To All the Thomas Waynes We've Seen Before

Jeffrey Dean Morgan will no longer be the latest cinematic take on Thomas Wayne when Joker rolls around.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan will no longer be the latest cinematic take on Thomas Wayne when Joker rolls around.
Image: Batman v. Superman (Warner Bros.)

There are three certainties in the world that bind us all together, regardless of gender, creed, or social status: death, taxes, and seeing Batman’s parents in live-action comics adaptations. Joker, the Joaquin Phoenix-starring DC spinoff, is just the latest live-action venture in a decades-long line to carry on that esteemed tradition.


In the past three decades, Thomas Wayne—usually accompanied by his wife Martha, although we are yet to see if Joker will add her—has made brief appearances in five different Batman adaptations, making Joker the sixth (unless, who knows, someone else out there could be bitten by Wayne fever and produce another one before Joker launches). But as you’re about to see, they’ve all been included in the adaptations for one rather specific reason...

Batman (1989)

Played By: David Baxt

Role: To get shot by a mugger

Given that this was Batman’s first major live-action project since the Batman TV show, you can forgive Tim Burton’s delightful film for taking us back to the defining moment of Batman’s origins, snatched pearls and all. It does add the bizarre twist that it was actually the Joker—or rather, the man who would become the Joker, Jack Napier—that murdered the Waynes, though.

Illustration for article titled To All the Thomas Waynes We've Seen Before

Batman Forever (1995)

Played By: Michael Scranton

Role: To get shot by a mugger

A second Batman in this semi-trilogy means that, hey, why not remind people that his parents are dead? Thankfully, this is one area where Batman Forever actually keeps things tastefully minimalist, as Bruce (now played by Val Kilmer) briefly flashes back to the night his parents were gunned down. He just imagines it with a bit more stage smoke and some dramatically harsh lighting.

Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Played By: Linus Roache

Role: To get shot by a mugger (Batman Begins), and exist as a memory to help Bruce train to climb out of the Pit (The Dark Knight Rises)

Yes, he still has to get shot, but at least Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy did a little more with Thomas, flashing back to Bruce’s youth and the defining moment that taught the future Batman that...well, bats are pretty scary! That, and he gets to originate the notable quotable “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up again.”

Gotham (2014)

Played By: Grayson McCouch

Role: To get shot by a mugger

The only TV entry on this list of live-action Thomas Waynes—mainly because he appeared more in Batman’s animated TV show efforts, but also because Batman ‘66 never actually showed Batman’s origins, further sealing itself as still the best live-action Batman adaptation. Eventually it gets revealed to Bruce that his dad was covering up some shady deals at Wayne Enterprises, and that also he built what will eventually become the Batcave of Gotham’s reality for...reasons?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Played By: Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Role: To get shot by a mugger, and remind you that his wife’s name is Martha

Batman’s big debut in the latest iteration of the DC cinematic universe means that yes, it’s time to tell this story again for some reason! At least Morgan’s Thomas Wayne gets the infamous honor of both a) getting shot like he always has to and b) his final word being the name of his wife, leading to the incredibly dumb plot point that brings together Batman and Superman in this movie.


You can see the point we’re trying to make here. So far in live-action, Thomas Wayne has existed for a singular purpose: to get shot and lead his son on a path of dressing up as a bat to go out and beat up criminals in the dead of night. Time and time again, Thomas Wayne’s final minutes are played out for a new generation of moviegoers, or sometimes just to remind you (in case you forgot) that yes, Batman’s parents are deeeeeeaaaaad.


So as nightmarish as it seems that this Joker origin movie is going to give us a Baldwin-as-Trump-as-Wayne take on the the least it’s an attempt to do something a bit different with a character that otherwise exists to die? Small mercies and all that.


James is a News Editor at io9, where you can find him delivering your morning spoilers, writing about superheroes, and having many feelings about Star Wars. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!



I always found it weird that they got (relatively) big names to play Thomas and Martha Wayne in the intro of Batman v. Superman, given that we only see them for a couple seconds. But now knowing that the Flash movie is (was? I don’t really know what’s happening with the DCEU anymore) meant to be adapting Flashpoint, it does makes a lot more sense.