Ken Tucker says Batman is turning 60, and two exciting new projects fill the Bat-franchise with much-needed life
For lots of people, the recent, awful ”Batman” feature films have killed any interest they might have for this comic-book creation, second only to ”Superman” as a superhero brand name and — c’mon, hasn’t this always been obvious? — a far more interesting, complicated character than the staid Supey.
But two new non-movie Batman moves have reinvigorated the franchise. First, there’s the WB’s ”Batman Beyond,” a niftily executed Saturday-morning-cartoon notion that posits an elderly Bruce Wayne in semiretirement, but still fighting crime. How? He’s designed a superpowered Batsuit that is worn by a young disciple, Terry McGinnis. This new, callow Batman of the future zooms around Gotham City on retractable wings. Borrowing elements from everything from Fritz Lang’s ”Metropolis” to ”The X-Files,” ”Batman Beyond” is a terrific addition to the ”Batman” canon.
And ”Batman” nostalgists who feel they’ve outgrown comic books really ought to check out what DC Comics is currently doing with its ”No Man’s Land” story line. It’s a miniseries whose plot is winding its way through such DC titles as ”Batman,” ”Detective Comics,” ”Shadow of the Bat,” and ”Legends of the Dark Knight.”
The plot of ”No Man’s Land” is simple and audacious: Batman’s home base, Gotham City, has been reduced to tattered ruins — first in spirit, when a huckster named Nicholas Scratch conned the local government and sapped the local economy; next in the aftermath of an earthquake, which destroyed housing and knocked out electrical power, leaving the city prey to its worst enemies. Thus veteran ”Batman” baddies like the Penguin and Scarecrow control warring neighborhoods, as ordinary citizens are terrorized while scrabbling for food and shelter.
The first four installments of ”No Man’s Land” are written by Bob Gale, author of the screenplay for ”Back to the Future”; other scribes who’ll continue the plotline include Paul Dini, the writer who’s done so much to revitalize old comics characters with his ”New Adventures of Superman/Batman” animated series. Taken together, ”Batman Beyond” and the ”No Man’s Land” miniseries will make you proud to be a Bat-fan no matter what your age, in this, the 60th year of Batman’s existence.