Don’t get me wrong, Batman is my Number One favourite. The problem is I’m a writer and I’m constantly coming up with alternative story lines. Having worked on an idea I’d then start seeing different ways of doing it. As a result I sometimes found myself spending far too much time rewriting my stuff. Not a good idea if you’re working to deadlines. Then there’s this annoying realist inside me who tells me that certain things just wouldn’t happen in real life. I call him Spock, after Leonard Nimoy’s character in Star Trek. Fortunately my overactive imagination usually tells this Spock to stick his logic where the monkey stuck his nuts. In the case of Batman, Spock would have had Joe Chill kill Bruce along with his parents. Why? Because Joe wouldn’t have needed a law degree to figure out that Bruce was a witness to the crime.
JOE CHILL: SORRY, KID! BUT I GOT NO CHOICE!
Fortunately Batman’s creator didn’t have a Spock looking over his shoulder. Had Joe killed Bruce there would be no Batman. In which case we’d be stuck with comics about Joe Chill who does little else but rob people and then shoot them. Not much mileage there. So, as much as he would have liked to, Joe Chill couldn’t kill Bruce because Bob Kane wanted Joe’s help to create a superhero.
JOE CHILL: FUCK IT, MR KANE! I GOT A REPUTATION TO PROTECT. AND IF DON’T KILL THIS KID EVERY CRIMINAL IN GOTHAM CITY WILL THINK I’M STUPID! NOT TO MENTION THE COPS AND THE MEDIA.
BOB KANE: SORRY, JOE. THE STORY LINE TAKES PRECEDENT.
But Bruce Wayne’s eventual metamorphosis as the Caped Crusader was not written in stone. No, things could have been very different. Kane used a multi-millionaire as his hero. A man cosseted by a luxurious lifestyle. His every whim fulfilled by his manservant. (Well, perhaps not every whim). What if Kane had been one of those left wing writers of the 1930’s? A Steinbeck instead of a Scott-Fitzgerald? As a result he portrays Joe Chill, not as some trigger happy mugger, but as a “ragged assed kid from the Wrong Side of the Tracks.”
In this version Kane tells us that Joe’s father, Hank, is eking out a living outside Gotham Railway Station as a shoeshine boy and his mother is a waitress at a diner. On this particular day the Chill family, who are devout Christians, are on their way home after evening service. Suddenly, as they cross the road, they get mowed down by car. But this is no ordinary car! For maximum dramatic effect Kane has conjured up as the murder weapon what the automobile collectors consider to be the Holy Grail: the legendary Duesenberg Coupe Simone Midnight Ghost! The car that appears in Gotham City was the only one ever produced. It had once belonged to the French cosmetics king, Guy De LaRouche but now it was owned by a multi-millionaire playboy called Thomas Wayne. The story was he got it as a result of card game with Alfred Krupp, the German steel magnate. The car, which had been hidden in an underground garage, was discovered by the Germans…
TOM WAYNE: I HAVE A ROYAL FLUSH, YOU NAZI ASS LICKER!
ALFRED KRUPP: SCHEISS! THAT CAR WAS A PRESENT FROM MY FRIEND HERMAN GOERING!
TOM WAYNE: TELL LARDFACE THE YANKS HAVE GOT IT!
At this point Spock tells me that Batman was created before WW2. So what? I’m not going to let logic spoil a bit of artistic licence. Picture the scene, if you will…
It’s a winter’s evening and we see shots of this amazing car interspersed with shots of Joe and his parents as, Bibles in hand, they return to their hovel in shanty town. Now this is a beautiful and seductive car. Kane tells his readers that mechanics have had sex with the Duesenberg Coupe Simone Midnight Ghost via its exhaust pipe. Not only mechanics but also filling station attendants and those people who wash your car windows when you stop at the traffic lights. Kane even tells the artist to give us the graphic details. That would be something to see! The Popular Mechanics version of the Kama Sutra.
FILLING STATION ATTENDANT: OKAY, BABY! I FILLED YOU UP WITH GAS AND NOW I’M GONNA FILL YOU UP WITH THE JUICE OF MY LOINS!
Anyway, driven at breakneck speed by an alcohol fuelled Wayne, the Duesenberg misses Joe by inches and kills his parents. In horror Joe watches as the 300 mph, (the car was in first gear at the time because Tom Wayne had negotiated a sharp bend otherwise it would have been travelling much faster), hurls his parents 200 feet in the air! Joe’s father ends up landing on some railway lines just in front of an express train. Whilst Joe’s mother is impaled on the spire of the church they’d just left. Joe’s only injuries being to his underpants as he soils himself in fear. As a result of this traumatic incident, Joe becomes Batman. And Joe Chill is out to kill! Not like the Batman Kane has stuck us with. A superhero shackled by the Tenth Commandment. Moses would have approved. But not red toothed writers and readers like me. With Joe Chill as Batman those super criminals would have had just one shot at terrorising Gotham City before this Dark Knight sends them to the mortuary. Forget putting them in Arkham Asylum. That place is as leaky as a sieve in a torrential rainstorm. For all the good it does they may as well leave the doors wide open.
QUINCY SHARP: THANK GOD YOU BROUGHT THE JOKER BACK BEFORE HE KILLED ALL THOSE KIDS AT THE GOTHAM ORPHANAGE FOR THE BLIND.
BATMAN: WHY DON’T YOU LOCK THE DOORS?
QUINCY SHARP: THAT WOULD BE TOO EASY. HERE AT THE ARKHAM ASYLUM WE ENJOY A CHALLENGE.
And so, it seems, do the residents of Gotham City. What they really need is a Joe Chill. And, in my version, they have one. Needless to say, once Joe becomes Batman he fills Tom Wayne with lead with his Batgun. And Wayne’s butler, Alfred, is so distraught at losing his master he turns into a giant Anaconda and becomes Man Serpent! Crushing people and buildings and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. A reptilian version of Godzilla. Until Joe shoots him. And did Joe have to become Bat-man? Kane might have chosen another nocturnal winged creature. Although Barn-Owl-Man doesn’t sound or look quite as threatening. Imagine you’ve just done a big heist at the bank and a large ball of fluffy feathers drops on you.
BARN-OWL-MAN: MAKING A MIDNIGHT WITHDRAWAL, HUH? I HOPE YOUR ACCOUNT COVERS IT!
CROOK: HE! HE! HE! YOU’RE TICKLING ME!
By the way, have you watched that TV series, “Gotham?” If so you’ll have noticed that the Penguin is positively anorexic! Yet in the comic books he’s joined the ranks of the obese. How come? Is Batman responsible?
PENGUIN: QUACK! QUACK! IT HAPPENED THE DAY THEY OPENED A MCDONALD’S BURGER KING IN GOTHAM CITY!
That’s one story line I want to see. Penguin ballooning to 260 kilograms and having to get a gastric band. How about it, DC?