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“Save Gotham”

Okay, so there was a “Save Gotham” petition about when all the fans were in a tizzy about whether it’d be cancelled or renewed, and I wrote a thing for it that turned out rather long. As SOON AS I WAS DONE, like I’m talking about 3 minutes later, the word came out that it was renewed for one final season.

I was a mix of emotions from the news that translated as, well, blankness. Awesome, new season, boo, last season (and possible only 13 episodes according to rumour). Also really quite irritating that I’d just written this big piece that now was pointless..

So I’m posting it here. It’s about why Gotham deserves a future, me trying to express just why it means so much to me and others and why it’s, essentially, a great, unique show. Maybe I can still make use of the piece when Season 5 comes to an end, or maybe that’ll just be it for Gotham.

Hope you enjoy the read, despite it already being somewhat irrelevant.

 

 

You take the thing that is the worst thing that could have happened to you, the worst challenge in your life, and you turn it into fuel. You don’t give up. And that’s what Gotham is about.”

– Scott Snyder

 

Gotham is a show unlike any other that is, or has been on television.

Gotham is a great many things, things great and absurd, and I want you to help save it. I’m about to explain why, at length, and I hope that my passion for the show might prove at least a little infectious.

I was very much looking forward to Gotham when I first saw it promoted, and took eagerly to Season 1. I was invested throughout, especially appreciative of the superlative and novel Penguin performance of Robin Lord Taylor, which has throughout the show redefined and deepened the stalwart 1941 character like no other interpretation before, or likely since.

I read up about Season 2 and became more engaged at the talk of all the major changes they would make for the better (such as turning from villain of the week to a more serialised format). It was around the back half of Season 2 that my great enjoyment of the show turned into love. That was about the point that some viewers may have felt Gotham jumped the shark; I understood the criticism, but I see it instead as Gotham throwing off its shackles and truly embracing the craziness of its source material, as well as fully committing to being its own madcap thing.

To those whose appreciation of Batman might have only extended to the Nolan films, and expected a more grounded approach than what Gotham ended up, I can see how this could have been off-putting. Likewise, the grounded, mature and procedural state of Season 1 might have put off those seeking more of the varied insanity of the comics.

Gotham has since straddled the line (sometimes jumping over to dance about madly), and I think I speak for many people when I say no other show comes closer to delivering the look, feel and performances of a live-action comicbook.

The fact Gotham is not canon, but its own universe, an “Elseworld”, might also have put people off – but every adaptation ever has been Elseworlds. The beloved Nolan and Burton movies were Elseworlds. The Arkham games, even the classic Animated Series. To be beholden to some ambiguous notion of “canon” (what about reboots, retcons, comicbook Ages, different timelines, different Earths, hell, even different writers?) would have only held the show back. It is to the show’s credit that it allowed itself to be its own thing. It enabled it to draw from nearly 80 years of Batman history, clear inspirations and more subtle touches evident throughout the show’s episodes, whilst also constantly surprising and exciting us with its own unique take.

In taking on such a grand smorgasbord of influences, influences spread across multiple mediums and multiple generations, Gotham became a great many things, Gotham is dark and gritty. Gotham is high camp in blacked-out windows. Gotham is bloody and twisted. Gotham is loud and ugly. Gotham is quiet and beautiful. Gotham is fantastical. Gotham is an emotional drama. Gotham is a comedy. Gotham is science fiction. Gotham is a police procedural. Gotham is magic. Gotham is a character study. Gotham is sullen and brooding. Gotham is madcap exploits. Gotham is blockbuster entertainment on the small screen. Gotham is twirling dresses and 50’s hairdos one day, black leather and PVC the next.

The quality most immediately evident upon watching an episode of Gotham is the cinematography. If a criticism could be made against the Nolan moves in comparison to other adaptations, it would be the lack of vibrancy and colour of the city. People wonder why anybody would want to live in Gotham, given all its crime (forgetting a number of real world examples of crime-ridden but consistently highly-populated cities; after all, these are still people’s homes). But Gotham, in its element, is a gorgeous, exciting city, full of colour and life, zany and strange to the point that just picturing yourself standing amongst those grand neon signs shrouded in darkness, looking up at those monolithic Art Deco buildings like black cathedrals of some foreboding yet superheroic New Age, would be enough to make you tremble in awe (and a little fear).

Gotham is a world that stands at the forefront of real life, looking out over the edge at the landscape of fantasy and science fiction. It is just enough to feel like it could be something real, somewhere we could live, while enticing of us of things new and incredible, a city of tremendous contrast, a city of endless pictures in the mind.

If it sounds like I’m talking about it as though it’s a place that I’ve actually been to, that’s because I have. On Mondays, and then on Thursdays I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. And like its other millions of passionate, crazy (in the best way) fans, I want to keep on visiting.

We are living in a Golden Age of television, there’s no denying it. Fantastic shows with production qualities previously unheard of are reaching us, show by show by show, too many to keep track of. You might wonder how Gotham could compare to these, how I can still call it special.

By the time season 3 of Gotham had come to its close, with its fantastic finisher, I had accepted to myself that, no matter how many superb quality shows I’d watched (and it was a lot), Gotham was my favourite. In fact, I realised that, despite loving many shows, Gotham was my first favourite. Nothing before had touched me quite how Gotham did. I had not known what it was like to have a favourite show before Gotham showed me. No other show have I been so entirely invested in, spoiling things for myself, reading all the rumours between (and during) seasons about what might happen, about what character might appear. Joining communities and talking to fellow fans, discussing the show’s episodes and all our thoughts of what might come next.

You might think this silly, considering all the shows that have come before, that I have only become this energised and impassioned (not to mention social) from Gotham. You might even point to flaws within the show, and ask how could I possibly rank it first? I tell you that I am fully aware of its flaws; in fact I think only clear-headed fans who come to it from a position of love can do the most effective job of criticising its missteps. But nonetheless, even if another show might have more consistent writing, Gotham still wins hands down.

Why, you ask? Because Gotham is Gotham. There is nothing else out there to match it. It is hard to explain to someone who may not be a huge fan, but I will try to sum up a few things about what there is to love about the show, before touching on a more general note:

 

The casting. Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Sean Pertwee, David Mazouz, Cameron Monaghan, Camren Bicondova, Donal Logue, Ben McKenzie. . . I must stop before I feel conscious of leaving any out. The casting has been superb, each playing their roles excellently: David as a brooding teenage Bruce, showing acting chops from the very beginning that promise a bright future ahead of him (or a very Dark one). . . Camren like a young Catwoman from Batman Returns. . . Robin Lord Taylor of course, whose every single facial movement and incredulous exultation is like sheer eye-candy – never before have I been so unwilling to even blink when a character is on screen.

The acting. Effortlessly mixing quiet emotional beats, loud and dramatic emotional beats, tragedy and comedy, action-orientated moments, pathos and playfulness, the acting range on display across the board is a perfect fit for the show. Ever since the years when EVERY! LINE! WAS! EXCLAIMED! FOR! EMPHASIS! the comicbook world has always had its silly, bombastic and hyperreal side, whether consciously referenced or not, and it is to Gotham’s absolute credit that it fully indulges in this, giving us the campy dramatic dialogue while at the same time never making you feel like it is cheesy or substandard acting. It takes a lot of skill to convey multiple moods at once, both dark and light, dangerous and whimsical, and the line between high camp and cheesy is a thin one, but Gotham always stays quite expertly on the right side, while still more than able to commit to heartbreaking moments of tragedy and sorrow, or sadistic moments of pure villainy.

The tone. What may seem jarring to some critics, is only a natural reflection of the world of comics. Shifting frequently between tones both dark and light (and somewhere in-between) is not a criticism, but a testament to the show to deliver on its extensive source material in all its different tones and styles. As good writers, directors and actors know, comedy, pathos, horror, drama and action are all great bedfellows, and including humour in even a show’s darkest moments encourages only ever greater investment in both the situation and its characters. Gotham is a dark tragicomedy, because that is what the world of superheroes and supervillains is.

The villains. Everyone loves a good villain, and Gotham has them in spades. While other shows and movies could be faulted for their lack of depth to their villains, Gotham exists in entirely the opposite field. Gotham’s villains are its highlight, its central nervous system; rarely in television or movies have villains (who grow up to be super awful people) been so humanised, so easy to empathise with. Villains are always better when you can connect with them on some level, when you can understand them. And by showing us the slow burn evolution of characters like Penguin and the Riddler into the supervillains they will one day be, by giving them just as much attention and care as given to our heroes (perhaps even more), we have seen a level of commitment to “villainous” characters like never before, thus giving the viewer the perfect battle within themselves as to who they truly want to come out on top, seeing as they are now, as suits this manner of show perfectly, invested in characters on all sides.

The cinematography. As already mentioned, Gotham has an ability to make you feel like you are living in the gloriously technicolour pages of a comicbook. The look of the show is perfect. It perhaps exceeds the style even of the movies, both in its deliberately timeless design (incorporating aspects of eras from the 1930s all the way to 2010s, that remain without jarring anachronism due to their creative blend), and its use of evocative colour juxtaposed against darkness; the sky is always overcast, the night lights up with colour, dark interiors are filled with glowing greens and reds and purples. Every shot is beautiful, as though lavishly crafted with a movie in mind – but without the constant distracting and weightless green-screens that pepper most modern blockbusters.

 

I will stop before this becomes even more of a huge essay, even though I have still not mentioned the heroes, the music, the interpersonal relationships between characters, the costume design (Penguin’s frankly gorgeous suits, however, deserve a special shoutout – and indeed have highly influenced my own clothing!), the set design, the storylines, the action scenes. . .

If I could tell you why Gotham means so much in one word, it is atmosphere. Even if we separate ourselves from the script and the plotlines, Gotham has a feel about it that I do not believe is reflected in any other show. A large part of this is due to the cinematography, but truthfully it is all its elements coming together into a cohesive whole.

Unlike other shows that might concentrate entirely on characters and the immediate plot, Gotham allows itself to exist as a place; it becomes something, somewhere real, where characters continue to live out their lives while we are not watching, a place self-evidently lived-in, where bystanders, innocents and common crooks can come in and out of the show naturally, before going back to their lives (unless they wind up dead, of course). The ongoing status of the show is the ongoing status of Gotham as a city. When the show ends, the city ends. Suddenly, these people have nowhere to go, nowhere to exist; the places disappear: the bars, the side-streets, the Narrows, Arkham Asylum, the GCPD, the Wayne Manor are lost.

I will not sit here and write to you that Gotham has ever been a perfect show. I think a lot of it has been to do with the fear of cancellation, and thus the need to rush things for ratings. There are things I, and I’m sure many other fans, would have preferred handled differently.

No, Gotham is a flawed show based on a flawed state of network television. But Gotham is our show. It is ours. The fans now, by the end of Season 4, are as loyal and committed as they are passionate, and they will not go quiet into the night. They too know that Gotham must continue. Not by any means necessary, not if it means sacrificing what makes Gotham great, but by the means it needs. The means it deserves.

Gotham needs a future, and not an uncertain one, where it can continue to disturb its own natural storytelling in a desperation to not be cancelled because of an outdated ratings system that does not reflect the many ways we consume our media nowadays, but a steadfast future, committed to by a network or streaming service dedicated to understanding why Gotham must continue.

Gotham is a show that takes risks, a show in which the sheer love for its characters and its world jumps out at us from every scene. Gotham is a show that gives us live-action pre-Batman characters that we have never ever seen before. It reaches across countless comicbook arcs and adaptations to time and time again enthral us with new and fascinating renditions of characters great and small. A-listers command our attention, but so do D-list rogues pulled to new heights, villains we could never have expected to see now reinvented and put on our screen to co-exist with all these others, in a grand and bizarre and scary and hilarious carnival of freaks and monsters, friendly sociopaths and jaw-gritting antiheroes.

We want only the best for these characters, these places, this world. This is no show that has been-and-done-it, that has come to its natural conclusion or run out of stories to tell. This is a show with endless possibilities, a show of crazy vision and ambition, a show filled with passion and desire for more, more, more. And that more is not the banal retreads of other shows, the predictability, the tired and rote drama. Gotham only ever reinvents, surprises us, excites us, gives us what we’ve never seen before. Gotham looks to the future.

But more than that, Gotham wants to tell us stories. And there is SO much left to tell.

Do what you can, reach out to whoever we can who can do Gotham justice. FOX, other networks, Netflix, DC Universe – whoever feels impassioned enough about the project to give Gotham a future. You can read words all over the internet from people for whom Gotham has been their hope in the darkness, their light, their answer to mundanity and apathy, disillusionment and depression and the common struggles and anxieties of life. For Gotham is a bright, brilliant candle, burning all the lucid and acidic colours of the rainbow.

And it’s not ready to go out.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Set Sytes

A Gotham Citizen

 

Whatever you do, remember that. You’re going to make a difference. A lot of times it won’t be huge, it won’t be visible even. But it will matter just the same. Don’t do it for praise or money, that’s what I want to tell you. Do it because it needs to be done. Do it to make your world better.

— Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, Book One: In the Line of Duty)

 

Gotham dream sequence moustache Penguin Gordon

Comicbook script: The Man Behind the Bat

I wrote a short script for a 14 page comic, just for fun really, because the copyrights involved would mean I couldn’t really do anything with it. It’s just a very dark alternate take on Batman. The general concept I’m sure has been thought of before but I’ve never seen it properly executed and written down as a script.

All copyrights to the characters and world belong to DC, of course. This isn’t for money but just a fan thing (although I’d LOVE to see it done with artwork). Needless to say it’s absolutely not canon nor pretending to be anything it isn’t.

For those who haven’t read comicbook scripts before, the numbers on each page are for each separate panel of art, CAP means caption (usually a thought/narration box), and dialogue would appear as speech bubbles. The rest is a guide addressing the (sadly no longer on board) artist as to what might appear in the panels.

Hope you enjoy (and don’t take it so serious).

 

BATMAN: THE MAN BEHIND THE BAT script

By Set Sytes

 

ART IDEAS

 

Black and white. Except for the laughs of the Joker, the green wig and red lipstick. Maybe the blue and red of the police sirens. These colours should be bold and vivid, standing out strongly against the black and white. It’s up to you if you use the blood that occurs later in greyscale or red. In general, colour in the panels should be rare.

Everything drenched in shadows. Bold, simple, striking. Maybe rough heavy line drawings (like the art from From Hell) or thick, blotty use of blacks, like Mike Mignola’s art. Or both. Backgrounds could be simple or nearly non-existent – block blacks and shading, with essential props and architecture. Up to you how much detail you put in, but the panels should remain bold, stark and striking, never cluttered, and always a focus on the characters over backgrounds.

Panel layout is an outline, if you want to change how many panels appear on each page (Average of 6, no more than 8 for the odd page, maybe also pages with fewer but bigger panels), up to you of course. Add more pages if you need to fit in all the panels. There’s no page limit.

PAGE 1

 

1 – GOTHAM CITY

Batman narrates as he looks out from a rooftop over Gotham city. His figure is a grim, impressive, imposing and even scary one – feel free to be a little bit surreal and abstract with his look, almost mythic, a figure of menace. All black, huge sprawling cape, etc. Little detail – maybe all you see is cowl and cape? White eyes as usual. I’ll send some sample ideas if you want.

CAP: The city is diseased. I’ve known it ever since my parents were murdered in front of me.

CAP: Shadows cut and slash at every source of light, every source of hope. Tumours bubble up out of the depths and threaten to swallow the city whole.

2 –

CAP: When the wind carries just right, you can smell the cancer eating the city. You can smell Gotham’s rotting flesh.

CAP: I’m Gotham’s own chemotherapy. I destroy just to keep it alive. A necessary sickness.

3 –

Batman turns, hearing a scream coming up from below and to the side, out of shot.

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

4 & 5 –

Jumps or soars down into the alley.

CAP: To every criminal that preys on the innocent, I am more than just a knight of justice. I am the wings of havoc.

5 –

Runs through the alleys.

CAP: And I always win.

6 –

Batman races forward down an alley, towards two common criminals threatening a terrified woman.

WOMAN: Please don’t!

 

PAGE 2

 

1 & 2 –

Batman fights the criminals.

CAP: Common thugs. A walk in the park.

3 –

A SNAP as he breaks a criminal’s arm. The man’s face is contorted in pain.

CAP: I call this a warm-up.

4 –

The criminals are on the floor unconscious. Don’t show blood. Batman looks around, the woman is gone.

BATMAN: Guess she must have run off.

5 – BATCAVE

Batman standing in the Batcave. Alfred standing in the corner, stiff, in the shadows. Obscured by shadow. Something scary about him. No movement or facial expressions shown at any point, maybe his whole face is in shadow. He should look identical in every appearance in the comic – because he is an effigy.

ALFRED CAP (a speech balloon, but an independent one, not attributed to Alfred): Any word on the Joker, sir?

BATMAN: Not yet, Alfred. My lead turned out to be a dead end.

6 –

ALFRED CAP: Escaping from Arkham Asylum yet again. It beggars belief.

BATMAN: Arkham wasn’t built to hold minds such as his.

ALFRED CAP: Even with the increased security, sir?

BATMAN: He must have had help. Someone on the inside.

ALFRED CAP: Again, sir?

 

PAGE 3

 

1 & 2 –

Bruce is asleep in his bedroom. Face cast in shadow. Tossing and turning, pained expression. He is having bad dreams.

3 – 5 –

Dreams of Joe Chill killing his parents. Dark alley, a figure coming, a gunshot. You know the scene. Use your imagination for these panels, as long as it’s dark, stylised and creepy! Green Joker laughter starts off small in panel 4, coming from off-panel, and gets bigger and more ‘aggressive’ in panel 5.

6 –

Bruce sits on his knees at the feet of his dead parents. Head down. Camera to the back of him. Joker’s green HAHAHAHAHA   coming in from the edges and fully into the panel, larger than before, unavoidable.

 

PAGE 4

 

1 –

Next day, in the Batcave. Batman sitting at his Batcomputer. Alfred standing in the corner, stiff, in the shadows as before.

BATMAN: Get Lucius Fox on the line. I’m going to need some upgrades, if I’m going to track down the Joker.

ALFRED CAP: Right away, Master Bruce. And perhaps you could also say something about the Joker breaking into his house again last night? Some words of comfort, perhaps. The poor man is in fear for his life.

BATMAN: Of course I will, Alfred.

2 –

ALFRED CAP: Patched you through now, sir.

BATMAN: Lucius, are you there? Lucius? Alfred, I’m not getting any –

3 –

All these panels still of Batman at the computer. Don’t show Lucius. If you show Batman’s face, it’s standard Batman expression, stern, authoritative, impatient but in control.

LUCIUS (independent jagged transmission balloon): I know it’s you Bruce. What’s happening in the streets. At first I denied it, I denied it for so long, as the evidence mounted . . .

LUCIUS: But then . . . I put a tracker on you. I followed you. I saw what it is that you do . . . That’s when I knew . . .

BATMAN: Lucius, calm down.

4 –

LUCIUS: I’m not doing it anymore Bruce! I’m not going to be your – your enabler any more. God, I’m part of this . . . I’m an accomplice. I’ve been drinking so much lately, drinking myself half to death, drinking to forget . . . I’ve been so scared. Scared of you.

LUCIUS: And then – and then I was scared of going to the cops, telling them what I know. I knew they’d put me away, separate me from my family. It took me so long to gather the strength for this call. My hands were shaking. They still are.

5 –

BATMAN: Lucius, control yourself. You know the Joker knows where you live now. He’ll come for you, you know that, come for your family. And I’m the only one who can protect you from him.

LUCIUS: I’ve sent my family away! They’ll be . . . They’ll be safe.

6 –

BATMAN: Where have you sent them? If you don’t tell me, I can’t protect them.

LUCIUS: I’m not telling you! Please Bruce, please. You’re not well. You need to turn yourself in. I’m begging you.

7 –

BATMAN: I can’t quit. Gotham needs me. It seems I’ll have to go on without you, old friend.

BATMAN: Goodbye, Lucius.

*CLICK*

 

PAGE 5 – LUCIUS FOX’S APARTMENT

 

1 –

Lucius Fox in his apartment alone at night, sitting, staring at nothing, maybe a TV turned off. Bottle of beer in his hand, beer bottles all around him. Gun on the seat next to him.

2 –

CREEEAAAAK

He hears a creak at the door, turns his head. Startled.

3 –

Trains his gun on it, sweating in the shadows.

4 –

Behind him, a figure creeps in through the window. Green hair, red smile. The rest in shadows. It’s a freaky image.

5 –

Lucius starts to spin around as the Joker speaks (still mostly in shadow apart from the colours, the smile – a scary figure).

JOKER: Luuuciieeee, I’ve got a boooonnne to pick with you!

6 –

The Joker knocks the gun out of his hand. Lucius falls to the floor.

7 –

Joker stands over him. Lucius is terrified, holding hand up as though it will protect him.

JOKER: Which bone would you like me to pick, Lucie? Hehehehehhehe (this laughter starts in the balloon and then comes out of it, going green and bigger into the rest of the panel.)

 

PAGE 6

 

1 – GOTHAM CITY

Batman stares into the darkness. Out of which come the red and blue lights of police cars. It’s all in shadow (sorry if that word gets repeated a lot here!). All you see is lights, darkness, perhaps vague shapes. Slashing rain. A sense of confusion.

CAP: I blink. I don’t know how I got here.

CAP: My short-term memory is a network of shadows. Deep within me, the tumour with the clown grin pulsates, and grows. Something is very wrong.

2 –

The scene comes into more clarity, although still somewhat shrouded. You can see police cars and police officers pointing guns through the rain at Batman. Including Commissioner Gordon.

CAP: I feel like I’ve been drugged. What is going on?

3 –

Close-up on Jim Gordon. His hair, coat and gun dripping wet in the rain. His glasses are opaque white – you never see his eyes. He looks angry, determined, but also a man carrying a huge burden.

GORDON: Drop it, Bruce! We know it’s you!

4 –

GORDON: All this time, it was you. I had my suspicions before, but who would question the head of Wayne Enterprises? The company that always gave so very generously to the GCPD.

GORDON: You were our bread and butter, Bruce. We had it all, with you lining the department’s pockets. But it’s over now. We’re not taking your money anymore.

BATMAN (balloon coming from out of panel, or the bottom of the panel – focus still on Gordon): Jim, you’re making a mistake.

CAP: I have to get out of here.

5 –

GORDON: The only mistake I made was in not doing this sooner. We got a phone call from Lucius Fox. He told us everything.

GORDON: This whole time. Dammit Bruce, how could you do this? How could you do this to them, to me?’

6 –

Batman throws smoke pellets.

7 –

The police officers are coughing in the smoke. See Gordon through the smoke, arm over his mouth.

GORDON: <koff> Nobody is to stop, nobody is to take a break, <koff> nobody is to do anything until Bruce Wayne is behind bars!

 

PAGE 7

 

1 –

Batman sat back to a chimney, on a rooftop. Joker’s green HEHEHEHE comes in very small, from off-panel. It appears in every panel hence, sneaking in. It’s there, but it’s unobtrusive. Always HEHEHEHE instead of HAHAHAHA, for now.

CAP: Everything’s unravelling. A tumbling of bricks.

CAP: They act like I’m a monster. I’m just a man.

2 –

CAP: I’m losing myself in the shadows. Darkness tugs at me, like pulling teeth from their roots. It’s trying to take it all away from me. The cancer is trying to win.

CAP: Someone’s behind this. but who? Or what?

3 –

Catwoman appears, a long sleek black figure, hands on hips.

CATWOMAN: Miaow.

4 –

BATMAN (not looking at her): Not now Catwoman. This isn’t a good time. I have to get back to the Batcave.

5 – BATCAVE

Batman with Alfred, as earlier. Batman standing, looking away.

BATMAN: First Lucius, now Jim. Everyone’s turning against me.

BATMAN: Something bad has happened, but I can’t . . . I can’t think straight. I feel like I’m being swallowed up from the inside.

6 –

Batman turns to Alfred, motionless as before.

BATMAN: Alfred?

 

PAGE 8

 

1 –

Batman, confused, puts his hand on Alfred’s shoulder. Shadows obscure Batman’s white eyes. Alfred leans lightly to one side with the pressure.

BATMAN: Alfred?

2 –

Alfred falls over. Batman is shocked, aghast in horror. You can see his real eyes, they are no longer whited out as usual.

BATMAN: ALFRED!

3 –

Batman stands over the fallen Alfred.

CAP: Taxidermy.

BATMAN: No . . . No, it can’t be . . .

4 –

Batman is looking pretty unhinged right now. His eyes look increasingly bloodshot and frenzied from now on. His chin looks more and more weathered, dirty and unshaven. His Batman outfit shifting from sleek, armoured well-crafted perfection (or the surreal, mythic wrapped-in-blackness style), to a slowly more real, tattered, home-made look . Make it all –outfit and face – a subtle change over a number of panels. You are gradually heading towards: simple, rough, torn, all-black, head to toe outfit, with a stitched on black-on-white bat symbol on the chest, and a grey utility belt. A crappy hand-made looking cowl, looks stitched together. This is Batman as he really looks – a deranged man. He cannot look after himself. He still looks dangerous, but in a different, unstable way. He’s a person you do not want to bump into.

The green Joker HEHEHEHE’s are getting larger in these panels, intruding slightly on the scenes.

CAP: Is it real? Is it really –

CAP: You know the answer to that.

BATMAN: Oh god.

5 –

Batman, on his hands and knees. Looks like he’s trying but failing to keep control. Desperately gritted teeth, but wide open eyes. Maybe flecks of spit coming from his teeth.

CAP: No.

6 –

Focus on Batman’s mad, grizzled face.

CAP: He’s dead. They’re all dead.

CAP: Falling . . .

7 –

Focus on Batman’s eyes. They’re sliding up, completely insane.

CAP: What have I done?

 

PAGE 9

 

1 –

Recreation of scenes where Batman fought the “criminals” at the beginning. Except he looks like he does in the prior panels (i.e. home-made, dishevelled, mad). He is charging at two innocent homeless men and one woman. They are terrified. Remember the Joker laughter in all these panels. Keep as much else the same as you can, from the original panels.

WOMAN: Please don’t!

2 –

Batman beats up the defenceless men as the woman runs off. They are shown in pain and bloodied by Batman.

3 –

Batman breaks one of their arms with a SNAP. The man is screaming in pain.

MAN: AAAARRHGHHH!

4 –

Batman stands over their two dead bodies. Make a distinction from the previous interpretation of this scene, that now they appear dead and battered/bloodied, and not just unconscious as before.

BATMAN: Guess she must have run off.

5 & 6 –

Two shots of the Joker’s face coming out of pitch darkness. Just a face. Green hair, lipstick, grin. Make it as scary as possible. Maybe no eyes – skin stretched over them? Whichever looks freakier. Bear in mind this is also Bruce’s face – but given the art style of the comic, it might not be obvious. As long as it’s not obvious that it’s not.

 

PAGE 10

 

A full page of various panels of Batman beating up/killing people, or launching himself at them from out of the darkness – maybe some are lowlifes, maybe some are homeless, or street kids – none of them deserve his punishment. Use your imagination with these panels. Just show Batman as he really is (in the context of this story): wild, unhinged and scary. Don’t show any knives or guns. His opponents are unarmed, and he’s doing it all with his fists. Possibly homemade batarangs that stick in people like knives – up to you.

Green laughter dominates these panels more than any previous ones. They’re all over the scenes, covering the page. Both HEHEHEHEHE and HAHAHAHAHA this time.

In the middle of all these panels (or place it/stylise it how best you feel fits) is a laughing shot, like before of the Joker, except this time it has a cowl on, and white eyes. It’s Batman meets the Joker. Think Batman with red lipstick and a crazy grin. Green hair coming out from under the cowl, maybe. I can show you a sample like that if you want.

The final panel on this page is a recreation of the panel earlier where Catwoman appears. Except this time it’s just a black cat.

CAT: Miaow.

BATMAN: Not now Catwoman.

 

PAGE 11

 

1 –

We’re away from flashbacks and back to the Batcave with insane Batman. He’s a state. During these panels he’s having a breakdown. Fingers clawing at hair and at face, wild, unbelieving, despairing eyes etc. Or, alternatively, maybe you want it more understated and sad – an utterly, utterly defeated Batman. Disconsolate, unable to take on the enormity of it all. Maybe you don’t even see his face, just a hunched body, head down. Your call.

If you show any of the Batcave – and you don’t need to – don’t make it anything really. It’s just a cave. Maybe it has a laptop in it where the Batcomputer is. Maybe you don’t want to show anything. Keep the focus on Batman. If you want to show him small and with a crushed spirit, maybe zoom out to his small broken black figure in a big dark empty cave. Make us as distant from him as he is from himself. Give us the feeling he’s all alone. This all might work better than the close-up crazy-breakdown Batman, given he’s finally accepting the truth.

CAP: All of them. All of them. My rogues, my villains . . . they were all me. Elements of my psyche I manifested into enemies to defeat – but they never could be defeated, could they? Not permanently. They rose up, again and again.

CAP: They always escaped. They always had their fun.

2 –

In these panels, as well as the previous shot, add drawings of the villains as referenced in the captions. Maybe they’re standing by him, maybe you’re just drawing their face in the corner of the panel, in the shadows. They are imagined by Batman. Here’s a chance to draw some of the other rogues in a disturbing way! Be a bit surreal with them if you like.

CAP: Two-Face . . . My multiple personality disorder. My psyche split in two. Good man and psychopath.

3 –

CAP: The Scarecrow. My fear of the truth.

4 –

CAP: Clayface, my malleability, my ability to deceive, to present myself as something other than what I am.  My mask of human skin hides the monster within.

5 –

CAP: The Penguin, my mental deformity, my corruption. The crooked tumour of my mind.

6 –

Draw the Joker here however you think best, as long as it fits with previous times. Make him the craziest and scariest. It’s demented Bruce Wayne in a wig, white-face and lipstick, and it should look horrible.

CAP: And, of course, the Joker. The real me, the psychopathic serial killer I try to bury inside. Never deep enough. He always gets out.

 

PAGE 12

 

1 –

The alley murder scene, except this time it’s young Bruce Wayne killing his parents and laughing. Of course, the green HAHAHAHA (sorry to keep mentioning it, it’s non-stop – unless you feel it interferes with the art in panels. As long as it’s on each page quite a bit). It’s moved on from HEHEHEHE like it was before.

CAP: The Joker killed my parents.

CAP: I killed my parents.

2 –

Bruce with a green wig on doing his lipstick in the mirror . . . Yeah, it’ll look very wrong. Think Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill!

3 –

Back to defeated alone Batman.

CAP: My no-kill rule. What a joke, what a farce. When, in reality, the reverse was true. So many dead. By my hand.

CAP: How many bones did I think I could break? How many piles of garbage were there to break someone’s fall?

4 –

CAP: There is no Arkham Asylum. Only the morgue. The graveyard.

CAP: There might not even be a Gotham. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not.

5 –

Panels of hollow-eyed Batman staring blankly into the darkness.

CAP: All this, this self-delusion, to cover up my own guilt. I looked for an unnamed killer, I sought vengeance on shadows, on nothing, on nobodies . . . Joe Chill . . . a nobody.

6 –

CAP: It wasn’t enough, in the end. My own guilt threatened to surface. I had to have a single person take the fall, a person I could touch, could smell. I gave him a name, a name inspired by the pulp noir novels I read as a child.

CAP: Where is Joe Chill now? I know where he is. A man whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

PAGE 13

 

1 –

If you hadn’t drawn it this way before, right now Batman is definitely on his knees, head sunk. These panels are quite repetitive, but should enforce the captions. If you want to repeat ones you’ve already drawn, do so. Don’t let any of the Joker laughter detract from the detachment and loneliness of Batman. It should be all about him in these panels, him in the empty cave. Maybe the laughter is just floating around the edges of the panels. Maybe you don’t want them there at all.

CAP: I got away with so much. I remember . . . I remember Gotham as a lovely city. It’s just me. I’m the only danger here. The only darkness.

2 –

CAP: The rich elite, they get away with everything. They always have, throughout history. Get away with murder. Nobody questioned me, not really. I was untouchable. It was only when it was staring them in the face that they had to act.

CAP: I bet some of them would have just kept on taking the money, for an easier life.

3 –

Batman has raised his head. Whether we see his eyes or not, he’s looking up. Something has occurred to him. He’s speaking out loud now.

BATMAN: Did I imagine Robin too? The things I made him do . . . Some of the time, he must have been in my head. The rest . . .

BATMAN: He’s still here, somewhere. Maybe he’s still crying. Maybe he’s finally gone quiet.

4 –

The Joker laughter here is smaller, edging away.

BATMAN: No . . . It’s not . . . This isn’t . . .

5 –

Just a solid black panel. No laughter.

6 –

Shows only Batman’s torn gloved hand, reaching up desperately into the darkness, as though there’s something out there that can save him. In this panel the HAHAHAHA is fading away, diminishing out the panel.

BATMAN: No . . .

7 –

Same shot of the hand, except it now looks more like the Batman suit as he imagined it – like a Batsuit gauntlet. Look it up if you want an idea. Doesn’t need detail though – as long as it looks different to before, better-made and not torn. Or darker, more surreal? In this and later panels there is no more Joker laughter.

CAP: No, it can’t end like this. It doesn’t make any sense.

CAP: It’s not true.

8 –

Shot of Batman’s narrowed eyes. The eyes are white, like before. The old mask is back. Maybe it’s just two white eyes in blackness.

CAP: Mind manipulation coupled with a new strain of fear toxin. Mad Hatter and the Scarecrow must be working together. Seeking to destroy my identity . . . make me believe in the impossible.

 

PAGE 14

 

1 –

Batman’s arm again, now in a clenched fist. It looks stronger and more muscular than before.

CAP: Fight it, Bruce. You can beat them. You’re stronger than this.

2 –

Another arm shot, looking even stronger and more imposing than before, even crueller – more dangerous. Or maybe you can show it in a more surreal way – darkness flowing out of it, the hand more of something inhuman than a man.

CAP: You’re more than Bruce Wayne.

CAP: You are –

3 –

A big panel, taking up the rest of the page. Batman is standing up. He looks like the original panels of how Batman looked, but more so. Unreal-looking, no face – just the white eyes of the cowl, his cape billowing out, jagged, the ends like tendrils reaching to ensnare. Maybe he’s floating off the ground – the whole effect is of Batman not as a human but as a dark myth, as demon, as terror of the night.

BATMAN: I’m Batman.

 

 

I don't own the rights to this artwork and could not find the name for the original artist. Will amend or remove as appropriate.
I don’t own the rights to this artwork and could not find the name for the original artist. Will amend or remove as appropriate.