The Batman “Artifacts”

In the previous two posts I discussed The Batman in fairly general terms. I stated that overall it was a very good series, in my opinion, and while it did have its shortcomings there were some episodes that stood out. The one that stood out the most was “Artifacts,” which is my favorite mainly because it was so different from all the others.

The story starts in the year 3027. Mr. Freeze has awoken from a thousand year cryo-sleep and he is about to put New Gotham on ice and a group of archeologists are on a mission to find the Batcave… That is if it actually exists.

In 3027 Batman is even more of a legend and a myth than he was a millennium ago. Parents read stories to their children from “Tales of the Bat,” so in a sense he’s a bit like Keyser Sose, only less psychotic.

Once the Batcave has been discovered the archeologists find a collection of souvenirs that Batman has collected over the years. If you know your Bat-history you can make an educated guess as to what they are.

The archeologists also discover some clues as to the identity of Batman, but they do not make the correct deductions. Since they are beneath the former location of stately Wayne Manor they jump to the conclusion that Thomas Wayne was Batman. Not a bad guess… if this was a parallel Earth. They also think that Martha was Batwoman, and that Bruce was Red Robin. Now, Batwoman and Red Robin were never introduced in The Batman animated series, but it is nice to know that the story doesn’t end with the eventual final episode.

There are also some other nods to the Batman canon in the part of the story that takes place in 2027, since that was when Batman’s final battle with Mr. Freeze took place. This isn’t an out of continuity story as much as it is a flash forward of about twenty years. At this point in time Robin is known as Nightwing and Batgirl has changed her name to Oracle… Yep, Barbara is in a wheelchair.

No, none of this was explained and nor should it have been; some things are better left to the imagination. I wonder how many kids asked their parents about Barbara, and I wonder how many of them knew the answer. I wonder how many parents told their kids the truth. How many parents looked up the answer online? And of all the kids who didn’t know the answer at the time, or their parents told them a different answer, I wonder what their reaction was when they found out the truth, and how many still don’t know.

There was also a huge nod to “The Dark Knight Returns.” One look at the far more muscular Batman in the costume that was straight out of the Frank Miller story was all you needed to know that this was not The Batman that we had been watching the past few years. I wish that there had been a Batman animated series set at this point in time. That could have been great.

This all leads to the question: why do so many of us love these stories that are one offs, flashforwards, flashbacks, or out of continuity? Is it just because they are so different and often take unexpected turns? Is it because they play into our “what if” fantasies and stories we created as a child? Or is it because they are so good? I’ll let you decide for yourself.

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