Yes, I’m rethinking Batman. It’s my little slice of internet, I’ll have whatever fun I want.
I like Batman. I really do. He’s a kick ass superhero without the powers. The only problem is he has unlimited resources, being a gazillionaire, and all too often he’s made into a Gary Stu character. The thing is he’s not invincible, and many writers forget that.
So here’s my take — or rather, how I’d build up Bruce Wayne (as a comic reboot or a TV series ala Arrow)
Okay, Bruce is still an orphan of Crime Alley. Let’s add that he’s adopted. Why? Because it opens possibilities for race, ethnicity, sexuality, or even gender identity. Hell, let’s add gender to that list. Make “Bruce” a nickname. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is what Bruce does after his parents are murdered.
He doesn’t want to be a victim like his parents. Alfred, working in Bruce’s best interests, gets him signed on for martial arts classes. After a bit of shopping around, Bruce finds ninjutsu to his liking. He trains until he’s ready for college, so if he’s ten when Crime Alley happens, he’s got eight years worth of training (probably a 2nd degree black belt, at best, probably just 1st depending on the disposition of his Sensei).
Bruce goes to Japan, taking up dual programs in Criminal Psychology and Forensic Science. On advice of his Sensei, he also continues his training at a local dojo. It takes him seven years to complete both programs, in an effort to get the most of his ninjutsu training. He stays an extra year to attain the rank of Sigung (Grand Teacher), before coming back to Gotham at age 26.
His first intent, back when he left for college, is to join the police force, but Bruce is a schmottguy. He does his homework. He realizes that the crime families have got their hooks deep into the city, and comes to the conclusion that he can’t fight the criminal element as Bruce Wayne. Taking the lessons in social camouflage from ninjutsu to heart, Bruce establishes a party-boy identity. He has that seed of an idea of how he wants to fight crime in Gotham, but he doesn’t have a full plan yet.
And he can’t do it alone.
Bruce uses his wealth and his position with Wayne Tech Enterprises to establish a network. Technologists, doctors, informants, the few good lawmen on the GPD (including James Gordon), all of these contacts are established in secret. Some know who he is, others don’t. Money helps a great deal in many cases. This will take about four to six years, during which Bruce assembles the materials he needs to do his “field work” and establish his moniker as Batman.
While he’s got access to amazing technology, most of it stays at the Batcave. He’s got some advanced gear: armor, the zip-line gun, maybe some nightvision or other tech built into the cowl and mask (and yes, he wears a full mask). However most of his gear is simple, low-tech. Shuriken, smoke bombs, flash bangs, and coils of parachute cord to entangle and capture criminals in close combat. He’s more likely to use stealth and infiltration to gather information before making a move, gathering as much evidence as he can so the courts have a better chance to convict. As he hammers the mob, it creates that power vacuum allowing the Rogues’ Gallery to rise up. After several years of this, as he reaches his late thirties, he not only realizes he can’t do it alone, but he can’t do it forever. He’s taken damage over the years, using his medical connections to get patched up. Broken ribs, joint reconstruction, organ replacement (cloned from himself so as to minimize rejection), all done on the sly thanks to his contacts in the medical field. But it still adds up.
Having maintained the playboy billionaire attitude for some time, Bruce Wayne becomes much more philanthropic, taking in not just one ward, but several: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, et al. Orpahns who all suffered at the hands of criminal acts, and also want to see justice. So Wayne takes them in, lets them be kids at first, but he start to train them. In other words, he starts his own clan of shadow warriors.
Now, if I were writing this as a series, I’d probably start this once Wayne had his network setup and he started doing his Batman thing. It’d give an opportunity to explore other characters, like the Joker, Riddler, Gordon, Nightwing, the whole lot. More importantly, it helps establish Wayne’s humanity, even in the face of world shattering weirdness that would involve Supes, Diana or the rest of the Justice League.
After all, superheroes are people too.