So for the final installment of my “New DC” reboots, I thought I’d take a look at Batman and friends. In some ways these are probably the least drastic of my redesigns (Batman’s been handled better than a lot of DC’s other properties), but I think the changes I have made are important ones. (You’ll also note that I did do a shorter Batman redesign not long ago, and for clarity’s sake this post is basically expanding on those basic ideas). Just as with the Legion of Doom, this Batman and his cohorts exist in the same imaginary continuity of my Superman reboots and all that, so keep that in mind.
The basic philosophy behind these designs are:
1) Make each character unique, in both personality & appearance
2) Each character should have something unique and useful to offer (ie: no one should be redundant)
3) The relationships between each character pair should be unique and encourage stories
Bruce Wayne (Batman)
Origin: Seeing his parents gunned down by a mugger at age 8, Bruce Wayne developed a particularly strong obsession with lawbreaking and the nature of the criminal mind. Using his vast family fortune, Wayne traveled the world for many years, learning the martial arts and the disciplines of detective work, engineering and stage magic, training under the greatest masters of their fields. When he returned to his city of Gotham, he saw that crime had taken a further turn for the worse, with gangs and the criminally insane taking on bizarre personas and costumes while they ran rampant through the city. Realizing that he could become a sort of lighting rod for the most dangerous of these criminals, Wayne took on the mantle of Batman, a creature of the night that would prey on the fears of the weak minded and attract the aggression of the bolder. His plan worked, and over time his operation expanded to include his trustworthy butler, Alfred, and even more.
Role: Fighter/Detective/Theatrics: Batman is a peerless hand-to-hand combatant (enhanced by steel gauntlets and taser knuckles) and a brilliant detective. His “wings” are actually a high tech fabric that becomes stiff in various shapes when a charge is sent through them, and goes limp like a cape when uncharged. This allows Batman to glide and take the literal silhouette of a massive bat when needed. It also provides limited resistance to firearms when stiff. The bat-symbol on his chest can light up and function as a spotlight to startle criminals, or it can be turned off, allowing him to disappear in the shadows. His eyes lenses allow both night and infra red vision. Batman’s ears function as a radio receiver, as well as a sound amplifier or dampener, the latter of which is necessary when he employs sonic weapons to frighting or disable criminals. Few things are more terrifying to denizens of the underworld than the inhuman screech of the Batman.
Batgirl - Stephanie is his new “project,” and once again he’s placed in a situation where he’s motivated both by fatherly instincts and guilt that come with her origins. At the same time, she’s almost like a playmate, as (unlike Tim and Barbara), she’ll totally indulge Batman’s craziest schemes. She keeps the child in him honest.
Robin - Bruce respects Robin and treats him more like a detective partner than son. They’ve worked together long enough to where their ideological differences aren’t at the forefront anymore, and they can get along (so long as it’s on a case). Probably his healthiest friendship aside from Alfred.
Oracle - Barbara is a constant reminder of Bruce’s earlier recklessness, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t try to concoct a way to make her life easier. He sees her as his adopted child in a lot of ways and is actually more protective of her than Stephanie.
Notes: My changes to Batman may seem modest, but the devil’s in the details. I wanted to take his crime fighting style back to his earliest roots and make him a bit spooky. I also wanted to emphasize the bat elements more strongly, not just with the wings and silhouette but the greater focus on sonics and night vision.
Tim Drake (Robin)
Origin: Born into an upper -middle-class Gotham family, Tim Drake had always been fascinated with detectives and forensics, though a career in law enforcement was heavily discouraged by his parents. This did not deter Tim’s self-education, however, and when he was barely 19 he deduced the Batman’s identity as Bruce Wayne. Knowing Wayne’s troubled past, he understood Batman’s motivations, and offered to join in the vigilante’s crusade. Not wanting to dress in a ridiculous costume, Drake put on a mask and a simple red-breasted coat. Annoyed that this “boy wonder” would look down on his methods, Batman gave him the codename “Robin.”
Role: Forensics/”Good Cop.” Drake serves as Batman’s forensics specialist and chemist. He is also Batman’s right-hand man when it comes to crime scene investigation. While no slouch in a fight, Drake prefers to stay out of brawls and leaves the violence to Batgirl and Batman.
Batman - Since both of his parents are alive and well, and he never suffered any childhood trauma, Tim Drake’s relationship with Batman’s more of a regular friendship and partnership. He thinks Bruce is a bit insane, but at the same time admires what he’s done for the city and knows there are certain things he can learn from Batman. While they do bicker on a daily basis, eventually they get on with whatever mission’s at hand.
Batgirl - Although not much older than Stephanie, Tim presents himself as an elder brother, offering advice when Bruce or Barbara come off as obtuse or grim. He greatly admires her fire, dedication, and also her butt.
Oracle - Tim worries about Barbara’s grasp on reality sometimes, and tries on a daily basis to get her to leave her computer and try to interact with people (to infrequent success). However, they also play online games together (to greater success).
Notes: Batman and Robin should always have a Bad Cop/Good Cop relationship. I’ve always liked the friendship between Rorschach and the Owl from Watchmen, where each guy’s motivation to be a hero’s pretty different, but they find common ground and play off each other’s strengths. Robin is the less cynical of human nature and also takes the whole “superhero” thing less seriously. He grounds Bruce, keeping one foot in reality. Visually I wanted something indicative of The Shadow or the Golden Age Sandman, where the detective elements are more emphasized (his mask, too, is meant to evoke a sort of venetian plague doctor vibe). Robin doesn’t need a utility belt, just pockets.
Stephanie Brown (Batgirl)
Origin: Stephanie Brown was only 16 when she discovered her father, Ed Brown, was also known as Edward Nygma, the notorious Riddler, a criminal Batman had never managed to capture. Feeling obligated to thwart his criminal plans with her inside knowledge, Stephanie spent months training and following her father’s escapades, studying his movements and patterns of riddles. To hide her identity to him, she took on the persona of The Spoiler, and vowed to spoil his plans whenever possible. Eventually Stephanie’s efforts paid off, and after anonymously delivering a message to Batman, helped him finally capture the Riddler. Batman, seeing that he had created an orphaned crimefighter, took in Stephanie as his ward to pay for her education.
Role: Ranged Support. Batgirl is Batman’s largely unseen assistant, providing nonlethal cover fire (blanks, darts, gas, rubber bullets, etc.) and overal tactical support when they’re out fighting crime. Geared for nimble acrobatics and ranged combat, Batgirl is also a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, making use of an extendible staff, taser and Batarangs. Her “gun” is high modular, able to go from a short-ranged blaster to a proper sniping weapon. Batgirl’s greatest advantage is that most criminals don’t know she exists.
Batman - Batman is both Stephanie’s adopted father and crazy uncle, getting her into trouble. She looks to him for both moral guidance and the infrastructure of her world now. Never having a stable home life before, Stephanie is still adjusting to both the comfort of Wayne’s wealth and the intensity of Batman’s world.
Robin - Stephanie adores Tim and follows him around wherever he goes. He’s the one “normal” person she can talk to on a daily basis (outside of school), and they’re quick to share anecdotes about their crime fighting.
Oracle - Barbara terrifies Stephanie. She doesn’t know how to approach her, nor does she quite understand why Barbara is so often shut away. For the first few months, she thought “Oracle” was just a magic computer Batman talked to.
Notes: Every good magician needs an assistant, and Batgirl fills role of the plucky sidekick nicely. She’s new to the Bat-family and her naivete and youthful vigor serve to keep Batman from becoming too grim. Visually her outfit’s similar to Batman’s, but without the attention-grabbing symbol. Her silhouette’s also a bit softer, and comes off a bit like a flying squirrel, which I like.
Barbara Gordon (Oracle)
Origin: Stephanie Brown wasn’t the first Batgirl. Years earlier, Barbara Gordon, a undergraduate student in criminal science, had secretly yearned for the life of the vigilante. Her father, Commissioner James Gordon, would never see her do police work, so Barbara took on the persona of Batgirl, and modelled herself after the famous crime fighter. Batman did indeed take notice and eventually took her under his wing. However, Batman was not as accustomed to working with others at the time, and sent in the less skilled and experienced Batgirl against the Joker and his henchmen, who overwhelmed the Batgirl and beat her until she was paralyzed from the waist down. Although Batman saved her life, he was convinced that her vigilante days were over. Not to be deterred, however, Barbara went through years of therapy and acclimated herself to Wayne’s cutting-edge prostheses technology. She now uses an exoskeleton to provide limited mobility, and serves as Batman’s operations director and engineer, also offering her occasional skills as a hacker and security specialist. Spending more and more time hidden away with her computers.
Role: Logistics/Organizer/Tech. Oracle is arguably the most indispensable member of the team, taking on the digital frontier to both preserve Batman’s identity (by managing Wayne’s transactions that fund their operation) and also to remotely manage his nightly patrols, offering guidance to Batman, Batgirl and Robin when needed. Her prostheses are mostly external and allow her to walk. Additionally, attachments made to her upper spine allow Oracle to form a direct neural link to certain operating systems.
Batman - Barbara worshipped Batman when she was younger. These days, while she does still see him as a second father, she tends to treat him like a child, obsessed more with chasing crooks than stopping crime on a larger scale. Deep down, though, she is convinced that she let him down when she was younger, and blames herself for the “incident.”
Batgirl - To say that Barbara is jealous of Stephanie would be an understatement. She sees a life she could have had as Batman’s “Number 2,” and doesn’t believe that Stephanie has earned the right to join them.
Robin - Tim is her anchor to the real world in that he’s one of the last people she can talk to about non-Batman related things. While she did carry a bit of a torch for the young detective not long ago, she finds it childish now. She doesn’t, however, like that this new Batgirl seems to have an eye for the Boy Wonder.
Notes: I wanted Barbara to retain her character, because superhero comics needs intelligent, competent female protagonists. I altered her “origin” a bit to be less grotesque and instead focused on the notion that Batman using kids to fight crime is kind of reckless. We see with Stephanie that he’s since taken a different approach and keeps her mainly out of direct harm. I also took Barbara out of a wheelchair, because I felt that in a superhero universe of magic and flying robots, someone with access to Bruce Wayne’s money should be able to get up stairs, regardless of their injuries. I want to present Barbara as someone who has become just as driven and obsessed as Batman. As to whether that’s a good thing (or whether this is the best path for her) remains to be seen.
And there you have it. I hoped you liked all my reboots. Let me know what you think!