Yesterday, Twitter was all aflutter with news that Ben Affleck would no longer be portraying the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman. Fans quickly began tossing about casting ideas, including the possibility that an actor of color could don the cowl this time around. Today, New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie broke through the social media noise with a thoughtful, thorough pitch for what a black Batman might look like and, frankly, it sounds pretty damn good.
“I think there’s a real opportunity in reimagining the character as a black American, and how race shapes his background and the circumstances of his vigilante career,” he wrote before detailing his own vision of what the ultra-powerful Wayne family might look like in this universe.
There’s an important distinction between what Bouie is arguing for here and what people traditionally talk about when discussing racebending in movies. Rather than simply changing the color of Bruce Wayne’s skin and making the rest of his biography indistinguishable from previous Batman portrayals, the character’s blackness would inform all aspects of his character, from the murder of his parents to the rejection of his personal legacy to his contentious relationship with the police.
Giving credit where it’s due, Bouie acknowledges that the bones of his ideas owe a debt to David Walker’s short-lived, critically-lauded Nighthawk series for Marvel. But, regardless of the source material, the pitch presents an intriguing opportunity for the DCU. Batman’s story is one that we’ve heard over and over again, often with just subtle, cosmetic changes. Why not offer fans a new interpretation of Gotham’s hero that reshapes the character’s raison d’etre for modern times?
Bouie’s spent the afternoon elaborating upon his idea (and responding to some critical responses) on his Twitter account. There, he envisions Joe Chill, the man who kills Bruce Wayne’s parents, as a dirty cop. Also, The Penguin as “a corrupt steward of old white money Gotham” is kinda brilliant.
Really, though, if we’ve got to do another Batman origin story—and, if history is any indication, it’s gonna happen—let’s at least give it a new spin.
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