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EXCLUSIVE: Steve Englehart's The Batman Script Treatments From 1986

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

Comic book writer Steve Englehart (The Laughing Fish, co-creator of Star Lord) once wrote two script treatments for what would become the Batman 1989 movie. For years, he's claimed that the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton film was based off of his uncredited work, but scarce details were known about it...until now! Thanks to an anonymous fan, we can exclusively break down Englehart's treatments, with comic and movie images to help visualize it, before we answer the question: just how much, or how little, did Steve Englehart's script treatments carry over into the final film?

Thumbnail art by our co-host Zachary Jackson Brown.


0:00 Episode Introduction & A Brief Recap of The Many Scripts Leading Up to Batman 1989

As Ben mentions, Steve Englehart worked alongside penciller Marshall Rogers and inker Terry Austin on the seminal 1970s run known as Strange Apparitions (though he calls it Dark Detective 1). We covered this last year in our Halloween episode and compared it to Batman 1989:

We covered the 10 year script journey to making Batman 1989 and briefly covered what we could find on Steve Englehart's treatments here:

Michael Uslan's Return of The Batman treatment (not to be confused with Bob Kane's The Return of Batman) has not been released, but Uslan shares a few details about it in his memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman.

If you want to read the Tom Mankiewicz script for The Batman, check out the first draft from June 1983 here.

The second draft of Mankiewicz's script (January 1984) cuts Penguin, features a different fate for Joe Chill, and has a different ending for Bruce and Silver St. Cloud. (Ben references this script later in the ep with Englehart having a similar beat of young Bruce climbing up the chimney). You can read it here.

Here's Julie Hickson and Tim Burton's Batman treatment dated October 21, 1985 (available if you have a Scribd subscription).

All of the above scripts were covered in "The Batman Script...From 1982" episode above.

Next in the order comes Steve Englehart's treatments in 1986, which we cover in this episode.

After Englehart's treatments comes Bob Kane's comedic masterpiece- his June 12, 1986 treatment The Return of Batman- here:

This script treatment is included in every copy of Batman: The Definitive History of The Dark Knight in Comics, Film, and Beyond by Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre, which you can purchase here. We also interviewed Andrew Farago on our podcast shortly after our dive into the Kane treatment.

This is also where our jokes about Bob Kane wanting "10+ broads" come from, based off of his request to WB to cast a "10+ actress" for Catwoman in the treatment (and we don't think he was referring to 10+ acting ability...).

After Kane's attempt comes Sam Hamm's October 20, 1986 draft, which more closely resembles the final film, but with a ton of differences:

The script went through many rewrites, but a copy of the script with revisions by Warren Skaaren is online from October 6, 1988. This also differs significantly from the final film:

Both of these drafts were also covered in "The Batman Script...From 1982" episode.

Before this episode, the most we could find on the Englehart treatments were the copies of the front page of each treatment on his website here:

As well as the ending of his second script treatment, which he gave to Comics X-Aminer here, where he did an interview:

(Note that Comics-X-aminer claims that Riddler and Catwoman were in the Tom Mankiewicz scripts, but from what we could find, it was actually Tim Burton and Julie Hickson's treatment that had them alongside Joker and Penguin. Mankiewicz only had Joker and Penguin, with Penguin cut from the second draft).

5:37 Steve Englehart's First Script Treatment (March 21, 1986)

As Ben mentions, we did a Patreon dive into the different Robin origins from the unmade scripts by Mankiewicz, Burton-Hickson, Englehart (from what we could tell from the sample on his website), and Hamm. Check out that episode here if you're a part of the $5 tier.

This treatment marks the first time that part of Dick Grayson's outfit foreshadows his Robin outfit. This would later be incorporated into the comics in the storyline Year Three (Batman #436–439. By Marv Wolfman, art Pat Broderick and John Beatty, 1989).

As discussed later in the episode with Zack, Sam Hamm later wrote a different Robin origin scene, which still had Joker responsible for the deaths of the Graysons and had the Graysons' outfits foreshadowing Robin's outfit.

Unlike the Englehart treatment, however, Hamm's version had the Graysons in the full red, green, and yellow, much like we'd end up seeing in Batman Forever. It's unknown if Hamm had read Englehart's idea about the red vest or just happened upon a similar idea when writing. In the end, neither version made it to the screen until Batman Forever in 1995.

You can learn more about the satirist Juvenal here.

This art of Colonel Sanders as the Joker comes from this T-shirt link, which credits Daniel Morris for the art. Check it out here (FYI: this is NOT an affiliate link, simply art that we thought was hilarious and fit the episode):

Zack was wondering if Englehart was the first to come up with the idea of Batman unmasking himself as Bruce Wayne to Dick Grayson.

In reviewing our past episodes on Robin's origin, we found that Zack is correct- the first comic to dramatize Bruce revealing his true identity to Dick was in the aforementioned Year Three, which wasn't until three years later in 1989. Even then, this actually featured the reverse where Bruce brought Dick down into the Batcave and revealed he was Batman. It would be Batman: The Animated Series's "Robin's Reckoning" that would dramatize Batman unmasking in front of Dick, many years after Englehart wrote it into his treatment.

You can check out our two-part coverage of the different Robin origins here:

As mentioned in the episode, this art is concept art associated with the Tim Burton and Julie Hickson treatment for Batman which featured Joker running for the Mayor.

Englehart is actually not a fan of the idea of Bruce Wayne traveling around the world to receive training on his way to becoming Batman. This was revealed in the Word Balloon Podcast:

As Ben details, during the time that Englehart was writing Batman, the main comic to show Bruce's training was in Detective Comics No. 226 (1955) and its retelling in The Untold Legend of the Batman (1980). Both showed Bruce training in America under Detective Harvey Harris. The 1955 comic even states that Bruce was part of the "Sea Scouts" (aka Boy Scouts) which ties into what Englehart writes in his treatment.

The idea of Bruce traveling the world for training wasn't shown until Batman No. 431 in January 1989, which shows a younger Bruce traveling up a mountain in South Korea to find a monastery.

This was expanded on a few months later in Detective Comics 599, as part of the Blind Justice arc, written by none other than Batman 1989 screenwriter Sam Hamm, which introduced the character of Henri Ducard who would become more famous as Ra's al Ghul's alias in Batman Begins.

Here's a closer look at Toulouse Lautrec's Cha-U-Kao painting that Joker aims to steal in this script treatment:

1:00:24 Break: Matt Herring bumper, No More Whoppers promo, Barkbox promo, and "Batman Assaults Colonel Sanders" sketch with Andrew as Batman, Ben as Robin, and Zack as "Colonel Sanders"

Please donate what you can to our friend and fan of the podcast Matt Herring, who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer. Click here for Matt Herring's GoFundMe

This is a promo for another podcast in the Greenlit Podcast Network, No More Whoppers, which you can find here.

Check out our link for Barkbox here.

1:06:27 Steve Englehart's Second Script Treatment (May 22, 1986)

While people, including our cohost Andrew, have grown tired of watching the deaths of the Waynes, it was rare for an adaptation to show this in the 1980s. The earliest adaptation is the episode "The Fear" in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians which premiered in September 1985, written by Alan Burnett and recounted by Adam West's Batman.

While there was an audio adaptation of the 1980 comic The Untold Legend of the Batman, it wasn't produced until 1989 as a tie-in to the Tim Burton film.

This treatment marks the first time that Bruce is shown to be comforted by a younger Jim Gordon after the deaths of his parents, though it's at the funeral rather than the scene of the crime. We'd actually get to see Gordon at the Waynes' funeral in the 2014 pilot for Gotham here:

Below is the image of a scene that's not in Batman (1989) but features Charles Roskilly's young Bruce Wayne being comforted by a police officer, who, in the Sam Hamm draft, was identified as Jim Gordon.

Pat Hingle was aware of this and mentioned this in the Batman 1989 featurette:

Ben mentions that he also wrote a story in which young Bruce investigates the death of his teacher. You can check that out here, with art by our podcast guest and friend Dustin Lee Massey:

Here's the logline:

The climactic ending, starting with Joker confronting Bruce at Wayne Manor, was actually shared to Comics X-Aminer here by Englehart himself. You can read it here:

While Englehart does the best job out of the writers leading up to the 1989 film in incorporating Robin (simply by making it a Robin origin film rather than a Batman origin film that tacks on Robin), he actually didn't want the Boy Wonder to be in the movie.

Englehart brought up in the Comics X-Aminer interview, as well as in the introduction to the Strange Apparitions trade paperback, that he argued against using Penguin and Robin in the first film:

Steve Englehart: When I came on board, they still wanted to use Joker and Penguin, and they wanted to use Robin. I was in the strange position of being brought in as the expert, but never being sure who was making decisions. I told them to ditch Robin and Penguin, and their answer was no.

1:45:10 Closing: Fan Comments and Social Media Shoutouts

As teased, be on the lookout for upcoming releases. On Ben's channel, there will be two related videos on Robin's origin. The first is a pitch on how Robin's origin could have worked in The Dark Knight trilogy as an alternative sequel to 2008's The Dark Knight.

The other is a pitch for the origin of Robin's name, which differs from the comics and other media:

Then, on our $5 Patreon, we cover the time that Dick Grayson became Batman! It's the continuation of our series on the DC Animated Movie Universe, this time with Batman: Bad Blood.

It’s the best Batman movie named after a T Swift song! We go into why we prefer Bad Blood over Son of Batman and Batman Vs. Robin, then compare the film to the comics when Dick Grayson took over as Batman, Kate Kane became Batwoman, and Luke Fox became Batwing. We compare the latter two to their portrayal in the CW show, then discuss the casting of Victoria Cartagena as Renee Montoya in Batwoman Season 3 and Leslie Grace in the upcoming Batgirl film.

Watch this page as we'll update the Show Notes when these videos are released!

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Website: ZACHARY JACKSON BROWN (who also did the thumbnail art)

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