Detective Comics: the history of “Mythology” - Kyodai Ken
Without question, Batman has one of the strongest supporting casts in all of comics. Whether friend or foe, there are dozens of characters that have name recognition even for the most casual of fans. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn’t at least know names like Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, and Harvey Dent, for instance. His is a group of allies and enemies that is hardly rivaled by any other character in fiction.
Since Batman has had such a strong presence in media outside of comics as well, it’s only fitting that some original characters would make their way into different adaptations. What’s surprising, though, is the amount of memorable characters from various Batman television and film projects that haven’t made their way to the comic page. It’s not without precedent, after all, as Alfred was originally developed for a motion picture serial, much like Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen made his debut on a radio program. And we all know that both Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya we’re introduced in Batman: The Animated Series before finding life in comics canon.
Characters like Alexander Knox, Gossip Gerty, and Summer Gleeson were all created specifically for film and television, and I’m waiting for the day that DC decides to publish a Gotham Gazette ongoing featuring those three alongside Vicki Vale and Jack Ryder. The fact that these characters, even if they’re fairly minor supporting roles, have never made their way over to comics is kind of astonishing. Even someone like Rachel Dawes-- a major character in one of the most successful film franchises of all time-- would have surely made some sort of appearance by now. But no, nothing.
Then again, the nature of those characters would make it difficult to translate to the comics page. Rachel especially, since in the films she was so tied to Bruce’s past that it would require quite a bit of retconning to fir her into the mainstream comics narrative. Otherwise, so many changes would need to be made that you might as well just create an entirely new character. As far as Knox, Gleeson, and Gerty go, they could easily be bit players in cameo roles, but it’s understandable why nobody as bothered yet.
There is one character that probably should have made his way to the comics by now, though, and that is Kyodai Ken.
At long last, in the current Detective Comics arc “Mythology,” Peter Tomasi has finally brought Kyodai into comics continuity. Given his role in Bruce’s past, he’s the perfect choice to broaden and deepen a time in Batman’s history that is still relatively fertile ground for storytelling.
To this point, Kyodai Ken had only appeared in Batman: The Animated Series and a handful of related comics. He debuted in the episode Night of the Ninja and came back in Day of the Samurai, two of the stronger episodes of the series, and is unique among the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery: he’s that rare antagonist who is an adversary of Bruce Wayne, not Batman.
Bruce met Kyodai when he went to train with Yoru-sensei. Kyodai was one of the sensei’s top students, besting even Bruce, until he was exiled from the dojo for trying to steal some sacred weapons. The pair would face off again, years later, until Kyodai’s apparent demise in a volcanic explosion.
I mean, if you’re going to go, go out in the coolest way possible.
While this history has yet to be explored by Tomasi, the seeds have been planted. Bruce and Kyodai cross paths in Detective Comics #996, when Bruce heads to North Korea’s Pektu-San Mountains to ensure his old Sensei is safe. Unfortunately, disaster has already struck, leaving Kyodai the lone survivor of an attempt on Sensei’s life. Sensei was kept safe, thankfully, but given his fatigue, Kyodai is bested by Batman quite easily. Even if this is the first time Bruce and Kyodai have ever met (that detail is left ambiguous), the shame a prized pupil like Kyodai would feel at being beaten by both a “lesser pupil” like Batman and a creature that only attacked because of Batman would certainly sow seeds of bitterness.
If Bruce and Kyodai do not have a history together, it’s certainly a change from the source, but one that would allow for some great storytelling. Revisiting the time when Bruce traveled the world to build his skill-set and learn various martial arts techniques is always fascinating, and having a foil like Kyodai in place would add another layer of drama to this time in Batman’s history. It’s not like “Batman versus all of the ninjas” isn’t a proven recipe for success or anything.
Plus, who knows? Maybe this will open the door for more non-comics characters to appear and I can finally get me some Knox and Gerty stories.