What If Batman and Superman's Protectorates Were Reversed?
Batman's born (and his parents are killed) in Metropolis, Superman chooses to go to Gotham instead of Metropolis. How would Batman, Superman, and their respective cities be changed -- personally, tactically, socially, etc. Would they be better off, or are things better the way they are? Read on to find out....
Batman's childhood might not change much: his parents could still get mugged -- or zapped in an alien invasion, which is more Metropolis's style; Alfred could still be the Wayne family butler (he did inherit the job – if the Waynes’ history was moved to Gotham, why not the Pennyworths'?); and Bruce would still make his promise, and dedicate himself to fighting all evil everywhere. Where things may change is puberty – would he leave the city at fourteen, like in continuity, or would he choose to stay in school, and become a police officer?
After all, the Metropolis PD has never had the corruption problems Gotham’s has, and the Special Crimes Unit, or similar, would be exactly the sort of place Bruce would be attracted to: a team of trained elite fighting corruption like no one else can; a de-facto Batman Incorporated. His family’s fortune would mean he could supply them with weapons far superior to any other law enforcement agency, and the camaraderie would honestly be good for Bruce’s disposition -- he’ll never be a sunny personality, but at least he’d be more Jim Gordon or Harvey Dent than Frank Castle.
But what if he didn’t grow up in Metropolis? What if he grew up in Gotham, received all the same training, had the same friend (Tommy/Thomas "Hush" Elliot), and had the same overall childhood as in general continuity? WayneTech does have a Metropolis facility, and it wouldn’t be difficult for a 20 - to - 25-year-old Bruce to either transition into the training program for the MPD or SCU; or to strike out on his own like in every other canon story.
Superman’s upbringing wouldn’t change much, either – especially considering the diversity already present in existing, canon interpretations. From having his powers from birth to not gaining them until young adulthood; having the Kents openly and legally adopting baby Kal versus pretending Martha was pregnant following a snowed-in winter; and even the Kents’ names -- originally Jonathan and Mary -- there’s really not much that hasn’t been changed at one point or another. So, we’ll still get the mild-mannered, down-to-Earth Man of Steel we’ve always had. To my knowledge, there’s never been any real explanation for why he chose Metropolis over New York, Chicago, or Star City. His reasons for choosing Gotham City would be just as innocuous.
Once in Gotham, however, how would he deal with the rampant crime and corruption throughout the city’s politicians and police? Would he eschew the system, and become a less visible hero, similar to Batman? Would he adopt more brutal tactics to punish “untouchable” criminals, similar to his time as Gangbuster? Or would he simply reveal himself as the Superman we all know and love, hoping to inspire – both directly and indirectly – those who would assist him in the Never-Ending Battle?
For that matter, who would assist him? In both Year One and Earth One, Gordon is almost completely broken by Gotham City, until Batman steps in – in Year One, Batman saves Gordon’s son; in Earth One Gordon’s daughter. Would Superman recognize Gordon as a possible asset?
In Year One he might, as Gordon made a name for himself even before he and the Batman crossed paths -- for example defusing the situation with schizophrenic and his hostages; But in Earth One? If Batman hadn’t been there, Barbara probably would have died, and James would have broken completely. Of course, it’s possible that Superman’s powers would have caused him and the Birthday Killer to “do battle” much sooner, but even so, Mayor Cobblepot would have simply hired someone else (who else wants to see that universe’s version of Mr. Freeze?).
Who would be Batman’s first major villain? Whether or not Bruce grew up in Metropolis, he’d almost certainly cross swords, or contracts, with the young Lex Luthor. Wayne’s absence during Lex’s “growth years” would mean that, when Bruce came back, Luthor could very easily have consolidated his position as competition to STAR Labs and WayneTech alike. Story-wise, the parallels between the two of them would make Lex a fantastic opposite to Bruce. The young Batman’s attempts to fend off Lex’s inevitable attacks on both his identities would be fun to read!
Other threats could be literally anyone else in Superman’s rogues gallery – as far as I can tell, Luthor is the only consistently-chosen character, though power-draining or -negating characters (e.g. Darkseid, Parasite, or Metallo) seem to be the more popular ones.
Superman’s first experience would almost certainly be against Gotham’s overall system of corruption—not any one battle or investigation, so much as the overall experience of Gotham’s sickness and hopelessness. More tangibly, he’d end up facing the mafia and the mafia-controlled police force. As for the first supervillain he’d face, it certainly wouldn’t be the Joker.
For there to be a Joker, there has to be a fledgling Batman and a fall into a vat of chemicals – it’s unlikely that, in the Killing Joke origin, the Red Hood gangsters would even get past the first or second crime; and in the Who's the Man Under the Red Hood version, the Joker himself could never gain an advantage from his gas mask and re-breather. With all of that in mind, Jack Napier (or whatever name the character has or had) would never develop the warped psyche necessary to make him a major threat to the world. For Superman, the greatest threats would be political – for example, the Penguin -- or intellectual – for example, the Riddler.
What would the mature Bat-Man of Tomorrow be like? The first thing of note is that he could never do things the way he does in continuity, since Superman/Metropolis's enemies are far too powerful. He would need a Steel-type powered armor -- in fact, having John Henry Irons on Waynetech's staff, ala the Nolanverse/Earth One Lucius Fox, would be a believeable prospect. Would this lead to a Batman Beyond type of costume, Or maybe an OMAC-style "second skin?" Other options would be an emergency-only exoskeleton, as seen in The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and The Dark Knight Returns, or actual Bat-bots, as seen in Kingdom Come or Infinite Crisis.
His weapons would also have to be upgraded or changed -- a Batarang is NOT going to knock out Metallo. One way to do this, while keeping the familiar arsenal, is to give him his traditional weapons with, for example, electrified weaponry. The second possibility would be to give him different weapons -- powerful knockout gases, meta-powerful flash-bang-type grenades, or maybe even an energy sword e.g. Halo or Star Wars (we already know Batman is one of the planet's greatest swordsmen. This is tested most often by Ras Al Ghul/the League of Assasins).
Another thing of note would be that he'd have to have some sort of relationship with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, given that they are always involved in major threats, and are always "on the job" when doing so. I would venture that the most logical form for this relationship to take would be similar to the one between a police officer and an informant -- rather than being contacted through the local Police Department, Batman would simply let Lois and Jimmy investigate stories, and then have them report back to him. Any time there were no emergencies, he would simply remain on patrol. An arrangement like this might even allow Jimmy to keep a sort of "Bat-signal watch," perfect for giving he and Lois, if she received one of her own, a way to have Batman help/save them. I would also expect that, unlike Superman, Batman would provide them with some high-quality self-defense training -- surreptitiously, of course: a disguised Alfred, videotaped instructions, or simply a recommendation to a trusted Metropolis ally. He may even behave as he did in Batgirl: Year One, sending "training packages" to their residences and letting them self-educate themselves on their own time.
The mature Superman would no doubt be very similar to what we have in-continuity. Instead, he would force the villians he fought to "escalate" their own abilities -- mobsters would need to turn to STAR or Gothcorp for the weaponry to fight Superman, assuming Darkseid/Desaad didn't create the 100 (later the 1,000) for the express purpose of challenging Superman. The Riddler would need to create more devastating death-traps to pose a threat to Superman, Killer Croc would simply be out-classed, and Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, and Clayface would all become forefront enemies -- not only for their raw power, but also because Superman would be much more sympathetic to their situations (making for more interesting stories). Other interesting cases would be those of Doctor Phosphorous, whose radiation powers may allow him to be an Atomic Skull-style threat, and Floronic Man, whose backstory better fits Superman's M.O. Hugo Strange may also become an A-list villain, obsessed with Superman not unlike some versions of Lex Luthor, and highly intelligent -- would Superman be able to "keep up" with Strange's strategies, given that Batman can't in-continuity?
Police support of Superman would probably be much less controversial than Batman, since he makes it clear that he's not crazy, not demonic, and is genuinely trying to help, as opposed to furthering some personal agenda (ala Jason Todd's "control crime as a criminal" approach). As far as direct allies are concerned, the scientists at Gotham's STAR labs would most certainly be interested, as would Gothcorp and Lexcorp Gotham's personnel.
Working at, most likely, the Gotham Gazette, Superman would be guaranteed to meet Vicki Vale. Would she be his love interest? Given that Vicki is basically a blend of Lana Lang and Lois Lane, it's a real probability. Perhaps in this alternate reality, Superman's life is saturated with the initials "V.V." Other persons who would no doubt become Superman Family members would be Slam Bradley, Harvey Bullock and Ronee Montoya, Harvey Dent (would Superman attend the pivotal, dread trial, or woud he be out saving the city, or would he be working?). Bradley and Bullock's origins are mostly separate from Batman's crusade, and would no doubt still be doing what they do with or without his presence, and Superman would have an even greater impact than Batman on rookie Montoya and veteran Dent alike, irrespective of Dent becoming Two-Face. Superman, unlike Batman, would go out of his way to establish close professional relationship with those who are fighting the fight, and may even end up using them as sources in his Clark Kent persona.