The surprise success of R-rated Deadpool has spawned interest in removing the child-friendly glaze of superheroes, not just from live action but also from animation.
This could unlock gruesome murders, drug hallucinations and sustained despair from the DC Comics basement. Welcome to the real world of Batman.
Here are seven suggestions that prove Batman is not the kitty bat many would have us believe, and that he would make fine R-rated animated viewing.
6. Batman Hooked On Drugs — 'Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight' #16-20 (1991)
Our hero was addicted to drugs. Batman turns to substance abuse for relief from a crushing problem he struggles to come to terms with.
The Bat blames himself for the death of a girl. He takes Venom, a chronically addictive steroid. He locks himself in the Batcave and becomes increasingly violent.
The comics indulge in details of his addiction over five issues from Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight, #16-20 (1991). The heartbreaking demise is realistic and enchanting, engaging the real-world problem of dependency.
His drug use had already appeared in the Batman Beyond universe as small-dose patches called slappers. Animation could go all Trainspotting on the idea and take it to freaky new levels.
5. Mom And Dad Wayne Brutally Murdered In Front Of Their Child — 'Detective Comics: Night Of The Stalker' #439 (1974)
In the cartoon above, young Bruce Wayne thinks:
I heard her cough her last and I pressed my hand against my mother's breast just in case there was any hope at all and there wasn't any heartbeat.
No hope at all.
The horror of the cold-blooded murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, often said to be at the hands of villain Joe Chill, runs an icy energy through the veins of the Batman comics.
This definitive moment, one of the most famous episodes in comic history, is hard to avoid in any Bat tale because it forms the basis for the superhero's steely resolve.
The motif of his parents' murders appear repeatedly in the comics, haunting them, so it's difficult to pinpoint a single definitive occurrence, but the impact might best be seen in the teary end of "Night Of The Stalker" in Detective Comics #439 (1974).
Violence involving kids is an especially hard R-rated nut to crack. Other wince-worthy encounters with children that would make for grueling but gripping viewing include:
- Teenager Robin getting beaten to death in Batman: A Death In The Family #426-429 (1988-1999).
- The Joker blowing up a school full of kids in three-issue series Batman: Cacophony (2008-2009).
- The Joker shooting Sarah Essen Gordon after giving her a baby in Detective Comics: No Man's Land #741 (2000).
4. Snapping The Neck Of A Defenseless Minion — 'Batman Vol. 1' #1 (1940)
When the people you trust turn on you, it's harder than witnessing the horrific acts of enemies. When Batman acts questionably, it undermines your trust in him to act honorably and can become painfully uncomfortable to watch.
He wasn't always a haloed upholder of the rejection of capital punishment. At the dawn of Batman in the '40s, he winched one of Hugo Strange's three deformed henchmen into the sky by a steel noose about the minion's neck.
3. Batman's Gun Massacre — 'Batman: The Cult' #1- #4 (1988)
Our noble vigilante goes bananas after being kidnapped and brainwashed. In quasi-hallucinogenic frames that blur reality and fiction, Batman guns down people who aim be the Joker, or innocents, or even Commissioner Gordon.
Most disturbing is his lack of clarity, reflected in the bewildering graphics, as he could be murdering 10s of people or none at all. On one level it harks back to the killing of his parents. This would make for a thrilling cartoon, valuable for how it speaks of crime begetting crime.
2. Batman The Vampire — 'Batman & Dracula: Red Rain' (1991)
The Bat gets his fangs out to bite Dracula with a nip of his own medicine in this horrific encounter. Batman convinces a rebellious vamp called Tanya to turn him into one of them, thus destroying the last shred of his humanity as Bruce Wayne and becoming the Bat. He is effectively immortal, but at a cost.
To end the reign of Dracula, Batman must destroy Wayne Manor and expose the vampires to sunlight and a miserable, dusty ending, before impaling Dracula on the charred stump of a tree. Now that's what I call graphic animation.
1. Batman Was Tortured And Raped — 'Batman: Son Of The Demon' (1987)
Perhaps the most difficult crime to watch on screen — regardless of whether it's animated, live action or otherwise — is rape. And illustrators do not shy from sexual assault — it is oft repeated in DC Comics in general, and animators would do well to confront the difficult but important topic.
Admittedly, rape is not drawn in the comics, but Batman remembers his child was conceived when he was raped by Talia al Ghul during a torturous eugenic experiment in Batman: Son Of The Demon (1987).
This list could be considered an open letter to animators in an attempt to get them to listen to what the people want and flood the 'toons with the oily darkness of the Bat!