When Tim Burton’s Batman hit movie theatres in 1989, the film was accompanied by a comic book adaptation of the movie. As with most comic book adaptations of the time, the book retold the plot of the film for comic book readers, or those who were perhaps a little too young to see the movie in theatres.
In 1992, Batman Returns made its cinematic debut and once again a comic book adaptation accompanied the film’s release. The same happened in 1995 for Batman Forever and 1997 for Batman & Robin, and eventually all four stories were collected together as a trade paperback.
But beyond these four comics there has never been an official continuation of the Batman Anthology in comic book form. There is no comic of the oft-discussed ‘fifth’ Batman movie, Batman Unchained. There is no Batman & Robin Continued or a Batman Forever Director’s Cut. There’s not even a Catwoman comic featuring the Michelle Pfeiffer version of Selina Kyle. Nothing.
But what if there had been a continuation of say, Batman ’89 and Batman Returns? What if the world that Tim Burton had created for those first two movies had been continued in comics? Would you have been into it? Would you have dashed to the comic book store each month to pick up the next issue?
OK, now what if I told you that it did almost happen? That at some point, just after the 25th anniversary of Batman, a comic was conceived with Burton characters in mind? Would you believe it?
Well, it did almost happen.
In 2015, comic book artist Joe Quinones and comic book creator Kate Leth collaborated on an idea that would have seen Tim Burton’s Batman movies revived. The plan was to create a comic book version of Burton’s Gotham, that would have returned Bat-fans to a generation-defining era of Batman through the printed page.
Going by the title of Batman ’89, the comic would have followed the story after the events of Batman Returns, effectively establishing a new timeline that ignored Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. In this alternate reality, Joel Schumacher’s two Batman movies never existed and instead the characters and situations set up in the first two films would have been given free reign to develop in any way they wished.
Batman ’89 continued
Much like Wonder Woman ’77, or Batman ’66, the comics would have been a way for fans of the Burton films to be able to revisit the past without the need for new movies. It would have also allowed for Quinones and Leth to introduce characters into this new Bat-verse who were never included in the original Batman Anthology.
So, how do we know about this and why didn’t it happen?
In March 2016, Quinones uploaded details of the proposed comic on his blog, to give fans an insight into what could have been. In the post, simply titled Batman ’89, he shared a number of concept sketches for the mini series that he and Leth devised in 2015.
The sketches were accompanied by the following explanation:
“Inspired by DC’s recent Batman ‘66 series, our story would have picked up the threads left by Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. We would have seen the return of Selina Kyle/Catwoman as well as introductions to ‘Burton-verse’ versions of Robin, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. It also would have showcased the turn of Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent into Two-Face.”
Sounds great, right? So, what happened?
DC Comics didn’t go for it. No official reason was stated – there could be any number of issues for this, including costly ‘likeness’ royalties – so the project never got off the ground. Here is what it could have looked like.
But if Batman ’89 had happened, then just think of the potential.
While Tim Burton managed to cram a lot into his two Batman movies – a Batman origin, the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, etc – there was so much he was unable to touch upon (the introduction of Robin for example). He also left some plot threads, including Billy Dee Williams’ take on Harvey Dent.
Williams played Dent in Batman, but he was absent from Batman Returns (and later re-cast for Batman Forever). If the Quinones/Leth book had become a reality, then we would have seen what became of the Williams Dent and how this impacted Batman/Bruce Wayne.
We could also have seen what happened next with Catwoman. The character survived the events of Batman Returns, but was never seen or heard of again – so, where did she go?
Did Selina Kyle simply slink off into the shadows, to live a ‘normal’ life, or did she continue to face her inner demons as a costumed vigilante? Of all the characters introduced during the Burton era of Batman, this is the one with the biggest questions surrounding her future.
In the sketches that appeared on Quinones blog, the concept drawing of Poison Ivy bore a remarkable resemblance to actress, Geena Davis. It would have been interesting to see if the final version would have maintained this look.
It would also have been interesting to see whether Quinones and Leth ‘cast’ other established actors as Batman villains in their comic. Take Johnny Depp for instance – he never appeared in a Batman movie, but surely if Tim Burton had continued directing the films, Depp would have cropped up somewhere?
Depp has a long-standing working relationship with Burton, which has seen the pair team up for multiple movies. Surely Depp would have featured in the Batman Anthology at some point. But where? Perhaps as The Scarecrow? Maybe as The Mad Hatter – a role Depp eventually played for Burton’s 2010 take on Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.
Alas we may never know. Despite interest from fans – after Quinones broke the news that the comic was not seeing the light of day – a Batman ’89 comic has not happened.
So, what are your thoughts? Would you have been interested in Batman ’89 as a comic book continuation/alternate take on the Batman Anthology? Outside of the characters Quinones mentioned (Ivy, Quinn, Batgirl, etc), who else would you have liked to see appear in an issue?
Maybe you don’t think the comic would have been a great idea. Perhaps you liked the Batman Anthology the way that it was and don’t feel there is ever a need to change it.
Whatever your thoughts and feelings, sound off in the comments section below.