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.
Fast forward three years and 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 was a continuation of Batman ’89 and Batman Returns? What if the world that Tim Burton had created for those first two movies was continued in comics? Would you be into it? Would you dash to the comic book store each month to pick up the next issue?
OK, now what if I told you that it IS happening? And you will soon be able to pick it up from July 2021?!
The series – simply titled Batman ’89 – will start publishing as a digital title on July 27th, with the first six chapters of the comic made available from launch day. Moving forward, the next six chapters will be released weekly over a six week period, making a total of 12 chapters.
In August, the 12 chapters will start appearing in print, with two chapters combined to form one physical comic (so, six physical comics in total). Then in October, the whole collection will get a hardcover release.
The comic is being written by Batman screenwriter, Sam Hamm, with artwork by Joe Quinones.
In a statement, DC Comics said:
“Continuing the twisted adventures of DC’s Dark Knight from Tim Burton’s seminal classic Batman movies, Batman ’89 brings in screenwriter Sam Hamm (Batman, Batman Returns), and artist Joe Quinones (Dial H for Hero) to pull on a number of threads left dangling by the prolific director. The gothic mentality behind the world, while still rooted in a sense of realism, helped inform many fans’ first impressions on the Dark Knight’s Gotham. In the new Batman ’89 comic, Hamm and Quinones will help usher in the return of Selina Kyle/Catwoman and will debut a new Robin! Plus, Quinones has a vision for Harvey/Two-Face that is as close to movie magic as a comic can get!”
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, it is – and more importantly, this announcement is a long time coming. This project has actually been in development for seven years!
In 2015, comic book artist Joe Quinones and comic book creator Kate Leth collaborated on the original idea to revive Tim Burton’s Batman movies. The plan was to create a comic book version of Burton’s Gotham, that would transport Bat-fans back to the generation-defining era of Batman through the printed page.
Going by the title of Batman ’89, the comic was to take place shortly 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.
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.
But DC didn’t go for it.
Although the project was pitched to DC in 2015, it didn’t come to pass, and in March 2016, Quinones uploaded details of the proposed comic on his blog. In the post, he shared a number of concept sketches for the mini series that he and Leth had devised, and that (at the time) had been consigned to the scrap heap.
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.”
So, why didn’t DC go for it back in 2015?
No official reason was stated for DC’s initial disinterest in the project, but there could have been any number of issues for this, including costly ‘likeness’ royalties for all the actors involved with the original films or simply bad timing. However, if you want to see a snippet from the original pitch, here is some artwork.
As you can see, the image includes Michael Keaton’s Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, as well as a Billy Dee Williams Two-Face and a Marlon Wayans Robin. Both of these characters/actors were originally set to appear in Burton’s movies, but things changed during the development process of the films and that never happened.
What’s interesting to note about other concept sketches that appeared on Quinones blog back in 2015, is that his Poison Ivy sketch bore a remarkable resemblance to actress, Geena Davis. It’s possible that this is how we will see her in the new comic, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.