Opinion

HBO Max dropping Batman: Caped Crusader is actually good for DC fans — here’s why

It’s the perfect opportunity for Batman fans to prove David Zaslav wrong

With so many bad decisions coming out of HBO Max, it can be hard to keep up. From abandoning the Batgirl movie to missing Sesame Street episodes to disappearing cartoon series, the scorched-Earth, cost-cutting tactics of new CEO David Zaslav have left heads spinning. Shockingly, among the latest of the cuts was the highly anticipated Batman: Caped Crusader, a noir-inspired cartoon exploring Bruce Wayne’s early days as Batman.

What happened — TVLine reports that HBO Max will no longer air the show but that production has not ceased and that the series would be shopped around for buyers. This might sound like a bummer, it may actually be good for fans of DC properties.

While a lot of the details on Batman: Caped Crusader have yet to be announced, Inverse did sum up what we already knew about the series last spring. The creative team at the helm includes J.J. Abrams, The Batman director Matt Reeves, and Batman: The Animated Series producer Bruce Timm. And while Reeves and Timm have overseen other Batman properties, Batman: Caped Crusader is intended to be its own thing. The goal of the series is to “once again reinvent Batman and his iconic rogue’s gallery with sophisticated storytelling, nuanced characters, and intense action sequences all set in a visually striking world,” the producers told The Hollywood Reporter in January 2022.

The promotional poster for Batman: Caped Crusader. Warner Bros. Discovery

We also know that Ed Brubaker — who has written a lot of Batman comics in his career — is serving as the show’s head writer. And we have a peek at the artwork, which seems to be heavily informed by Bill Finger’s original design, as well as a bit of the aesthetic of Batman: The Animated Series thrown in for good measure.

While Abrams, Brubaker, and Reeves are all impressive names in their own right, the involvement of Bruce Timm adds something that is a little extra special. By bringing in Timm, DC was directly tying this series to Timm’s landmark 1990s cartoon. The producers even cited Batman: The Animated Series as a “benchmark” to build off of. Although it’s not set in the same continuity as the old series, the strategy seemed to be similar to what Marvel is doing by making X-Men ‘97, in that they’re purposefully banking on fans of these nostalgic series to return for this new show.

But, by deciding not to air Batman: Caped Crusader themselves, Warner Bros. Discovery seems to be signaling that it doesn’t care about bringing back those old fans for some piddly 10 episodes. While the company continues to invest in a sequel to The Batmanjust today, the co-screenwriter was announced — the strategy seems to be “Go big, or go home” when it comes to DC properties.

This is obviously bad news, but not just because Batgirl won’t see the light of day or because there won’t be a fifth season of Young Justice. It essentially says that we can’t have other, experimental types of DC content. While Harley Quinn has been proven to be a hit, it’s hard to imagine a risky show like that being greenlit today under the present thinking of management. The same can be said of 2019’s Joker as well, which was widely expected to fail but became a surprise hit.

One of the few images from Batgirl, a $90 million HBO Max movie scrapped by Warner Discovery.DC

However, unlike Batgirl, Batman: Caped Crusader is not ceasing production. The series will continue to be made and, with such massive talent onboard, it will likely find a new home. This is not only good news for those who want to watch the show, but it also presents an opportunity to prove present management at Warner Bros. Discovery wrong. If, say, Netflix or some other streamer ends up having an unexpected hit with a project that Zaslav tossed to the side, it’ll be yet another reminder of the wrong-headedness of his current strategy.

Over the past month, Warner Bros. Discovery's stock price has fallen. The loss of 300,000 subscribers to HBO Max was also recently reported. Meanwhile, angry fans and creators alike have taken to social media to announce their displeasure. Surely, Warner Bros. Discovery expected some of this and hoped to weather the storm. In the case of DC properties, it’s likely also hoping to show a more focused direction to a notoriously hit-and-miss company in recent years.

However, if the company continues to struggle under current management and we DC fans tune into Batman: Caped Crusader in droves, it might help prove how wrong all of this thinking is. Even better, just like Bruce Timm (along with Tim Burton) did in the 1990s, he can lead the way for more interesting, experimental — and, yes, sometimes smaller — DC projects in the future.

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