by Tony Di NizoThere is no denying that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of this year’s most anticipated films. And to the delight of many fanboys, the movie appears to be steeped in comic book lore. While this excites hardcore members of the fanbase like myself, the average moviegoer might be intimidated by the amount of information you need to know to get every single reference in the film. Do you want to impress your friends and family on your Batman/Superman know how? If so, this article is for you! Below, I have listed steps for the ultimate guide to preparing for the film.
Step 1: Watch Man of Steel (2013)
This may seem like a given, but it is an incredibly important step, and one I feel should be taken first, mainly because the ending of Man of Steel is a crucial component to the plot of Batman v Superman. That film’s conclusion holds the inciting incident—the spark that triggers Batman’s anger towards Superman. Also, it is the first film in Warner Bros.’s new DC Extended Universe, so it also serves as a good introduction to this new incarnation of Superman. While Man of Steel may not be the best film ever, it serves as a good reimagining of Superman and will introduce you to the tone that the rest of the DC Extended Universe will presumably follow.
Step 2: Read The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
The Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. It completely reinvented and reenergized the comic book industry and continues to inspire people to pursue comics as a career. One of those people inspired by Frank Miller’s seminal work is none other than Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman. Snyder has previously adapted a Frank Miller graphic novel with his film 300, and he has always talked about how much he loves The Dark Knight Returns and how he admires what Miller did with the characters. Snyder’s admiration is so great that he brought Miller onto the project in its early stages to offer some input on the new Batman. In other words, it’s no surprise that Ben Affleck’s Batman is incredibly similar to the one depicted in the graphic novel.
Out of all the steps I will list for you, this one is arguably the most important, and here’s why: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is filled with images and story elements from The Dark Knight Returns. Everything about this new interpretation of Batman comes straight out of this book. Two out of the three Batsuits in the film—the regular and the armored version—are practically ripped from the pages of the graphic novel. Another crucial element taken straight from the novel is where Batman find himself in his career. The Dark Knight Returns follows an older Batman forced out of retirement to fight a new evil. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he’s forced out of retirement to fight Superman.
The Dark Knight Returns also contains what is considered to be the best Batman/Superman fight in all of comics—I don’t want to say why, because any spoiler would be a disservice. However, after the fight ends, Batman delivers an incredibly iconic speech, and I’m willing to bet a lot of money that Ben Affleck will deliver a very similar monologue in the film.
The graphic novel introduced the character of Carrie Kelley to the Batman lore as well. Kelley was the first female Robin and Jena Malone, who has had a close relationship with Snyder, has been spotted on set rocking some red hair. This doesn’t exactly confirm that she’ll be playing Kelley, though, because another notorious member of the Bat Family, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl), is also a redhead. She’s a great choice for either character, so we’ll just have to wait and see who she’ll actually be playing. Personally, I’m calling Batgirl—just putting that out there…
DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation released a two-part film adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns a few years ago. It is incredibly faithful to the source material, and if that’s not enough for you, Peter Weller (that’s right, Robocop himself), is the voice of Batman!
Step 3: Watch The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest (1997)
This is an excellent animated movie, portraying a team-up between the titular heroes as they battle the Joker and a portrayal of Lex Luthor that is accurate to the comics (*cough *cough* I’m looking at you, Jesse Eisenberg). The film also features the character of Mercy Graves, Luthor’s personal bodyguard who is portrayed in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by Tao Okamoto. This is a great way of seeing how these characters interact with each other, because everyone in this movie will be showing up in either Batman v Superman or in Suicide Squad later this year.
Step 4: Read Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood (2013)
After being around for 70-plus years, the most iconic female superhero will finally be making the jump to film in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you are intrigued by the character of Wonder Woman and want to learn more about her, I cannot recommend Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood (from DC’s New 52 relaunch) highly enough. On top of being an excellent read, this book completely reimagines the character’s origin story and mythology for a new generation. Written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Cliff Chiang, the book reads incredibly well and is a wonder to look at (See what I did there?). Because this is the most recent version of the character, it is probably very close to what we are going to get on screen, and this retelling of her origin is what they are most likely going to explore in future films.
Step 5: Read Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (2013)
Since this film is subtitled Dawn of Justice, it only makes sense that the final step would be an introduction to the Justice League. I recommend reading Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin from the New 52. Now, this certainly is not the best Justice League story out there, but it features the exact same roster we will be getting in the Justice League movie next year, and the film will most likely base its plot off this book. I also have a hunch that the entire Justice League, or at least most of the members, will show up in Batman v Superman in costume, and that the filmmakers will use this book as a guide.
That’s it! These five steps will make sure that you are more than ready for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After reading these comics and watching these films you’ll have a great foundation and understanding of these characters. However, the Easter Eggs rarely stop at the titular characters. The trailers for the film have also alluded to past stories that will be explored in this or future films. Below, I have listed what you should read if Doomsday or the vandalized Robin suit caught your eye…
Batman: A Death in the Family (1988-1989)
The trailers for Dawn of Justice have shown a graffitied Robin suit on display in the Batcave. Any comic book fan will tell you that the image is alluding to the storyline, A Death in the Family. In this story arc, the second Robin, Jason Todd, is brutally beaten to death by the Joker, and the Joker-like graffiti on the suit in the trailers certainly confirms this. It is a very important story in Batman’s history because it marks the character’s first major failure—a failure that haunts him for the rest of his life.
I would also recommend the book Batman: Under the Hood (2005), because the story follows Jason Todd as he not only returns from the dead, but also seeks revenge on the Joker. This storyline is also rumored to be the basis for the solo Batman movie that will be directed by Ben Affleck planned to come out in the near future. Additionally, DC made a fantastic animated version of the book called Batman: Under The Red Hood, starring Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, Jensen Ackles as the Red Hood and John DiMaggio as the Joker. Out of all the DC animated films I have seen, this is by far my favorite.
The Death of Superman (1992)
If you’ve seen the latest trailer for the film, you’re probably wondering who that giant gray monster is at the end. That was a very different version of the character Doomsday. Doomsday is a one-hit wonder in the comics, serving as the antagonist in the storyline, The Death of Superman. Not only is this story a good read, it will also give you the true origin of Doomsday. He is much cooler than a General Zod zombie mutant, I can assure you. This book also features (obviously) the notorious death of Superman. I highly doubt the Man of Steel will bite the dust in Batman v. Superman, but the fact that Doomsday is strong enough to kill Superman in the comics makes him a logical choice of antagonist for the hero to require backup to take on. It’s a great way to lead to the Justice League.