Upcoming ‘Batman’ (1989) Sequel: Every Returning Character Explained

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Michael Keaton's Batman in the Batwing in 'The Flash'

Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

After 32 years, we’re finally getting another sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), which is one of many upcoming Batman sequels that will see beloved iterations return.

Batman has an incredibly long history in film. Many people think that Tim Burton’s gothic 1989 superhero movie was the first time the iconic hero appeared in movie theaters, but that honor goes to the 1966 silver-screen adaptation of Batman (1966 – 1968). The film saw Adam West reprise his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman opposite Burt Ward’s Dick Grayson/Robin.

Burton followed up his gritty flick with Batman Returns (1992), but it marked the final outing for Michael Keaton as the titular superhero. However, that 29-year period gave us several other Batman movies: Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and The Batman (2022).

Robert Pattinson as Batman in front of a wall with "Lies" written on it
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Related: Christian Bale’s Dark Knight Returns in New Batman Trailer

You could say that Michael Keaton’s Batman has been lost in the sands of time, but last year, he returned to appear in the DC Universe movie The Flash (2023).

While it’s more of a Multiversal, cameo-infested adventure, his version of Bruce Wayne/Batman is now finally set to return in an actual sequel to the two Tim Burton movies. Star Wars author John Jackson Miller is writing a brand-new novel titled “Batman: Resurrection” (2024) with publisher Penguin Random House.

However, instead of acting as the third installment, it takes place between Batman (1989) and Batman Returns — in fact, we already have an off-screen follow-up to Batman Returns in the form of DC Comics’ ongoing “Batman ’89” (2021) graphic novel series.

Earlier this month, Miller explained to io9/Gizmodo why he decided not to follow those comics, saying, “Whereas the DC ‘Batman ’89’ comics are set after the Tim Burton films, I chose to make ‘Batman: Resurrection’ a direct sequel novel to [the 1989 movie].”

“Batman: Resurrection” will be the sixth time we’ve seen Keaton’s Bruce Wayne/Batman appear in Batman media. In addition to his version of the Dark Knight, the book will see the return of many characters that span both the movies. So, let’s see who’s returning to Burton’s Gotham City…

Bruce Wayne/Batman

Michael Keaton firing his grapple-hook in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

As the upcoming novel “Batman: Resurrection” takes place in the aftermath of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), we’ll be seeing a pre-Batman Returns Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne/Batman. This time, he “is forced into action, prompting a partnership with a charismatic scientist to help solve the health crisis,” per Penguin Random House’s official synopsis.

We’ll also be seeing a more introspective side to Keaton’s Caped Crusader as it says that Bruce “wonders whether there may someday be a future beyond skulking the city’s rooftops or the cavernous halls of his stately manor.” This echoes Bruce Wayne’s predicament in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, in which he’s played by Christian Bale.

There are also echoes of the third and final Nolan film, The Dark Knight Rises, which sees Christian Bale’s crime-fighter (who recently returned in a new trailer) become completely obsessed with saving his home city, as the synopsis for “Resurrection” says that Bruce “finds himself drawn deeper into Gotham City’s turmoil than ever before, fueling his obsession to save the city.”

Several actors have played Batman: Adam West (the ’60s series and movie), Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), George Clooney (Batman & Robin), Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, both versions of Justice League, and The Flash), and Robert Pattinson (The Batman and the upcoming The Batman Part II).

Related: Confirmed: Michael Keaton’s Batman Will Finally Return in Direct Sequel to 1989 Film

Alexander Knox

Alexander Knock (Robert Wuhl) talking to Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Gotham City reporter Alexander Knox (played by Robert Wuhl in the 1989 film) also returns in “Batman: Resurrection,” in which he works closely with Commissioner James Gordon to investigate a string of arsons caused by criminal gangs who worship the late Jack Napier/The Joker (Jack Nicholson).

Commissioner James Gordon

Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) being seduced by Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) in 'Batman and Robin'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Pat Hingle’s Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon, who also returns in the new book, appears in all four movies in the original Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series — although Batman Forever and Batman & Robin are technically no longer canon with the first two.

In film, the character of Commissioner Gordon has since been played by Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight trilogy), Ben McKenzie (the TV series Gotham), JK Simmons (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League), and Jeffrey Wright (The Batman).

Related: ‘Batman’ Goes Full R-Rated Horror in Brand-New Installment

Vicki Vale

Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger using the grapple-hook in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

In live-action film, Kim Basinger has the honor of being Batman’s first love interest. Photojournalist Vicki Vale becomes embroiled in Gotham City’s dark underworld when she starts investigating Batman sightings, which sees her become romantically involved with Bruce Wayne but also puts her in the path of The Joker.

Fortunately, Vale survives Batman (1989) and returns in the upcoming novel. It sounds like she and Bruce are still together, however, the synopsis states that Bruce’s obsession with protecting Gotham has “driven a wedge between” them, which might explain why she’s nowhere to be seen in Tim Burton’s theatrical follow-up, Batman Returns.

The Batman movies are similar to the James Bond movies in that there’s usually a fleeting love interest who doesn’t return for the sequel. There’s Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) in Batman Returns, Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) in Batman Forever, and Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaal) in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Max Shreck

Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) talking to Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) in 'Batman Returns'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Batman Returns‘ wealthy industrialist Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken in the film) will return in “Batman: Resurrection.” Walken is one of three villains in the 1992 sequel alongside Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), so it’s fitting that he’s up to no good in the upcoming book.

The synopsis says, “Remnants from The Joker’s gang are leading wannabes fascinated by his bizarre mystique on a campaign of arson that threatens the city — even as it serves greedy opportunists, including millionaire Max Shreck.” In Batman Returns, Shreck murders his secretary, Selina Kyle, who, in turn, becomes the vigilante Catwoman.

Related: The Batman Finally Returns in Gritty New Trailer

Selina Kyle

Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle in 'Batman Returns'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Max Shreck isn’t the only Batman Returns character returning in “Batman: Resurrection.” Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle, Shreck’s secretary, is also back in the fold — although, chronologically speaking, this is her first appearance in the timeline as the book is set before the 1992 film. As such, Selina doesn’t yet have her deadly alter ego, Catwoman.

With Shreck causing problems for Gotham City, it makes sense to have Selina Kyle in the mix (without the kitty, of course), but it remains to be seen how her character will be utilized. She may amount to nothing more than a small cameo, which might be the case for many returning characters. Still, it will be interesting to see her in pre-feline mode.

Michelle Pfeiffer was the fourth live-action Catwoman, following Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt, who appeared opposite Adam West’s Batman in the ’60s. She has since been followed by Halle Berry (Catwoman), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Camren Bicondova and Lili Simmons (the TV series Gotham), and Zoë Kravitz (The Batman).

Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) talking to Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) in the Batcave in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Like Pat Hingle’s Commissioner Gordon, Michael Gough’s Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and guardian, also appears in every film in the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher-verse. And you’ll be glad to know he’s back in “Batman: Resurrection.”

Like other Batman characters, Alfred Pennyworth has been portrayed by many different actors over the years, including Michael Caine (The Dark Knight trilogy), Sean Pertwee (the TV series Gotham), Douglas Hodge (Joker), and Andy Serkis (The Batman).

Related: DC Announces Official Sequels to Beloved ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman’ Films

Jack Napier/The Joker

Jack Nicholson as The Joker in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

We may have witnessed the death of The Joker in Batman (1989) after he fell from a great height while trying to escape the city by helicopter, but according to the synopsis for “Batman: Resurrection,” he may have “somehow survived.” This means he could “still have the last laugh against the people of Gotham City” even after death. Sounds like classic Joker.

That said, it sounds like it’s his influence that has survived. “The Joker is dead, but not forgotten,” it says, adding, “But even after death, the Clown Prince of Crime’s imprint can be seen in more than just the pavement,” and that “survivors of exposure to The Joker’s chemical weapon Smylex continue to crowd Gotham City’s main hospital.”

Jack Nicholson was the second live-action version of The Joker, following Cesar Romero in the ’60s. Since Nicholson’s portrayal, the role has been played by several actors: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Cameron Monaghan (the TV series Gotham), Jared Leto (Suicide Squad), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker and Joker: Folie à Deux), and Barry Keoghan (The Batman).

Joker (Heath Ledger) waiting to be interrogated in 'The Dark Knight'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

It remains to be seen if any other iconic villains from Batman’s Rogues Gallery will appear in Miller’s book. But should the likes of Bane, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, and The Riddler show up, they will not be the versions seen in the two Joel Schumacher movies, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, as those films are no longer canon with the Tim Burton movies.

“Batman: Resurrection” will be released on October 15. It’s now available to pre-order from AmazonPenguin Random House, and Bookshop.

Are you excited about the Batman (1989) sequel? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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