BY MATT TUCK
The DCEU may have something major planned for The Flash, and the signs are pointing toward the twisted Batmen of the Dark Multiverse.
IT STARTED ON THE CW
The seeds for this theory were planted two years ago.
Around that time, anything connected to the Snyder-verse was in doubt after the colossal failure that was the Joss Whedon cut of Justice League. While a Flash movie starring Ezra Miller was still technically on the slate, no one knew if it would ever make it to the screen as WarnerMedia appeared to want distance from anything related to the JL box office bomb. The saving grace would prove to be the standalone films Wonder Woman and Aquaman, proving to WB that the franchise was still profitable.
During the Flash’s fifth season episode “Memorabilia,” Barry and Iris get a glimpse into the future Flash Museum. One exhibit on the Cicada killer mentions the existence of the Red Death.
Skip to 2020. Well before Sony’s Spider-Man franchises appeared in the No Way Home trailer, DC was blowing minds. As part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover, the Snyder-verse Flash met the CW Flash, effectively linking the two universes inside the DC Multiverse. That moment also confirmed that WarnerMedia was not quite ready to throw away those Snyderverse characters, which has given rise to The Flash movie.
With Ezra Miller’s Flash a canonical part of the CW’s Flash series, that means that any character from either franchise is now connected, leaving the door wide open for the Red Death to terrorize both the big and small screen.
But that’s not all.
THE DARK MULTIVERSE
As we get ready to zoom further into The Flash, we know that the Red Death is lurking somewhere in the Multiverse thanks to the CW. Much has been written about both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck reprising their roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman from different sectors of the Multiverse, and they could be the key to establishing the Dark Multiverse in the DCEU.
One of the biggest crossovers in DC’s modern era was Dark Nights: Metal. Masterminded by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the story saw Earth-1 conquered by evil versions of Bruce Wayne. Snyder and Capullo mashed together Batman with various members of the Justice League and some villains to form the most maniacal versions of the Dark Knight ever seen. One of those happened to be the Batman/Flash combination, Red Death.
In a movie that seems to be focused on interdimensional Bruce Waynes as much as the Flash, that could mean we get the darker side of the Multiverse as well, and that may create a path for Red Death’s origin story in The Flash.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Last month, Flash director Andy Muschietti posted a cryptic photo on Instagram that sparked plenty of fan theories. The post included a picture of a Batsuit that was painted red with the Flash lightning bolt logo over the Bat-signal. While this could have been simply an allusion to the upcoming movie featuring both the Flash and Batman, some theorists are wondering if it was a reference to Red Death, who is literally the Flash and Batman put together.
Whether or not Red Death is part of the movie, only the film’s inner circle knows for sure. More interesting, since Red Death and the Snyder-verse Flash are Arrowverse canon, that means that the other Dark Knights are somewhere in the DCEU Multiverse. If DC wants to possibly beat Marvel at its own game, having the Dark Knights in The Flash would do just that. It also would cause a massive eruption in those Dark Nights: Metal key issues.
DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1
The evil Justice League technically made their first collective appearance in the pages of Dark Days: The Casting #1. This was a lead-in to the massive crossover of 2017, Dark Nights Metal. The problem is that the Dark Knights are all seen in shadow for only one panel. Still, that counts as the first cameo appearance.
It’s taken years, but this issue has finally begun earning respect among buyers. Two years ago, even a graded 9.8 averaged $67, which is only about $30 over the grading fees. In 2020, that average rose to $86. Since July, it has regularly sold for $100+, reaching a record-high $130 on September 26. That was followed by an October 7 sale for $120, indicating that collectors are taking more notice of the Dark Knights’ first cameo appearance.
DARK NIGHTS METAL #2
The next cameo would come in the second issue of the crossover series that has helped reshape the DC Multiverse. This time, the Dark Knights are seen in a two-page spread in full view with no shadow. Since we get our first true look at the evil Justice League, it makes this the more coveted of the two cameo appearances. As such, DNM #2 carries a slightly bigger price tag.
After starting the year with sales as high as $145, the standard edition graded 9.8 dropped into the $40-$50 range from May to June. Then in August, one suddenly tied the record high of $150. More recently, the Bulletproof Comics convention edition brought $125 on October 3. Earlier this year, another Bulletproof variant tied its previous record of $175.
BATMAN: RED DEATH #1
When it comes to The Flash movie, Red Death is the most likely Dark Knight to appear in the DCEU. Hopefully we will see him in all his glory during next year’s The Flash, which would explain the need for two different Batmen to appear in the film as well as Supergirl since it would take that much firepower to defeat him. At the least, I would expect a tease or Easter egg to acknowledge his existence in the overall DCEU.
This was one of the first Dark Knights solo titles to hit the market, and it was an instant sellout. These days, the 9.8 standard cover commands a 90-day FMV of $131, with one copy already selling for as much as $260. There is also a 9.6 that sold for $145 in April, and that could indicate prices are about to balloon.
In 2017, this issue was so popular that it warranted three subsequent printings. Today’s collecting demands a closer look at any additional prints, especially for first appearances, as the print runs generally are increasingly smaller. In this case, the second and fourth prints are the ones to watch. Graded at 9.8s, both printings have peaked at $70 this year. What is even more indicative of an upward trend is that a 9.6 second print last sold for $100 in September.
TEEN TITANS #12 (2017)
The breakout character from the Dark Nights Metal is a hands-down winner: the Batman Who Laughs. In just four years, the BWL has become one of Batman’s most popular new villains, and he has become a threat to the entire DC Universe. He ascended to god status when he stole the body of a version of Bruce Wayne who became Doctor Manhattan. That elevated him from the Batman Who Laughs to the Darkest Knight, though the new moniker just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
We haven’t seen much of the BWL/Darkest Knight since Dark Nights: Death Metal, but he is much too popular to stay out of the limelight for long. That would help explain the record numbers his first appearance in Teen Titans #12 has been earning this year.
From the BWL’s first moment in a comic, this issue has been soaring. Months after this issue hit local comic shop, it was selling for triple figures. This year, one copy has already reached $905. In recent months, the values have dipped to the $600-$700 range, but that could make this an opportune time to invest.
If those prices are too high for your tastes, consider the variant cover. While this one does not have BWL on the cover art, you can have a 9.8 for close to $200. Don’t forget there’s also a second print floating around the internet, and that one last sold for $150 in August.
DARK NIGHTS: THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 (2018)
An interesting and often overlooked footnote to BWL history: this issue was penned by James Tynion IV, the resident master of comic horror. Back then, he was overshadowed by the Snyder/Capullo one-two punch, but now he has risen to the rank of superstar in his own right.
Like all the Dark Knights, the BWL was given his own one-shot origin story. Since this was not his first appearance, its FMV does not begin to compete with Teen Titans #12, but it is a solid addition to any BWL fan’s collection. The last time a 9.8 swapped owners online, it brought $95 on October 14. However, one copy sold for $150 in March, which was approaching the record set just a year ago.
DARKER KNIGHTS TO COME?
Red Death and the Batman Who Laughs may be the most likely faces to be seen on the silver screen, but that is not to say other Dark Knights couldn’t make their ways into the DCEU. As massively popular as the evil Justice League has been in the comics, adapting them for the big or small screen would be an instant hit. On that note, let’s take a closer look at the other Dark Knights’ solo first appearances.
BATMAN: THE DROWNED #1
Here is a character who is quietly gaining popularity. From cosplay to action figures and statues, the Drowned is becoming more visible in 2021. This version of Batman is a little different than the rest. In her corner of the Dark Multiverse, Bruce Wayne was born a woman and given Aquaman’s powers. The result is a twisted sea goddess known as the Drowned.
As she is still garnering a larger fandom, her solo title is not seeing many sales in 2021. The last 9.8 to trade hands was in May when one sold for $75. Still, something has to be said for a record-breaking $100 sale from February.
BATMAN: THE MURDER MACHINE #1
The next Dark Batman on our list is the amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Cyborg called the Murder Machine. MM has not been one of the more popular evil JL members, and his time in the spotlight has been limited, which also limits the FMV for MM #1. The last standard cover 9.8 to sell online was for $28 in July. The one to get has been the convention edition, which sold for $75 in May, though that is down from the $160 it brought in 2017.
BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1
Batman and Green Lantern are polar opposites. One operates in the shadows, using the darkness as a tool, while the other literally as a power that comes from bright light. When these two characters were combined into the Dawnbreaker, it forged a Dark Knight who creates monsters from the darkness using the light.
Again, it’s the convention edition that collectors will want to target. The standard cover last sold for $39 in June whereas the convention edition brought $85 in September.
BATMAN: THE MERCILESS #1
Imagine the Merciless as a Bruce Wayne born into the mythological world of Wonder Woman. While not a Batman/Wonder Woman combination, the Merciless has the power of one of Diana’s main antagonists, Ares.
The Merciless #1 has proven to be one of the more valuable among the Dark Knights origin one-shots. Up to this year, the high sale for the standard cover graded at a 9.8 had been $76 after a 2017 purchase. Already in 2021, that record was obliterated with a $140 sale on May 27. After values dropped to as low as $40 in June, the most recent sale saw it boost back to $100 in July.
BATMAN: THE DEVASTATOR #1
With all these evil Bruce Waynes merged with Justice League members, it’s easy for a character to be caught in the shuffle. Devastator, however, is something slightly unique. Like the BWL, he is not a Batman/JL mashup. Instead, this Bruce was fused with Doomsday to create the anti-Superman killing machine known as the Devastator.
Not much has been happening with Devastator #1 this year. The last sale was back in the summer when a 9.8 brought $42 in June. That could be an outlier since the only other graded 9.8 sales this year were for $120 and $140 in May.
THE DARK MULTIVERSE
The Dark Multiverse has been such a huge hit for DC Comics that it would be a tragedy not to incorporate it into the DCEU. The comics have explored much of the DM over the past couple of years, and we are likely to see even more twisted versions of characters and events. In fact, the Dark Multiverse could be DC’s answer to What If…?, especially if WarnerMedia gave it a more mature rating than Marvel’s hit streaming series.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.