming)