Batman in the DC Extended Universe: Rumors, Robins and the Red Hood

Eagle-eyed viewers in the theater way back in early 2013 might have been quick to notice a specific little easter egg in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but nobody really expected that to develop further than an interesting cameo. Which easter egg? I can only be talking about the Wayne Enterprises satellite that is destroyed during Superman and Zod’s climactic Metropolis-smashing battle, which is referencing another member of DC’s Trinity of heroes.

Fast forward to July of the same year, and a huge announcement in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con brought the roof down. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was first announced, heralding in DC’s own shared universe with two of the biggest heroes in their canon. Since that moment we have been following the film very closely as both BvS and the DC Extended Universe developed before our eyes. This development has raised a ton of questions as new details and rumors hit the web daily, about both the DCEU as a whole, and one of the most popular characters of the DCEU – Batman.

Batman DCEU - Armor

When Ben Affleck was first cast as the Dark Knight for BvS: DoJ, fans were divided. Following Christopher Nolan’s amazing trilogy with Christian Bale behind the mask, most were leery of yet another new face in the batsuit. Especially a face like Affleck, who is no stranger to the superhero movie-verse, having portrayed Daredevil in the 2003 stinker from Mark Steven Johnson. After these initial announcements, things went quiet until the DCEU announced their huge slate of films, which saw Affleck showing up in a few more movies over the next several years.

With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad getting ready to hit theaters soon, it seemed like the best time to take a look at the newest iteration of the Caped Crusader, as well as some of the rumors and news revolving around Batfleck to give us a better understanding of his role in the DCEU.

Batman DCEU - Batman and Batmobile

When discussing rumors I find it’s always best to take a look at what we know first, a healthy dose of facts before we dive into the speculation.

First off, Ben Affleck is playing Bruce Wayne/Batman, in case you hadn’t heard. He will show up as Batman in BvS: DoJSuicide Squad, and both Justice League films. His Batman is an older, wiser, and potentially more damaged version of the character, having operated for years prior to Superman’s appearance in Man of Steel.  He will be joined by Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth; loyal butler, medic, confidante, and father figure to Bruce.

Batman DCEU - Bruce and Alfred

And this is where our first fan theories comes in. It’s not a theory that I follow or believe in, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. The basis of this theory that took the web by storm for a minute is that we are seeing a continuation of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy – dubbed the ‘Nolanverse’ – though much later in the timeline.

Batman DCEU - DeathstrokeThe theory states that the characters we think are Bruce Wayne and The Joker are in fact not those characters. The theory posits that Ben Affleck is actually playing Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke, who is in disguise as Bruce Wayne/ Batman. And The Joker is actually John ‘Robin’ Blake, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character from The Dark Knight Rises who has been traumatized by his short and untrained career as the new Batman. This theory also assumes that Christian Bale will actually return as the Batman in a surprise twist ending.

Sounds crazy, right? This stems from the fact that Nolan has allegedly never come out and 100% confirmed that Man of Steel and the developing DCEU does not take place in the Nolanverse. Except he kind of has, numerous times. And the Deathstroke connection is taken from two main sources; his role in the Teen Titans cartoon, which would have no effect on the live-action treatment, and a specific storyline from Outsiders which featured Wilson in disguise as Batman, in a costume similar to the design of the live action suit. Kind of a stretch, but there it is.

Batman DCEU - John Blake

A second theory that sees Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a continuation of the Nolanverse, as well puts forward that Jeremy Irons is actually playing an older Bruce Wayne, with Ben Affleck playing the role of John ‘Robin’ Blake years after the events of The Dark Knight Rises. To this all we can really say is let it go. The Nolanverse is over. Time to move on.

Now, let’s talk about the Joker, who will be played by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. His presence is also definitely felt in BvS:  DoJ, though we don’t know how much the character will feature in the film. His physical appearance has been the main tease, but we’ve also seen a few connections to a tragic moment in Batman’s past addressed in the BvS trailer. We’ll discuss this more soon enough.

Batman DCEU - Joker 1

Let’s get into some of the earlier rumors we’ve heard from the set of Batman v Superman as they relate to Batman. Some of Batman’s supporting cast have been teased since the announcement of the film and continuing to this day. We first heard we might see Dick Grayson AKA Nightwing show up in some capacity in BvS, which persists to this day, though it sounds like it will be more of a mention than physical appearance. There was also a quick shot of a tombstone from since deleted set pics that looks like it has Richard John Grayson’s name on it… but we will try to ignore that for the time being as it is unconfirmed and just too painful to think about considering my love for Nightwing.

Batman DCEU - Grayson

There is also the matter of Jena Malone’s unconfirmed role in the film. Earliest rumors had her playing Carrie Kelley, who took on the role of Robin for Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which this version of Batman is loosely based on. More recent reports have Malone playing the character of Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl, which would make sense with the absence of commissioner Jim Gordon from the film.

Batman DCEU - Batgirl

Now, Batman is certainly making his presence known in the DCEU, appearing in both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, and serving in some way as the connective tissue between these films. This is similar to the role Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) played in the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But one missing element from the huge slate of films that Warner Bros. revealed was any solo film projects for either Superman or Batman.

This was rectified with recent reports that solo Batman films would be coming, with Ben Affleck slated to direct and co-write the films with DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Johns provided a bit of information on his plans for the Dark Knight, citing his own origin story from Batman: Earth One as the basis for this cinematic version of the character, though it’s unlikely we’ll see too much of an origin story covered, considering we’ve already seen eight Batman films on the big screen at this point (including Adam West’s film, of course) with almost as many origin scenes. Plus yet another new look at the murder of his parents in BvS: DoJ, featuring Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Thomas Wayne.

Batman DCEU - Jeffrey Dean Morgan

What has been rumored for the standalone film(s) is a fairly unique villain, and a couple of comic storylines that may be adapted for the big screen. We can actually see proof of these plot points in the trailers we’ve seen from BvS and Suicide Squad. The main rumor is that we will see Affleck and his crew taking on the Red Hood, a well-trained masked villain from Batman’s past who fights his own deadly war on crime.

Batman DCEU - Red Hood

Now, SPOILER ALERT time. We need to get behind the mystery of the Red Hood a bit here to really look at this rumor. Red Hood was the first costumed identity worn by the Joker before he became the Joker. You may have seen the Red Hood gang pop up on Gotham, or even seen the costume and origin story in Grant Morrison’s The Killing Joke, but it was a brief moment of the Joker’s origin that has never been adapted to the big screen.

Batman DCEU - Batman vs Red HoodAnyways, in Judd Winnick’s Under the Hood storyline, we see a new character running around rooftops as the Red Hood. This version of the Red Hood is eventually revealed to be Jason Todd, formerly deceased partner to Batman and the second Boy Wonder to wear the tights of Robin. Todd was a troubled Robin, and fans weren’t too accepting of the first Robin Dick Grayson’s replacement. So in the Death in the Family storyline, Jason Todd was beaten with a crowbar and then left for dead in an exploding warehouse by none other than… you guessed it… The Joker.

Todd is eventually resurrected by the Lazarus Pits, which anyone watching Arrow has seen used a couple of times now, and after he spends years recovering and training, he returns to Gotham as the Red Hood. There he sets on a path to fatally cure Gotham of the criminal element while guiding Batman and the Joker towards a confrontation. Sounds like a pretty great story to adapt to film right? We have already seen a great animated adaptation with Batman: Under the Red Hood, but the live action treatment is the logical next step for such a fan favorite storyline.

Batman DCEU - Batman Under the Red Hood

Now, there’s a couple of things to talk about here. What we actually know and the rumors we’ve heard. As always let’s start with what we know.

We’ve mentioned how the presence of the Joker is felt in the Batman v Superman trailers. This presence is seen in a few mocking clues left to Bruce Wayne. One is on a newspaper clipping about the collapse of the Wayne Tower we saw in the opening of the Batman v Superman trailer. Scrawled on the newspaper is a taunting “You Let Your Family Die”, which we assume to come from the Joker.

Batman DCEU - Joker Clue 1

This is only reinforced when we see the same type of writing on a battered Robin costume on display in the Batcave. Any fan of the comic series and characters can see a connection here between the film and the events of Death in the Family. What we can infer from these two clues is that the Joker is in fact responsible for the death of a Robin, and uses this fact to torment Bruce Wayne.

Batman DCEU - Robin

With the rumored plot of the film revolving around the events of Death in the Family and Jason Todd’s return as the Red Hood, we can definitely expect the Joker to be a large part of Affleck’s solo Batman film(s).

Which brings us to the second part of this Red Hood discussion. A very persistent rumor that has been gaining steam over the last few months is that Jared Leto’s Joker is not the original Clown Prince of Crime. The rumor states that this Joker is in fact Jason Todd himself, having turned into the newest Joker following his treatment at the hands of the original.

Batman DCEU - Joker Todd Proof

Some of the reasons behind this rumor start with the Joker’s unique new look. Some of the tattoos could be interpreted as referencing Jason Todd as much as the Joker, and some possible scars found on the Joker’s body actually match up with bullet holes that were found on the vandalized Robin suit we first saw in the Batman v Superman trailer. This would also fall in line with the rumor that this version of Batman is a continuation of the Nolanverse, making Leto’s version and Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker two different but in-continuity versions of the character.

Batman DCEU - Eli Snyder

We had also heard rumors that Zack Snyder’s son might be playing Robin in Batman v Superman, though this was never confirmed. Of course, another rumor could tie in to that one, as it was reported but unconfirmed that Leto shot a flashback scene for BvS that featured his attack on Robin from Death in the Family. If this is true, it’s very possible that Eli Snyder filled the role of young Jason Todd in the flashback, much like he did with Leonidas in 300 or Rorschach in Watchmen, both directed by Zack Snyder.

So much speculation. It really goes to show how desperate everyone is to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as the less we seem to know about the film, the more we want to make up for our own purposes. Unfortunately, none of these rumors or unconfirmed reports mean anything yet, when we have so little to go on from the officially released images and trailers. We have heard that another trailer will drop in 2015, so hopefully we can learn more about the film and put some of these rumors to rest for good.

Batman DCEU - Trinity

Which of these rumors and reports would you hope to be true? Do you want to see the Nolanverse continue? Could the Joker really be Jason Todd? And if not will we see the Red Hood appear in the solo Batman films? Let us know in the comments section below or join the discussion on the Grizzlybomb Facebook page!

Images: Empire, DC Comics, Warner Bros. 

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