In 1990, DC Comics published a rather unique Batman story, called Digital Justice. Written and designed by Pepe Moreno, with dialogue from Doug Murray and additional design work by Javier Romero, Digital Justice utilised what was at the time of its publication state-of-the-art computer graphics, in lieu of traditional artwork.
Split into four chapters, and set ‘sometime into the next century’, Digital Justice followed Sergeant James Gordon as he investigated mysterious goings on in Gotham Megatropolis – a futuristic city filled with technology. During the course of the story, Gordon dons a Bat-suit to become the city’s new champion, while taking on a new threat from the Joker.
What happens in Batman: Digital Justice?
Sergeant James Gordon is becoming suspicious of the technology that enhances day-to-day life. Servocops (robotic law enforcement drones) appear to be ignoring protocol, resulting in deadly consequences.
Upon further investigation, Gordon discovers the Servocops are unable to read ID cards and as a result they initiate deadly self-defence procedures. It would seem that someone is orchestrating this system failure – and that someone is the Joker.
Gordon is suspended from the police force and his colleague is killed. Realising his investigation is getting him into a dire situation, he looks to an old legend for assistance – the legend being Batman.
Searching through his late grandfather’s possessions, Gordon discovers an old Batman costume that was gifted to Commissioner Gordon from Bruce Wayne. Putting on the costume, Sergeant Gordon takes to the streets as the Batman – the city’s new saviour.
Batman gains a partner in the shape of Robin, but he also draws more attention from the Servocops. The drones are sent to his home to silence him, but he is rescued by a seemingly sentient Batcraft – a modern age Batmobile.
The Batcraft takes Batman and Robin to Wayne Manor, where the Dynamic Duo are welcomed by an artificial intelligence (A.I.) representation of the original Batman – as created by Bruce Wayne. The A.I. tech explains that many years ago, the Joker created a computer virus and it is this virus that has infiltrated the systems which operate the city.
With the help of the Bat-A.I., Batman and Robin take on the Joker virus, as well as his accomplices – including the Mayor of Gotham. During the showdown, Batman is digitised and transported into cyberspace.
Believing it has been successful in defeating the Caped Crusader, the Joker virus let’s its guard down, allowing for the Bat-A.I. to destroy the programme. With the city free of the Joker virus, the citizens of Gotham Megatropolis look towards a future which is less reliant on technology.
Is Batman: Digital Justice a good read?
Digital Justice is a fascinating oddity. A tale that has not stood the test of time, but is still a rather interesting curio in the Batman mythology.
When it was conceived, Digital Justice was pitched as the next step in comic book design – a bold new direction to showcase what computer generated art could do. All these years on and now, because of that computer generated art, it is incredibly dated – perhaps even more so than most classic Batman stories.
Digital Justice presents a future dreamed up during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. It has shades of RoboCop (1987) in its DNA, and offers up a future that science fiction films repeatedly predicted we would live in.
But looking at the story in contemporary times, and knowing that the world didn’t quite turn out the way the book suggested, has caused the story to age a bit – although, not quite as much as that artwork. The visuals are the biggest problem with the piece.
Cutting edge it might have been in 1990, but by today’s standards the computer led imagery is clunky and cumbersome – rough around the edges, with limited aesthetic appeal. Not awful, but not that likeable either.
So, is Digital Justice a story to avoid? Not entirely; but it is one that needs to be approached from the right angle.
I first read Digital Justice in the early ‘90s, when e-mail and computer viruses seemed a less than familiar concept to me. At the time, I took the story for what it was, an imaginative adventure, and I quite enjoyed the futuristic approach to the Dark Knight.
I now look upon Digital Justice with different eyes, but I try not to let it cloud my enjoyment of reading a Batman story. Digital Justice was dreamt up as something different and groundbreaking, and while it didn’t necessarily change the course of the comics industry, it remains an interesting moment in time that can still provide entertainment.
And this is the best way to view this story – as something fun and creative which offers up an alternate view of the Batman mythology while attempting something bold. In some respects, it can also be viewed as a slight precursor to the animated series, Batman Beyond – there are certainly similarities between this comic and the show – so fans of Batman Beyond might want to check it out.
Has Batman: Digital Justice been adapted for film?
To date, Batman: Digital Justice has not been adapted for film – and I can’t imagine it will. There are (very) vague shades of the story in the 2000 animated feature, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, but I expect that is as far as DC/Warner Bros. will ever take it.
I hope this information on Batman: Digital Justice has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.