In this post I'm going to throw out a few thoughts/feelings about what will/could/should happen to Batman in the post Final Crisis DC Universe. Now, I'm going to reference some of the events that took place in Final Crisis #6, so if you don't want to read spoilers about FC #6, you should stop reading right now.
Still here? Good. It APPEARS that DC is going to go through with killing off Bruce Wayne, as evident in FC #6. The cynic inside of me is screaming that Bruce isn't really dead, but after reading FC #6, we are obviously supposed to believe that Darkseid has killed the Dark Knight. So, if DC really did kill off Bruce Wayne, the question becomes who will inherit the mantle of Batman. There are a few choices, but in this post I'm going to talk about the most likely person to become the next Batman, Nightwing(Dick Grayson).
Dick started his career as the first of 4 Robins, and has been a costumed hero since he was about 12 years old, which amounts to more than half his life. So, the crime fighting credentials are there. Dick has worked in Gotham, and is known and trusted by Bruce's inner circle, so there's another plus on his behalf. To be perfectly honest, Dick would be the PERFECT replacement except for 2 glaring facts. The first one would be that he really isn't anything like the Bruce Wayne Batman. Dick is shorter, fights a MUCH more acrobatic style, and tends to wisecrack alot during his fights. I've always likened Nightwing to Spider-Man, in that they both like to crack jokes at the expense of their foes. That's not to say that Dick couldn't pull off the Batman act, but I've never really seen Dick as the same type of personality as Bruce Wayne.
What I mean is that deep down, Bruce Wayne IS Batman. Batman isn't really an act Bruce puts on when he pulls on the cowl, Batman and Bruce Wayne are practically one and the same. This is most evident when you see Bruce interact with people who know him as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. It isn't Bruce who speaks, it's always Batman. On the other hand, deep down at his core, Dick Grayson is still Robin. You can change his outfit, but he is still the fun-loving, thrill-seeking, wisecracking Robin. Nightwing is an act that Dick puts on when he pulls on his mask. Dick Grayson interacts with people in a different way than Nightwing interacts with people. That's the main reason I don't think Dick could pull off a convincing Batman for an extended period of time. At his core, he just isn't the same type of person Bruce Wayne is. While both men are obviously addicted to the thrill of fighting crime, Bruce Wayne fights crime because it is his life's mission, while I feel that Dick fights crime for fun/thrills.
The other reason for me not wanting to see Dick become Batman is a lot more simplistic. Whoever DC/Grant Morrison decides to replace Bruce Wayne with is doomed to fail. Simply put, Bruce Wayne CAN'T be replaced. Eventually, Bruce WILL come back and reclaim the Batman mantle, I can guarantee that. DC has a history of knee-jerk reactions when it comes to Batman, and I think if DC does decide to replace Bruce Wayne, it won't last long. In the 70(?)year history of Batman, there have been very few changes made to the book.
The first major change would be Dick Grayson leaving the Robin mantle behind, and Jason Todd becoming the second Robin. I wasn't even reading comics back then, but a little research into the subject will reveal that Batman fans almost universally HATED Jason Todd. Batfans connected Dick Grayson to Robin, and anyone else in that role was sacrilegious. The fan outrage reached such a fever pitch that DC actually left the fate of Jason Todd in the hands of the Batfans, and the Batfans voted to kill off the Jason Todd Robin in a telephone poll. After that, the more subdued Tim Drake was slowly brought along to become the third Robin. I think the shock of Jason Todd's brutal death(I don't know how that comic was approved by the Comics Code Authority), plus the fact that Tim was more like Dick Grayson is why Tim was embraced by the Batfans, and is still Robin to this day.
Another example of the Batfans steadfast refusal to accept change can be seen when you look back at the Knightfall event of the 1990's. I don't know that DC ever really intended to permanently replace Bruce Wayne with Jean-Paul Valley during this event, but I do remember the outrage of the fans, since by this time I was a regular comic book collector, and read "Wizard" and other comic industry publications on a monthly basis. Looking back on the whole Knightfall story, I think DC was setting Jean-Paul up for a fall from the start, but still, the Batfans were VERY vocal about their objections to anyone other than Bruce Wayne being Batman.
Then there is the saga of Stephanie Brown, AKA Spoiler... Don't even get me started on that. As far as I'm concerned, she was the forth Robin, even though some at DC(Dan DiDio, DC's Executive Editor)have stated that she was never officially Robin, even though she was trained and went out with Bruce dressed in Robin's outfit. Needless to say, a female Robin didn't sit well with many fans, and Stephanie was brutally beaten to death(although she has since returned). The bottom line here is that if Bruce Wayne is replaced as Batman, DC is going to face a mountain of fan outrage and criticism. It's for this reason that I really hope Dick DOESN'T become the next Batman. Whatever character inherits the Batman mantle from Bruce is almost bound to meet an unfortunate end. It's a proven fact that replacements in the Bat Universe don't work(Jason Todd, Spoiler, Jean-Paul Valley), the fans prefer the original.
Now, before I end this post, I'm going to temper everything I just wrote by stating that I REALLY don't think Bruce is going to wind up dead. The fact that DC keeps resurrecting Silver Age heroes(Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, etc.)would make killing off Bruce Wayne kind of senseless. How do you explain bringing back Barry Allen to reclaim the Flash mantle, and then replace Bruce Wayne? In the current climate of the DC Universe, where resurrections seem to be the latest craze, killing off Bruce Wayne just wouldn't make much sense. That's why I personally don't think DC will go through with killing off Bruce Wayne. Not only that, but I'd bet good money that by the end of this year, Bruce is once again fighting crime as Batman. I think the most likely scenario is that DC will keep Bruce around in a non-Batman role and allow several pretenders to run around claiming to be the one true Batman(ala the Reign of Supermen storyline from the 90's). I'd guess that in the end, the fake Batmen will do Gotham City more harm than good, and Bruce will step back in and take out the phony Batmen. I could see Bruce asking Dick to step up and fill in for him temporarily, and Dick accepting, but not for long. Eventually, my guess is that when Bruce reclaims the Batman mantle, Dick will don a new costume, since it looks like DC is giving the Nightwing name to some Kryptonian hero over in the Superman books.
So what exactly did we learn from this post? #1, I really devote WAY too much time thinking/posting about comic books and their characters, #2, I REALLY don't want Dick Grayson to claim the Batman mantle, and #3, by this time next year, Bruce Wayne will still be cracking heads as Batman. That's my ideas on the Batman subject, what do you think?