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The one interesting thing about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A world in which Batman was the first superhero

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

I grew up reading every comic with Batman in it — regardless of quality — out of a naive belief that taking on the Sisyphean task of Knowing Everything About Batman would buy me credit from the other judgmental nerds I desperately want to impress.

Which is to say: I've seen it all, including the typical patterns and ruts that writers fall into.

There's the story where Batman is especially sad or angry for no reason other than that his parents died. There's the story that coincidentally takes place in the alley his parents died because Symbolism. There's the story where Batman fights somebody in the Batcave until they smash the glass case that has Jason Todd's costume hanging in it, again, because Symbolism.

It's not that I'm tired of Batman stories, of course, I am DTB (Down To Batman) at all times. But if a story looks like it's retreading old ground — and you're not doing your due diligence as a creator to say something new and interesting while you do it — I'm gonna check out.

Which brings us to that one movie

Hoooo boy, have I checked out of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I think I fell asleep just typing out the entire name of the movie.

Elaborating on that would be a whole post in itself. But leaving aside the previous work of the creative team behind the film, my personal thoughts on the comics it's making its clearest homages to, and the idiocy of making an entire movie about two dudes fighting when we already know that they're going to be friends at the end like come on who are you even fooling it's right there in the title ... there is one thing that Dayman v Nightman: Dawn of Justice looks to be setting up that I do find interesting.

And that's the idea that Batman has been around for years, maybe a decade or more, before any other superheroes have gone public about their abilities and intentions. A mundane superhero veteran in a world of superpowered newbies.

Old Bruce Wayne

This isn't something I've seen done in a DC Universe Origin Story before, and it comes with some implications that I think could be used to reveal interesting aspects of — and say interesting things about — characters that we know very well. It's not necessarily something that I think is better than the standard story of the beginning of the DCU's "Modern Superheroic Era" — in which the superheroic movers and shakers of the DCU all generally started working at the same time and were inspired to work together by the example set by Superman. But I think it's interesting.

It's perfect idea for a What If?, a parallel universe, or, indeed, an adaptation of the setting to another medium.

Judging by clues in the plot-heavy Batman v Superman: Department of Justice trailers, it seems like Batman has been around for 10, maybe even 20 years — enough to be making jokes about his "old age," at least. It's one thing to be a guy with no superpowers who puts on a costume and beats up criminals in a world where there are dozens of world-famous, beloved superhero celebrities. It's quite another for the only superhero in the world to be a nigh-legendary, reclusive, normal man who's beating up criminals in one specific city.

New York has Wall Street. San Francisco has techies, Los Angeles has Hollywood, New Orleans has Mardi Gras ... Gotham has a succession of costumed criminals of dubious sanity policed by a mysterious vigilante, and it has for decades.

Imagine what that kind of life would be for Bruce Wayne: no allies except those he trained himself. No outside validation that anyone in the world but him would embark on such a crusade. Of course anyone else is going to be seen as a threat. He's been alone for years, and, judging by those trailers, that life has beaten him down rather effectively.

Imagine this conversation

Mostly, though, I enjoy imagining the first meeting of this Justice League.

Justice League

"So are we ready to start?" the Flash asks.

"We're just waiting for one more," Superman says.


There's a pause, as Earth's alien savior fidgets.

"No." Wonder Woman pins him with her eyes. "Not him?"

The man in blue looks at them; the disarmingly honest look that got them all into this room in the first place.

"We're all new at this," he says. "I'm new at this. We can't afford beginner's mistakes," he says, and he doesn't pause to remember how it felt when Zod's body went limp. "He's got years of experience —"

"In being a nut job," says the man who can run faster than the speed of sound.

"No mortal man could do what we do alone, for that long, and remain sane," says the man who calls himself King of the Oceans.

Flash again: "He's an asshole!"

"He recruits children," adds the quiet young man at the end of the table whose parents made him into a living weapon. He's told them to call him Cyborg.

Superman can bend girders with a twist of his hands, but now he lifts them in a placating gesture. "He's really a good guy!"

Wonder Woman quirks an eyebrow.

He deflates. "Once you get to know him."

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