This weekend, we invite you to get a little introspective with this spooky, surreal Dark Knight story as we get ready for Batman Day. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is a short, but powerful imagining of the "last" Batman story—in a figurative way, of course—and the perfect love letter to both the Dark Knight's colorful publication history and his continuing impact on his city and allies.
If you're a comics history buff, there's a good chance you'll recognize the "Whatever Happened To…" title format, probably from Alan Moore's seminal Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, a two-part Superman story from 1986. This is no accident. Both of these books tackle a big speculative theme: What happens when a superhero reaches the very end of their story?
In Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, creative duo Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert use the events of both Batman R.I.P and Final Crisis as a springboard to imagine a Gotham where Batman has "died"—though, as you can probably guess, death for a man like Bruce Wayne is anything but simple or linear.
Now, don't panic if you haven't read Batman R.I.P or Final Crisis. Neither are required reading for this one! Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? stands alone as a poetic and magical love letter to Batman and his stories. If we tell you too much of exactly what that means or how that all shakes out, we'd be ruining the experience, so just trust us here and dive in as close to blind as you can!
Let's Talk Talent:
When it comes to fantasy and magical realism in comics, you'd be hard pressed to find someone more iconic than Neil Gaiman. He's the mind behind the Sandman series, as well as countless novels and short stories that you've doubtlessly read or seen adapted on big and small screens. And with credentials like that, it really is no surprise that his work here in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is dripping with the same style and rhythm that's endemic to his prose and sensibilities.
What we mean is: It's very good, and very beautiful.
But of course, words are only half the battle in a comic, so it's a good thing that Gaiman teamed up with artist Andy Kubert for this one, who might just be one of the most prolific Batman artists around. Kubert's command of Gotham City is nothing short of legendary, and he and Gaiman are a match made in heaven in this story.
A Few Reasons to Read:
- First things first, absolutely read this story if you're a fan of Batman's history both on and off the page and would love a chance to find and explore some of the more obscure corners of it in new ways.
- Like non-traditional superhero stories? Look no further. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? isn't about thwarting villains or saving the world—it's a somber and thoughtful story that's more dreamlike than high octane.
- However, that doesn’t mean it’s slow. In fact, if you're looking for a quick weekend read, it would be difficult get any quicker than this one—it's only two issues! (Though if you want to include the other Gaiman-penned Batman stories in the deluxe graphic novel edition, you won’t regret it.)
- If you're a fan of more surreal, fantasy-flavored comics like The Sandman, and have been looking for a way to jump into the more cape-and-cowl corner of the DC Universe, this story is the perfect starting point.
Why It's Worth Your Time:
Superhero stories exist across all sorts of genres and with many different tones, but it's rare to find ones that set the high-flying action aside for something a bit slower and more cerebral. That, however, is exactly what Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? does, and that alone makes it something you should pick up and experience at least once. Not only is it a love letter to the Dark Knight, it's a love letter to you, the reader, the fan of Bruce Wayne, for having come this far right along with him. You simply won't find another Batman story like it.
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and online retailers as a deluxe graphic novel collection, and can also be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Batman Day is Saturday, September 16th! Be sure to visit our Batman Day hub page for videos, news and activities to help you celebrate the Dark Knight’s big day.
Mason Downey writes about comics, movies and superhero history for DC.com. Look for more of his work on GameSpot, IGN and Polygon and follow him on Twitter at @rustypolished.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mason Downey and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.