It could be argued that there is no bigger death in comics than that of Bruce Wayne, or, as he's more commonly known, Batman. While his status as the most popular hero could be argued as reason to keep him, he's human, without the powers that turn characters like Superman into nigh-unkillable gods, means that his death would hit us truly close to home.
And I feel like it needs to finally happen for good.
Batman's death would revitalize DC comics, turn the Batman mythos on its head, and make them something that every comic fan longs for: unpredictable.
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We've supposedly seen it before. He was seemingly killed at the hands of Darkseid and, more recently, supposedly died with #Joker as a cave beneath #Gotham collapsed on them both. But something about Batman keeps him from truly dying, too.
Could We Kill The Symbol Without Killing The Man?
It's been mentioned over and over that Batman isn't a man, he's a symbol. Over the years, the mantle of Batman has been taken up by #DickGrayson, Azrael, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and others have, at various points, taken on the cowl.
As a result, Batman himself never truly dies. But why?
It's because killing Batman has nothing to do with killing #BruceWayne. If you want to have a dramatic impact on the Bat-world, you would have to kill the symbol itself, and to do that, you need to end its status as a symbol. But how?
Batman's status as a symbol is entirely dependent on his secret identity. Because no one truly knows who is behind the mask, he takes on mythical qualities. It's a common factor in many of his comics. Thugs talk about how he seems like a force of nature, is omnipresent, is immortal and invincible, and other godly qualities. When he seemingly dies, only for another person to take up the uniform and resume his war on crime, it only solidifies this mythology.
Thanks to this, there is only one way to kill Batman: unmask him.
How Much Power Does The Mask Hold?
As often as Batman has "died", people have threatened to expose him. Most of Batman's villains have learned his identity at some time or other, and a few have even attempted to expose him. Some have seemingly succeeded, going as far as telling GCPD. But there's always a way out. Sometimes, his tech prevents people from finding the Batcave. On other occasions, he manages to make it seem like Bruce Wayne and Batman are in two different places at the same time. Others, those who expose him are simply discredited, or decide for some convoluted reason that they don't want to expose him anymore.
DC needs to up the ante and do it. They need to expose Batman as Bruce Wayne. Not just in some easily reversible, immediately pre-reboot way. They need to do it "permanently" (for a few years), and here's why.
Batman's Identity Should Be Revealed In-World. Not For A Moment, But For Years
To start, it would bring something truly new to Batman. As much as I love the character, it's been a while since he's developed in a truly meaningful way or faced a challenge that he had never encountered in some way. Even his greatest enemies have never fully broken him. The greatest threat to Batman has always been his own identity, and he needs to combat that in a meaningful way.
Secondly, it would change the dynamic of Batman comics for as long as it lasted, something that hasn't been done in years. Batman has enemy, Batman fights enemy, Batman beats enemy. That's all well and good, and has produced some wonderful stories, even recently. But being exposed isn't something Batman can investigate or punch in the mouth. He'd have to face the fallout as Bruce in the eyes of the public and Batman in the eyes of his foes. Gotham would be changed instantly if the myth was shattered for good.
The shock of this reveal wouldn't just be felt in Batman comics, however. Think of how many characters are tied deeply with him. All the Robins, all the Batgirls, the rest of the Batfamily, and, of course, the entire League, just to start. No amount of sheer power could possibly fix this reveal, and every single person involved would want to.
Of course, it's not just about other characters. Bruce Wayne himself has been somewhat absent from recent comics, as that side of him takes a back seat to the caped crusader. Bruce is just as interesting as his masked counterpart, and a story like this would make Bruce's presence necessary as well, as he struggles through this crisis on public, private, and personal levels.
Most importantly, it would make Batman comics unpredictable again. If Batman managed to regain his identity, the threat of losing it would actually mean something again after we saw it play out in front of us. In addition, the threat of his death would mean more as well, since we'd know that the symbol may not be able to live on without him any more.
The myriad possibilities for how a reveal could play out are incredible. It could be a confidant pressured (or deciding) to give up his identity. It could be one of his enemies finally succeeding at revealing him. It could even be of his own choosing for some reason or another. DC has some incredible writers on Batman and elsewhere in the company. I just hope they decide to use them to their full potential, and give us the most shocking Batman story in years.