The Best Batman Comic No One Ever Talks About

'The Dark Knight Returns.' Yawn. 'The Long Halloween.' Snooze. 'Batman: Blink' is what Matt Reeves should read before making the next Batman sequel.
Batman Blink Best Comic

Welcome to Pitch Meeting, a monthly column in which we suggest an IP ripe for adaptation, then assign the cast and crew of our dreams. In this entry, we’re pitching the next Batman sequel using the deeply underrated Blink as its backbone. 

When discussing Batman comics, the same books come up repeatedly: The Dark Knight Returns, Year OneThe Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, The Long Halloween, and The Court of Owls. With good reason, they’re all exceptional takes on the Caped Crusader. But once you’ve worked your way through them, where do you turn? Probably Birth of the DemonThe Black MirrorEgo, Batman Incorporated, Knightfall, and Dark Victory.

Drilling your obsession even further, you’ll uncover Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Gotham by Gaslight, Hush, Under the Red HoodBatman Universe, and The Best Man. There are 83 years of Batman comics, and I’m sure there are loads of stories I neglected to mention that others are currently shouting through their screens. But, I’m also willing to bet that most of you are not screaming Batman: Blink at the top of your lungs. And its lack of representation on Batman listicles bums me out.

Batman: Blink remained uncollected for years. Originally published in 2002 across Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight issues 156 through 158, Blink introduces DC Comics readers to Lee Hyland, a blind grifter with the supernatural ability to see through the eyes of others. When he accidentally bumps into a serial killer on a Gotham City sidewalk, he’s pulled into a vast conspiracy involving snuff films and the rich bastards who consume them. Hyland becomes the Dark Knight’s best link to solving the case, and a reluctant partnership is formed.

Imagine David Fincher directing a Batman movie, or 8MM’s Joel Schumacher desperately trying to get serious after his dayglo dalliances with Batman & Robin.

The Batman: Blink Creative Team

The actual brainchild behind Blink was the late, great Dwayne McDuffie. At this point in time, he was still struggling with the dissolution of Milestone Media, which was an alliance of African-American writers and artists who published such titles as Static and Hardware under the DC Comics umbrella. While the line was cut short in 1997, Static found a second life as the popular animated series Static Shock in 2000, and that led McDuffie to write and story-edit on other cartoons like Justice League Unlimited and Ben 10.

One reason why Blink may not appear on lists alongside Arkham Asylum and The Long Halloween is that the art is much more traditional with its illustration and paneling. Despite some radical covers supplied by Brian Stelfreeze, the interiors are somewhat basic. Not bad, just not Dave McKean or Tim Sale. Penciled by Val Semeiks, inked by Dan Green, and colored by James Sinclaire, Blink operates mostly with close-ups and tightly secluded action sequences. The script traps the readers in the heads of its two characters, Batman and Hyland. McDuffie does not want us to wander too far away from what they’re thinking.

The plot feels rooted in the novels of Thomas Harris and the film and television adaptations that followed the success of The Silence of the Lambs, with a good dash of The XFiles and maybe even Quantum Leap thrown in. However, I would love a Batman movie sequel to embrace McDuffie’s conflicting interiors. Blink tells Batman’s point of view from some unknown distance in the future, with Bruce Wayne describing the events through journal entries. Meticulously lettered by Kurt Hathaway, these captions reveal Batman’s troubled hindsight as an expert crimefighter grappling with the foolish blunders he assumes throughout his investigation.

In contrast, Hyland’s perspective merely bubbles into panels from seemingly nowhere. He talks to the reader, guiding us through his grifts, not picking pockets, but bank accounts from checkbooks written in offices under the assumption that no one is watching. Somewhere on their daily journey, these marks unsuspectingly pick up Hyland as a mental hijacker. A week later, their savings are barren.

Return Batman to his Hardboiled Roots

DC Comics

Narration is nothing new to cinema, but it’s sorely missing from comic book movies, especially superhero movies. Batman is a hardboiled noir character. Look to his previous film offerings, from Tim Burton to Christopher Nolan to Matt Reeves, Humphrey Bogart’s go-to genre seeps through every shadow cast. But where is Bogart’s brutal Sam Spade judgment and doubt? Comic book readers experience it every month on the page, through the captions and thought balloons, but movie audiences are deprived.

Guy Ritchie was onto something with his Sherlock Holmes movies. He crafted action sequences where we saw and heard the detective work his way through the violence. “First, distract target, then block his blind jab…Discombobulate…employ elbow block…traumatize solar plexus…dislocate jaw entirely.” That may or may not be how you like your Sherlock, but that is absolutely a Batman beatdown.

What we read in Blink is a Batman stumbling into grotesque, unfathomable barbarity. He’s used to knocking the Joker’s lights out. That’s a madness he can mop in his sleep. Here Bruce Wayne must confront billionaires who don’t put their money into Batmobiles and Batarangs, but into brutality as erotic entertainment. His obscenely wealthy social circle have their own kinks, and while he’s off massaging his beneath a cape and a cowl, they’re doing theirs during cocktail hour. By selfishly, stubbornly ignoring his institutional riches, and the caste it shackles him to, Bruce Wayne turns his eyes away from a tremendous, ordinary evil. His neighbors are ghouls, feeding off the poor they’ve piled under them, the poor Batman pretends to protect every night.

Lee Hyland is equally lost in his secret identity. Gotham can’t alter its procedural landscape to accommodate Hyland’s needs, so he doesn’t worry when he plays peekaboo inside its citizens. They won’t help him, so he’ll help himself. Batman doesn’t like it, but who is Batman to judge. He’s just another criminal.

Batman: Blink flirts with ideas challenging the billionaire superhero’s motivation and our societal apathy, but Dwayne McDuffie doesn’t linger too long on them. Working on the corporate flying rodent is not the same as screaming injustice in the pages of Static or Hardware. McDuffie is writing an action comic; the punching always takes priority.

Matt Reeves’ Batman: Blink, Please

DC Comics

Matt Reeves, though, has already gotten away with a lot in his films. Cloverfield, Let Me In, and his two Planet of the Apes flicks churn with institutional frustration. We imagine The Batman will work in a little applicable anger, too, with The Riddler (Paul Dano) exposing Batman’s hypocrisy, and possibly using Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) as Bruce Wayne’s dark reflection. When the inevitable sequel fires off, we should swerve and see Batman: Blink used for its spine.

We’ve seen most of the heavy hitter rogues on the big screen now, and a few multiple times. Please, no more Joker stories. We’ve witnessed very little supernatural quirk, an element that is very much present in the Batman comics. Reeves loves weird; let’s get weird with Batman.

Blink affords a different direction for the Dark Knight detective. It chains the reader to Batman’s experience, explaining his impulses through Bruce Wayne’s written word. The comic confronts the character’s doubts and unmasks his double standards regarding criminal activity and the Batman brand of justice.

We do not need to alter the crew for the adaptation either. Matt Reeves, stay right where you are. Keep Greig Fraser as the DP, Michael Giacchino as composer, James Chinlund as production designer. The same goes for the cast. Robert Pattinson, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright — don’t move. Sorry, Zoë Kravitz, there’s no Catwoman in Blink, but it wouldn’t hurt to find a way to bring her back either.

Lee Hyland is the only role we need concern ourselves. He’s a skinny, outwardly meek-looking man who controls an invasive power. His gift injects a quiet superiority into his character. Robbing folks presenting no qualms, but murder is an action beyond his wobbly morality. When Hyland gains insight into this fat cat evil slithering through Gotham, he acts, putting him in league with Batman.

A Blink adaptation requires a Hyland who walks easily between creep and sweetie. Mark Rylance, seen most recently in Don’t Look Up, could slink in those loafers. His characters frequently showcase a compelling balance, where righteousness and vexation grind against each other. Hyland is a fidgety crook who finds solace when pilfering in secret. Rylance would excel in that delicate unease.

A Forgotten Batman Comic Wields More Power Than a Classic

DC Comics

Batman: Blink is not an obvious choice for a franchise sequel. It’s not an obvious choice for anything. It’s a comic barely remembered, but one worth revisitation and reevaluation.

Again, Bruce Wayne is 83 years old. His first theatrical adaptation occurred in 1943 in a movie serial starring Lewis Wilson. There are thousands of comic books featuring Batman, and before we know it, there will be thousands of movies and television shows starring him, too. We need to dig deep into the collection to unravel a new angle.

Blink is not the revolution that The Dark Knight Returns was, but that comic has gone through the Hollywood chopshop too many damn times. It’s practically stripped of any impact it once had as every Warner Bros. filmmaker has peeled off a layer for their purposes.

We should pull away from the usual rogues. We should seize the paranormal and drag it back into Gotham. And captions, yes, we demand those in the movies. Wall-to-wall Bat-narration. It’s the only tool missing from the film franchise’s utility belt, and Batman: Blink is our chance to crack open the cowl and root out what’s going on inside Bruce Wayne’s noggin.

Dwayne McDuffie, Val Semeiks, and Dan Green deliver a story where Batman dissects himself. Through the journal, we encounter a detective investigating his own actions along with a particularly nasty crimewave. As frequently as he confirms his decisions, he second-guesses them. He could have done better. He can always do better. Batman: Blink is about taking this adventure and applying it to the next one. Because, in Gotham, there’s always another killer up the alley.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)