Batman is Immortal, But Even HE Doesn't Realize It | Screen Rant
Batman is supposedly a mortal man, and doomed to die. But one landmark comic revealed the truth about his immortality, even if he never remembers.
For all his incredible abilities, Batman is still, at his core, a mortal man. While comic books, animated shows, and blockbuster movies will inevitably show him in his physical prime, most fans accept that given the right set of circumstances, Bruce Wayne can die. Indeed, given the insane risks he takes every night, death is the unavoidable end to the Dark Knight’s crusade... or is it?
One incredible comic book story established that although Bruce Wayne is undeniably mortal, he also possesses a form of eternal life that can potentially let him keep fighting forever. While this appears to violate the very concept of Batman as 'a superhero without any superpowers,' it ultimately fits in perfectly with the Dark Knight’s rise from man to myth and legend -- especially since it was introduced by comic book legend (and expert on modern gods), writer Neil Gaiman.
Tasked by DC Comics with writing 'the final Batman story,' Gaiman scripted “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader,” a story that ran in Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853. Taking inspiration from Alan Moore’s classic “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” which told the final story of Superman, Gaiman’s tale established Batman’s eternal life by beginning in a strange place – his own funeral.
The story begins at a wake in Gotham City, but not the version of Gotham most readers are familiar with, being full of old fashioned cars and strange buildings. As an unseen figure questions his whereabouts with another invisible companion, the reader sees many figures from Batman’s Rogues Gallery enter the wake – including Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman), Two-Face, Riddler, and the Joker. Other familiar supporting characters also enter, including Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Harvey Bullock, and Superman. Strangely, the funeral guests don’t seem like themselves either. Selina appears to be a middle-aged woman from the 1940s, Joker looks like his animated counterpart in Batman The Animated Series, and the rest of the group all look like they’ve been torn from different pages in Batman’s eighty-year history. Moreover, their appearances regularly shift, causing them to turn into different versions of themselves. The incongruity isn’t lost on the unseen observer, who realizes he’s attending his own funeral – as the heroes and villains have all come to review the life of Batman.
Things get even weirder from this point. Different villains and cast members all step up to describe who Batman was and how he died. However, every single account appears to contradict the others. Selina claims she and Batman were almost-lovers until the night she let him bleed to death in her pet store. The Joker claims he killed Batman with an overdose of Joker Venom. Clayface relates a story where Batman died saving his life. And most bizarre of all, Alfred reveals that the Batman he knew was a troubled playboy who fought fake supervillains portrayed by Alfred’s acting troupe – with Alfred taking on the role of the Joker!
As the unseen Batman takes in these conflicting accounts, his invisible companion invites him to try and solve the mystery of his death. Other guests step forward – with Superman claiming that Batman died standing up against a cabal of his super villains, Harvey Bullock stating that Batman died saving a child from drowning, and Batwoman claiming Batman blew up in a bomb explosion, sacrificing himself for Gotham.
Unable to rationalize the stories, Batman realizes that despite how different the narratives all are, all of them emphasize that the Batman does not give in or give up on his war against crime, no matter the cost. Knowing that he's Batman - but not sure which Batman he is, Bruce deduces he’s having a near-death experience. Choosing to go through a door, Batman manifests and speaks to his companion – who turns out to be Bruce Wayne’s mother, Martha. Although Batman doesn’t know if the woman beside him is truly Martha’s spirit or just his memory of her, he decides it doesn’t matter as everything is too subjective at this point.
When Martha asks Bruce if he’s ready to go to his final reward, however, Batman states that he doesn’t believe in an afterlife that involves Heaven or Hell. Martha agrees, telling Bruce that Batman’s ultimate reward is unlike what other people receive. As she puts it, “You don’t get heaven, or hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? You get to be Batman.”
Revealing to her son that each time he dies, Bruce Wayne is merely reborn in a different reality where he must endure the trauma and pain of becoming Batman again, Martha adds that Bruce’s reward also involves a handful of years with his parents before they inevitably get murdered. Bruce’s career – and death – as Batman is different in each universe – with some stories ending with him dying dramatically saving Gotham while others end with him dying saving an innocent victim or being shot by a common criminal. Big or small, however, each reality allows Bruce Wayne to continue his never-ending war on crime.
Acknowledging that he could never choose to be anything or anyone other than the Batman, Bruce surrenders to the inevitability of his death, saying goodbye to his friends, enemies, and old identity before being reborn again as an infant Bruce Wayne. While this new life may or may not follow the current Batman continuity, it shows that all the Batman stories DC has been telling through comics, TV shows, animation, and movies are connected, as every one of the different Batmen are all Bruce Wayne, living his eternal life through infinite realities.
Both a celebration of Batman’s decades-long career and an innovative way to give Batman the “superpower” of essentially living through all of his reinterpretations and incarnations, “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” somehow manages to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of making Batman simultaneously mortal and eternal. While some comic book storylines will acknowledge Bruce Wayne’s mortality by having the Dark Knight fall in battle, readers now have the reassurance that whatever happens, will also endure… forever.
Next: Batman’s Coolest “Elseworlds” Was Just Erased By DC