Warning! Spoilers ahead for Batman ’89 #1!
The events of DC Comics’ new series Batman ’89 confirms that the non-Tim Burton films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin aren’t canon. Tim Burton’s Batman film series has been revived in comic book form, joining quite a few films and television shows that have made the transition to comics recently. For instance, the Justice League Unlimited animated series is being expanded on in Justice League Infinity. By continuing on from where Burton’s films left off, DC has a whole new world of storytelling opportunities, while still sticking to some form of past continuity.
Tim Burton was originally supposed to make Batman Forever as a direct sequel to Batman Returns. However, that never came to fruition as Joel Schumacher was brought on board to direct and Michael Keaton departed the role of Batman. Warner Bros. decided to take the gothic, noir-style of Burton’s films and flip it on its head, adding in a whole lot of quirkiness and a more light-hearted feel than Burton’s dark vision. The stark difference between Burton’s films and Schumacher’s two sequels has always been noted as a strange choice by Warner Bros.
It was never confirmed if the two sequels to Batman Returns were canon to Burton’s films or not. Given the extreme shift in tone, it’s implied that the films are set in a different world. However, the fact that two actors from the first two films carried on in their roles — Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon and Michael Gough as Alfred – muddied the waters as to whether the films were direct sequel’s to Burton’s movies. Nothing was ever confirmed and naturally, speculation regarding the Burtonverse being canon with Batman’s worst sequels ran its course. Now, it seems that DC Comics has finally debunked the decades-long mystery with the release of Batman ’89, which completely ignores those films.
Batman ’89 is a continuation that makes it clear that the events of the latter two films do not take place in this world. Hamm and Quinones’ miniseries follows Keaton’s Batman as he navigates his way around Gotham City during the mid-nineties. Although there is a time gap with Bruce Wayne being a little bit older and his hair going grey, it’s almost impossible that Batman could have gone on the wacky adventures of the sequel films in the meantime. DC themselves have heavily emphasized that it’s a direct continuation set within Burton’s seminal superhero world. The biggest example of this is that Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face is being ignored as they are going for the Billy Dee Williams Harvey Dent, seen in 1989’s Batman. There is also the fact that the Robin based on Marlon Wayans in the comic series is drastically different from Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson in the movies.
It seems that the Burtonverse is its own separate thing, despite fan speculation of the two worlds being linked. This means that in DC’s official continuity, there are now two Batman film canons where there was implied to be one when Warner Bros. initially released the films. Retrospectively looking back at the two sequels post-Burton’s era, it’s totally fine that they aren’t linked considering how cheesy and bad they are, especially compared to the absolute treasure that is the duology of Tim Burton‘s Batman and Batman Returns. Batman ’89 #1 is available in comic book stores and on digital platforms now.