A completely unsolicited suggestion for DC Comics: the next time you want to revitalize Batman, don’t bother with retcons, rebirths, crises, or New 52s. The solution is simple:
Take away the money.
Yep, strip millionaire Bruce Wayne of his millions. Batman will have to operate without the ability to come up with just the right tool or technology. Suddenly, everything will be harder.
He’ll run out of batarangs and other equipment as he uses them up at crime scenes. One by one, he’ll have to let his vehicles will sit idle for lack of specialized fuel or high-tech replacement parts. Even his costumes will get ragged as he runs out of replacements and has to use the same outfits over and over.
As his supply of wonderful toys diminishes, Batman will have to improvise battle tactics and escape routes with whatever he finds around him. To succeed or merely survive, he’ll have to think faster and work harder.
This change will ramp up the tension and excitement of Bat stories, especially once the super-villain community realizes that Batman’s getting less and less invincible. To defeat the bad guys without his fancy gear, Batman may have to get more vicious and brutal — to the point where even a friend like Commissioner Gordon may object.
Speaking of Batman’s friends: The change in financial status will bring an emotional impact. Losing the money (and the cushy life in Wayne Manor) will affect the relationships between Batman and Alfred, Robin and other members of his team. The cutoff of resources will make life harder and fray everyone’s nerves.
But there’s more. When he needs to get something done, Batman will have to depend less on costly equipment and more on other people. That change that may force him to behave differently. To get people to do what he wants, maybe he’ll have to scare and intimidate them more than ever — which could cause them to resent him and try to get back at him. Or maybe he’ll have to be (shudder) warmer and more humane.
Defunding Batman could even ripple throughout the DC Universe, if DC’s editors want it to. I’ve always assumed that the Justice League got its high-tech headquarters, signal devices, transportation tubes and other goodies — or at least the money for them — from Bruce Wayne. What happens when no one’s funding maintenance, upkeep and improvements? Will Lex Luthor or some other less than trustworthy rich guy step in?
And think of the publicity. Thanks to TV and movies, the real world knows that Batman is a millionaire. Taking his money away would gain news coverage that comics publishing hasn’t seen since Spider-Man’s wedding or Superman’s death.
I wouldn’t expect Bruce Wayne to stay broke forever. The world knows Bruce as rich, so eventually DC would restore his money.
But during the months or years when Bruce is broke, the stories that DC’s writers and artists could tell could be a lot of fun.
Hey, DC. Are you listening?