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While the idea that Ben Affleck will direct and star in a solo Batman movie following his debut as the character in next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice might not be surprising in and of itself, what makes Thursday’s news interesting is that Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer and writer of such comic books as Green Lantern, Justice League and Superman: Secret Origin, is said to be collaborating.
Johns has been a below-the-line presence on DC’s television projects in recent years, writing episodes of The Flash, Arrow and Smallville. Although the unnamed Batman movie will be his first feature credit, audiences can already get a sense of what to expect by picking up Johns’ graphic novels with artist Gary Frank, Batman: Earth One, volumes 1 and 2. The books may even provide a blueprint for just what Johns wants to do with the cinematic Dark Knight.
DC Entertainment’s Earth One series of graphic novels — which also includes volumes Superman: Earth One, Teen Titans: Earth One and this November’s Wonder Woman: Earth One — frees the comic book characters not only from their history, but also the confines of interrelated, massive comic book publishing lines.
The Batman that appears in Batman: Earth One doesn’t have to appear in the Justice League, team up with Superman or even contend with appearing in multiple Batman comics every month. Instead, he gets to stand alone at the beginning of his career, slowly learning how to be a better Bat. Or, at least, so he hopes.
The two Batman: Earth One graphic novels present a kinder, more human Bruce Wayne in addition to a younger one — a Bruce Wayne that’s not quite convinced that he can be the hero that the city needs, and one whose actions might be responsible for the creation of some of his iconic villains (No, not the Joker, not yet; the graphic novels have featured the Scarecrow and the Riddler so far). Quite how that fits with the jaded Dark Knight teased for Batman v. Superman isn’t exactly clear, but if the solo movie turns out to be an origin story …
Batman: Earth One has already influenced DC’s noncomics material: Fox’s Gotham features an Alfred clearly influenced by Johns’ Earth One reimagining, and much of the atmosphere of the city in the show feels drawn from what Johns and Frank established in their books. (Not to mention, the book pairs a young Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock together for the first time, much as Gotham would go on to do.)
With the books showing what Johns can do with the Batman mythos when left to his own devices, it only stands to reason that his Batman movie will draw from the same well. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns may be the inspiration for next year’s superhero slugfest, but for the future of Batman, it would be a good idea to look to his past.
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