One of the things I loved about Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was that it had that sense of a definitive beginning and ending to the story of Bruce Wayne and Batman. I’ve also been recently delving into Grant Morrison’s Batman saga and I think his ‘metanarrative’ approach to Batman (almost every story in the last 75 years of Batman comics actually happened in his 15 years career) was a really great idea.
So I thought, what if you try to make a TV series (could either be animated or live action) that tries to tell a clear ultimate story arc for Batman and his allies – taking inspirations from all the popular storylines in comics and movies.
It’s not meant as direct adaptations of any story arcs but a mish-mash of things plus little stuff I made up (eg. ‘Thomas Elliot” is a mix of Hush, Dr. Simon Hurt of Black Glove and Lincoln March of the Court of Owls) . And I did not try to include everything (No Damian Wayne here, sorry).
So without further ado, here is what I came up with for a Batman series – 5 seasons, bookend by two Miniseries.
T H E B A T M A N
inspired by: Year One (comic), Gotham (TV Series), The Man Who Falls (Comic), Batman Begins (Film), The Dark Knight Rises (Film)
We begin with a three part Miniseries that details Bruce Wayne’s pre-Batman days.
Young Bruce Wayne sees his parents gunned down in an alley. First part revolves around the investigation of the Wayne murders by a young James Gordon. It introduces us to the corruption in Gotham City and the fragile balance between the Falcone and the Maroni mob families. Meanwhile, young Bruce Wayne, with the reluctant help from his friend Thomas Elliot, who recently also lost his dad, does his own investigation and is convinced that his parents’ death was part of a conspiracy involving a shadowy group called the Court of Owls, believed to be an urban myth by everyone. Bruce’s investigation leads him nowhere.
Second part shows Bruce Wayne fleeing Gotham and travelling around the world to train and learn about ways to fight crime. He learns how to be an illusionist from the great magician Zatara, detective skills from Henri Ducard, survivalist techniques from Willie Doggett.
The third part finds Bruce being picked up by the League of Assasins and trained by Ra’s Al Ghul. Here he meets with Talia Al Ghul and they developed a relationship. Bruce also has a rivalry with another of Ra’s students, the man later known (and feared) as BANE.
The League’s mission is to bring balance to the human societies through violent means. Gotham is seen as an irredeemably corrupt city and must be destroyed to restore balance. Bruce Wayne disagrees with the League’s methods and betrays them. He manages to blow up their base and severely injures Bane. Bruce tries to convince Talia to come with him but she refuses. Bruce fights Ra’s Al Ghul but Bruce manages to barely escape with his life.
inspired by Zero Year (comic), Year One (comic), Batman Begins (film), The Man Who Laughs (comic), Prey (comic), The Man Who Laughs (comic), The Dark Knight (film).
Batsuit: ‘Zero Year’ Costume – Black and Grey biker outfit with purple gloves
Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham and starts out as a masked vigilante fighting criminals.
There is a new gang in town, the Red Hood Gang, that’s more violent than the Falcone and Maroni mobs. Bruce tries to fight them and gets beaten up. One night, while Bruce was recuperating in Wayne Manor, a bat crashes through the window. He finds the batcave and decides to take on the identity of Batman to instill fear into the hearts of criminals.
Batman stops the Red Hood Gang at the ACE Chemical factory and the Red Hood Gang leader accidentally drops into a vat of chemicals.
The rest of the season involves Scarecrow’s plan to release the Fear Toxin all over Gotham and Dr. Hugo Strange’s unhealthy fascination with Batman. Batman also finds allies such as James Gordon, Harvey Dent, Lucius Fox and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Sadly, Bruce’s childhood friend, Thomas Eliot has disappeared since the death of his mother.
The multi-part season finale sees the return of the Red Hood Gang leader as the Joker. This is ‘The Man Who Laughs/The Dark Knight’ story.
The season ends with Batman, Gordon and Dent meeting on the rooftop and vowing to clean up the city.
The Night is Darkest just before the Dawn. Dawn is coming to Gotham!
inspired by The Long Halloween (comic), Dark Victory (comic), The Dark Knight (film)
Batsuit: traditional Black and Grey suit with Bat symbol.
This is the Mob war season.
The status quo of the mobs is under threat following the emergence of Batman. Things get messy when a mysterious serial killer known as the ‘Holiday Killer’ starts killing gang members creating a gang war between the Falcone and the Maroni family. The mobs starts to break out/recruit crazy villains such as the Joker, Scarecrow, the Penguin, the Riddler and Poison Ivy.
Two major casualties occur in the mid-season finale – the scarring of Harvey Dent and the death of the circus family, the Graysons. Dent becomes Two-Face and goes on his own violent twisted brand of vigilanteism against the mobs while Bruce Wayne adopts the only surviving member of the Graysons, young Dick Grayson. Batman also develops a relationship with Catwoman and the two make an unlikely team for most of the season.
Season 2 ends with the Joker and Two Face on the loose, both mob families pretty much destroyed, Catwoman ends her relationship with Batman and leaves Gotham to find more about her past, Dick recites an oath to Batman and becomes Robin. The Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder.
inspired by Robin Year One (comic), Batgirl Year One (comic), Nightwing Year One (comic), Death in the Family (comic), The Killing Joke (comic).
Batsuit: Dark Blue and Grey with Yellow Oval Bat symbol
The season takes place over the course of few years detailing the rise and fall of the Bat-Family.
After the fall of both the Falcone and Maroni mob families, the Penguin rises to fill the void in the criminal underworld but he has to deal with the surge of crazy and colourful villains.
Batman and Robin establishes themselves as the Dynamic Duo when they defeat the Mad Hatter. Meanwhile, the young and idealistic Barbara Gordon is inspired by them and she starts dressing herself up as Batgirl, much to annoyance of Batman. She later proves her worth when she helps Batman and Robin defeat Killer Moth and Firefly.
The ‘Bat Family’ faces the return of Two Face while cracks between Batman and Robin begins to appear over the course of their mission. Dick Grayson leaves Batman mid-season and becomes Nightwing.
Nightwing does his solo crime fighting while Batman takes the hot headed Jason Todd as the new Robin. Dick begins a romantic relationship with Barbara who is still a crime fighting partner to Bruce who Dick is not on speaking terms with. And Jason is a bit pain in the ass. But things doesn’t work out between Dick and Barbara so they agree to break it off.
But enough with the soap opera stuff because the Joker re-appears and is more sadistic than ever in the season 3 finale. Everything quickly goes wrong! Joker traps Jason and tortures him before blowing him up.
He then shoots Barbara! Leaving her paralyze from waist down. The Joker kidnaps James Gordon and straps him on a roller coaster while forcing him to watch pictures of his bloodied and naked daughter to drive him insane. Batman rescues Gordon and defeats the Joker.
But that’s not the end yet. The climax of the season is Nightwing confronting Batman and blaming him for Barbara’s predicament. Batman, feeling guilty about Jason and Barbara, lashes out at Nightwing for abandoning the ‘Bat Family’. All the bottled up emotions exploded as Bruce and Dick brutally fight and almost kills each other in Wayne Manor. The fight causes a fire and Wayne Manor gets burned down.
Dick leaves Bruce and visits Barbara at the hospital while Bruce is in his Gotham city penthouse all alone.
The ‘Bat Family’ was no more.
inspired by A Lonely Place of Dying (comic), War Games (comic), Arkham Origins (videogame)
Batsuit: Back to Black and Grey with bigger pouches on belt and bigger Bat Symbol ala Dark Knight Returns/Batfleck
Batman is going solo again and rougher on the criminals. But he’s also losing focus and is occasionally reckless. With Penguin’s empire weakening, a new gang war erupts with Black Mask seemingly climbing on top the Gotham criminal food chain. He wants to destroy the Batman and place a bounty on Batman which led to the arrival of assassins like Deadshot, Deathstroke, David Cain and Lady Shiva to Gotham.
Despite his rocky relationship with Bruce, Dick Grayson couldn’t stand by and watch his reckless former mentor getting hunted by a bunch of skilled assassins. He crosses path with Deathstroke and they form a rivalry. Dick also meets with a young assassin named Cassandra Cain who is on a journey of redemption. She is in Gotham to track down her estranged father David Cain and settle some score with Lady Shiva.
Meanwhile, Barbara struggles to adjust to her new wheelchair bound life. To make her feel useful, she begins to provide technical support for Nightwing and adopts the alias Oracle. She, Dick and Cassandra makes a good team. Batman works with them from time to time but he mostly prefers to be work alone now.
Two people from Bruce’s past return to Gotham: childhood friend Thomas Elliot and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Thomas left Gotham when his mother passed away while Bruce Wayne was traveling around the world training. Bruce feels guilty that he wasn’t there for him so he helps him resettle in Gotham. Thomas also tells Bruce of his political ambition to make the city better. More on Thomas Elliot later.
Meanwhile, Catwoman returns to Gotham after hearing the bounty on Batman. She heard about what happened to Jason Todd and how it affected Batman psychologically. Batman and Catwoman rekindle their romantic relationship.
They track down a villain that call himself the Cluemaster while following clues left behind by daughter Stephanie Brown who wants to ‘spoil’ his father’s criminal activities because he was an abusive father. Stephanie, taking the name ‘The Spoiler’, continues to spoil her father criminal activities. Oracle tracks her down and warns her that her actions could provoke the gangs and create unintended escalations. But Stephanie proves her worth and becomes Oracle’s agent.
Nightwing meets the bright and idealistic Tim Drake who deduces the identity of Batman and Nightwing. Tim pleads to Dick to reunite the ‘Dynamic Duo’ for the sake of Batman’s sanity.
Of course, in the end, Batman gets his focus back and defeat Black Mask with the help of the new and expanded Bat Family. Batman outsmarts Deadshot but struggles in his battle with Deathstroke, only to be saved by Nightwing. Deathstroke vs Nightwing! Cassandra defeats Lady Shiva but finds out that she is her biological mother.
Bruce reconciles with Dick and they both agree to train Tim as the new Robin and Stephanie as the Spoiler. Cassandra is left disillusioned by the revelation that Lady Shiva was her biological mother and join the Bat Family as the new Batgirl.
The season ends with Bruce, Dick, Barbara and Alfred overseeing the rebuilding of Wayne Manor.
The Bat Family is back!
inspired by Knightfall (comic), No Man’s Land (comic), Hush (comic), Battle for the Cowl (comic), Court of Owls (comic), Batman R.I.P. (comic), The Dark Knight Rises (film).
Batsuit: Black and Grey and no trunks on the outside ala New 52
It is a relatively peaceful time in Gotham. Batman and his Bat Family have mostly defeated all the supervillains in Gotham. But Bruce can’t shake the feeling that something terribly big is going to happen. He tries to find connections between random minor crimes that recently happened.
Dick and the others dismiss Bruce as being too paranoid and not used to the relatively quiet times in Gotham. Bruce somewhat agrees and decides that it’s time to minimize Batman’s role.
Meanwhile, Bruce’s childhood friend and Mayoral candidate Thomas Elliot convince Bruce to look into the future of Gotham now that major crimes have been eradicated. So Wayne Enterprise publicly announces its plan for the future of Gotham.
But an owl suit assassin known as Talon kills Thomas Elliot in the name of the Court of Owls – a shadowy group supposedly controlling Gotham behind the scenes. Bruce gets paranoid again and recalls the urban myth from his childhood (see Miniseries). No, it can’t be.
An injured Commissioner Gordon is discovered at the sewers. Gordon tells Batman that they were chasing a group of thugs into the sewers but they were ambushed by a more powerful gang and he got to hear the name of their leader before he escape – his name is BANE. A ghost from Bruce’s past with the League of Assasins.
Batman eventually comes face to face with Bane – now disfigured and wears a mask but a behemoth of a villain – in the midseason. He recalls how Bruce betrayed the League of Assassins and left him disfigured (see Miniseries). Batman and Bane fights while the Court of Owls watch. Bane overpowers Batman and breaks his back.
With Batman gone, Bane and his mercenaries makes their public debut and activates an underground weapon that causes tremors all over Gotham. They blow up bridges and cut off Gotham from the rest of the country. Bane leads an uprising targeting the rich and powerful with the help of the Talons.
Bane holds the city hostage and releases the Black Gate prisoners and Arkham inmates. The Joker refuses to leave Arkham because it is not fun without the Batman.
Cassandra Cain as Batgirl happens to be the closest to Black Gate prison. She disregards Dick Grayson’s advice to wait for back up and goes to deal with the Black Gate prisoners alone. She puts on a good fight but the rogue gallery traps her in the prison and set off an explosive, destroying the prison and seemingly killing her.
Meanwhile, a broken Bruce Wayne wakes up in an underground prison with Bane telling him of his alliance with the Court to take Gotham back from the Batman. Bane keeps him alive so that he can see – through the tv monitors – the fall of Gotham. Bane wants Bruce to realize that all his work to save Gotham was for nothing.
Bruce was treated by a fellow inmate – an old doctor – who helped re-align Bruce’s spine. Outside Bruce’s cell is a seemingly inescapable labyrinth.
Back in Gotham, Nightwing and the Bat Family together with the Gotham Police struggle to control the city for months. In order to boost morale of the city, Dick Grayson agrees to take the mantle of Batman while Stephanie Brown, with Barbara’s blessing, becomes the new Batgirl in honour of Cassandra Cain.
The Joker briefly return to the public only to be disappointed because he soon realize that he wasn’t ‘his Batman’. Two-Face forges an uneasy alliance with Gordon against the League.
The Bat Family finds out that Bane and the remnants of the League made a deal with the Court of Owls to takeover Gotham. The League gets their revenge on Bruce while the Court can use this as way to cleanse Gotham back to how it was before Batman.
Dick Grayson also finds out that the Court of Owls have a history with Haley’s Circus and the Flying Graysons. It turns out the circus was a secret training ground for Court’s assassins – Dick was supposed to be groomed to be a Talon!
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne wakes up to find the old doctor gone along with any evidence that he ever existed. Bruce tries to escape the labryinth and begins to hallucinate. He sees his dead parents, Jason Todd and the Bat Family all bloodied up. Bruce is losing his mind.
The Court also leaves clues in a form of portraits all over the Labryinth revealing that they have been manipulating events in Bruce’s life.
They were responsible for the Wayne murders…
…they were the one who recovered the Red Hood leader after he fell into a vat of chemicals and let loose as the Joker to test Batman….
…they helped the mob break out the Arkham inmates in season 2….
…they manipulated events that led to the hot headed Jason Todd being the new Robin anticipating that Bruce will fail to redeem him and get him killed.
But Batman persevered against all odds to rise from a symbol of fear to a symbol of hope for Gotham. They found an opportunity to do away everything Batman have fought for when Bane and the League showed up with an offer.
A Talon strikes Bruce when he was at his lowest point psychologically. The Court of Owls shows up led by none other than Thomas Elliot! It was revealed that Thomas actually killed his parents because he despised them. Bruce was his only friend and they were supposed to rule Gotham together after their parents’ death. But Bruce left Gotham and abandoned him only to later return in a silly Bat costume.
Thomas later joined the Court and they have watched and manipulated Batman ever since. Thomas sentence Bruce to be beaten up to death. Bruce gains his strength and fights back. He escapes through the sewers.
The Talons chase Bruce through the sewers and cave system. Just when it looks like he’s trapped and outnumbered, Cassandra Cain (who actually survived the explosion at Blackgate Prison) shows up to fend off the Talons and rescue Bruce.
Back in Gotham, Dick Grayson (as Batman) leads our heroes to successfully take over half of the city. They are almost there, they can take back the city! But Gordon gets betrayed by Two-Face and gets captured along with Barbara!
Bruce and Cassandra reunite with the Bat Family. They update Bruce on what happened to Gordon and Barbara. Dick offers to give back the mantle of Batman to Bruce but Bruce says he can keep it. He tells Dick that he earned it.
That night, Bruce returns as the black/grey Batman while Dick dons the blue/Grey Batman suit. They will completely take back this city even if it means having two Batmen.
inspired by Knightfall (comic), No Man’s Land (comic), Court of Owls (comic), Batman R.I.P. (comic), Endgame (comic), The Dark Knight Returns (comic), The Dark Knight Rises (film).
Three part Finale!
Part One: The Bat Family mount a rescue operation to free Gordon from the League. Batman, Gordon and Two-Face have one last confrontation on the roof of GCPD (like old times). Two-Face eventually falls to his death. Gordon informs them that they have taken Barbara to Arkham.
Part Two: The Joker returns to the public when he heard that ‘his Batman’ is back. He goes on a killing spree (even killing League members). The Court of Owls cautiously makes an offer to give whatever the Joker wants. The Joker wants only one thing: The Batman. The Court allowed the Joker to takeover Arkham Asylum from the League of Assassins – where Barbara is being held and where Batman will surely strike.
The Batfamily fights through the villains from the past seasons. Meanwhile, the Joker knows that the Court of Owls just want Joker and Batman to be in one place so that they can kill both by detonating explosives rigged all over Arkham – killing two birds with one stone. The Joker kills most of the Court of Owls. The Talons arrive to kill the Joker and rescue Thomas Elliot. But the Joker detonates the explosives in Arkham anyway and the whole building is on fire and collapsing. The Joker kills Thomas Elliot.
Batman engages in a brutal fight with the Joker, made worse by the release of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Joker manages to pin down a bloodied and heavily injured Batman. Barbara crawls and shoots the Joker her father’s gun, paralysing the Joker (sweet payback!). Gordon and Dick help Batman get on his feet and escape the collapsing building. Joker is left behind laughing maniacally as the whole of Arkham Asylum falls on him.
Part Three: Dick leads the final assault at City Hall as the ‘Blue’ Batman and has one final showdown with Deathstroke.
Despite being badly injured, Bruce still wants to settle the score with Bane but he knows that he is not currently physically up to the task. So, he hastily assemble a ‘suit’ made up of mechanical leg braces that enhances his leg strength, Power Gauntlets, a prototype armor and a technologically advanced helmet. They’re all prototypes so he doesn’t know how much they can withstand in a fight with a behemoth like Bane. One way to find out.
Armored Batman glides into City Hall and confronts Bane. An epic fight ensues with Batman finally breaking Bane in different places and beats him up. Batman wins but at the cost of his armor. Then he gets stabbed by Talia Al Ghul who was behind everything. Talia manipulated both Bane/League and the Court of Owls. She is here to fulfill her father’s mission of destroying Gotham once and for all.
Talia lectures how Batman tried to save Gotham but he only made it worse. She made Bruce look outside and see what he has done – people fighting on the streets…criminals ‘businessmen’ replaced by murderous psychopathic freaks….and the Court of Owls, a group that has survived behind the shadows and keeping ‘balance’ in the city was forced to come out – all because of what the Batman had done.
Talia wants Bruce to know that he failed and reveals a nuclear bomb on top of City Hall that will destroy Gotham. Bruce will die as a failure along with the rest of the city.
A heavily injured and exhausted Bruce Wayne just had a marathon of fights in the past few days – escaping the Court of Owls, fight with Two Face, storming Arkham, fighting Joker, fighting Bane, stabbed by Talia – but that is not an excuse to fail his city. Not today, not ever.
Bruce fights Talia on top of City Hall. She trips and Bruce grabs her. Talia slices Bruce’s hand so he can let go of Talia. She falls from the roof with a smile on her face and throws an explosive on the ground below her. BOOM!! When the smoke clears, Talia was nowhere to be found.
The countdown is ticking and there is no time to disarm it.
A heavily injured Bruce says goodbye to the Bat Family and takes the bomb away from Gotham with the Batplane.
The bomb detonates, Gotham is saved but Bruce Wayne seems to perish.
As a memorial, the Gotham citizens shine the Bat signal into the night sky.
Dick, Alfred, Barbara, Tim, Stephanie and Cassandra mourn at Bruce Wayne’s grave. Dick gives a moving eulogy about what Bruce/Batman has meant to all of their lives.
As they all leave the grave, Alfred stays to mourn for Bruce alone. But once everyone is gone, Alfred smiles….
Meanwhile in Congo, a former child soldier and disillusioned cop David Zavimbe is approached by none other than Bruce Wayne! – still alive and traveling around the world training new Batman everywhere. Bruce tells him that he can teach him how to be a symbol to fight injustice and save his town from corruption.
Bruce Wayne is spreading his crime fighting philosophy around the world.
In a flashback, we see Bruce telling Alfred about his worldwide mission and ask him to keep it a secret. Bruce also tells Alfred to keep an eye on ‘their family’ while he’s gone.
Meanwhile back in Gotham, a group of criminal sees the Bat signal and scoffs at the idea that Batman will ever show up again. Then Dick Grayson (as Batman) and Tim Drake (as Robin) storms in!
Batman and Robin will never die!
It never dies. It never ends. It probably never will.
T H E B A T M A N
And that is how I see an ultimate Batman Series play out. Hope you enjoyed it!