Michael Keaton’s Batman History Explained as Official “Burton-Verse” Sequel Looms

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Michael Keaton's Batman without his cowl in 'Batman Returns' (1992)

Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Michael Keaton’s Batman will return. But how many times has he already appeared?

Despite being followed by several Bruce Wayne/Batman actors in the decades following his departure (Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson), Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight remains one of the most popular versions among fans.

In fact, it’s reasonable to say that the main appeal of last year’s DC crossover movie, The Flash (2023), was Keaton, who finally returned to the iconic role (or a Multiversal variant of the character, at least) after 31 years following his exit after Batman Returns (1992).

Michael Keaton as Batman, looking at the Bat Signal from 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

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

Michael Keaton’s Batman Is Back

Now, a brand-new sequel that will see the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman is officially underway. Earlier this month, io9/Gizmodo revealed that a “direct sequel” to Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) is being penned by Star Wars author John Jackson Miller.

Batman: Resurrection (2024) follows the events of the 1989 film to find Bruce Wayne/Batman dealing with the aftermath of The Joker’s death. Many other characters from the film and the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns, are also back in the fold.

Michael Keaton’s Batman appearances are suddenly stacking up, so let’s explore his history as Gotham City’s Caped Crusader.

Michael Keaton’s Batman History Explained

Batman (1989)

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

Michael Keaton made his first appearance as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), the dark, gritty, and quasi-gothic big-screen iteration of the Caped Crusader, which was the second theatrical Batman film following the Adam West-starring Batman (1966).

Batman (1989) sees the titular crime-fighter go up against gangster Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), who becomes the Clown Prince of Gotham, The Joker. The iconic villain is expected to make some sort of return in Batman: Resurrection.

The film also features the characters Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl), Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough), and James Gordon (Pat Hingle), all of whom return in the upcoming novel. Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent has since returned in the Batman ’89 comic books.

Related: Is Michael Keaton Getting Another Solo ‘Batman’ Movie?!

Batman Returns

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

Michael Keaton’s “Batman Returns” in the aptly titled sequel, Batman Returns, which saw the actor team up with visionary director Tim Burton once again, following Beetlejuice (1988), in which Keaton stars as the titular “bio-exorcist”, and, of course, Batman (1989).

This time, Batman faces two “Rogues Gallery” villains: Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Danny DeVito), who becomes mayor of Gotham City, and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), a murdered secretary brought back to life by otherworldly forces to seek vengeance.

A third Batman Returns villain appears in the form of the manipulative and murderous wealthy Gotham City industrialist Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken), who also returns in the upcoming novel, Batman: Resurrection.

Related: 5 Actors Who Could Play Batman In James Gunn’s DC Universe

Batgirl (Canceled Warner Bros. Movie)

Leslie Grace as Batgirl in the canceled DC movie
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Before donning the cape and cowl once again for the DC Universe Multiverse movie, The Flash, Michael Keaton had already returned as Bruce Wayne/Batman in DC’s Batgirl, which starred Leslie Grace as the titular Gotham crime-fighter.

Unfortunately, seeing Barbara Gordon take on the lesser-known Rogues Gallery villain Ted Carson/Firefly (Brendan Fraser) just wasn’t meant to be, as the film was famously and controversially canceled by Warner Bros. Discovery in August, 2022.

JK Simmons reprised his role as Barbara’s father, James Gordon, in the film, having played the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and the two Justice League films, including the Zack Snyder cut. But it’s unlikely we’ll ever see any cut of Batgirl.

Related: After Seemingly Exiting Hit Netflix Series, Jenna Ortega Becomes New Batgirl

The Flash

Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne saying "You wanna get nuts?" in 'The Flash'
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

While Batgirl was mercilessly thrown on the scrapheap by Warner Bros., we saw Michael Keaton’s Batman return in The Flash via the DC Multiverse (although it’s impossible to tell if he’s the “Burton-Verse” version — but let’s hope he isn’t, seeing as he dies in the film).

Leading the action is the “Scarlet Speedster” Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), who must join forces with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) and Kara Zor-El/Supergirl (Sasha Calle) after he meddles with time travel and opens the gateway to the Multiverse.

The Flash was a DC disaster, grossing $271.3M against its $200–220M budget. It also came under extremely heavy fire from fans and critics for its poor CGI and weak storytelling. Still, it’s fun to see Keaton back, along with a few other Bruce Wayne/Batman cameos including the late Adam West (via stock footage/CGI), Ben Affleck (from Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League), and even George Clooney (from Batman & Robin).

The film also features Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman cameos from Henry Cavill, Nicholas Cage, and Christopher Reeve.

Related: The Batman Finally Returns in Gritty New Trailer

Michael Keaton’s Batman Has Already Returned Off-Screen

Batman ’89 Comics

Michael Keaton's Batman in 'Batman '89' Comics
Credit: DC Comics

In 2021, DC Comics released the comic book series Batman ’89, which follows on from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.

What’s particularly fun about this series is that it captures the likeness of all the actors from the Burton-Verse films, including Michael Keaton (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent/Two-Face), and Michelle Pfeiffer (Selina Kyle/Catwoman).

The first series, which is titled Shadows, ran for six issues. The second series, Echoes, was released in August, 2023 and is ongoing. Batman ’89 is written by the screenwriter of the first two films, Sam Hamm, with illustrations by artist Joe Quinones.

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

Batman: Resurrection

Batman (Michael Keaton) holding The Joker (Jack Nicholson) by the collar on a rooftop in 'Batman' (1989)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

Batman: Resurrection takes place directly after the events of Batman (1989) to find Bruce Wayne dealing with the aftermath of The Joker’s death, with many survivors of the Clown Prince of Gotham’s chemical weapon (Smylex) attack on the city crowding the hospitals. But as Bruce tries to track down a seemingly new threat, he wonders whether he has a future beyond defending Gotham against madmen.

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

Are you excited to be seeing more of Michael Keaton’s Batman? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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