|"Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?"|
Cover of Batman 686 (Apr, 2009). Art by Andy Kubert.
|Publication date||April 2009|
Detective Comics #853
"Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" is a 2009 story featuring the DC Comics character Batman. The story is published in two parts, in the "final" issues of the series Batman (#686) and Detective Comics (#853), released February and April respectively. Written by Neil Gaiman, pencilled by Andy Kubert, and inked by Scott Williams, the story is purported to be the "last" Batman story in the wake of severe psychological trauma that Batman endures within the Batman R.I.P. story, and his ultimate fate in Final Crisis.
The story's title is a reference to the backup stories published in DC Comics Presents from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s (which revisited various long-unused Golden Age and Silver Age characters; these stories were all titled "Whatever Happened to (x)?") akin to writer Alan Moore's "last" Superman story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.
Gaiman described the job as something he had to take part in. "It's one of those things where they phoned me up and said, 'This is what's going to be happening with Batman. Would you like to write the last issue of Batman and the last issue of Detective Comics? And when they make an offer like that, you say yes."
Gaiman asked artist Andy Kubert to make the artwork throughout the series represent various eras of notable artists that had worked on Batman. Major names of mention by Kubert include Jerry Robinson, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, and of course, Batman's co-creator Bob Kane.
Like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the two-issue tale presents a "final" Batman story. The Batman presented in the story is not necessarily the one from current DC Universe continuity but rather an indeterminate amalgamation that pays homage to the entirety of the character's 70-year history.
The overall plot concerns the wake of Batman, taking place in the back of a small Gotham City bar. During the wake, a number of prominent figures from Batman's life each tell a tale of Batman and how he eventually died, giving multiple, unique histories of Batman, his life, and death. The plot of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is vaguely reminiscent of that of David Vern Reed and John Calnan's Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? (Batman #291-294, October–December 1977), in which Batman is apparently killed, and the circumstances of his "death" are explained by a succession of villains, each taking credit for the crime in several incompatible stories.
Part 1, Batman #686
The story begins over Gotham City, which the narrator describes as being "different." It's not quite the Gotham he's accustomed to, but it's still intimately familiar to him. Outside the Dew Drop Inn in Crime Alley, Selina Kyle pulls up and enters. The bartender, Joe Chill, tells her that a group is gathered in the back. As Selina makes her way back, she arrives at a wake. At the front of the small room is an open casket. The narrator looks in, and says, "That's me..." It is Batman. This is his funeral.
Once everyone arrives, they begin giving eulogies and an account of how Batman died. Each story, however, is different. Selina Kyle's eulogy includes a story similar to the death of Robin Hood. Alfred's includes a bizarre tale, claiming he hired several actor friends to pretend to be super-villains, with Alfred himself taking on the persona of the Joker. Batman describes this scenario as "impossible." After hearing these, Batman asks if he's dead. A mysterious female shape seen next to him says, "not yet." Batman asks what's going on, and the voice replies, "You're the World's Greatest Detective, Bruce. Why don't you figure it out?"
Part 2, Detective Comics #853
After witnessing further eulogies by the Mad Hatter, the Joker, Robin, and Superman, Batman goes through a door at the back of the Dew Drop, and he can see that the woman who has been speaking with him is his mother, Martha Wayne, and that he is having a near death experience.
His mother (in actuality, a mental manifestation of her) asks Bruce what he has learned. He responds that the stories told do not seem to be about the same person. The one constant is that Batman never gives in and never gives up. This means that Bruce would never retire or stop being Batman, so "in the end, Batman dies." It is the inevitable ending to Bruce's quest. She tells him, "You don't get Heaven or Hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? You get to be Batman." Beyond that, she also notes that he was indeed truly happy for a small time as a child, and he can look forward to those few years of peace once again. Batman then says goodbye to gradual elements of his life in the form of Goodnight Moon, saying goodnight to his Cave, his friends and allies, and his enemies. The last image of the story is the W:C:DC:Bat-SignalBat-Signal in the night sky. The signal gradually morphs into a pair of doctor's hands, which reach for a newborn baby boy which is handed to Martha Wayne in the hospital. She smiles down at the baby, calling him Bruce.
The story is collected into a single volume:
- Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (collects Batman vol. 1 #686 and Detective Comics vol. 1 #853 and stories from Secret Origins vol. 2 #36, Secret Origins Special #1, and Batman Black and White #2; 128 pages, hardcover, July 2009, ISBN 1-4012-2303-6; paperback, August 2010, ISBN 1-4012-2724-4)
Both parts of the story also appear together in Titan Books' Batman Legends (Volume 2) #33
The storyline won the "Best Comic" SFX Sci-Fi Award in 2010. It won the 2009 British Fantasy Award for Best Comic/Graphic Novel. In April 2010, it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.
- "DC Nation Panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2008". Newsarama.com. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080727-dc-nation-2.html. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- Wizard #208, Sneak Peek: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
- "Newsarama Covers Batman #686". Newsarama.com. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/020912-BSE-Batman686.html. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- Gaiman, Neil (w). Batman 686 (February 2009), DC Comics
- Gaiman, Neil (w). Detective Comics 853 (April 2009), DC Comics
- SFX Sci-Fi Awards 2010 Winners: Best Comic, SFX, January 1, 2010
- Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? at the Comic Book DB
- Official listing on DC Comics
- SDCC '08 - More on Gaiman-Batman with Dan DiDio
- Gaiman confirming his job on Batman on his blog