Recently I wrote a blog about the origin of Batman (click here to read it). Here’s a continuation of that focusing on his “secret origin.”
Over the years, writers have found it necessary to tinker with the stories of how superheroes gained their powers, creating what are called “secret origins.” In the case of Bruce Wayne, it was revealed that during his time training in martial arts, he was mentored by a fellow superhero named “Wildcat,” whose costume looked almost identical to Batman’s, minus the cape and with the addition of whiskers, never mind the fact that Wildcat wasn’t created until 1942 (Batman was introduced in 1940). In the now classic mini-series Hush, writer Jeph Loeb revealed that Bruce had a childhood best friend named Tommy Elliot whose envy of him led him to become a supervillain, despite how Bruce failed to mention having a best friend previously.
In recent years, the rewriting of Bruce Wayne’s history has intensified. When Grant Morrison wrote Batman, he let it be suggested for more than a year that Bruce’s father faked his own death and actually conspired with the crook to murder his wife Martha, and if that weren’t enough, it was then revealed that Thomas wasn’t Bruce’s father after all–Alfred Pennyworth was, making the whole Batman epic seem like an elaborate Agatha Christie novel with the cliched resolution being “the butler did it.” Eventually, all of this was explained as an elaborate hoax perpetrated by an insane billionaire with nothing better to do.
In the recently released Batman issue 10, Batman’s origin story becomes even more muddled and convoluted when it’s revealed (spoiler) Bruce wasn’t an only child. Martha Wayne had prematurely given birth to a boy she named Thomas Wayne Jr., who, due to the circumstance of his birth, was sent to a special children’s school, where he was apparently completely forgotten about after Martha and Thomas’ death. This raises a lot of questions, the biggest of which is “why didn’t someone pick up the kid?” You’d think at least Alfred would remember the other Wayne boy.
When it comes down to it, the more complex an origin story becomes, the more casual readers a series loses. Wasn’t the whole point of the New 52 to bring in new fans? Just about everyone in America knows the gist of Batman’s backstory–they’ve had 70-odd years to learn it after all. Let’s keep it that way.