Every now and then you stumble across a project you never knew existed, and now desperately wish did. In this case, it’s Batman ’89 by Joe Quinones and Kate Leth, pitched to DC Comics as a direct continuation of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns.
Batman ’89 was intended to run alongside other DC digital-first offerings that expand on iconic live action versions of their characters, like Batman ’66 and Wonder Woman ’77. While both of those are fun, and allow writers and artists to explore avenues that their source material never got a chance to, this proposed Batman ’89 is unique in that it pulls in elements that almost made it to the screen in various forms (although Batman ’66 did manage to adapt an unused Two-Face script by none other than Harlan Ellison).
Here’s how Quinones described the project on his blog when word of this first surfaced back in 2016:
“our story would have picked up the threads left by Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. We would have seen the return of Selina Kyle/ Catwoman as well as introductions to ‘Burton-verse’ versions of Robin, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. It also would have showcased the turn of Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent into Two-Face.”
So, what’s really cool about this (aside from the obvious), is that Quinones and Leth would have shown off a few things that were clearly already in the minds of the filmmakers, but that never made it to the screen. Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s first Batman movie, and screenwriter Sam Hamm initially intended Two-Face to be the villain of Batman II. It wasn’t to be, and we ended up with Batman Returns, instead.
This is a pretty cool visualization of the Williams Two-Face, though. The less said about the Two-Face we eventually got in Batman Forever, the better.
You can also spot the auto-mechanic jumpsuit wearing young man who would have become Robin, who was present in early Batman Returns drafts. Marlon Wayans had actually been cast in the role, before the part was cut from the movie.
The other designs for characters we never saw in the Burton movies (remember, this is Burton only, they clearly wanted no part of the Schumacher films) aren’t based on any kinds of plans that were already in place, but that Batgirl costume looks perfectly Burton-esque. You can see more sketches over on Mr. Quinones’ blog.
Maybe Batman ’89 was a little too quirky and Burton-esque for DC, but it certainly would have found an audience. Although if someone were to greenlight Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner on Superman ’78, I would probably end up purchasing copies for half of my friends.