On the left is the individual Batman comic. Batman, as remade by Stan Lee. That is issue 1 of 12 of Stan Lee's "Just Imagine!" comics, all illustrated by different folks. Issues 2, 3, and 4 are Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, and all 4 of those issues are collected together into the paperback graphic novel seen on the right.
That book on the right was what most certainly caught my eye at the mall's bookstore. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Green Lantern, all remade by Stan Lee. Remade - re-imagined - like never before. These "Just Imagine!" comics all came out from 2001 to 2002, and I read them in early '03.
I thought I knew it all about Batman. 1989 Batman, with Michael Keaton. Batman Returns. Forever. Batman and Robin. 1992 Batman animation. 1996's New Batman/Superman Adventures. The animated movies, like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. 60's Batman, with Adam West. I thought I knew it all. There is not much new left to say with Batman, I thought at the time, in 2003. There was no Batman Begins yet, no Christian Bale yet, just a memory of the most recent movie being 6-year-old Batman and Robin, with so many years spent anticipating a sequel that seemed to never come. The trailer for 2002's Scooby-Doo had a fake-me-out trailer appearing to be like Batman at first. But for years: nothing.
Stan Lee's version of Batman quickly became one of the most stimulating comic books I'd ever read. Nothing in it could be predicted. After reading it, I knew, for sure: this was the newer, higher level, in the decade after the 90's. The Wayne Williams Batman, dressed simply like a giant bat, with one area of flesh around his mouth revealed, deserved to become a monthly comic book. A cartoon show. An animated movie. A live-action movie. A video-game. It deserved some expansion.
Instead, garbage like the 2006 "The Batman" cartoon made it to the air, and the Wayne Williams Batman - the most seriously-depicted character since Dick Tracy - remained entirely unknown. Back in March 2003, I wondered if the future of comic book movies - then just taking off and becoming hot - might ever get to that higher level where Stan Lee's Batman, Wayne Williams, could become a movie. In 2003, the world was not yet at Batman Begins, and so it would take until after the whole Dark Knight trilogy for the world to really be ready for the Wayne Williams Batman.
Because in March 2003 I just could not help but to spend 4 few months writing a whole movie script based on Stan Lee's Batman comic. But I took it further. The entire courtroom trial scene, shown in four panels in the comic book, was stretched out into several scenes in the script version, with new details like a scene where Wayne meets and speaks with his lawyer, a public defender. I wanted to be sure the movie script would reach a real page length of at least 120 pages. It ended up at 190.
After I was done with this script, I spent the next 12 months (on and off) writing a second script, which incorporated Stan Lee's Robin, Issue 6 of Just Imagine!, into the background of the story. Then I wrote a third script entirely of my own content, with characters that were remade from regular Batman's villains, reworked to fit Stan Lee's Batman.
After having everything in the world of comic books cemented the same for so many years, it was interesting, to say the least, to read through Stan Lee's new depiction of 12 comic book characters. Wayne Williams becomes Batman. Superman has blond hair. Wonder Woman is Mexican, and is connected to Aztec mythology, instead of Greek. The Flash is now a teenage girl, and Green Lantern is a teacher who discovers a nearly limitless power source. Next, all five join together to become the Justice League. Robin. Sandman. Shazam. Catwoman. Aquaman. Crisis. At the end of Crisis, in which one of them transforms into the Atom, all the characters are united as the Justice League for All (not just "of America"). In a world where all the cool characters had already been around for decades, the Just Imagine! comics definitely shook the world of comic books awake again. I just could not believe that so few people were talking about this in the public mainstream.
So from March to July 2003 I just couldn't help but to write the movie script version of Stan Lee's Batman. But what would I call it?? "Batman" would not work. "Stan Lee's Batman" would not make a logical movie script name either. How about: "Batman Legend: Wings of the Night."
The basic story: Wayne Williams, after having his father killed by some criminal, is framed for armed robbery and sent to prison, during which time his mother dies of stress-related heart complications. In prison, Wayne Williams trains himself to become stronger, and is released for saving the life of the warden during a riot. Outside, he turns himself into costumed figure Batman, who haunts the city of Washington, D.C. at night in search of criminals. Finally, he tracks down and stops criminal Handz Horgum.
Major changes I made:
1 - Changing the setting of Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. On one hand, this sounds like DC Comics. I wrote several in-dialogue references to Batman's connection to D.C. On the other, I grew up seeing a lot more of the D.C. area than I had New York (a few days when I was 7) or L.A. (I'd never seen it before).
2 - Expanding the roles of background characters Korgo and Steamroller to become bad guys working for the villain Handz. Thus, there became 3 villains in one script, 2 of them working for the main one, Handz.
3 - Changing the name of Handz' girlfriend from Nita to Shellie.
4 - Adding a new character named Robert James, police detective obsessed with tracking down the secret identity of Batman - to give the story more of a "detective" presence, and to establish some sort of Commissioner Gordon character equivalent to Stan Lee's Batman's world.
5 - I also added a touch of the 1960's Batman by establishing a Batphone, a red phone with one black button dialing out to one particular cell phone owned by Wayne Williams, for private communication between the Batman and detective Robert James. The two exchange information despite this being illegal.
6 - Instead of becoming Batman and immediately going after the bad guy, Handz, he instead now spends a long stretch of time simply as Batman guarding his city. Going on patrol. Beating up small-time thugs and criminals. His long-term goal is to find the villain, like DareDevil's ultimate goal of taking down the Kingpin in 2003's DareDevil movie, which I had really liked. But he spends a while just going after small-time crime first. By the end of the script, he tracks the villain down.
7 - I made Batman more of a master of disguise, like in the 90's Batman animations, where he would use everything from wigs and glasses to false moustaches, which really goes back to Batman from the 40's. I even used the sentence Man of a Thousand Faces.
8 - In my version, Bat-Mite exists, as a fat man in his 40's wearing a bat-like costume that clearly is too small on him. One of the "imitator wrestlers that swarm the ring", something that happened in the Batman comic. So, a man with no powers, an imitation wrestler, just a reference to Bat-Mite, and thus concludes Bat-Mite.
I wrote all this in 2003. At the time, the most recent Batman movie was still 1997's Batman & Robin. Nobody expected a reboot movie to be made - Batman Begins was interpreted by many, at first, to be a prequel to the previous films. 2004's Batman vs. Superman crossover movie was hyped up, yet never seemed to come out. My Batman Legend movie script would give a significant role to a new Gordon-like character, but, when Batman Begins and the Dark Knight came out, they both used Gordon heavily. Also, Gordon was shown as a police detective for some time in Batman Begins, an ironic similarity to my Robert James character. Thus, no longer would I be the first one to establish a significant written movie role for a Gordon character - he had just been around for a second or two in previous Batman films, to thank Batman for saving the day. Batman Begins and the Dark Knight both did a phenomenal job of redefining Gordon, however, they did not include the red phone from the 60's Batman.
Basically, since the four Batman movies from 1989 to 1997 had skipped the origin story movie, "Batman Legend: Wings of the Night" was a VERY different approach by showing Wayne Williams' origin story in becoming Batman. I was afraid readers might not like this. Also, I was afraid of how complex the Wayne Williams Batman's origin story really is. It's no longer one sentence - his parents gunned down in front of him when he was a kid. Wayne Williams Batman takes until age 17 to start seeing the story go into motion, but it really takes years for him to be Batman, and many, many sentences for the core story to be told. His father was a police officer, shot by a criminal. Wayne was set up by Handz to go to prison. His mother died of heart complications. That alone is complex enough to be a very different approach to Batman, both in the comic book written by Stan Lee and drawn by Joe Kubert, and in my movie script version I was writing. I added even more complexity, adding, for one example, a dream sequence where Wayne's pet bat, who I named Batty, sews a costume of himself that Wayne wears and flies off with. He wakes up, and decides to sew that costume in real life.
Batman Begins came out in 2005, after I had written 3 scripts. Batman Begins established the Batman origin story movie, of course. It made the story of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman 7x more complex than the one sentence of his parents being gunned down in front of him. Just the death of his parents is shown in much more elaborate, complex detail in Begins: Bruce Wayne insisted on leaving the theater because he was afraid of the men dressed as bats; they reminded him of falling into the well; the killer, Joe Chill, was just desperate for money; Bruce Wayne's father told him not to be afraid; Joe Chill got away with murder in court; someone else killed him instead of Bruce; it already grows complex, with many steps between the beginning point of regular Bruce Wayne and the end point of costumed Batman. Many more of the in-between steps are shown in Begins: Lucius Fox shows Bruce the Applied Sciences division; before that, he comes to disagree with Ra's Al Ghul's belief of how to fight injustice; Bruce starts a fire and escapes. With Batman Begins, the story of Batman is incredibly complex, so the Wayne Williams Batman story should now be a lot easier for the world to digest.
Batman is in jail in Batman Begins!! A hint toward Stan Lee's Batman? Most likely not, but . . . possibly!
So in 2003, enjoying the Batman comic so much, and feeling like a movie script needed to be written, I wrote the whole thing in 4 months, to 190 pages. Now that I was 15, I had a more realistic style of writing. No aliens, no outer space, no time travel, must be realistic, feel like real life, and feel realistic to how things work.
In the Just Imagine! comics, the 6th story was "Robin", who is connected to Stan Lee's Batman. Robin is the main character, and Batman is in the background. I decided to work that Robin story into my second movie script, but with Batman as the main character, and Robin a little more in the background. After a while, I decided to combine the Stan Lee concept of a Chinese Robin with the Frank Miller 80's concept of a girl Robin, to make a Chinese girl Robin who is knowledgeable in martial arts. It makes a lot of sense after a while.
So, in my second script, Wayne Williams Batman goes up against a new re-imagining of Scarecrow and Manbat - Marbas and Nocteria - while meeting Chinese girl Robin.
In my third script, 3 villains emerge, re-imagined from Two-Face, Killer Croc, and Poison Ivy, while a third good guy is established with anti-hero the Black Icicle, who seeks to kill criminals. Batman suffers amnesia.
A 4th script, which I started writing but never finished, involved a Joker remake, named Class Clown, to fight Wayne Williams Batman. A man wearing white, red, and blue makeup, as hard as that sounds to believe, and a red ball nose that honks when squeezed.
5th script, which I never wrote past a summary, would involve 20 years later, Wayne Williams' son taking over.
Now I think I will rewrite the first 3 scripts - in both outline and script form - and put them up online for people to read for free. Just imagine . . . a movie based on Stan Lee's remake of Batman. Those comics, published from 2001-2002, were astounding to discover. I wrote this movie script in 2003, and wrote the sequels for the next 2 years. This was before Batman Begins, years before the Dark Knight. Would my version ever get published? No. But it's free to read, because hey, why the Hell not.
As I learned in 2001, at age 13, the Internet is already filled with movie scripts, when you look for them.
1983's "The Batman" had Rupert Thorne as a crime boss, a character missing from all the later 90's movies and even the entire Dark Knight trilogy, which itself had a way of pitting Batman against crime bosses and costumed villains alike, and also had a way of catching up on characters thus far missed, like Lucius Fox. 1983's The Batman pitted both Batman and Robin against Rupert Thorne and the Joker alike. "Have you heard the one about the barber? It will just kill you!" was the Joker's sense of humor here.
Even considering the 4 Batman films from 1989 on, there was a Batman 2 script, which would evolve over further drafts into Batman Returns. "Look! It's the Batman!" one cop says. "No shit!" the other yells back at him, in this script that nobody ever really got to see. In the story, the Penguin and Catwoman, still the villains, are looking for an artifact in a series of artifacts, to which another piece had been owned by Bruce Wayne's parents, which was the reason they were targeted for death. Jack Napier was sent to kill them and get their raven artifact back. The story from Part 1 is suddenly multiplied with an un-heard of twist! I guess like Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Speaking of which, before the 2002 Spider-Man came a whole slew of scripts never produced. According to legend, there was a movie script in the 80's where a scientist injects himself with spider DNA and becomes a monster, in a movie that just would not have that same feeling as 2002's Spider-Man. A 1994 Spider-Man almost happened, written and directed by James Cameron, and it was so close to happening that the movie's two villains, Electro and Sandman, were left out of the 90's cartoon due to the movie, which never ended up happening. Electro showed up in the final season, as pretty much the be-all villain, and Sandman's significance was shifted to lesser-known Hydro-Man instead. But in the Spider-Man movie scripts, he fights Doc Ock and Weiner, and tries to win over Mary Jane. In an earlier script, he's dating Liz instead. Liz Allen is the girlfriend of Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 alone could have several drafts with several choices of villains. The Kingpin. Morbius. Lots of other stuff.
Two ideas that came from 1994 Spider-Man into 2002 Spider-Man - the spider that bit Peter Parker being genetically altered, instead of radioactive; and the organic webbing that comes from Spidey's wrists. These were two cool ideas in that movie script that found their way into 2002 Spider-Man. Similarly, with the Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner's girlfriend Betty Ross was only a scientist in the 90's cartoon - not a scientist in all the other versions - but that twist was so fitting that it found its way into the 2003 Hulk, and that subsequently found its way from 2003 Hulk to 2008 Hulk. Otherwise, in the comics, she's not a scientist like him.
Similarly, in the Dark Knight, there is a moment where Harvey Dent is asked if he is Batman, to which he responds that if he were sneaking out every night, somebody would have noticed by now. I seemed to notice the same moment in the year-2K movie script, "Batman: Year One", a brutal take on Batman, where at some point Harvey Dent is interrogated by Gordon about being Batman, and he says that same line, maybe not at a dinner, but in his in-office interrogation.
In that script, Gordon HATES Batman at first - calling him a "typical terrorist" - but over time he discovers that Batman is the good guy. Batman is inspired COMPLETELY by the heroic and selfless attitude of Gordon, who, in the "Year One" script, is pretty much the white knight of Gotham, like the Dark Knight's Harvey Dent. Meanwhile, there are no costumed villains in the entire script, as it is an origin story only. No costumed villain has a plot to throw Gotham City into ruin. The overall villain seems to be Commissioner Loeb, a corrupt commissioner keeping a tight grip of corruption on everyone except Gordon, who refuses to be anything but heroic. This movie never came out in theaters, and yet it did have some impact on the Dark Knight, I noticed. "If I was sneaking out every night, I think someone would have noticed by now." That line of dialogue went straight from one version into the other. Therefore, maybe the heroic, white knight role of Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight came from how the Batman: Year One script treated Gordon.
Actually, I still say Batman Begins should have been called Batman: Year One, the same name as the 1988 comic and unproduced script - the word "one" would be in the name of a movie intended to be the first of a trilogy, and it would also be more exact to the comics. Anyway, you get the idea. The Internet is filled with movie scripts that have never been produced, so why not write a script based on Stan Lee's version of Batman?
So happy late 90th birthday to Stan Lee! Your comics kick ass!
- Last updated: 6/9/2014
- Web-site made: 3/21/2014