SCARRED BATMAN: ALAN BRENNERT’s Surprising, Lasting Contribution to Superhero Mythos

The writer explains how a 1982 Brave and the Bold page has become a Batman trope across 40 years…

I recently re-read the classic The Brave and the Bold #197 and came upon a page that showed Catwoman’s reaction to seeing all the scar tissue on Batman’s back. I paused because that’s become such a thing over the years and was surprised to see a reference to it in the Bronze Age. Turns out, as fan-favorite writer Alan Brennert posted on Facebook this week, that was indeed the first time that had even been mentioned — and slowly, but surely, it’s become not just a Batman trope, but a superhero trope.

Dig Alan’s post, which explains it all — reprinted with his permission. (I added the art.)


Released Dec. 1982


In 1982, I wrote a Batman story, “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” — superbly illustrated by Joe Staton and George Freeman — telling the story of the romance between the Golden Age (Earth-Two) Batman and Catwoman. At one point in the plot, Batman’s shirt is set afire and he has to strip it off. When Catwoman looks for burns, she sees instead (though we do not, since this is comics in 1982) a back full of disturbing scar tissue. Batman shrugs it off: “Oh. That. Occupational hazard. Fifteen years of fighting will do that to a person.” This was the first time, I believe, that it was suggested that any DC hero had any kind of permanent injuries (OK, except for the Doom Patrol, but you get my point).

Some years later in 1996, Alex Ross in Batman: Black and White #4 created a vivid, poignant painting of what Joe, George, and I had not shown directly: Bruce Wayne’s back filled with a painful tapestry of scars. It’s become a justly famous image.

From Alex Ross’ Mythology

In 2002, in Batman: Hush, Jeph Loeb cleverly echoed the scene from my script, but using the modern-day Bruce and Selina. A nicely done homage.

In 2008, the idea/image appeared for the first time on screen, in the movie The Dark Knight, with Christian Bale’s back badly scarred in one shot. When the DVD came out, I received an at-first-perplexing payment from DC with the notation, “DARK KNIGHT DVD.” Huh? I later learned that as part of the extras on the disc, DC had included that page from “Autobiography,” and sent me a reprint fee for it. Page rate, I seem to recall. (I assume they did the same for Joe and George.)

Last week, my wife and I tried to watch Samaritan, a grim, violent superhero movie starring Sylvester Stallone as a superhuman. And as the movie’s kid protagonist watches from his apartment across the street, he sees Stallone, in his own apartment, take off his shirt, revealing… a back full of nasty scars.

At this point I turned to Paulette and announced with a smile, “I have created a superhero trope.”

My little trope started life in words, was expanded upon in a painting, reached the movie screen, and has now jumped the Bridge of Archetypes out of the DC Multiverse and into the vast, infinite MegaOmniMetaverse or whatever the hell you want to call it. God knows where it will appear next, but go, little trope, be fruitful and multiply, and make Papa proud.

Seriously—this may be my most lasting contribution to the superhero genre, and it tickles me greatly. (But it still couldn’t get us to finish Samaritan, which was way too grim and, frankly, dull, for our tastes.)

(Text copyright 2022 by Alan Brennert.)


— My 13 Favorite BATMAN Stories, by ALAN BRENNERT. Click here.

— 13 COOL THINGS Written by ALAN BRENNERT. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. First of all, that cover is fantastic! Second, I LOVE the Staton/Freeman art, and the very DickSprang-y Batman!

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  2. It’s too bad he couldn’t finish “Samaritan” – it is definitely a dark & violent movie (and it doesn’t need to be), but it does happy ending & a satisfying plot twist that you can see coming from miles away – but still fun when it’s finally revealed.

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  3. I love that story! If DC had put out a comic written by Alan, pencilled by Joe, and inked by George about the E-2 Batman after that issue, I would’ve bought every issue!

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  4. First Blood, which was also released in 1982, includes a scene with a deputy taking issue with the scars on Rambo’s back. Connection or coincidence?

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    • Coincidence. I handed in my script for B&B 197 in Spring of 1982 (the issue was published on 12/28/82); Rambo: First Blood was released on October 22, 1982. I never did see the movie. Interesting, though, Stallone obviously likes his characters scarred!

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  5. This is one of my favorite stories ever!
    I also would have bought a comic featuring the the ongoing stores of Earth 2 Bruce and Selina.
    It would have been a great mini series!

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  6. This is one of my favorite Batman stories. And Tales of the Batman: Alan Brennert, is a great, great collection of stories!

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  7. One of the great Batman stories of all time. Alan Brennert’s work on the Golden Age Batman/Catwoman mythos added so much to the Bronze Age. I urge everyone to seek out DC’s hardcover collection of Alan’s Batman for some truly outstanding reading of the finest, most timeless quality.

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