I know, I’m late. My boy’s copy of Batman: Hush had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year and I only just read it. I finally finished and then felt comfortable watching the animated movie. First off, I understand why the book is considered an all-time top Batman story. Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee are masters of their craft. Makes me want to pick up one of those huge Jim Lee art pieces next Comic-Con (Oh God . . . when’s the next Comic-con?).
As soon as the story concluded, it easily landed in my top ten graphic novels. As you can imagine, I was curious if the animated movie could properly capture the novel’s greatness. In short, no; but the genius of the movie is that is doesn’t try to recreate that experience. Rather, it tells its own version of the story that works well in animated movie form.
Despite the differences, both versions are the most comprehensive telling of the Batman mythos I’ve ever consumed. Highlighting the similarities and differences in the two mediums will serve an additional purpose of highlighting these quintessentially “Batman” themes. Beware all who enter: Spoilers galore. Don’t be like me and let Batman: Hush gather dust (just kidding, Fredo. I didn’t get dust on your comic) on your shelf and give it the read it demands.
Beginning With the End
The most glaring difference between the graphic novel and the movie are the reveals/ climaxes. The basic plot of both stories is that a mysterious antagonist, Hush, is manipulating Batman’s rogue gallery in an elaborate plot to upend his life. This is particularly fraught for Batman as he’s beginning a serious relationship with Catwoman. In the novel, Hush is revealed to be Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, Thomas Elliot. The mastermind behind the whole ordeal, though, is the Riddler.
The movie skips the middleman and has Riddler as both the mastermind and Hush. At first look, this dramatic difference was devastating. What made the graphic novel’s reveal powerful were the frequent, beautifully designed flashbacks to the childhood interactions between Bruce Wayne and Thomas Elliot. An 80-page graphic novel is long-form storytelling. Adding a substantial number of those scenes would have drawn out the movie past a lot of audiences’ attention span. Also, the power of prose is enough to power through the last pages of the novel. It’s less compelling in movie form. Making Hush into a physically and mentally (as opposed to only mentally in the book) enhanced Riddler made for a satisfying final battle between him, Batman and Catwoman.
Speaking of fight scenes, another stark difference is the inclusion/ absence of entire characters. Killer Croc, Huntress, Tim Drake and Two-Face were omitted from the movie.Instead of a wheelchair-bound Oracle, Barbara Gordon played Huntress’ role as Batgirl. Two-Face and Tim Drake were completely removed. Croc was replaced by Bane.
I have a couple theories about these choices. Two-Face’s role in the original was interesting, but complicated the plot with his uncertain loyalties. I don’t see that in the other examples. Tim Drake was kind of absorbed into Nightwing, who’s given a more prominent role than in the book. Having Oracle in Batman’s ear and Huntress, even just in the one scene we see Batgirl, wouldn’t add unnecessary time and complexity to the story. Huntress, as well as Killer Croc aren’t as recognizable as Batgirl and Bane. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie creators favored a traditional brawl between Batman and Bane over the former’s having to overcome a monstrous Croc. As the plot is largely unchanged by these swaps and the fight choreography was on point, I wasn’t too bothered.
The Bat, the Cat and the Joke
Watching Batman try so hard to make this relationship work with Catwoman is one of the richest aspects of this story and works amazingly in both the novel and the movie. Therefore, it was surprising how different the two were in how they part ways at the end.
In the print medium, Batman is unable to truly trust that she wasn’t a part of Hush’s plot. Just as we’re about to get that triumphant kiss, she says “Hush” to prompt him to stop talking. This sets Batman off and his inability to stop suspecting her is laid bare. It was a beautifully tragic ending to the story.The movie writers said, “Fuck that”. The movie leans into Batman’s rigid code against killing (or even allowing people to die) as the breaking point. Enter the Joker.
I am firmly on team ‘Joker needs to die’ but, although annoyed, I appreciate the book’s addressing this important part of Batman’s psyche. Thinking Joker has killed his childhood friend, Batman is close to choking Joker to death before Gordon (with Catwoman’s help in the book) convince him to stop. The movie takes this a step further in the aftermath of the final battle with the Riddler. Batman refuses to escape the crumbling factory in order to try and save a suspended Nygma. When Catwoman tries to pull him away (and let me say this with the font it deserves) HE ELBOWS HER IN THE FACE! After she cuts Riddler loose, saving Batman, does he thank her? Nope, he mutters that he didn’t have to die. Selina comes to the realization that the man is insane.
Almost worse, she makes the point that she was willing to give up stealing and straight-up killing people for him, but he is incapable of budging an inch for her. I remember watching this and thinking, “You’re completely right, Catwoman. Find yourself a dude that’ll meet you some sort of halfway”. I’m impressed with how the movie changed the scene but kept it just as compelling by highlighting a toxic trait of the Bat.
I Don’t Say This Often
Hush is a unique comic book/ movie team. There is value in consuming both versions of this story. As I laid out, there are substantial differences between them but not in a way that weakens either medium. Hush has very likely become my go-to suggestion to anyone I’m introducing to Batman comics and movies.