Comics on Film: Why That Crazy 'Batman v Superman' Theory is Just Viral Fan Fiction

Comics on Film: Why That Crazy 'Batman v Superman' Theory is Just Viral Fan Fiction

Oct 23, 2015

We're now just under five months away from the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that will firmly establish the new DC Comics-based cinematic universe. Superhero fans are often a very creative bunch, thinking of plot points well ahead of a movie's release, or even creating stories in their heads to see if they can get at all close to what a filmmaker has up their sleeve for the icons they'll be dealing with.

Sometimes, though, that excitement and creativity can go off the rails a bit.

Case in point, a very elaborate fan theory popped up recently that purports to have uncovered a massive "conspiracy" with regards to the upcoming film's plot, specifically as it pertains to Batman and the characters from his world. The implications of this theory also extend to Suicide Squad, since Jared Leto's incarnation of the Joker figures prominently.

It's very detailed, and pretty meticulous in the way that it crafts its ideas, but the gist of it is this: Ben Affleck's Batman is not Bruce Wayne, since Bruce Wayne faked his death at the end of The Dark Knight RisesMan of SteelBatman v Superman, and Suicide Squad are firmly connected to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman is actually fabled DC Comics assassin Deathstroke and not Bruce Wayne, and the Joker is actually Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake character from The Dark Knight Rises.

I'll give the person who ultimately thought of this some credit, but there are several practical issues that clearly indicate this theory just isn't accurate. At all. Let's start with the obvious.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

1) Zack Snyder clearly indicates that Ben Affleck is playing Bruce Wayne.

The theory points to the fact that before the release of Batman Begins, it was publicized that Liam Neeson would be playing Henri Ducard, and that Ken Watanabe would be playing Ra's al Ghul. Because of that, the core idea of this theory -- that Ben Affleck won't actually be Bruce Wayne -- is plausible. Still, though, when you look back at the news of Neeson's casting, the character he played as Ra's al Ghul was a persona. Henri Ducard may have actually been his name before taking on the mantle of Ra's al Ghul, and the decoy as played by Watanabe was merely posing as the master of the League of Shadows.

There is no such ambiguity in the initial announcement of Ben Affleck's casting as Batman. In his original statement on the matter of casting the character, Snyder said, "Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him."

Could this be a lie? Technically yes, but it's not really in a studio's or a director's style to blatantly spread a mistruth, especially as it pertains to such an important character to a studio like Batman is to Warner Bros.

2) Christopher Nolan told a story with a definitive ending.

One of the things that made tackling Batman so attractive to director Christopher Nolan was the relative autonomy he had in telling his own story about such a revered pop culture figure. In the lead-up to the release of 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, the director spoke bluntly about the fact that he was very devoted to the idea of a three-act structure, and saw a unique opportunity to give Batman a definitive beginning, middle, and end in his own, self-contained story. Nolan's films are also very important to him, and it's hard for most fans of the talented director to see him giving an okay to an extension of the world he, David Goyer, Jonah Nolan, Wally Pfister, Nathan Crowley, Christian Bale, and many others helped to create while having nothing to do with it.

Beyond that, it also doesn't seem practical for Warner Bros. to be okay with it. After all, Batman Begins popularized the notion of the "reboot" when it was released in 2005, and the studio would likely see a theory like the one purported as needlessly complicating the realization of many fan wishes, as well as an overcomplicated tie to an older iteration o the franchise that won't be followed upon. Besides, when I visited the set of The Dark Knight Rises for back in the summer of 2011, the production personnel we spoke with were all very adamant that this was the end of the road for Nolan and his vision of Batman.


3) John Blake using his legal name for a superhero persona doesn't make sense.

Perhaps the strangest element of this theory is the part that says Jared Leto's Joker and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake are the same character. Besides calling upon some ludicrous idea that purports the two actors' body types to be virtually identical in a very non-scientific way, there's one glaring problem with this: we clearly see a Robin costume in the most recent Dawn of Justice trailer, and Levitt's character's real name in The Dark Knight Rises was Robin John Blake. Why would anyone use their real first name as their superhero name?

That's like me putting on a costume of Conan O'Brien's "Flaming C" and fighting crime on the streets as "The Chris." Not much of a vigilante identity, and it makes even less sense in the context of this idea. If anything, the end of Nolan's third Batman film seemed to indicate that John Blake could go on to become a new Batman, considering the fact that the entirety of Bruce Wayne's arsenal was left to him.


4) The basis of "Deathstroke is Batman" ignores basic realities of comic book art.

The purported "smoking gun" for the idea of Slade Wilson actually being Batman lies in a comic book cover, in this case Outsiders (vol. 3) #22. The author of the piece tries to say that the similarity in Batman costumes between the comic book cover and the movie is one element of definitive proof that the film's Batman is Slade Wilson, since in the comic book he cites, Deathstroke poses as Batman to try and exact revenge on the Outsiders.

The guy must not read many comic books, because one of the fundamental realities that any fan will tell you is that each artist is usually pretty consistent with their own style. The artist who drew the cover in question is Doug Mahnke, who is best known to comics fans for a run on Batman in the early 2000's, drawing some awesome issues of JLA, and being one of the final artistic collaborators with writer Geoff Johns during his run on Green Lantern. Mahnke has been drawing Batman in this manner for most of his time at DC Comics, and his style of the Batsuit between both Bruce Wayne and any other impostor is identical.

That's of course beyond the fact that the artist who drew the cover and the interior art for this issue are different, with "Batman" on the interiors looking a bit different compared with how he looks on the cover of the actual issue. Sorry man, that's just not how comic book art works.


5) Christopher Nolan was vehemently against any fantastical characters or cross-pollination in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

One of the other primary elements working against this theory is the fact that Christopher Nolan, when asked about other Batman villains that could appear in his movies, always shot down the idea of more fantastical villains -- like Mr. Freeze or Man-Bat -- appearing in any of his movies. His consistent answer throughout his entire association with Batman lay in his desire to make Gotham City a bit more of a realistic place, and that basically discounted many other villains from appearing in one of his films.

Beyond that, the primary mission of this new DC cinematic universe opens up the fact that this is a world full of other heroes and villains, and the world of The Dark Knight Trilogy simply didn't permit this. In a piece in the UK's Guardian that interviewed Nolan when news first broke of his involvement with Man of Steel and his then-untitled third Batman film, the piece reads,

There will be no cross-pollination with Batman, as Nolan plans to continue the concept of each superhero existing only in their own universes in the new franchise.

"Each serves to the internal logic of the story. They have nothing to do with each other," said Nolan, adding: "A lot of people have approached Superman in a lot of different ways. I only know the way that has worked for us that's what I know how to do."

Christopher Nolan is still a director with a great deal of clout at Warner Bros., as likely evidenced by his ability to get the studio to make significant investment in a film like Interstellar. It's hard to imagine, again, that he would permit the self-contained world of The Dark Knight Trilogy to be blown up beyond what was intended, as that could potentially compromise the artistic integrity of those films that are already pretty highly regarded.


So, at the end of the day, this is an interesting theory, but it just doesn't seem practical. Warner Bros. is playing the long game with their development of future DC Comics-based films, and that longevity could be sharply limited if seeking out some shocking, fundamental shake-up of perhaps their single most popular property.

Could there be some kind of twist in Dawn of Justice? Sure, of course. With the facts at hand and the history of these films as well as the ideas seemingly at play for the present and future of the DC movie universe, I just don't think it's this one.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to, The Huffington Post, and, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Comics, Features, Geek
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