batman

"(1974) #Batman #comics" by Q9F is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Batman may be the most iconic superhero of all time. The caped crusader and his merry band of sidekicks have become instantly recognizable in their 82 year history. While providing a fresh take on these characters has proven difficult for many, the creators of the new webcomic “Batman: Wayne Family Adventures” have done so gracefully.

Since the release of its first three episodes on Sept. 8, DC’s first collaboration with Webtoon has gained more subscribers than its other current run of Batman comics. Headed by writer CRC Payne and artist Starbite, the webcomic focuses on the dynamics of the “Batfamily” through a slice of life format.

The plot summary reads, “Batman needs a break. But with new vigilante Duke Thomas moving into Wayne Manor and an endless supply of adopted, fostered and biological superhero children to manage, Bruce Wayne is going to have his hands full. Being a father can’t be harder than being Batman, right?”

Each member introduced feels as though they have a purpose. Thus far, all four Robins, Oracle, Orphan and Spoiler have made appearances, along with Batman and Alfred Pennyworth.

At the heart of the story is Duke (Signal) who navigates becoming part of the Wayne clan, after being newly adopted by Bruce Wayne. Being a more recent addition to DC — first appearing in 2014 — Duke really gets a chance to shine here as an awkward, but lovable and kind, teenager. In fact, all of the characters get to stand on their own outside of simply being sidekicks to Batman.

The biggest change from typical Batman comics is the tone. While Batman stories are known for their grittiness, “Family Adventures” is light-hearted and bubbly. The worthwhile brightness brings a delightful balance to Batman’s usual darkness. The optimistic look of these characters, who always seem to be in some sort of pain, is refreshing. The hurt and trauma that are so integral to the family are still there. But they get to heal from it, and being a part of the family is part of that process. Much of their family bonding actually involves dealing with their trauma in some interesting ways. For example, they play “Vigilante Bingo,” which one can win points for by completing tasks including starting a superhero team, being trained by assassins or being murdered and coming back to life. Sometimes, it’s nice to get to see my favorite heroes be happy.

What makes the webcomic such a hit is the insight into the daily lives of comics’ most notorious family. There’s something wonderful about getting to see Bruce Wayne deal with the fact that he is none of his children’s favorite members of the Justice League or read about some of the most deadly fighters fighting over the last cookie. It casts a much needed light on how truly human these heroes are.

The success of “Batman: Wayne Family Adventures” could have a serious impact on the world of comics. It seems incredibly likely that DC, Marvel and other comics publishers will utilize the Webtoon platform more. Of course, this won’t mean the end of the traditional comic; but “Wayne Family Adventures” has proved to be a great starting point for newer readers to get familiar with the characters and backstories — something comic creators have struggled with for decades. Additionally, the Webtoon platform is incredibly affordable. Episodes are released behind a paywall every Thursday and are made free after about 21 days. There could also be more collaborations between bigger publishers and smaller creators in the future.

There’s hope this series will inspire more accurate representation in stories moving forward. Dick Grayson visibly looks his Romani heritage, and Damian Wayne, who is of Chinese and Arab descent, has darker features than the rest of his siblings; Barbara Gordon uses a wheelchair, despite regaining the use of her legs in mainstream canon in 2011 — after having been one of the few disabled superheroes for 23 years. It’s fantastic to have creators who understand how important these aspects of identity are to the characters — as well as fans. Batman media has a history of catering toward a White, heterosexual, able-bodied narrative. Here it’s shown that heroes can (and should) be for everyone.

Overall, “Batman: Wayne Family Adventures'' is a love letter to both the Batfamily and fans. It’s witty, heartfelt and a must read for any Batman fanatic, or anyone who could just use something with a little love.