Editor’s Note: As you may have heard the hosts on TBU Comic Cast discuss over the past two episodes, Bruce Wayne as he has been appearing in Scott Snyder’s Batman, may in fact be a clone. Since both Dustin and Terry came up with the theory before Bruce appeared at the end of June’s issue, an article needed to be written up showcasing some of the evidence that led them to this theory. This is their thoughts laid out by Terry ahead of Wednesday’s’s issue of Batman #43.
Let me start by first saying that the argument I am about to make and the theory that I am about to lay out are not what I think will happen or should happen in the current Batman continuity as given to us in several books, but primarily presented by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, but rather what I think is happening. With that said, let me tell you now why I think that the Bruce Wayne we have seen in Batman #41 and #42 and the Bruce Wayne we will see in the upcoming Batman #43 is a clone of the “original” Bruce Wayne which we all know and love.
To fully understand both the theory itself as well as the evidence which I think compels we as readers to this conclusion, you must both understand the mindset of Scott Snyder as expressed in various interviews as well as the particular events as they have been presented in the pages of Batman over the last few months as well. To that end, consider yourself warned for any potential spoilers for recent issues if you have yet to read them and for issue #43 as I will reference, briefly, some preview images for that issue as well.
Let us start of with Scott Snyder and his obsession with death. In too many interviews to cite or link, writer Scott Snyder has talked with no seeming end in sight about the general theme of all of his works being characters dealing with death and their own mortality (or immortality in some cases). One need not look further than Snyder’s original series American Vampire to see this. Now, I have not read the entire run of this creator-owned title, but as one might expect of any story about a vampire, the stories often center around themes of death and immortality. And, based on Snyder’s comments on the subject, this is very intentional. American Vampire is meant to deal specifically with death from this perspective — that of the immortal who both has died in a sense yet cannot die.
However, Snyder’s focus on death as a theme is also very prevalent in his Batman comics as well and is most evident since his time began when DC rebooted their universe at the beginning of the New 52. Just to recap, allow me to briefly list all of the major story arcs in Batman since the beginning of the New 52 as they are all relevant to this point. The first major storyline was the “Court of Owls/City of Owls”. In this light, the theme of “Court of Owls” begins with Batman both investigating a group who had been an old obsession when a younger Bruce was looking for answers about the death of his parents. The story unfolds as it turns out that not only is the Court of Owls more than just a nursery rhyme meant to scare the youth of Gotham, but the group also employs an army of essentially undead assassins to do their bidding. The message here to those following Snyder’s fixation on death is that the Court is seemingly as immortal as their Talons and Bruce Wayne/Batman is so mortal and frail that he is barely a blip on the metaphorical radar of the history of their city.
The next arc was Death of the Family. This is where the symbols and themes of death become less subtle and more apparent. As Joker targets the entire Bat-Family in this arc (all the while toying around with the idea that he knows all of their true identities, including Bruce) the Joker tells Batman very straightforwardly that he sees all of Bruce’s various sidekicks as obstacles that are holding him back from transcending into the realm of mortality. Further, Joker wants Batman to let all of the members of this family go and embrace his own, perverted love for Batman to allow him to help him achieve immortality (which seems to be figurative and symbolic for now but becomes literal in a new way later on). So, we have gone from Batman being limited to his mortality to throwing a way an offer of immortality.
“Zero Year” and Batman Eternal both followed Death of the Family and both of these again deal with the possibility that Batman may be immortal (or eternal as it were) as a symbol. There is even a moment in the pages of Batman Eternal #46 where we get a “future” sequence that Batman sees while dealing with Ra’s al Ghul (a truly immortal Batman villain), where Ra’s asks directly “Is Batman Eternal?” Apart from being just a celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, Eternal was meant to be an examination of the larger Batman mythos and questioning if there is anything new for Batman after 75 years for us as readers and if the in-universe world needs a Batman forever. Zero Year shows us the foundation of the symbol and Eternal ends showing us that people can embrace the symbol of Batman such that it can be eternal.
Finally, in this long road up to the current “Superheavy” arc, was “Batman: Endgame”. In this arc, Joker returns from his disappearance at the end of Death of the Family completely regenerated from the wounds he had sustained (including having a new face). The whole arc teases the idea that the Joker may actually be immortal from chemical similar to those used by Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul. However, the statement that Joker makes in this arc is no longer an offer of immortality, but rather Joker wants to underscore how small and mortal Bruce is by proving that he can be killed while the Joker attains immortality without him. Readers of the arc know that the ultimate ending of this story leaves us with both Bruce and the Joker dead beneath Gotham City putting an end to both of their physical immortality, yet the ending (and the lead-in to the current arc) shows that Batman can live on despite the death of Bruce Wayne. So, again, the themes of death and immortality run throughout.
This brings us to the last piece of the puzzle, and here I will delve more specifically into the plot details which support the theory of the Bruce we are seeing now in the pages of Batman being a clone. For this final piece, we must turn to two separate stories (both short and contained in a single issue) also written by Scott Snyder. This is his “27” story from the oversized issue of Detective Comics #27 and the “Remains” story from Batman: Future’s End #1. Both of these deal with the possibility that an older, weaker, more frail Bruce decides that not only can Gotham not afford to do without a Batman, but that the Batman that Gotham needs should always be himself. After all, who could he trust most to adhere to his own morals and designs. So, the “27” story begins with a familiar scene, Bruce in his father’s study declaring that he shall become a bat. After this moment, Bruce awakens to find an older version of himself who tells him that he is not the “real” Bruce Wayne but is rather a clone of the original with memories programmed up until the point he decides to become Batman. The older Bruce (also a clone) tells the younger version of himself that there have been almost ten generations of Bruce clones serving as Batman since the cloning program began, each with their own sets of allies and villains (we’ll return to this point momentarily). Each new clone of Bruce decides whether Gotham still needs a Batman and the program begins producing another clone who will age to the point of becoming Batman and be programmed with those same memories. The story ends with this new clone deciding to do just that, become another in a long line of Bruce Wayne Batmen.
We can combine this story with it’s counterpart in Batman: Future’s End where we see Bruce Wayne, with many physical augmentations and devices that allow his broken body to continue to serve as the Dark Knight, break into LexCorp to infiltrate Lex Luthor’s secret program to clone Superman in order to steal the technology he needs to start his own clone program to replace himself with… well… himself (see a full summary and review of this issue here). The mission goes well and Bruce returns to meet Alfred in the cave and starts the clone program by instructing Alfred to program the first clone with memories up until the night in the study.
Combined, both of these stories give us a glimpse of Batman finding a way to achieve not only the immortality of Batman as a symbol but also the immortality of Bruce Wayne as the man behind that symbol. I believe the Bruce Wayne we see in the current “Superheavy” arc to be the completion of this arc looking at Batman’s mortality and the possibility of death as written by Scott Snyder. We begin with a question of Batman’s mortality, lead into an offer of immortality that get’s rejected, cycle through the beginning of that symbol and the triumph of the immortality of that symbol, and end both with the death of the man and the survival of the symbol. The only piece that Snyder has given us that has yet to come to fruition is the idea of Bruce cloning himself to gain that literal immortality as both a triumph of Batman in general, but also as a triumph of Bruce/Batman specifically over the Joker as the Joker remains dead but both Bruce and Batman can live forever. Snyder has told us innumerable times via his Twitter and in various interviews that all of his stories have something to do with death, and this theory traces that line as it comes full circle in his Batman arcs.
However, this is only the motivation for my theory that explains why I think it is likely that Snyder would do this eventually. Now, allow me to present the evidence that I think this is happening now specifically. Let’s start with the characterization of Bruce Wayne in the most recent issues of Batman #41 and #42. The Bruce Wayne we see in these issues is obviously actually Bruce Wayne by appearance. He is the exact same as others of Capullo’s drawings of Bruce such that it is easily recognizable as the same person, not to mention that several characters mention him by name (including Jim Gordon, who has taken up the mantle of the Bat for himself under the guidance of the Powers Corporation to ensure the immortality of the symbol). Yet, despite being Bruce Wayne, he seems to have no memory of Batman generally speaking or of having been Batman himself. One might speculate that perhaps he has suffered some sort of brain trauma as a result of the events of Endgame and might have simply forgotten. However, just this week, Snyder said himself that this is not the case in an interview with ComicVine.
CV: A bit part of this issue, as well, is that Bruce Wayne isn’t the Bruce Wayne he once was. Are we dealing with a form of amnesia or is something psychological going on like repressed memories due to shock?
SNYDER: No, it’s not amnesia. It’s meant to be neurological damage in a way that it’s not that he just forgot. Those memories don’t exist anymore, in his head, so his brain has been re-landscaped. There’s nothing he can relearn or reclaim. It’s all a brand new mind.
CV: So everything “Batman” is gone and he’s just regular old Bruce Wayne now?
SNYDER: Yeah, exactly. It’s gone and he doesn’t have the skills. He doesn’t have the abilities. He’s just a normal guy. He’s not going to be in an alley and have flashbacks to his parent’s death. It’s not going to be like he gets mugged and starts fighting and doesn’t know why. He really is just a new person.
So, Bruce does not have amnesia but is also still Bruce Wayne. He is both dead and “just a new person.” All of this seems to come together to support the theory, especially when added to some preview images released ahead of Batman #43 that show Bruce barely remembering Batman at all much less his public dealings with Batman through his company. Additionally, we see Alfred discussing this “new” Bruce with Clark Kent in which Alfred says that this Bruce is “the only true Bruce Wayne to ever walk the Earth” to which Clark response wondering “where is the old Bruce Wayne?” Given what we’ve seen so far, it would make perfect sense for the explanation for this new Bruce Wayne to be the start of the clone program we’ve seen before.
For more proof, I want to look back to those clone stories to find what might be some further hints and connections to this story. In the story from Detective Comics #27 specifically, we see several things which serve as direct connections to the current continuity.
In one panel we see a Bluebird costume in a display case in the future Batcave and we know now what we didn’t know at the time, that Bluebird would be the masked identity that Harper Row has assumed in the Batman universe. We also see various incarnations of mechanized Batsuits which might be easily dismissed if one of them which we see in another display case didn’t look eerily similar to the Batsuit we see Jim Gordon wearing now in Batman and other titles. We even get what appears to be a glimpse of this suit in action fighting what could almost be a mechanized Talon suit from the Court of Owls. We also see someone that could very well be Duke Thomas as Robin following what also looks like Jim Gordon’s Batman Beyond-esque suit from when he is outside of the mech suit. Another possible clue is a villain display case which reads “Harvest” and could be a hint to the current villain, Mr Bloom. These may just be random additions in these panels, but I have come to believe that Snyder rarely does anything without purpose and intention.
The only potential problem for this theory, given the evidence we’ve seen, is that the Future’s End story happens “Five Years From Now.” However, this particular Future’s End story does not mention any of the events of other issues dealing with Brother Eye, the fallout from the war on Earth 2, etc. So, if you can manage to ignore those four little quoted words, there is no reason that the story we see presented there couldn’t happen at any given time frame.
So, to summarize, I believe that the Bruce Wayne we are seeing in the current issues of Batman is a clone of the original Bruce Wayne. I believe this to be the case first because this inclusion would allow Snyder’s trend of analyzing themes of death and immortality in his Batman stories to come full circle and second because I believe there are clues in the earlier clone stories which hearken to what we are seeing in current issues.
However, what I do not believe is that this should be the case, at least not right now. For me, while I genuinely believe this theory to be true, I think the timing is very wrong for this at the moment. I suspected a while ago that this would be how Snyder would bring Bruce back to the cowl before he eventually left the book to work on something else. However, for this to be the case right now seems to both cheapen the death of Bruce in the conclusion of “Endgame” and cheapen what could be a very interesting story about Jim Gordon by making the Jim story be the opening act to the real story about Bruce.
Either way, if this theory proves to be true, as it has been presented thus far, it does not feel to be the organic evolution of the story that I had expected but rather something that is being forced into the current story as a way for DC and Snyder to hedge their bets in case readers didn’t like the Jim Gordon arc. So, I present to you The Case for Cloned Bruce Wayne but I do so while also hoping that my suspicions and theories are just that and no more.