Now that Ben Affleck and Warner Bros. have finally stopped pretending that Zack Snyder didn’t murdalize Batman so badly that he already has to be rebooted barely a year after his last on-screen appearance, it’s time for the casting game. Except this time, folks aren’t here to play.
After catching wind of Playlist editor-in-chief Rodrigo Perez calling for Daniel Kaluuya as the next Bruce Wayne, New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie tweeted his way through an epic thread where he reimagines Batman as a black American that goes far beyond just “racebending” the character.
I am here for all of it, and here’s why:
Even as a lifelong comic nerd who loves the shit out of these spandex goons, at the end of the day, I recognize that they’re fictional characters that should be bent and stretched in all kinds of interesting ways to tell compelling stories about our world. You’ve got a guy who jumps off of rooftops without breaking every bone in his body, has a freaking arsenal wrapped around his waist, and hangs out with a flying alien in his spare time, but somehow making him black is unrealistic? Get the f*ck outta here.
And don’t come at me with “honoring the original creator’s intent” because we’re talking about a bunch of white guys in the 1930s who, even if they did want to write about a black superhero, would have a hell of time getting it published let alone read by a racist as hell general public. Also, and this seems to be the hardest concept to grasp, but making Batman black doesn’t permanently erase the almost century worth of content where he’s lily spanking white. Take it easy, David Duke with a Mylar bag.
Anyway, back to Bouie’s pitch. Right upfront, Bouie confesses that he’s drawing heavily from David Walker’s Nightawk, but his version of a black Bruce Wayne is easily better than a shitload of Batman stories floating around out there. (For example, Dark Nights: Metal. Yup, I said it.) In Bouie’s mind, the Waynes are still wealthy philanthropists, but as “descendants of prosperous free northern blacks” who arrived in a Chicago-esque Gotham and established a prominent HBCU. However, it’s their murder in Crime Alley where Bouie’s pitch really takes hold:
now, the origin of batman. the situation is the same. the killer is still a man named "joe chill." it still takes place in "crime alley" after the wayne family—with like an 11-year-old bruce—see a play or movie. the difference is all of this happens in black, segregated Gotham.— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
when the call comes in that two people were shot and killed, the police…shrug. they take their time. they're indifferent to bruce. alfred is there (and, what the hell, he's still michael caine), and they ask him if he was assaulted.— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
it isn't until they realize who the victims were—and again, the waynes may be well-known in black gotham but far less so in white gotham—that grasp the magnitude of what happened. by this point though, it's too late and the killer is never caught.— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
bruce comes away from this experience with two emotions: grief at his parents' death, anger at crime, and rage at the police. as he gets older (and here we are borrowing from the tradition of black autobiography), this becomes a fierce, righteous anger at racism.— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
I don’t want to give away the whole thread because I can’t recommend reading it enough — Seriously, do yourself a favor and click here. — but it gained so much traction that people started adding to Bouie’s concept, and they came up with some bangers.
to add to this real quick, someone had the idea of making Joe Chill a cop and i think that is perfect. nothing changes about the death of batman’s parents scene, but the implications are vastly different.— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
And, of course, there were the usual bucket of awful responses:
yeah but i want him to be bruce wayne https://t.co/DQ51XMZ3vB— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
no offense but why do folks keep saying "this is luke cage" because if that's the case then oliver queen and peter parker are the same character too. https://t.co/9UASE1qoaw— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
nothing is stopping you from clicking “unfollow” https://t.co/TCB8lCXSy9— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) February 1, 2019
Sadly, Warner Bros. doesn’t have the balls to make this happen even though it should be the easiest sell in the world: “Did you see Black Panther’s box office? That could be your cocaine money if you make Batman black.” Bam. Done deal.
In the meantime, DC Comics needs to start throwing whatever money it has at Bouie because I would read the hell out of this graphic novel, and judging by the reactions on Twitter, so would a lot of other people. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to (former) Hollywood movie star Shia LaBeouf.