In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Matt Reeves gave us some more details on his plans for The Batman, the Dark Knight's (Ben Affleck-less) future cinematic outing, which Reeves is planning on putting a dark, noir spin on. This part of Reeves's quote is getting some particular attention:
So what exactly are those detective-oriented roots Reeves is talking about? Let's take a look.
From the beginning, Batman is presented to readers as a skilled detective as well as the formidable fighter. However, the very first few Batman stories didn't have many opportunities to demonstrate his detective skills. They were only a few pages long, after all, and mostly focused on action-packed thrills, so there wasn't really room left to develop any sort of intricate mysteries. Not only that, but many of these early tales pit Batman against vampires, mad scientists, and spy rings. Not exactly the right fit for a whodunnit.
As the writing matured and stories became longer, we got to see more of Batman as a detective, and day-in-the-life stories such as "Around the Clock with the Batman" (Batman #12, September, 1942) showed Batman and Robin solving crimes via forensic experiments as part of their daily routine. A number of his Golden Age adventures were straight-up murder mysteries, including the one that introduced the Golden Age version of Clayface. As Batman comics were aimed at younger readers and stories were still around 12 pages long, the mysteries had to be simple and concise. Most of the information Batman uncovered to unmask the culprits could have been found out by a persistent police detective, although his vigilante tactics meant that he wasn't hampered by things like search warrants, probable cause, or bureaucratic red tape. In many stories, Batman adopted Holmes's tactic of using minute details to discover clues or deduce the identity of a criminal.
As of the 1950s, mostly due to the Comics Code Authority, Batman's adventures became more sci-fi oriented, and his grotesque rogues gallery was even more sparingly used. Even so, Batman's talent as a detective was never forgotten, and even in his more fantastical stories, he still made use of his knowledge of forensics or criminal profiling (even if some of it read to me like techno-babble). During the Sixties, Batman was even a member of the Mystery Analysts of Gotham, a collection of lawmen, detectives, reporters, and even a mystery novelist who got together every once in a while to solve crimes.
When Batman returned to his darker, shadow-shrouded roots in the 1970s, we saw a return to murder mysteries, with longer stories giving readers more of a glimpse of Batman's investigations. He's never really backtracked from this, and as modern technology continues to advance, it's become even easier for the Dark Knight to obtain whatever information he requires to solve a case. In addition to his combat prowess, his talents as a detective are among his key contributions to the Justice League of America, allowing him to stand side-by-side with some of Earth's most powerful superheroes. Some of the most critically acclaimed Batman stories of the past two decades, such as The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush, are mystery tales (although how well they pulled off the mystery angles might be up for debate).