Blatant Insubordination: When Batman and Bane Were Brothers
- June 18th, 2012
- Posted in Blatant Insubordination . Comics/Graphic Novels . Opinions
- By Rob
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The big story in the world of comics this past week was the apparent revelation that Batman has a younger brother, Thomas Wayne Jr. The character was introduced to us last year as Lincoln March, a mayoral candidate who found a kindred spirit in Bruce Wayne. But in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #10, we learn he’s actually a member of the Court of Owls who betrayed the group when he figured out Bruce Wayne and Batman were the same person. As the issue closes, the two alleged brothers are on a collision course.
The Thomas Wayne Jr. character actually isn’t new. The character, and much of the backstory that is explained in Batman #10 is actually derived from a 1974 story by Bob Haney and Dick Dillin in World’s Finest #223, where Batman and Superman discover that three years before Bruce was born, Thomas and Martha Wayne had another son whose mind was permanently damaged after his stroller was apparently hit by a car. The boy was committed to Willowwood hospital, which is also the name of the asylum from the Snyder/Capullo story. When the Waynes were murdered, the boy was apparently forgotten about. The Haney/Dillin story ends with Thomas Wayne Jr.’s death and a return to the status quo. Years later, Grant Morrison would revive the character in Justice League: Earth 2 as Owlman, an alternate universe Batman equivalent in the Crime Syndicate of America. Morrison’s character survived a mugging that took the lives of Martha Wayne and his brother Bruce. Owlman subsequently appeared in numerous stories at DC.
Get all that?
The idea of heroes having evil siblings certainly isn’t new. In comics alone, we’ve got pairings like Thor and Loki, Charles Xavier and Juggernaut, etc. This story with Batman having a brother is interesting, and I’m sure Snyder and Capullo will take us into compelling territory with it. But when I saw that big revelation, I couldn’t help but think back to those few months in 2002 and 2003 when Batman had yet another brother, or rather a stepbrother. Fittingly enough, it was the man he’ll be facing on the big screen in The Dark Knight Rises next month, Bane.
The story was called “Tabula Rasa,” and took place in the pages of Batman: Gotham Knights #33-36. While searching for the identity of his biological father, Bane brings Batman a photo of Thomas Wayne and his mother together in his homeland of Santa Prisca. This obviously raises the question of whether Thomas Wayne could be Bane’s father, and whether he could have been unfaithful to Bruce’s mother. Author Scott Beatty and pencillers Mike Collins and Roger Robinson fluff the story out with a villain who has nanites in her tattoos and can turn them into physical objects at will. But the Bane story is what kept us coming back.
It takes us almost three issues after the big revelation to get the results of a blood test to determine whether the Bruce and Bane are related. In that time frame we get a lot of talky scenes not only between Batman and Bane, but various other members of Batman’s extended family. We even get a dialogue between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon about whether or not Batman is responsible for all the chaos in Gotham. There are two scenes from this story that have always stuck out in my mind. In Gotham Knights #44, we see Bruce sit down with Alfred and actually ask the question: “Could he have been unfaithful to her?” Considering we’re talking about Bruce’s father, the man upon whom he’s based much of his moral code over the years, that’s a pretty powerful question. They also place it in a nice intimate and personal setting so this surrogate father/son duo can have this moment together, which was a really nice touch. Alfred flat out denies that Thomas Wayne could ever have been unfaithful to his wife, though it’s hinted that there might be a shred of doubt in his mind.
The second scene is between Bane and Leslie Thompkins in issue #46, when the blood test finally reveals that Bane is not Thomas Wayne’s son. It’s shorter, but it provides us with a very rare opportunity to see Bane vulnerable. They’re sitting outside on a bench somewhere, and he says things like “I don’t know what to feel,” and “Life is…unfair.” It was a nice character moment for him, given the direction they were taking his character at that point.
In retrospect, it’s fairly obvious that Bane was never going to be Batman’s actual brother. For one thing, the issues are too filled with fluff to constitute a revelation of that magnitude. Also, that kind of announcement wouldn’t have taken place in the token third-string book. It likely would have been in Batman or Detective Comics. I suppose there’s also an inherent cheesiness to the idea of a Batman villain one day coming out and saying: “Hey! Guess what! We’re brothers!” Having Bane do it isn’t necessarily as bad as having it be say, the Riddler. But today it seems rather obvious that they weren’t going to pull the trigger on it. Still, being as naive as I was to the world of comics at the time, I remember being really hooked by it.
I’m pretty skeptical about this Thomas Wayne Jr. thing. But given the circumstances, i.e. it taking place in Batman, the character not being a stock villain, the fact that it’s happening in a major storyline, that character has better odds than Bane did. Who knows? Maybe someday he’ll get a movie deal too…
Front page image from screencrush.com. Image 1 from panelsoftheweek.tumblr.com. Image 2 from comicsalliance.com. Image s 4 and 5 from author’s collection.