‘Batman Unburied’ Explained: Creator Talks Twists, Possible Season 2

How do you breathe new life into one of the most adapted comic book characters of all time, which already has countless iterations? Naturally, you do a podcast on him.

“Batman Unburied,” a scripted audio series created and produced by David S. Goyer, which stars Winston Duke (Bruce Wayne/Batman), is unlike any Batman story to come before it.

“It’s not completely bingeable and it didn’t all just drop, so we deliberately messed with the narrative,” Goyer said. “You can go halfway through the story and not know who the real bad guy is – which was really fun.”

Just days after its two-episode premiere on May 3, the superhero audio drama skyrocketed to No. 1 on Spotify’s U.S. podcast charts – knocking out “The Joe Rogan Experience” along the way. “Batman Unburied” has remained a staple at or near the top of the charts as its five-week run now comes to an end.

Thanks in large part to its simultaneous release in nine markets around the world – Spotify’s biggest podcast launch to date – the audio series also quickly became a global hit. After its debut, “Batman Unburied” won No. 1 in Mexico, India, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Brazil, and Italy.

Goyer, a prolific screenwriter who helmed a collection of comic book adaptations — “Blade,” “Batman Begins,” “Man of Steel,” and more. – was relieved to see that people are open to a brand new version of the Caped Crusader.

“What’s been so beautiful about the response is that so many people have embraced it. I’ve always thought Batman should be for everyone,” he said. “The acceptance of it just blew my mind on every level. There was no stepping back in terms of casting, which was invigorating and kind of made me feel better about humanity in general. Also, just that we could tell this kind of story and that [the fanbase was] open to, to some extent, playing with the barrel.

Unburied Batman.

(Spotify)

The original “Batman Unburied” story features shocking revelations, deserved twists, and dramatic cliffhangers every step of the way. It takes big risks and experiments in ways that previous adaptations of the character haven’t – in terms of casting, storytelling, and aural support.

The majority of the main cast are actors of color – including Gina Rodriguez (Barbara Gordon), Hasan Minhaj (the Riddler), Lance Reddick (Thomas Wayne) and Emmy Raver-Lampman (Poison Ivy). This both intrigued and worried Duke when he was approached to play the lead role.

“The story of the comic world is that they don’t usually like a lot of change, and they can be very resistant to things that look like dramatic, drastic change,” he said. “For me, I had some anxiety about ‘Are racist feelings about keeping Batman ‘pure’ in this way going to show up?” None of that really surfaced. [The response] was overwhelming support, intrigue and acceptance. It’s one of the things that really warmed my soul deeply.

The emphasis on diverse representation went hand-in-hand with the larger story they wanted to tell, and Duke said he drew on his own experience to inform his performance as Gotham’s favorite vigilante.

“What is going to be my entry into this character? The more I started watching it, the more I started to see a lot of really good corollaries that I could relate to,” he said. “What does it mean to completely distrust the justice system and feel like the only way to change it is to take it into your own hands? What would it mean to have to shoulder the burden of saving an entire society with your blood and sweat? I said, “It feels like the experience of black Americans…it’s a really cool way to make it possessed by Blackness without being didactic and judgmental about it.”

Goyer added that if “the audience feels like they’re being preached to while being fed their entertainment, they can very quickly turn it off…it’s like a spoonful of sugar with your medicine. If it’s too preachy, the result completely backfires.

Once he signed on to “Batman Unburied,” Duke set out to break down barriers with his performance and show that a black version of the Batman character can and should exist.

“I’m a Caribbean American male, and it shows in my voice. So when I think about my family dynamic as the Wayne family, that’s what I lean on and that’s what you get,” he said. “You get all of this inherent, lived experience inside of this body which is this black experience that comes through this voice. That’s how you transfer these narratives into the future and through a platform where people can connect anywhere in the world and receive them. It changes the whole game.”

“Batman Unburied” differentiates Bruce and his Bat-inspired alter ego – a split personality that is historically linked – in a way that hasn’t really been done before.

In early episodes, audiences are introduced to a version of Bruce who is a medical examiner instead of a billionaire playboy. Listeners are also led to believe that his parents are still alive and because of this he was never forced to put the cowl on.

Duke, who is best known for his roles in “Us” and “Black Panther,” saw this as an opportunity to make the character more accessible than he has been in the past.

A man in a blue sweater against a white wall.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

“I saw this as an opportunity to make Bruce a very close guy, even though he comes from a wealthy family.”

— Duke Winston

“I saw this as an opportunity to make Bruce a really close guy, even though he comes from a wealthy family,” he said. “He’s just a guy who has an overbearing family who’s really trying to figure something out and traumatic things are happening to him in real time. The classic narrative is that traumatic things have happened to him before and now he’s either stone cold , or he’s all accumulated those calluses.

Play the Dark Knight on the other hand? It was much more practical for the accomplished actor.

“For me, it was very utilitarian…I always saw Batman as a complete theatrical performance,” he said. “He has to change his voice – Bruce Wayne, as we know him, is Elon Musk. He’s so famous, he’s so public, and he’s so demonstrative of who he is. He has to put on some kind of show so people can’t recognize that whoever they think Bruce Wayne might be is here beating people up at night.

Goyer’s creation is a significantly darker version of the hooded crime fighter. He said if it had been done live, “it would have been rated R”.

Due to the lack of visuals, the immersive sound design shines throughout the series. “Batman Unburied” is packed with authentic soundscapes that sound – in the best possible way – weird and haunting.

The metallic clank of a Batarang, the howl of passing police sirens, and the chilling crackle of the Reaper (Sam Witwer) eating an organ from one of his many victims.

It’s also much more focused on Batman’s mental psyche than Batman’s physical brutality. It replaces action settings with mystery, suspense and horror.

This is where Hugo Strange (John Rhys-Davies) comes in.

Spoiler Warning: The rest of this story will discuss plot twists from the “Batman Unburied” season.

“The idea of ​​using it was in the first paragraph I wrote because I was thinking, ‘How can we not take this opportunity and put Bruce on the couch and have Hugo [Strange] try to break his will? “Said Goyer. “Let’s abduct Bruce Wayne and take him completely into the past in this horrible way and break him down and break his will. Because we have to get that information out of his head. Let’s psychoanalyze him and let him literally and figuratively face his demons.

After a well-executed bait midway through “Batman Unburied,” it’s revealed that the real puppeteer pulling the strings behind Hugo Strange and the Harvester – the first villains – is none other than Poison Ivy.

Goyer said that since he was a kid, he always had an affinity for secondary and tertiary members of the Rolodex of Batman villains, which is why he ultimately chose the handsome eco-terrorist as his main antagonist.

“I was really excited because we took on a bad guy [Poison Ivy] which historically hasn’t been taken seriously and part of the challenge was, ‘What can we do with her? And can we make her cum and scary?

What makes Poison Ivy an increasingly complex character – aside from Raver-Lampman’s compelling performance – are her complicated motivations.

“Can we do with our Poison Ivy what in the movies Chris [Christopher Nolan] done with the Joker or with Scarecrow or something like that,” Goyer said. “One of the things I’ve always tried to do in my stories is to make the bad guys, their plans, their desires or their perspective on the world – no matter how scary – do [the audience] say, ‘Oh, part of that makes sense; I don’t completely disagree with them. That’s what makes them interesting.

A man rests his hands on his head as he sits on an orange bench.

Once he signed on to “Batman Unburied,” Duke set out to break down barriers with his performance and show that a black version of the Batman character can and should exist.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Duke loved the choice to cast Poison Ivy as the big bad, noting that her psychological approach to violence makes her an exciting opponent for Bruce. It is also particularly relevant for modern times.

“I would say she’s sort of the most current and applicable villain for today. She is a very beautiful allegory of what we are facing right now, which is not knowing what to trust, and that, in turn, translates into a lack of self-confidence,” he said. he declares. “That’s what [Hugo Strange and Poison Ivy] been trying to do to Bruce all this time. Breaking his confidence in himself and hopefully breaking his will through this and completely destroying what he thinks his memories are and what his idea of ​​reality is. That’s what makes her so dangerous. Batman can take a punch; you can break his back.

So what’s next for ‘Batman Unburied’ and will there be a second season?

That seems likely, considering the series is the product of a recent partnership between Spotify, Warner Bros. and DC Comics and serves as the origin of their future audio universe.

Goyer said he’s definitely ready to dive back into “Batman Unburied,” on one condition.

“[Spotify has] definitely asked if I’m interested in doing more,” Goyer said. “My answer is what I said to Winston: if he wants more, I want more, because it’s been a very nice experience. … Hopefully we’ll have the ability to play in that space again.

Which begs the question: Is the ‘Batman Unburied’ star on board?

“I’m very much up for more, I can tell you that,” Duke said with a smile. “We just kind of dipped our toe in that water. … If we go ahead, it’s just a really cool opportunity to really dive into this pool.

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