When it was rumored last month that Michael Keaton was in talks to reprise his role as Batman, an entire generation nearly lost its collective minds. Keaton, 68, is now officially set to return as Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Flash film, which will also feature Ben Affleck as Batman, in a storyline believed to be based on Flashpoint, one of the speedy superhero’s most popular comic book storylines.
Last weekend, DC Comic held its own virtual convention, DC Fandome, giving fans all across the world little nuggets from what’s coming in the company’s cinematic universe and beyond. One of those little nuggets was a first glimpse at the film’s concept art, featuring the Flash alongside Keaton’s Batman. Comic book-inspired films have become more complex as of late but never has there been a multiverse on the big screen, well except for Marvel’s stunningly animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. But nothing live action. If you read comics regularly, you know that the multiverse is nothing new, with several different versions of superheroes like Batman and Spider-Man often living in the same world.
Given how radical an idea this might be for the non-comic-book-reading superhero film fan, we thought it might help to better prepare some of you for what this ground-breaking film might entail, so we chose some Batman and Flash source material that could inspire Keaton’s return and help to better understand the storyline prior to the film’s release, slated for 2022.
Before delving into the comic books, it might be a wise idea to start with Keaton’s original Batman film’s, 1989’s Batman and the sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns. Both directed by Tim Burton, these two films changed the superhero genre forever, creating a universe where the Dark Knight was no longer campy but gloomy, often psychotic and even vulnerable at times. While we could practically give a TED Talk on these two films’ storylines and significance, we’ll spare you because, almost 30 years later, if you haven’t seen either, well, you’re in the vast minority.
Batman has also had several iterations on the small screen, the most notable being Batman: The Animated Series, which ran for two seasons during the early 1990s, but a slightly lesser-known animated series could help shed some light into what to expect from Keaton. Batman Beyond, which had a cult-like following in the early 2000s, might’ve only been about half the episodes of its earlier counterpart but it flipped the Batman story on its head, introducing a much older version of Batman. Retired and quickly becoming elderly, Bruce Wayne teaches the next iteration of The Dark Knight, knowing full-well that his best days are now behind him. The story might not be pulled from the episodes but his personality might, along with one major piece of the series which could prove vital to the DCEU.
If there’s any plan of tying it together the way Marvel has done for more than a decade, Keaton could be the glue. Much like the character in Batman Beyond, perhaps we could see Wayne recruiting the next iteration of Batman or helping other DC heroes. Let’s be honest, Keaton playing a Nick Fury-like role in the universe, as rumored, would be incredible.
But the bulk of Keaton’s storyline is believed to come from Flashpoint, a 2011 comic book arc written by now the infamous Geoff Johns. In the story, featuring an altered DC Universe, Barry Allen opens a door to another universe, noting the differences between the two realities. In the new reality, Allen comes into contact with Thomas Wayne, who is now Batman, with the younger Wayne actually getting murdered by the robber that night – rather than the story that’s been ingrained into audiences for decades now. Let’s be clear, Keaton is slated to play Bruce Wayne, but the idea of another potential Batman – and a new one at that – is extremely intriguing.
There have been many iterations of an aged Batman in the comic book realm, including one that rejects Superman’s Justice League and forms his own with second and third generation heroes in the Kingdom Come arc. But Keaton’s Batman, and the new Flash film, could take some cues from one of the greatest Batman stories ever told: The Dark Knight Returns. Written by Frank Miller and debuting in 1986, the story follows Bruce Wayne, now in his late 50s, as he comes out of retirement for one final battle, against fellow Justice League partner Superman.
It might’ve loosely inspired 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice but this arc gave us the first real glimpse into what an older Bruce Wayne, who is retired and battling depression, would really be like. As he fails to fight for Gotham City, it falls victim to a complete state of unrest, with crime running the streets. Much like with Batman Beyond, there might not be a ton translated from this story to the film but the undertones of Batman’s personality could very likely make their way into Keaton’s repertoire.
There’s probably other comics that will influence the film, ones director Andy Muschietti and the writers at Warner Bros delve into in the hopes of capturing the essence of the character. And while most details of Keaton’s return and the Flash’s first standalone film are not yet known, we will continue to wait for crumbs, as this project is quickly becoming one of the most highly-anticipated superheroes films of the next couple of years.