Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns Use the Wrong Characters | Fanboys Anonymous

Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns Use the Wrong Characters

Posted by Anthony Mango Wednesday, August 26, 2020

As a kid, two of my favorite movies were Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns. To this day, I still love them, but as my fandom and knowledge of the Batman mythos has expanded, I've found myself more and more critical of the way they chose to handle some aspects of those films.

Naturally, we've all heard the complaints that Joker shouldn't have killed Thomas and Martha Wayne instead of Joe Chill, or that it's weird Penguin is a monster and Catwoman has some sort of zombie cat powers. As a kid, it didn't even occur to me that Batman is straight-up killing people and going against one of the biggest foundations of his character, either.

But this post isn't about those things. It's about these two films creating brand new characters when they could have used a variety of others from the comics and had them work out just fine. And I'm not talking about going out of your way to name the mayor something specific. I'm talking changing the names of some rather large supporting characters.

The inspiration of this came about from a random recent rewatch of Batman, when it dawned on me that half the characters from '89 could be other people.

Bruce Wayne, Vicki Vale, Joker, Gordon (even though he's nothing really like him), Alfred and Harvey Dent...these guys are solid and don't need to be changed. Everyone else, though?

But what about Alexander Knox? If you think about it, his characterization is mostly that of an annoying, persistent reporter. He's not a villain, but he's far from a hero for nearly all of the film, too. He's also got a vibe that he doesn't get the hint when he's hitting on Vicki, which could be considered creepy.

Who should he have been? Creeper. Jack Ryder has been interpreted over the years as a talk show host, a reporter, etc, but he's always got at least some of an antagonistic vibe to him. In a 2010 comic, they even mention that he dated Vicki Vale. Obviously, you can't judge 1989 based on 2010 information, but that means its out there in this realm nevertheless.

You might not want to have two characters named Jack in the same film, but when you're writing the movie, Joker has no name. You don't need to name him Jack Napier. Or, just do it anyway. People can handle General Ross and Everett Ross in the MCU. Just call him Ryder for the whole film.

He's very Joker-esque and you could even play into that by having him dress up for the big parade and/or succumb to the toxin and turn into Creeper. Since this isn't an origin story for him, he could die and it's okay.

Then, there's Lt. Max Eckhardt. If I were to describe you a corrupt, overweight cop with a hat who smokes and has a scruffy face, who do you think I'd be describing. That's right, Harvey Bullock.

Granted, maybe you don't want to do Bullock because he's ultimately a hero, just a flawed one. But you've got Arnold Flass you could go with, too, like what they did with Batman Begins.

Carl Grissom? The mob boss in town was originally going to be Rupert Thorne and took inspirations from Carmine Falcone. Obviously, you could have gone with either of those or any of the countless other mobsters from the comics. There are far, far, far too many to name.

Alicia Hunt can't be replaced with Harley Quinn, as the character didn't exist at that time. But apparently, she's based on Black Mask's girlfriend Circe. But maybe if you took her and Bob the Goon and replaced them with some sort of Punch and Judy variant? I'm blanking on any specific names other than those two, but I'm positive they must have had some male and female henchmen at some point in the comics before 1989.

Then, there's Batman Returns and the immediate thought is that Max Schreck should have been Harvey Dent.

I know, I know. Dent isn't an awful, corrupt businessman. But Penguin isn't a freak who spits out black sludge, either. For this series, I think they could have made it work to have it be that Dent was actually corrupt—or, maybe, instead of having Schreck be a villain from the start, he/Dent just flat out isn't. He's targeted by Penguin and a lot of things play out in a similar, yet tweaked way. You've got an election, some media conferences, family money, whatever stuff you want to work into there. I think Dent can fit in mostly all of it.

But maybe you find out that while Dent is a champion for some of the good causes in Gotham City, he also has a darker side to him. He's Two-Faced (eh, eh) according to Selina Kyle, his secretary. Sometimes, he's on a good day and he's a charmer and a real hero. Other days, he's a real jerk. You can flip a coin to bet on which personality he's going to be on any particular day, she says.

At the end of the film, when Selina zaps him, maybe that's what causes his face to be scarred.

Ice Princess? Maybe she's Gilda. Maybe you can even change some of the oddball random characters like Jen to other people. I'm sure the database has countless names you can pull from different comics that are almost entirely unknown, but would be neat little references.

Ultimately, would it matter if the guy who gets his nose bitten is some random character who popped up in one issue in the 1950s or whatever? No. Especially back then when these films came out, average moviegoers weren't as obsessed. Even this day, you can ask most people to name 10 Batman villains and they'll probably struggle after naming Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and the mainstreams. Nobody but the hardcores are going to bring up Birthday Boy.

Despite these observations, these movies are still awesome in their own way and two of my favorite films of all time. This was just the ramblings of a fan who had a few minutes to talk about a little quirk.


Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and podcast host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, fiction writer and more. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.