Batman is Bruce Wayne. Except, of course, when he isn’t. Other folks have worn the pointy ears of Gotham City’s shadowy superhero over the years, too, and every new Batman brings a few changes with them as well. In the comics these days, we’ve got a cop in a robot suit as the Dark Knight. The other elements associated with being Batman are transforming as well. Let’s see how different things can get.
When DC Comics’ editorial has a new person takes up the mantle of the Bat, the creators of the Bat-titles usually signify the change in persona with tweaks to the elements surrounding the Batman. The “new Batman” recipe usually consists of a few basic ingredients:
There’ve been changes in the colors and design of Bruce Wayne’s Bat-look over the decades but the biggest shifts have come when successors have donned the cape and cowl. When Jean-Paul Valley transitioned from his costumed vigilante Azrael and became Batman in the early 1990s, he created a razor-clawed suit of armor.
While lots of fans hated the “AzBats” look, the minimalistic sci-fi redesign that came with the 1999 introduction of Terry McGinnis in the Batman Beyond cartoon met with a much warmer reception.
Years later, the apparent death of Bruce Wayne in 2009 was followed by Dick Grayson taking on the superhero identity of his mentor. The man who was the first Robin only made a few small alterations to the standard Batsuit, changing up the gauntlets and belt while shortening the cape.
Under the Bat-armor, Gordon’s news Batsuit is a sleek, capeless affair with contrasting yellow highlights. There’s a gun holster on his leg but no utility belt filled with pouches. The overall effect is functional and no nonsense, like the guy wearing it.
In the current comics, the new Batmobile that Gordon gets really isn’t a car. This month, in Batman #42 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, he gets it. It’s giant-sized, just like the version of the Batsuit that Gordon wears.
But that’s okay. Batmobiles tend to change even more when Bruce Wayne isn’t wearing the cape and cowl. The 1994 Batmobile redesign from the Knightfall era by artist Mike Manley mimicked the futuristic look of Azrael’s Batman redesign.
Years after that, the Batmobile became a sleek flying transport when the Batman Beyond cartoon debuted.
The ride used by Batman-of-the-future Terry McGinnis was probably an influence on the flying Batmobile used by Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne after Bruce Wayne died.
Speaking of Dick and Damian, the two sons of the previous Batman had an extremely fractious relationship. Batman’s first sidekick had tons of doubt and concern when it came to filling the role of Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne’s hyper-violent son has a superiority complex that makes him think he’s better than anybody else.
But their cranky relationship was much better than the hostility that characterized the relationship between Tim Drake and Jean-Paul Valley. Take a look at this page from early on in Valley’s tenure.
Later on, Valley told Drake that Batman doesn’t need Robin and even tried to kill him as he lost his grip on sanity.
Right now, Jim Gordon doesn’t have any real sidekicks as Batman, though he does have a GCPD support crew. The Robins who’ve started operating in Gotham are almost certainly criminals in the eyes of the law. Some conflict between the new Dark Knight and the new Kid Wonders is bound to happen soon.
The giant spotlight with the bat on it doesn’t shine up into the sky anymore. Instead, the Batsignal serves as a target, highlighting the area on the ground where the new Batman will be slamming down to kick ass.
There’s also a new Bat-app,. Seriously.
A few other plot beats tend to recur when another person becomes the Batman. Readers often get the “you’re... different” reaction from Bat-allies and villains alike, like when Damian Wayne beat up the Joker with a crowbar when Dick Grayson was Batman.
The comics’ current creators have said that they’re going to be cooking up new villains for Gordon to face as Batman. But he’ll probably wind up coming face-to-face with some of Bruce Wayne’s rogues gallery as well. Those encounters will give readers even more of a chance to see how this Batman is different from the one’s who’ve come before him.
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