Certain elements of Matt Reeves’ film The Batman can be called derivative, but could the whole film actually be a top-to-bottom ripoff of an unmade story?
Former penciler for DC Comics Chris Wozniak thinks so, and says the pitch is his in a stunning new video that explains how this year’s iteration of the Dark Knight directly copies his outline from 1990 beat-for-beat.
Titled The Ultimate Riddle and then Blind Man’s Hat, there are a few differences here and there between the two, but the essence of the story is the same – a “broken” Gotham is plunged into chaos and corruption when The Riddler is on the loose.
At a grisly murder scene, he leaves a “taunting note” for Batman saying more murders are going to happen, much like in the film’s setup, and it’s the beginning of a twisted mystery. Also just as in the movie, Riddler is “RE-IMAGINED as a lonely, morbid, gruesome SERIAL KILLER and MASS MURDERER.
Finding others shunned like himself, he would develop a following and live in a commune with his “SURROGATE FAMILY,” which was reworked as an orphanage with squatters for Reeves’ purposes.
With cops on the take, the only good man left for Batman to trust is Jim Gordon, and they team up to combine their skills to solve the case. Each killing brings a new riddle that is part of a cipher that exposes what Riddler knows – his “BIG REVEAL” at the end.
Before that, it’s vital for him to confront Batman face to face, so Riddler turns himself in at the police station, as opposed to a diner as it played out in The Batman.
Another similarity between Wozniak’s idea and the movie is the scene of Riddler’s arrest, which bears a striking resemblance to David Fincher’s Se7en, particularly the scene where John Doe (Kevin Spacey) voluntarily gets caught and confesses to his crimes.
It’s academic at this point that Se7en was an overt inspiration for Reeves, but it couldn’t have been for Wozniak, which he addressed in the comment section of his video. “Someone pointed out to me yesterday that my Batman plot predates Seven by 5 years, so Matt Reeves and I were not ‘both’ inspired by John Doe,” Wozniak said under his YouTube profile FullBlown Psychosis.
Reeves can fall back on Fincher as an excuse in this instance, but he can’t do that when it comes to a second detail Wozniak claims is lifted directly from his outline – the booby-trapped package. In The Batman, Riddler sends a parcel with a note and a bomb in it to Bruce Wayne, hoping the ensuing blast will kill the boy billionaire.
Little does he know that Alfred sorts the mail and, opening it instead, winds up in the hospital. Wozniak shows in his video essay he had virtually the same idea, except Barbara Gordon was the intended target in what might be a nod to The Killing Joke.
The ending of the outline mirrors The Batman quite a bit too, except that the cipher, when solved, comes back with the code “I NO U R WANE,” indicating The Riddler figured out Bruce’s true identity. This is similar to the movie’s more ambiguous “I KNOW THE REAL YOU” answer.
Bruce’s self-doubt about his mission is at play as well, though it stems from the city being lost if his identity is exposed. With his secrecy compromised, every Tom Dick & Harry nutjob and prison guard might take a shot at him. But that wasn’t the most sinister part of the plan. A closer examination of the cipher revealed a grimmer twist – one that, again, can be found in The Batman.
Riddler was going to punish Gotham biblically and “indiscriminately” by bringing on the Armageddon of a plague. You’ll recall a great flood substituted it in the film, a la Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder’s Zero Year. Overcoming the odds and a slow poisoning in the final battle, Batman injects an antidote which is mimicked in the film with a shot of adrenaline, and wins the day.
Riddler would be denied victory and rot in prison, isolated and forgotten. As Batman re-dedicated himself, it would turn out The Joker, who makes a cameo at the end, was masterminding the whole thing, and quietly radicalizing Riddler.
Wozniak’s video contends all the way that everything down to the ending is exactly the same, and he adds in the comments, “There is more proof coming and it is extremely difficult to ignore. I’m confident you guys will flip to my side. Stay tuned.” The proof he presents in his video comes from an email he claims he sent to Batman franchise EP Michael Uslan in 2008.
Wozniak was pitching it again, this time as a movie, and he never heard back. Wozniak later met Uslan at New York Comic Con in 2008, where the producer gave him his business card. “I’m a Film Producer. I like the title of your book. Do you mind if I have a copy? I’m always looking for good stories,” Uslan reportedly told Wozniak.
Setting up a Patreon page and an Indiegogo campaign, both of which are raising funds for an initiative he dubbed “Batmangate” aiming to get his story out there and either raise funds for compensation, or pay for his legal defense. “If the Filmmakers in this case decide to hide behind their lawyers and give the ludicrous excuse that they never saw my plot, I may not be able to do anything about it,” he wrote in his Indiegogo description.
“In other words, no matter how much money I raise, I could end up with nothing if I go chasing ‘everything I deserve’ in court against people who have unlimited resources, so your donations will be going toward taking care of my family just as if I had been properly paid in the first place,” it continues.
In his video he shares screenshots of a PDF housing his treatment and on Indiegogo he posted screenshots of Facebook messages he exchanged with former DC artist Chris Batista. Dated June 2017, they invoked the names of Archie Goodwin and former Publisher Dan DiDio.
Goodwin, now deceased, was head of DC’s “Batman Office” in 1990, and DiDio was a top man at the company until this decade. The latter and Batista were active there in 2017 when Matt Reeves began working on the script for The Batman.
“There’s no disputing my plot pre-dates their screenplay, that the people who made this film were in possession of my plot, and that the Riddler’s storyline in the film was directly derived from my plot,” Wozniak wrote on Indiegogo.
“Now, before Executive Producer Michael Uslan and Warner Bros. Pictures used my plot in the film, they were supposed to negotiate a contract first to make sure I was fairly compensated,” he said. “I was NOT credited anywhere. I was NOT paid anything. And In case you’re wondering, that’s NOT supposed to happen. So here I am, asking BATMAN FANS AROUND THE WORLD to stop Hollywood from steamrolling yet another Comic Creator.”
Wozniak continued, “Certainly, none of the famous people who worked on the film had to make a public appeal on the internet just to get paid…for a film of this magnitude is big enough to take care of everyone who contributes to it, especially when that contribution becomes the foundational Blueprint for the most successful BATMAN film of all time.”
He further stressed the “credit, accolades,” rewards, and opportunities that come with “such immense worldwide success should be life changing,” but “I got ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. That is not JUSTICE. It would be nice if some of the more famous faces would shine a little light on this situation, because it would go a long way towards making this right.”
In closing, Wozniak clarified he thinks The Batman is the “best BATMAN film ever…despite all this.” But, “Now it would be nice if I could just get paid for my contribution. That’s all I want,” he said. So long as no one is calling me a liar I’m not looking for ‘damages’ or ‘revenge.’ I just want fair credit and compensation for my work like everyone else on the film received,” Wozniak closed.
Obviously, there’s been no comment from DC, Warner Bros., Uslan, or anyone involved with The Batman, but Wozniak promises a follow-up video that will blow the lid off this burgeoning controversy.