A cataclysm is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:
1: flood, deluge
3: a momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition; broadly : an event that brings great changes
So why use the term in relation to the Batman story? Because, quite frankly, momentous and violent events that brought great changes, marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition, which might just be a catastrophe in the long run took place in just one year, from October 2014 to October 2015.
No, it’s not a geological cataclysm. I’m talking about the risky approach that the main “Batman” writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV took with the comic series which will either open the doors for fresh new avenues of story-telling or cause it irreparable damage, even possibly breaking it completely.
Before we discuss The Batman Cataclysm of 2014-2015, as some alien comic-book freaks/historians will surely call it, you might want to know that there will be spoilers the kind of which you should run away from with at least a Flash-like speed, if you’re not up-to-date with the series.
Still here? You sure? Last chance. Ok. Ahem…
The Joker kills Batman. Mhm. No lying. No tricks. The tragic, grim, orphan with a haunting past, billionaire/playboy/vigilante Batman we knew and loved for more than 75 years is GONE. And it’s worth mentioning that this was very very intentional and the 75 years in question are not a coincidence.
Because the Joker and Batman battle each other to the death in a cave which ultimately falls over both of their fatally wounded selves, in the last of the six issues of the “Batman: Endgame” story arc, which was published specifically WITH the 75 year anniversary of Batman in mind.
Then there’s the fact that Alfred loses a hand to the Joker (before Batman’s death, mind you), which at the end of the story, when learning of the conclusion, he does not want re-attached declaring that he no longer has anyone to attend to.
Oh, and the story begins with The Justice League attacking Batman due to a Joker toxin they’ve all been infected with. HOW did the Joker manage to infect the whole Justice League with all of them being helpless to prevent it, you ask? Good question. It’s not explained. Just roll with it.
Then, after the Endgame story arc, the Batman continuity err… continues. Without Bruce Wayne. As… uh… commissioner Gordon picks up the hero’s responsibilities for Gotham and becomes the new Batman. … In a suit that hints (STRONGLY) at a … bunny. Check out the metal antennae(?) on his head. If those aren’t bunny ears, Batman’s not dead. And he is…
But seriously. This is not a walk-through of a stoner’s scenario. It’s what actually happens in the Batman story-line, via the official writers and crew.
Theeeen, we find out that Bruce Wayne is NOT dead. He just lost all of his memories, as if not only his past decades of hero-playing, crime-fighting and successful business-ing never happened, but also including his family’s murder and his consequent formative experiences as an orphan. He is practically born-anew, with no detective skills or any form of awesomeness. Just an Average Joe.
Notice how I didn’t lie, as I did say the Joker killed Batman, not Bruce Wayne. The latter is alive and … well… NOT well since he has no memories at all. But the Batman alter-ego as we knew it is effectively dead. (It’s kinda hard to have an alter-ego when your ego is dealing with a thorough, life-long memory loss).
And that’s where the series is now. Jim Gordon is Batman, Bruce Wayne is alive, but just that. And quite possibly the Joker isn’t dead either. Hey, if Bruce made it out, perhaps they’ve decided not to kill Batman’s nemesis par excellence, either.
Scot Snyder and James Tynion IV’s comments on the major changes to Batman? In an October 2015 interview at the New York Comic Con they said that they see them as “an opportunity to look at the mythology from a whole new angle”, because comics seem to be better equipped than ever to tell more down-to-earth, real world stories about the issues affecting their audiences (like, for example, the matter of police brutality, which can now be analyzed better in the comics due to commissioner Gordon’s new-found role as Batman).
They’re also interested in innovation and freshening things up a bit. “In moments like this,” Tynion said, “you get to tell stories that no one’s read before, which is hard to do.” And Snyder added: “Creators like us have more opportunities to be daring. On these superhero books, as long as you’re true to [the core concept] and love the character at the DNA level, companies are now welcoming calculated risk.”
Risk indeed. As reactions to the last changes ranged from: “wow! interesting”, to “meh, so and so”, to “wait, X just doesn’t make sense”, to all out rage rants and fans possibly quitting the series.
Still, for every cataclysm there’s a chance of wondrous rebirth as the demise of the dinosaurs aptly demonstrates by virtue of our wonderful selves being here and not them. Perhaps Snyder & co. decided that the Batman character was also a dinosaur in need of some demise, so that a new age can come and new forms can flourish. Artistic and creative forms, of course.