'The Batman' Set Photos Point to Surprising Comic Book Inspiration

Batman Zero Year - Publicity - H 2020
Greg Capullo/DC
The images of the Dark Knight on a motorbike harken back to 2013's "Zero Year."

Leaked photos from the Glasgow, Scotland, shoot for Matt Reeves’ The Batman have revealed the following things about the upcoming cinematic reboot for the Perpetually Dark Knight: 1) He doesn’t have a cape. 2) He’s on a motorbike. 3) So is someone else. As unlikely as it may seem, the first two of those three observations genuinely do suggest a potential comic book inspiration for the movie.

It’s already known that Reeves is a fan of the 1987 comic book storyline “Batman: Year One,” in which Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli retold the origin of Bruce Wayne as the eponymous superhero; just this week, he even tweeted out a panel from it to tease fans looking for clues about the movie.

Reeves is, however, on record as taking pains to say that the movie isn’t an adaptation of “Year One,” as much as it might draw on themes from the comic as it tells its own version of Batman’s early days. The new set photos double down on that idea, by seemingly drawing on an entirely separate comic book version of Bruce Wayne’s first twelve months as a superhero: 2013’s “Zero Year,” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

To wit, here is what the leaked set photos look like:

And here’s how Batman first shows up in “Zero Year.”

Deconstructed, somewhat slapdash costume (sans cape)? Check. Cool bike with a bat emblem on the front? Check. All we need is the onscreen version looking a little more grizzled and prepared to do some sweet stunts at a moment’s notice, and it’s pretty much the “Zero Year” Bat brought to life with some extra arm protection, which is the kind of thing required by health and safety laws.

So, should audiences expect The Batman to be “Zero Year” brought to life? Almost certainly not; the comic book storyline is a tangled, tense story that doesn’t just tell the origin of Batman, but also the Riddler and the Joker, while also reshaping the landscape of Gotham City itself. Trying to put all that in a movie feels perhaps overly ambitious, and the kind of thing that would be better served as a series of movies instead of just one. (“Zero Year,” it should be pointed out, runs twelve full issues, compared with four for “Batman: Year One".)

Instead, the visual similarities between the two projects likely underscores the real relationship between what Matt Reeves is doing with The Batman and everything Batman that’s come before: Picking and choosing what is cool, what is unexpected and what just works and remixing it into something all its own.

Will The Batman have something as ludicrous as a pre-Joker Joker trying (and failing) to be a criminal mastermind in his own right? Probably not, just as it’s also likely to ditch Frank Miller’s idea that Catwoman is basically a sex worker who got a cat-themed outfit and decided to go to war with the city as a whole, or Tom King’s idea that a kite-themed villain could prove to play a decisive role in civil wars between bad guys. (No, really.) But will The Batman feature nods to multiple creators and storylines from the character’s comic book past? Almost certainly.

And if that means the Dark Knight looking grimy on a motorcycle, all the better.