With the upcoming release of Matt Reeves’s “THE BATMAN” (in theaters on March 4th, 2022), we figured we’d take the opportunity to do a quick rundown of every confirmed character appearing in the new movie (as well as a couple who *might* make an appearance?), along with where they first appeared in the Batman comics, who played them in previous movies, and some of our recommended stories to read before (or after) seeing the new movie!
Real Name: Bruce Wayne
Played by: Robert Pattinson
Previous Actors: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, etc
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27
Essential Reads: Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Arkham Asylum, The Court of Owls, Hush, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Earth One, Zero Year, The Killing Joke, etc
Holy childhood trauma, Batman!
Everyone and their mother knows the story: billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne are gunned down in the alleys of Gotham City in front of their son, Bruce. Instead of drowning his misery in excess and drugs/alcohol later in his life as most of us would, Bruce instead traveled the world, training under everyone he could: thieves, escape artists, fighters, assassins, detectives, you name it. He became a master of more skills and disciplines than any man on earth, then turned those skills and his immense fortune towards building an arsenal for a war on crime. Dressed like a bat.
Yeah, when you put it like it sounds pretty silly, but Batman is freaking awesome. If he’s not the most popular superhero on the planet he’s in the top 3, easily. He’s got an absolutely iconic costume and gadgets, from everything from batarangs to gas bombs and grapple guns to the batmobile!
The ultimate loner, Batman operates from the shadows in his solo war on crime. Well, except for Jim Gordon, Nightwing, a number of Robins, Orphan, Spoiler, Batgirl, Batwoman, Red Hood, Oracle, Batwing, Azrael, Bluebird, Signal, the Outsiders, the Justice League, and sometimes Catwoman. Other than them, he’s totally alone. (Well, except for Alfred, Lucious Fox, and Leslie Tompkins). So alone.
It’s too bad he doesn’t have any friends or backup because he sure could use it! He’s got the second-best rogue’s gallery in comics, after all (well, unless you’re sick in the head like Erik, in which case you would be under the delusion that he’s got the best one).
Everything from his look to his allies to his gadgets to his rogues to the city he inhabits is absolutely, unquestionably iconic. He’s got mountains of amazing comics, more great video games, toys, movies, and animated projects than anyone else, and the guy makes wearing a cape awesome. What more can you ask for?
Real Name: Edward E. Nygma? (Alias?)
Played by: Paul Dano
Previous Actors: Jim Carrey (Batman Forever), John Glover (the animated series), Cory Michael Smith (Gotham), Frank Gorshin (Batman ’66)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #140 (1948)
Essential Reads: Batman: Zero Year, Hush, Four of a Kind, The Long Halloween, Riddle Me That, The War of Jokes and Riddles
Holy makeovers, Batman! Long gone are the days of suits covered in question marks and the manic, over-the-top ridiculousness of Frank Gorshin and Jim Carey. Todays’ Riddler is genius, cunning, and utterly ruthless. Although he hasn’t always had the best storylines, we highly recommend reading Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Batman: HUSH” – which is a fantastic mystery involving Batman’s entire rogues gallery being manipulated by the Riddler, or Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s epic, “Batman: Zero Year” – which is a modernized take on Batman’s origin story with a twist and might be one of the best comic versions of the Riddler to date!
Edward Nygma isn’t your run-of-the-mill criminal mastermind, that’s for sure. Obsessed with not only pulling off whatever scheme he has cooking, but he also has a pathological need to prove that he is better, smarter than everyone: the people of Gotham, the GCPD, and especially one caped crusader. To do this he leaves clues behind at crime scenes or bases crimes around riddles.
The thing is he always leaves obvious ways to catch and/or stop him if you’re smart enough to solve his riddle. Without this personality quirk, he would undoubtedly be the most successful criminal in modern, if not all of, recorded history. But this is comics, so he does have it, and as such makes a hobby out of getting foiled at the last minute and having his head kicked in by the Batman.
Riddle me this, who has seventeen broken bones, a concussion, and dozens of pending criminal charges?
Real Name: Oswald Cobblepot
Played by: Colin Farrell
Previous Actors: Danny DeVito (Batman Returns), Burgess Meredith (Batman ’66), Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #58 (1941)
Essential Reads: Emperor Penguin, Pain and Prejudice, The Penguin Triumphant, Batman: Earth One
Although he hasn’t been given the spotlight for quite some time now, Oswald Cobblepot is one of the Dark Knight’s oldest foes and has had a number of wildly different interpretations over the years, from a ruthless mob boss with trick umbrellas to a mutant Danny DeVito running for Mayor, who was raised by penguins in the sewers of Gotham (see: Batman Returns). In most versions, however, he works as a great foil to Bruce Wayne, because like the Waynes, he too comes from a wealthy background, but instead of putting his money to good use in an attempt to help the city (like Batman), the Penguin instead embraces Gotham’s greed and corruption to further his own rise to power.
Real Name: Selina Kyle
Played by: Zoë Kravitz
Previous Actors: Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), Halle Berry (Catwoman), Lee Meriwether (Batman ’66), Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar
First Appearance: Batman #1 (1940)
Essential Reads: The Long Halloween, Hush, Batman: Year One, The Wedding, City of Bane, The Shadow of the Cat, Selina’s Big Score, Catwoman: Relentless, Catwoman: Anodyne, Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper
It hasn’t always been pretty, but Catwoman has been one of the most often used Batman villains in the film. Whether you prefer the ’66 Meriwether version, the Returns Pfieffer version, or the DKR Hathaway version, she’s been relatively (to the other Batman villains, at least) well represented in film and all are viable choices. Halle Berry, however, is not. She’s a talented actress, but that was just… no. No, thank you.
The film versions have all been pretty different from one another, much like the many versions we’ve seen in the comics. She’s been a simple cat burglar, a crime boss, a straight-up super villain, an anti-hero, a full-on hero, a member of the Justice League (!!!!), and eventually married to Bruce Wayne! (see Tom King’s Batman run) The comics' version of Catwoman has evolved far past ‘recurring Batman villain’ and has become one of DC’s most successful, recognizable characters!
Whether the Zoe Kravitz version in the new film is inspired by the cat-pun inspired Meriwether version (doubtful), the S&M whip-happy Pfeiffer version (maybe a little?), or the ‘not really Catwoman but sort of’ Hathaway version (probably a bit more this direction), it’s clear just from the trailers that she will be a major part of the movie. Hopefully, they capture the spirit of Selina Kyle from the books. It doesn’t really matter if they try to follow the origins or anything like that, as long as she isn’t murdered in the first act then brought back to life by cat voodoo.
Played by: John Turturro
Previous Actors: Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins), John Doman (Gotham)
First Appearance: Batman #405 (1987)
Essential Reads: The Long Halloween, Batman: Year One
In a city of the crappiest people imaginable crawling out of the woodwork, Carmine “The Roman” Falcone is one of the all-time crappiest. The most ruthless mob boss of his time, he controlled Gotham’s gangs, its ports, its police force (for the most part) and had a part in nearly every ongoing illegal activity in the city. The partnership that formed between Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, and Batman was formed solely to take this dirtbag down. During the time of the Holiday serial killer’s spree, the Roman was in the middle of the entire thing, and thankfully for all of the decent people in Gotham he was killed via gunshot to the head by Two-Face. It’s never been confirmed but has been heavily hinted that Selina Kyle aka Catwoman is his illegitimate daughter!?
Played by: Jeffrey Wright
Previous Actors: Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight trilogy), J.K. Simmons (Zack Snyder’s Justice League)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27
Essential Reads: Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Gotham Central, No Man’s Land
Batman’s first- and probably best- partner in his war on crime in Gotham, Jim Gordon is a truly honorable man on a policy force with precious few of them. He is stuck in an impossible position of only really being able to trust a small handful of his officers at any given time, as the GCPD, despite his best efforts, continues to be as corrupt as the average United States senator. Between the crime families and the veritable armies of super-criminals, lunatics, and secret societies it seems someone always has someone ‘on the inside’ at the GCPD. But not Jim Gordon. Never Jim.
In his own way, Jim is unflappable as Batman himself, possibly even more so if you consider he’s basically operating surrounded by (essentially) spies half the time. Despite this, under Jim’s leadership, there has been progress made against the crime families in Gotham, at least, if not against the odd maniac clown or district attorney. He’s also suffered tremendously- or rather, his family has- for his career choice. He was tortured by the Joker, his daughter crippled and tortured (by the Joker), his wife murdered (by… <checks notes> the Joker) … and to top it off, it turns out his son is a serial killer, too!
Despite the madness that comes with his job, he’s somehow managed to maintain his firm belief in justice and the law, and yet also has rarely wavered in his support of a man that pursues one at the expense of the other. Jim even walked in the Batman’s shoes for a while; when Bruce Wayne was out of commission after a particularly intense encounter with (<checks notes> the Joker?? Geez) Jim suited up as the Batman himself!
Played by: Andy Serkis
Previous Actors: Jeremy Irons (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Trilogy), Michael Gough (Batman ’89, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, etc)
First Appearance: Batman #16 (1943)
Essential Reads: Batman: Earth One, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Alfred Pennyworth, the combat-trained medic turned butler/manservant for billionaires (then the world’s greatest detective), as well as the owner of the worst last name this side of ‘Nygma’, is probably the most famous butler in all of fiction. That said, his representation in the film to date has been… uneven, and for a guy as cleanliness obsessed as Alfie here that’s gotta sting. In the past, he has played every role from traditional butler/worst secret identity keeper ever to an advisor to a medic to conscience, so it will be interesting to see what combination of those roles we will see from Andy Serkis’ version in The Batman. Each of the previous film versions has been pretty different, and one would expect we will get something new here, too.
And here are a few characters who we think could potentially make an appearance in the new movie…
THE COURT OF OWLS?
Real Names: ?
Played by: ?
First Appearance: Batman #1 – New 52 (Vol 2, 2011)
Essential Reads: The Court of Owls, Night of the Owls
First introduced in the pages of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s epic comics run back in 2011, ‘The Court of Owls’ is a secret cabal full of avian theme-masked rich people of influence that has been running Gotham from the shadows for centuries.
The secret society SO secret that even Batman had no clue they existed for years, and the hints he did have he dismissed as children’s tales. (Not so much, Batsy.) Their main threat is their army of “Talons”; specifically chosen and trained to be super mega awesome assassins, they are Batman’s version of the Hand from Marvel’s Daredevil. For the most part, they are faceless goons (the Talons) but there are always a few that stand out.
Fun fact: in the comics, the Court originally had Dick Grayson (aka Robin/Nightwing) as a Talon candidate before he was taken in by Batman! Despite now being known by Batman and his allies, The Court continues to operate in secrecy, planning and plotting their next moves. Also, you never know where a Talon will show up to ruin a perfectly nice evening of beating criminals’ teeth out.
There are rumors that we may see the Court of Owls to some degree in the upcoming film, which remains rumors, but they would certainly be a good choice of antagonists for The Batman in a sequel if they are not represented here!
Real Name: Harvey Dent (Gotham District Attorney)
Previously played by: Billie Dee Williams (Batman ’89 – as Harvey Dent), Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever – as Two-Face), Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight)
First Appearance: 1942’s Detective Comics #66
Essential Reads: The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Eye of the Beholder, Face to Face, Two of a Kind (Batman: Black and White anthology)
Although it hasn’t been confirmed, there have been numerous rumors about a version of Two-Face’s origin appearing in “The Batman”, especially with the plot being heavily inspired by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s graphic novel, “The Long Halloween”. If they want to lay the groundwork for future movies, introducing Harvey Dent before he gets his face scarred by acid (courtesy of Sal Maroni) would be a nice way to do that. Although Peter Sarsgaard is playing the Gotham District Attorney in the new film, his character’s name is apparently Gil Colson (not Harvey Dent, allegedly), so this could be either a misdirect, or just rampant fan speculation…
Previously played by: Tim Booth (Batman Begins), Chris Messina (Birds of Prey, 2020)
First Appearance: Shadow of the Bat #1 (1992)
Essential Reads: Batman: The Last Arkham, Knightfall, No Man’s Land
Although there’s not a whole lot to say about Zsasz – he’s a serial killer with a scar for every victim, he does seem like the type of low-level criminal that would fit in nicely in this new dark and gritty take on Gotham City, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he had a cameo, much like his appearance in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’.
Real Name: Unknown
Previously played by: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Jack Nicholson (Batman ’89), Mark Hamill (Batman: The Animated Series, the Arkham Video Games), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker, 2019), Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Zack Snyder’s Justice League), etc
First Appearance: Batman #1 (1940)
Essential Reads: The Man Who Laughs, The Killing Joke, Joker, The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!
Over the years, The Joker has had just as many wildly different interpretations as the Dark Knight himself. In his earliest appearances, he was just a clown-themed psychopath. Throughout the Golden and Silver Age of Comics he quickly became a throwaway, family-friendly prankster for the Dynamic Duo, but that all changed with Denny O’Neal’s “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” which brought the character back to his darker, more murderous antics, which was quickly reinforced by Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke” and Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. Since then we’ve had a number of fantastic portrayals on the big screen in recent years, from Jack Nicholson’s iconic turn as the Clown Prince of Crime to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as a ruthless agent of chaos in ‘The Dark Knight’ to Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbing take in the 2019 film.
Although we’re pretty sure The Joker won’t be making an appearance in this one, we also wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least some kind of mention or reference to the character in some capacity, even if it’s just a Joker card at the end, as the cliffhanger in the final scene of ‘Batman Begins’, but we’ll have to wait and see when “The Batman” hits theaters on March 4th, 2022!
For more great bat-content, check out our recent article on “Every Batmobile Ever?” – and be sure to listen to the Comic Zombie podcast, as well as the latest season of Podcasters Assemble where we’re covering every Batman movie leading up to “The Batman”!
Written by Chris Carroll and Erik Slader