This article consists of nothing but Elseworlds spoilers.
While we still haven’t seen Bruce Wayne show up on any Arrowverse show, after the events of “Elseworlds Part 2,” the Arrow chapter of this year’s crossover event, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. The middle hour of Elseworlds introduced Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane, as well as her Batwoman alter ego, in an episode that took place in Gotham City. Needless to say, there were plenty of Batman references to be had.
And while we broke down all of the Batman references and Easter eggs in Elseworlds over in another article, there was far more important stuff happening here. Anyone can drop a bunch of visual cues and pepper villain names throughout Arkham Asylum. After all, the DC TV shows have been packing their shows to the rafters with DC Comics references since at least the second season of Arrow. But “Elseworlds Part 2” actually got work done fleshing out the scope and history of the DC Universe, all while getting to the root of how certain elements of its history can exist without being talked about all the time.
First, and most importantly, Batwoman exists in the “main” Arrowverse Earth, not on Supergirl’s Earth 38 (which would explain why Kara has heard of Batman but apparently nobody else has) or another corner of the DC Multiverse (ala Black Lightning). And while we’ve had Bruce Wayne’s name mentioned exactly once on an episode of Arrow, there has never been any indication that there is a Batman on this Earth. “Elseworlds Part 2” explained it all.
For one thing, it turns out that the general perception of Batman outside of Gotham City is that he’s an urban legend. Specifically, as Oliver Queen puts it, one “concocted by the Gotham City Police to keep criminals scared.” It’s kind of funny that Ollie, in his endless cynicism, is convinced that Batman doesn’t exist, while Barry believes. It’s like the older brother trying to convince the younger brother that Santa Claus isn’t real.
But even then, you’d think that with all the other vigilante and metahuman activity that surrounds Gotham City, we’d have heard some mention of him before. Well…maybe not. The Arrowverse Batman has been missing in action for at least three years, and that Bruce Wayne vanished some time after that. Based on that timeline, it’s possible that Batman’s career was over or winding down by the time the Arrowverse got into full swing. It certainly helps explain why Oliver believes that he’s “the first vigilante,” itself a kind of meta reference to his standing as the superhero that kicked off this particular DC TV universe. But even with Batman’s existence, that doesn’t mean the Dark Knight was the first, either. Legends of Tomorrow has established that there was a Justice Society of America, and while they were more traditional superheroes than vigilantes, we probably had a Wesley Dodds Sandman kicking some ass in the alleys of an Arrowverse city in the late ’30s at some point. Ah, but I digress…any excuse to talk about the JSA is a good one.
In Batman’s absence, Gotham City has started to fall apart (even by Gotham standards). After an unfortunate incident on the street, Oliver tells Barry and Kara, “this is why nobody talks about Gotham City,” a fun nod to the show’s conspicuous absence from most of the Arrowverse’s DC geographic namedrops. Between this, and the state of Wayne Enterprises, which Kate Kane says fell apart after the board of directors undertook “a bunch of aggressive get rich quick deals,” the picture painted for the Gotham City we’ll get to explore during next year’s Batwoman TV series is fairly bleak, full of just enough recognizable Batman mythology to keep fans wondering what will be lurking around the next corner, but different enough from what we’ve seen in other screen incarnations of the Dark Knight to feel fresh and interesting.
And if you want Batman villains, well, Arkham Asylum is still up and running just fine, and we see occupied cells for the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, Clayface, and others. Notably absent from the Arkham Asylum party? The Joker and Harley Quinn. Could it have been a final confrontation with Joker that finally got the Arrowverse Batman to hang up his cowl? As for Harley, we’ve known for some time that she’s in the custody of ARGUS, waiting to run Suicide Squad missions…that we’ll sadly never get to see.
Just as Supergirl teased fans with Superman and Clark Kent from her very first episode but made us wait until her second season to properly introduce the Man of Steel, the door is now finally open to see Batman in live action on the small screen again. Don’t be surprised if the Batwoman TV series takes the Supergirl approach and makes us wait until (at least) season two, though, if not longer. Hell, “The Return of Bruce Wayne” could probably fuel a December crossover all its own.