Topic: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

I was watching Rebel Moon Part Two, and I decided to grab my timer and find a special parallel dimension.  And I did.  I present to you Earth 32991.


2005. Batman Begins is released, starring Christian Bale as the titular character.  The movie is a modest success, but it's enough of a success for producer Kevin Feige to get a meeting with the bigshots at WB.  He left Marvel after failing to get approval for a vision he had of a shared universe of superhero movies.  He wanted to try it at DC, and he was hired to be the architect of that vision.  The movie is rereleased for the Christmas season with a brand-new post-credits sequence where Clark Kent shows up at Wayne Manor looking for the Batman.

Over the next few years, the DCU is the star of cinemas.  Standalone films for Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman are huge hits, alongside the Dark Knight, a Batman sequel.  In 2011, Joss Whedon directs a Justice League movie.  From there, the hits just keep on coming.  From James Gunn's Green Lantern Corp to Justice League : Age of Apokolips, the DCU becomes a hit-making factory.

Marvel, struggling with its film division after the failure of 2006's Iron Man (starring Tom Cruise) and 2008's The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton decides to go back to Kevin Feige's architecture.  After failing to get Feige back, Marvel finds Zach Snyder.  Snyder had success with a direct adaptation of Spider-Man: Blue for Sony, and they thought he could tell the right stories for them.  Snyder is given a greenlight for a kickoff film and a fast-tracked Avengers movie.

So in 2013, Captain America is released.  It tells the story of Steve Rogers (controversially played by non-American Henry Cavill), an optimistic man who is given the super-soldier serum.  After defeating the Red Skull and getting frozen in the ice, SHIELD finds Captain America and thaws him out.  Steve is eager to get back to work in the red, white, and blue, but he finds the world to be a great deal more cynical than the world he remembers.  He's annoyed that he seems to be doing more campaign events for the President than actual hero work, but he does it with a smile.  Rogers discovers a plot by Hydra to reincarnate the Red Skull and take over the world.  The film climaxes as an inauguration party in Washington DC is attacked.  Steve fights the newly reborn Red Skull and his Winter Soldier as they attempt to assassinate the president.  With only time to defeat the Red Skull for good or save the president (who Steve doesn't see as idealistic enough), Steve makes the heartbreaking decision to let Bucky shoot the president so Steve can use his shield to decapitate the Red Skull.  The Winter Soldier escapes, the new President thanks Steve for doing everything he could, and the nation mourns the loss of its leader.

Captain America is a fairly big success leading to the greenlight of Captain America v Iron Man: Civil War.  Ben Affleck is hired as Tony Stark (taking the role from Tom Cruise).  Stark is an alcoholic genius who has been Iron Man for over a decade on the West Coast.  He's been at odds with Nick Fury and SHIELD for his entire superhero career, and that relationship goes nuclear when Stark is able to find evidence that Rogers let the president be killed.  SHIELD won't let Stark release the evidence so Tony takes matters into his own hands.  Tony is able to find a secret Hydra sleeper agent program called Captain Hydra, which Tony believes has already been started.  Working with Dr. Bruce Banner, Stark works to defeat Rogers.  In the meantime, it turns out that Tony's trusted AI Ultron is pulling the strings, and he actually implements the Captain Hydra program, brainwashing Rogers to start working for Hydra.  Captain Hydra fights Iron Man and Banner, but Banner loses control and becomes the Hulk.  Realizing how he's been manipulated, Stark is able to convince Rogers to fight the brainwashing (using Steve's relationship with Tony's father as a link) and together, they're able to defeat Ultron and calm down the Hulk (with Tony bringing out his Hulkbuster armor).  Nick Fury (Joe Morton) appears in a post-credits sequence as he asks Tony to help him understand this mysterious hammer he found.

Civil War made a lot of money, but critics panned the convoluted plot of the film.  Comic fans were annoyed at the fact that so many potential story threads were burned in a single movie (Captain Hydra, Ultron, World War Hulk, and Civil War itself).  Fans were especially annoyed at the fact that "Civil War" really ended up only being a couple of people and not the wide-stretching story the comics told.  People also disliked how cynical Captain America ended up being, going against one of the main tenets of the character.  Snyder pushed back that it was a little silly for a guy from the 40s to still believe in today's America, and that of course he'd be cynical now.  He continued to fight criticism of Steve both killing the Red Skull and allowing the president to be killed in the first movie.

A Doctor Strange movie, directed by David Ayer, was released after Civil War with middling success.  People were starting to get annoyed already with the dour tone of the Marvel movies compared to the fun and bright DCU.  Robert Downey Jr.'s Strange was praised and there were some fun cameos of heroes like Ant-Man and Hawkeye, but fans were already starting to bail.

By the time the Avengers movie was ready to come out, the project was starting to flounder.  Hulk and Hawkeye solo films were delayed, and even a critically acclaimed Black Widow movie (by Patty Jenkins) wasn't enough to get people excited.  Due to the film going overbudget and personal issues in Zach Snyder's life, Avengers was finished by Joss Whedon, hoping to bring some of the DC magic over to Marvel.  The film was a modest success but struggled to win over critics and audiences.  Tony and Steve work together to assemble the Avengers when Cull Obsidian attacks Earth on behalf of his leader Thanos.  Even though Captain America is a little more lighthearted and less cynical, the movie struggles to tell a cohesive story while also introducing Thor (and all of Asgard), Hawkeye, and Ant-Man to the team of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Black Widow.

Not everyone hated the vision, though.  Snyder had legions of fans who loved the darker, more realistic and science-based superhero universe.  These were more realistic people who lived in the real world with street-level powers that weren't obscene and godlike like DC.  These fans were eager to see Snyder's vision come to light with seeds planted for more Captain Hydra, Tony's demon in a bottle, a greater role for Thor's brother Loki, and even a battle with Thanos himself.

It wouldn't be until years later when Zach Snyder's Avengers was released on streaming platforms.  It expands on the Whedon version with much more time spent in Asgard (including additional scenes with Loki), a backstory with Thanos featuring Captain Marvel and the Nova Core, and a premonition from Dr Strange that Steve will kill Tony.  It was a bit of a cultural phenomenon, especially with Snyder fanatics, but it wasn't enough to warrant any more Snyder material for Marvel.

Marvel is currently looking to reboot their universe, with James Gunn in the lead.  Snyder has moved on to start his own franchise, a mature and new spin on orcs, dwarves, and elves: The Halfling.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

I suspect that a Zack Snyder CAPTAIN AMERICA movie would have used Ultimate Captain America, a version in comics developed by writer Mark Millar. This version of the character was less Chris Evans and more... Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24.

The ULTIMATE version of the Marvel universe is set in the 2000s vs the 616 Marvel Universe originating in the 1960s. This alternate continuity was Marvel attempting a then-present day reboot of Spider-Man, X-Men and the Avengers, which were rebranded as The Ultimates to avoid competing with the 616 Avengers title.

Mark Millar radically reworked Captain America for the ULTIMATE line. The Ultimate version of Steve Rogers was not a gentle, good-hearted superhero, but instead a somewhat jingoistic and nationalistic soldier with superpowers who gladly supported the George W. Bush administration.

Ultimate Steve Rogers made sexist remarks and had hints of racism (such as when he was frozen during WWII, woke up in 2000, and didn't Nick Fury could be in the army because Fury was black). Rogers had no hesitation in using lethal force when his 616 counterpart was written as having not even killed anyone during WWII. Rogers was willing to torture and flat out murder America's enemies. This version of Rogers also participated in the US Army covering up their involvement in the Hulk attacking New York City and killing several hundred people, and later called French people cowards for surrendering in WWII.

Millar wrote a lot of nuance into Rogers: when a teammate violently abused his wife, Rogers hunted him down and beat him into the hospital. Rogers treated his colleagues and civilians with respect, politeness, and worked hard to prevent civilian casualties. Rogers was, ultimately, not a superhero as much as a soldier whom the US Army presented to the public as a superhero. Rogers' priority was always victory for America over right and wrong.

Millar's nuance enabled Rogers to be enjoyable for people on both sides of the political spectrum. One side saw Rogers as their icon and hero; another side saw Rogers as a satirical indictment of the military industrial complex and the glorification of war.

However, a lot of Millar's version of Rogers is dependent on the reader noting the distinction between Rogers and the 616 Steve. Without that contrast, Millar's Rogers might not be as interesting.

After Millar left the ULTIMATE line, subsequent ULTIMATE writers seemed to really struggle with writing Millar's version of Rogers. Some wrote him as a government tool without the nuance; some wrote him like his 616 counterpart. But over time, Ultimate Steve Rogers also lost his reason to exist.

Post-Millar, the 616 writers folded quite a bit of Millar's version of Rogers into the 616 Steve. Steve's WWII war service was rewritten to have had Steve use lethal force in war and combat, and in the present day as well, although he wouldn't kill if he could avoid it.

The 616 writers began to highlight Steve's skills as a master strategist and tactician were highlighted to make him more distinct than other street level superheroes like Daredevil. Steve's military role was used to put him in more espionage thriller stories instead of straightforward superhero adventures. Steve remained a gentle man of peace, but the writers gave him some of the Ultimate Steve Rogers' militaristic edge and made the solder aspect of Steve more prominent. However, Steve in the 616 universe was always a superhero first and a soldier second.

Writer Ed Brubaker, possibly in response to Millar having Rogers call the French cowards, wrote a 616 issue where Steve visits France and talks about how, in WWII, he was inspired by how the people of France kept fighting the Nazis even when the government had surrendered. Steve describes how, when France was finally liberated, he attended the military victory parade in uniform, but stood among the people and not the military, saluting French soldiers instead of marching with them.

Despite Millar's Captain America being very different, his take on Captain America ultimately informed and improved the original version, and I think it was a good thing.

I suspect that Snyder, if he had been asked to do a Captain America movie, would have done the Jack Bauer version of Captain America as written by Mark Millar, and he wouldn't have cast Chris Evans. He would have cast someone with a more aggressively masculine screen presence like Dwayne Johnson or Chatum Tanning.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

I wasn't trying to base Snyder's Captain America on anything.  Rather, I was trying to think of what Snyder might do with Marvel characters.  I was originally going to make Iron Man the first movie in Snyder's Avengers saga like it was in the MCU, but I decided that if Snyder had his pick, he'd make Cap first (even if he really liked Iron Man more).  He'd see a boring character (to him) and try to add some nuance (to him).  I would think he'd suspect that Cap would be turned off by modern America and become jaded and disillusioned.  Just like he'd think its natural that Batman and Superman would kill bad guys, he wouldn't be interested in a Captain America that always tries to do the right thing.

And like he preferred evil Superman to normal Superman, I think he'd find Captain Hydra more interesting than Captain America (I don't even think the timeline works for that version of the character to be around but it's an alternate history).  And since I couldn't think of a good situation where Steve allows millions of people to die (like Superman does in Man of Steel), I decided to let Steve do something that I wouldn't think he'd otherwise do - let someone die so he can get the kill.

My issue with Snyder's superheroes isn't that they're bad.  I just don't think he thinks of them as being good guys.  They do good, sure, but good guys are boring.  So Superman has a bad side.  Batman kills.  Not because they have to, but Snyder can't see anything interesting in a story where Batman has to find a way not to kill.

My problem is that I don't think it's interesting for Batman and Superman to just be random soldiers doing what it takes to win.  A Batman who kills is more efficient, sure, but I don't think it's more interesting.

Of course, I also needed Snyder to burn through stories while teasing way more stories.  I needed Tony to just be Batman.  I needed Snyder to make a bunch of movies but never get to Thanos.

I wasn't super happy with my Ayer Strange, but I couldn't think of a good approximation of the Suicide Squad.  Something to introduce a bunch of characters and establish that this is a lived-in world without using any of the Justice League.  So I just said "well, RDJ looks like Dr Strange so let's just shoehorn him in here"

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

You know, the Defenders were originally Dr. Strange's team. Netflix made it Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, but the team was originally Strange and whatever characters Marvel editorial had free. So, if you wanted to do a Marvel Suicide Squad, you could probably use the Defenders.

I imagine that a Zack Snyder version of Captain America would be Ultimate Captain America as opposed to anything like the Chris Evans version.

I'm glad you made sure to include an unnecessary and pointless premonition in Zack Snyder's AVENGERS of a future plot that will never, ever, ever be completed. That seems like such a Zack Snyder thing. Haha!

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

To me, the DCEU failed for a variety of reasons, and I think Snyder probably gets an unfair share of that.  I think he's a talented guy, and I don't even think his movies are bad.  I think Snyder's biggest problem is that he doesn't really understand the characters.  Or he does understand them and thinks that the only thing interesting you can do with them is make them into something different.  We've talked this to death, but I think that's really Snyder's only issue.  And the universe tried to make it after Snyder.  Was the damage done?  Maybe.  But at the same time, a lot of the post-Snyder movies aren't any better than the ones Snyder did.

I think Snyder's biggest problem was trying to make alternate versions of these characters and making them the primary versions for a universe.  Even if all he did was take different versions of Batman and Superman (who had already had a dozen movies made about them at that point), those are two characters you probably need to get right.

Now if the DCEU was a success first and they brought in Snyder to make an Injustice trilogy after the characters had already been established, that could've been cool.  I think that's what makes The Maker and Invincible Iron Man and Superior Spider-Man so interesting.  But you need a standard version of the character first, or the "evil" version doesn't really work.


But, yeah, I tried to make Snyder's Avengers as much like Snyder's DC movies.  I just think it's funny that Snyder made three movies to try and get to the part he thought was most interesting (the full Knightmare world) and never got there.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

I would argue that Zack Snyder's DC movies would have been considered successful if they had cost less.

I don't know if Snyder's Batman and Superman are really that off-model. Batman is prepared to kill henchmen in a fight and target Superman for death if he thinks Superman will be a threat... which is a few steps removed from the comic book version, but not that far removed in that the fighting techniques Batman uses in the comics would, in real life, kill someone, and Batman does stockpile Kryptonite in case Superman ever turns. Superman kills Zod to prevent him from harming civilians, which, again, I could see the comic book Superman doing if he had to.

I think that Snyder put Superman and Batman in a more 'realistic' world and was a bit haphazard in the realism. The Metropolis event should be a traumatic, horrific, 9/11 level disaster of violence and grief, but MAN OF STEEL seems to forget all about it, and rumour was that Snyder genuinely didn't realize the audience would imagine themselves in all the destroyed buildings.

I would say that Snyder's main issue is audience and cost. Regarding the audience: should have realized that his MAN OF STEEL action sequences would look like 9/11 to an audience, be as traumatic as 9/11 for the characters, and either adjusted the story accordingly or depicted the trauma accordingly.

Regarding the cost: MAN OF STEEL cost $258 million and would have needed to earn $774 million to turn a profit; it earned $668 million, probably just breaking even. Snyder's BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE cost $325 million, needed to earn $975 million to turn a profit, earned $874.4 million, again, probably just breaking even. There is an audience for grimdark superheroes -- it's just that it's not big enough for Snyder's films to be profitable at the amount that they cost.

I would estimate that the audience for Snyder's movies is about 83 million people. I would suggest that Snyder's movies should have been budgeted at $100 - 125 million, and if they had been, MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and even JUSTICE LEAGUE would have been successes.

Considering how amazing SUPERMAN AND LOIS looks on an $6.3 million per episode budget, Snyder's movies really did not need to be spending $258 million and upwards unless his movies could earn $774 million at minimum. Snyder shot MAN OF STEEL in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Vancouver; filming entirely in Vancouver like SUPERMAN AND LOIS would have made MAN OF STEEL much more cost effective. The fights and special effects, while very impressive, were so elaborate and took two years to do what SUPERMAN AND LOIS could accomplish in a few months.

Snyder had a very lavish, extended, normal-for-cinema model for creating that, while impressive, takes a long time and costs too much for the amount of revenue it generated. SUPERMAN AND LOIS is not nearly as detailed and lavish and has a certain minimalism compared to Snyder's extravagance, but SUPERMAN AND LOIS accordingly doesn't need to earn $774 million in revenue to turn a profit.

Had MAN OF STEEL been made with the cost efficiency of the SUPERMAN AND LOIS television show and earned the same box office on a lower budget, I don't think Warner Bros. would have interfered with BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE or JUSTICE LEAGUE. If JUSTICE LEAGUE had cost $125 million, it would only have needed to earn $375 million to be profitable and its $661.3 million box office would have been seen as a good return.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

I agree that Snyder's versions aren't that far off.  I think I have two problems with his versions:

- Snyder's Superman is Kryptonian first and human second, and he has a weird connection to humanity.  I understand Clark's desire to connect with this alien heritage, but he's been a human his entire life.  By the end of Man of Steel, he seems to have almost no humanity left outside of his love of Lois Lane.  After that, he has no human friends outside of Lois (and his mother, I guess).  This is one reason why many commenters think it was a mistake to kill Jimmy (and make him a CIA operative, I guess).  The only non-Lois/Martha/Bruce scenes are Clark being super alien and emotionless as he saves people.

My understanding of Clark is mostly drawn from Smallville and an alleged rapist so maybe I'm not the right one to judge what the "right" version of Clark is.  But Smallville Clark would've never allowed all those people to die in Metropolis in Man of Steel (or he would've essentially rebuilt the city on his own), and Smallville Clark would've figured out a way to help Bruce before things got to the fight.  Smallville Clark would've found joy in being Superman.  Smallville Clark would've been so obviously good that Bruce would've never had a reason to want to kill him.

- Snyder's Bruce is understandable, but I didn't feel like it was earned. In 7+ hours of Snyder's time with Batman, we still have no idea what set Bruce off on his dark path.  Was it Robin dying (and what happened there?)?  Was it Superman's arrival?  Was it something else?  Alfred seems to imply that it was just everything adding up and turning him to darkness.  Alfred seems to disapprove of what Bruce is doing, but he doesn't stop him.  If Bruce is willing to kill, why isn't the Joker dead?  Are all of Batman's other villains dead?  Why is Batman going out of his way to kill random goons but not their leaders?

I think this was a situation where we needed the context for why Batman is that way, but even in the extended versions, Snyder doesn't seem interested in explaining it.  Robin is dead and it's important, but he doesn't want to spend time on it.  Bruce is angry and violent but he doesn't seem interested in explaining it.  How long has he been that way?  What has he done to cross the line?  Has he even crossed the line or is this the story of him trying to cross the line?

Ironically, I think the Snyderverse would've worked better if he made a Batman movie first and introduced Superman in the sequel.  Snyder doesn't seem all that interested in doing anything with Clark in the sequels, and Batman desperately needed more backstory and context.  I'm totally fine with a Batman that kills and who's ready to kill Superman, but if this is a Batman that went down a dark path, we need to see that path.  To me, that's more interesting than him punching Superman.

I think I've said it before but they should've done a Batman movie before BvS.  I know they wanted to rush things, but they could've done a Superman movie, a Batman movie, a BvS movie, a Wonder Woman movie, and an "anthology" movie with the origins of Aquaman/Flash/Cyborg before the Justice League movie.  It wouldn't have added that much time before Justice League, and it would've set the universe up well.

Instead, we really only got a solo movie for Superman, and that was the only character that probably didn't need a solo movie (because once we got passed it, Snyder gave Superman almost nothing to do).

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

The issues with Superman strike me as something that should have been addressed simply by Snyder having Superman doing repair work with the US Corps of Engineers after the Metropolis attack, and having a conversation with the general about his loyalties on a construction site. And noticeably: in BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, Superman is emotionally shattered by the deaths in Washington, but Warner Bros. inexplicably cut the scene and it was only in the ULTIMATE EDITION.

But I think you've seized upon something very important that even SMALLVILLE understood despite SMALLVILLE being possibly one of the stupidest superhero shows ever made: Superman isn't defined by beating people up; Superman saves people.

The most exciting scenes in SMALLVILLE were never the (very few) superpowered fights; it was Clark ripping people out of harm's way as he pulled them from crashing cars and explosions and yanked them away from gunfire and floods. Tom Welling, while not the world's greatest actor, was so incredible at conveying superhuman strength and superhuman gentleness in his super-saves.

Zack Snyder seemed to have little to no interest in exciting super-saves, and a Superman who doesn't have amazing super-saves is like a Sherlock Holmes who doesn't solve mysteries or a Spider-Man who prefers driving over web-slinging or a Jedi who doesn't use a lightsaber.

As for Batman's motivations -- maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that so many traumatic things have happened to any version of Batman in his life that it would be a little reductive to point at any one event as what sent him slightly off the deep end, whether it was the death of his parents or Alfred burning the bacon one morning.

And yes, it was ridiculous for Snyder to tease some massive, epic Apokalips vs. Earth storyline that he kept teasing in the SNYDER CUT even when he knew there would be no resolution.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

ireactions wrote:

As for Batman's motivations -- maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that so many traumatic things have happened to any version of Batman in his life that it would be a little reductive to point at any one event as what sent him slightly off the deep end, whether it was the death of his parents or Alfred burning the bacon one morning.

I think that's totally fair, but then I needed a scene between Alfred and Bruce where they talk that through.  Maybe Affleck's Batman was always rough around the edges and always blurred the line between hero and psychopath, but I assume that Bruce was, at some point, idealistic.  I assume he was a good guy (basically, who he is in Justice League) and lost his way.

And if that's the case, I just feel like the audience deserved a scene where Alfred makes some sort of attempt to save Bruce's life.  Basically the same kind of scene from Dark Knight Rises where Alfred leaves.  He thinks he has one chance to save Bruce from himself, and he sacrifices everything to do it.

I don't really get Snyder's Alfred.  He seems angry at Bruce and disappointed in Bruce and seems to disagree with everything Bruce is doing...but he's just doing it anyway.  I needed Alfred to confront Bruce.

"Master Wayne, I work for you.  If you want me to help you kill yourself by fighting this man, I will do it.  And I will do it without so much as another complaint.  But I owe it to your father to tell you that you have lost your way."


"No, Master Wayne.  You owe it to me to let me finish.  When you started this insane journey of yours, I supported you because I felt like if you got it out of your system, it would be over and you could move on.  But instead of getting it out of your system, you got it into mine.  I saw the good we were doing.  The people we were saving.  But somewhere along the way, you lost sight of the goal.  The people you saved no longer mattered.  It was about the punishment you were dishing out.  And you lost Master Grayson and it got worse.  I thought some day you'd turn it around.  When you killed Mr. Dent, I thought it would snap you out of it.  When Ms. Kyle died, I thought that would do it.  But nothing worked.  Nothing helped.  You were consumed.  You are consumed.  And if none of that helped, maybe this won't either.  But damn it, I have to try.  You're the only thing I have left in this world, and will kill you if you stay on this path.  Or you'll be so lost that you might as well be dead."

*Bruce doesn't say anything.*

"Okay.  It's said.  Now what's next?"

Something like that where we understand that Bruce was one thing and now he's something else.  Instead, it's all so vague.  We don't know what Bruce was like before or, if he's changed, what changed him.  Honestly, I'd be okay with whatever the answer was, but I just would've preferred an answer.

Re: Zach Snyder's Avengers - An Alternate History

You know, your comments about Batman have made me realize something about myself: I have a blindspot when it comes to Batman. I tend to overlook when something has gone horribly wrong with him, and I normalize it when I shouldn't. And since it's me, it obviously ties into the cancellation of SLIDERS and the death of Professor Arturo.

From 1997 - 2000, the sliders were destroyed: they lost Tracy Torme, Professor Arturo was murdered, Wade was sent to a rape camp, Quinn was 'lost', Rembrandt's fate was unknown. SLIDERS presented a fundamentally defeatist vision: teamwork, knowledge, ingenuity and improvisation were useless. Our demons and David Peckinpah would always defeat us.

Then in 2000, there was Mark Waid's JLA storyline, "Tower of Babel" in which the Justice League is attacked by R'as Al Ghul who makes Superman's skin transparent which overloads his solar storage capacity and supersenses. Ghul then gives the Flash superspeed seizures, traps Wonder Woman in a simulation of endless battle that will cause her heart to explode, uses a toxin to make Aquaman hydrophobic which will kill him if he's away from water for too long, and blinds Green Lantern so he can't use the power ring.

The League is horrified to learn: Ghul stole all these strategies and the technology from the Batcave. Batman has been creating ways to kill the entire Justice League should they ever turn against him. Batman barely manages to save his friends who promptly kick him off the team.

Waid's storyline seemed to trigger something in every other writer on Batman: Batman became a harsh, abrasive, callous, and abusive 'leader' of the Bat team. He rarely had a single kind word for Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, Azrael or even Gordon. Batman in his titles and every guest appearance made him condescending, impatient, dismissive and aggressive. His behaviour reached the point where Alfred moved out of Wayne Manor and moved in with Robin.

When Gotham City is struck by earthquakes and abandoned by the US government in the NO MAN'S LAND storyline, Batman... disappears. The city descends into chaos, Gordon and the rest of the Bat family struggle to hold things together, supervillains carve up parts of the city as their empire.

We learn that Bruce has abandoned Gotham after failing to convince government to reverse its decision. He wanders aimlessly until his ex-girlfriend, Talia, forces him to confront the situation; only after a three month absence does Batman return to Gotham and attempt to retake the city, eventually succeeding and seeing Gotham restored to the US.

Some time later, Bruce Wayne began dating TV personality Vesper Fairchild, which Batman considers merely keeping the Wayne identity in circulation. When Vesper starts to get too close to Bruce, he callously stages a nude pool party with models and lets Vesper think he's cheating on her to drive her away. Later, Vesper is murdered, and all evidence point to Bruce Wayne. Bruce is arrested, and then escapes from jail, beginning the BRUCE WAYNE: FUGITIVE era.

When Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), and Oracle (Barbara Gordon) catch up with him, Batman informs them that he has no intention of trying to clear Bruce Wayne's name. Instead, he declares that the Wayne identity is a disguise that has become a liability, and he's done with it. He tells the Bat Family they are on their own as Bruce Wayne's fortune will no longer be available, and then Batman resumes his crimefighting career without any personal life or secret identity, using satellite bases in Gotham and stockpiled supplies and equipment.

Eventually, Batman does clear his name, but Batman's increasingly distant, aloof and dismissive attitude to anyone and everyone remains. When Jason Todd returns from the dead as a criminal-slaughtering anti-hero (UNDER THE RED HOOD), Batman is shaken but denies it's emotionally difficult.

It all comes to a head in the 2006 INFINITE CRISIS where we learn that Batman set up the deadly Brother Eye satellite network system to surveil superheroes worldwide to monitor and use as a weapon to eliminate them should they become threats. The supervillains and a parallel Lex Luthor, Alexander, take control of Brother Eye to use it against the superheroes.

Batman attempts to regain control and can't, and he has a psychological collapse, horrified by how everything has gone completely wrong: he's alienated every friend and ally, his weapons are now in his enemies' hands, and his life's work has been a failure.

The Justice League and a regretful Batman barely manage to prevent a catastrophe, but a shattered Batman confronts Alexander Luthor, grabs a gun, and is prepared to put a bullet through Alexander's skull. It only Wonder Woman who stops him.

At this point, Batman realizes that something is wrong with him; something has been incredibly wrong with him for years, and he needs to take a step back.

In 52 #30, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake have a discussion, and they realize what they've turned a blind eye to for too long: Batman has had a nervous breakdown. Dick believes that Batman's mental health crisis began with the death of Jason Todd followed by the Joker shooting Barbara and crippling her. The emotional trauma of both were then compounded by the physical trauma of Bane breaking Batman's back. Batman felt helpless.

The grief, pain and paranoia led to Batman creating the anti-JLA countermeasures that alienated him from his closest friends. The US abandoning Gotham City saw Batman walk out on the city as well for three months; despite returning, he later abandoned the Bruce Wayne identity and all his friends. Then the horror of Jason Todd returning as a murderous lunatic and losing control of the Brother Eye system were the final cracks in Batman's crumbling psyche.

Dick says that they had overlooked it; they saw Batman as invincible, unbreakable, devoid of doubt or fear, to the point where they dismissed his increasing isolation, abuse and sociopathy as Batman being Batman. Even as Batman abandoned his city for three months, alienated his friends, abandoned his friends, abandoned his own true identity -- they thought it was simply his focus on crimefighting. They didn't realize that Batman had lost faith in friendship, teamwork, trust, and even in himself. Batman's agony and depression had swallowed him whole and even Batman himself didn't notice.

In a ritualistic ceremony in a vacant desert without the costume or any weapons, Bruce confronts the tribe of Ten-Eyed Swordsmen who battle him and all his demons. When Dick and Tim catch up to him, Bruce is serene. He says that the darkness in his soul has been shorn away. "Batman is gone," he tells them.

When we next see Batman, he's back in Gotham City and has a decidedly more upbeat and positive attitude, and the embittered and miserable Batman of 2000 - 2006 has become a passionate, imaginative adventurer with grand ambitions for making the world better.

When I was reading these comics from 2000 - 2006, reading all these stories of Batman's escalating sociopathy -- Batman's cynicism seemed like sanity to me. After SLIDERS, Batman's attitude seemed like a completely rational approach to the world.

Batman abandoned all liabilities and distractions; he dismissed friendship as frivolous, teamwork as tenuous, and trust as temporary and therefore meaningless. He wrote off Alfred, Gordon, Dick, Tim and Barbara. He assumed the worst of all circumstances and all people. And at the time, Batman's isolationist approach seemed (to me) like the only way to survive a world that could do such horrific things to Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd, or Quinn, Wade, Rembrandt and Arturo.

But looking at it now, it's obvious to me that Batman was either losing it or his writers had (due to being overly enamoured with "Tower of Babel"). It's obvious to me that Batman abandoning his personal life and all his relationships was not a strategic decision, but an act of self-destructive bitterness and grief where he pre-emptively lost hope and faith in people and gave up on them in advance of them letting him down.

I failed to see that Batman was not being written correctly or that Batman's sanity was deteriorating. I couldn't see it because of my own mental health issues.

It occurs to me that I have a recurring inability to spot it when Batman is having a mental health crisis (or when the writers are having one). I have a tendency to normalize it due to my own psychological shortcomings, and Slider_Quinn21's comments have really made me see that.