Fearful Symmetry: World-Building
I What if...
What if a young man named Bruce Wayne, whose youthful appearance belies a soul already worn with age, decides that the quest for *justice*, the life's mission already growing clear in his mind, needs must include a recognition of the law and its boundaries? What if, after years away from Gotham, he returns to sit in on law courses at one of the city's more prestigious universities, to better understand how to work outside the legal system and still respect it -- and to learn which laws could be bent and which could be broken and which must never be crossed lest he go from vigilante to simple criminal?
What if, during the course of that period of education and self-definition, Bruce Wayne meets someone whose passion for justice matches his own, whose burning need to rid Gotham of its festering evils equals the fire that burns within him, who shares an intensity he thought would remain forever unmatched? What if Bruce Wayne, already reconciled to a life alone and lonely, finds a true kindred spirit?
What if that kindred spirit's name is Harvey Dent?
The universe of Fearful Symmetry is based on these questions and seeks to present the answer to one more: What would become of the DCU if this were true?
II It Begins in Gotham...
There is no hot, sweaty sex the first time Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent meet. There is no sex at all. What there is has very little to do with the body and everything to do with the mind: two individuals realizing that the passion that inspires them, the intensity that fuels their efforts, is mirrored in each other.
For both men, friendships up to that point had been either unsatisfying or nonexistent -- nobody *understood* what drove them to work so hard toward a very specific goal, nobody was willing to see what sort of sacrifices must be made to achieve it, let alone make those sacrifices. Single-mindedness of purpose does not make many friends, so finding each other is as much a relief as a confirmation of the rightness of their respective plans. In meeting each other, Bruce and Harvey realize that not only were they traveling the right road, but also that they would not have to travel it alone.
Bruce and Harvey may share a goal, but their paths to that goal are not the same and they part when their time together at law school is done. Harvey needs to build up his power within the law and Bruce his strength without it. They would not meet again until Bruce returns to Gotham to begin his mission as the Batman.
By the time of their reunion, things have changed for both men. Harvey Dent is the fast-rising, ambitious District Attorney, married to his job as well as to the former Gilda Gold, the daughter of one of Gotham's wealthier families. Bruce Wayne has come into his full inheritance and returns to his native city to claim his place within society as well as at the head of Wayne Industries.
As per canon, both Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon develop working relationships with the Batman that border on friendship -- as close as two men of the law can be to a vigilante, although Harvey's lawyerly ability to stretch the law to permit justice means that he is less suspicious of Batman than Jim. The trio is instrumental in bringing down the local mafia families and it is during the fateful trial of Sal Maroni that things change.
Harvey has his suspicions that the Batman is in fact Bruce Wayne, but has not addressed them yet. The passionate young man that Bruce had been during their law classes is now an aloof entrepreneur, the focus of a city still fascinated by the lasting mystique of the infamous Wayne Murders. And yet Batman is that same drive writ large, unbothered by the details that turn into loopholes for defense counselors when ignored by the police.
The Maroni trial is a coup for both Batman and DA Dent and Bruce, feeling pride for both, is a conspicuous spectator at the packed courthouse. Seated in the first row by dint of his social standing and friendship with Harvey, Bruce is thus in a position to leap over the rail and tackle him when Maroni reaches into his pocket to pull out the acid meant to kill the crusading prosecutor. For his heroism, Bruce receives an ugly scar on his hand from the acid burn and the grateful thanks of an untouched Harvey.
[In The Long Halloween, Bruce Wayne attends Maroni's trial incognito, standing in the back dressed like a local hood. He is thus too far away when Maroni reaches into his pocket and pulls out the container of acid that would destroy Harvey Dent's life, turning him into Two-Face.]
Bruce had always meant to tell Harvey that he is Batman (this is *canon*; he was going to tell him after the Maroni trial, but fate interfered), but it is Harvey who approaches him first. The pretense now gone, the two men are now free to interact fully and openly with each other, to great effect.
Unofficially aided by a ruthless and feared vigilante who can go where they can't and officially backed by an ambitious and pragmatic District Attorney, the Gotham City Police Department is in a position to win the war on crime. Jim Gordon's men and women make the most of their opportunity.
The public, sensing the dawn of the darkness that had long loomed over Gotham, approve the passage of laws that end the vicious cycle of criminals being apprehended only to be released or escape shortly thereafter. Encouraged by their crusading public officials, such as DA Dent, they pass bond referendums raising money so that the prison at Blackgate and the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane are structurally upgraded and given adequate manpower. Private donations, notably the generous offering of the Wayne Foundation, see both facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The familiar cast of rogues -- Mister Freeze, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and so on -- are caught, brought to trial, and kept behind bars upon conviction. The Joker, too, is caught and imprisoned, but is the victim of a fatal attack by a fellow inmate made possible by convenient bureaucratic error. In less than two decades, Gotham is able to surpass both New York and Metropolis as the safest big city in America.
III ... And in Gotham it Remains.
It takes significantly less time for the already-intense relationship between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent to boil over into something else. The development of a physical aspect to their partnership is natural but not inevitable; theirs is a partnership that could have existed successfully without that progression. But once begun, it is complete. Despite Harvey's marriage and Bruce's quite public dating life, theirs is the primary relationship in both of their lives.
With his emotional and physical needs met by Harvey, Bruce does not feel he has to put much effort in to the maintenance of 'Bruce Wayne, public figure'. The pleasant-but-dim "Brucie" persona of canon is never created and the never-ending stream of beautiful women is narrowed to a trickle and mostly used to keep the true nature of his proclivities secret.
Bruce Wayne has entry into every social circle because of his wealth and power, but is never welcomed with any warmth. He is aloof and elitist, impatient and demanding of perfection in others, terrifyingly intelligent and intolerant of those who could not keep up. In short, he is everything the canon Bruce Wayne is, except he is open about it.
There is no concern on Bruce's part that he would be discovered as Batman -- there simply isn't anyone who could believe that Bruce Wayne is capable of the compassion and self-sacrifice required for the task. Coupled with his conspicuous advocacy of the anti-gun lobby and the (mostly) apocryphal tales of the Batman's violence, Bruce Wayne, the man who "inherited his mother's looks, his father's brains, and neither of their charm" is nobody's candidate for either friend or Batman. The only exception is Harvey, and Bruce is inclined to keep it that way.
Freed from maintaining the image of the idle rich playboy, Bruce skips more society events than he attends, content to send a generous check and avoid the required mingling; he prefers concerts and other entertainments that provide long enforced silences when he would not be obligated to interact with his date for the evening. It is this distaste that leads to his absence from Haly's Circus on the night when Tony Zucco's men murders two of the acrobats, orphaning the young Dick Grayson.
In canon, Dick serves as counterbalance to Bruce, both as the boy to the man and as Robin to Batman. The boy cannot heal the man, but Dick is able to keep the flame of hope alive for Bruce and that power should not be underestimated. He never stops working toward a life *as Dick Grayson*, even as Robin grows into Nightwing, and he's largely successful at happiness as both man and hero.
A Bruce not balanced by Dick but instead mirrored by Harvey becomes a different person. Bruce has no impetus to learn compassion or master patience; he is never a teacher and retains only the abstract guardianship of a city and not the specific and demanding status as surrogate parent. Harvey has adult comprehension and desires and the mature reasoning to understand Bruce as he is. They are simpatico and Bruce has never been forced to learn the art of compromise beyond the satisfaction of his and Harvey's private life versus their more austere public ones.
Bruce is a much more rigid personality as a result and that carries over to the Batman, whose tactics are largely unaffected but who does not have any desire to work with others. He cuts off Barbara Gordon's Batgirl career at its beginning and the thought to take a personal interest in the young Jason Todd does not even cross his mind. With no Robin, Tim Drake's lingering memory of Dick Grayson's acrobatics spurs no further involvement in the Batman mythos. With the early and effective eradication of habitual criminals and their enterprises, Arthur Brown (a.k.a. Cluemaster) is behind bars for most of his daughter Stephanie's life and she never becomes the Spoiler. Helena Bertinelli is serving a life sentence for her murderous spree as the vengeful Huntress. The Joker's early death means there is never an Oracle.
While Batman must necessarily be respectful of the legacy of those heroes who came before him, he is also dismissive. Bruce doesn't believe that he has done anything that Green Lantern (now Sentinel) couldn't have accomplished if he had tried, especially after he finds out that radio magnate Alan Scott is the man behind the costume. His dismissal of Black Canary has less to do with her heels and fishnets than with her obvious disinclination to better equip herself for the fight -- she's a brawler, nothing more.
The canon 'ban' on visiting costumes in Gotham still stands, backed up by DA Dent's eager prosecution of all would-be vigilantes other than the Bat. Bruce's own suspiciousness is not tempered by Dick's awe and curiosity and he establishes no friendship with Clark Kent's Superman. Batman has absolutely no involvement in the JLA.
IV Beyond the City Limits...
Within canon, Batman is an infrequent participant in JLA activities and His removal from the picture should not be drastic. Coupled, however, with the removal of Robin and Nightwing, the cumulative effect is quite large.
With no Dick Grayson and no Robin, there is no Teen Titans. (Kid Flash and Aqualad alone meet for that first adventure and there is no follow-up.) With no Teen Titans and its various incarnations, there is no tradition of a group of young would-be heroes banding together into a team -- i.e., no Infinity, Incorporated and no Young Justice. The Outsiders were never formed by Batman -- or anyone else. There is only the JLA as the successor the long-defunct JSA and All-Star Squadron.
The JLA itself is somewhat different from its canon counterpart. While there are certainly house cynics -- for instance Shayera Thal (Hawkwoman) -- the team is buoyed by an idealism that is perhaps closer to Superman's approach to life. The lack of Batman's detective skills are ably compensated for by professional detectives Hawkwoman, Elongated Man, and the Martian Manhunter. [See roster below for the full membership of this JLA.]
The greatest differences between the two JLAs lie in their form and structure. The cap on personnel is gone -- Batman was the driving force behind limiting the number of members -- and in the absence of competing teams, the JLA has become a large, inclusive, and *organized* operation.
To accommodate the roles of younger heroes and to train them to better use their spectacular powers, the JLA itself creates the Titans as a kind of superhero academy, closer in form and function to a military academy than to the X-Men's Xavier Institute. The Titans are mentored, trained, dispatched against lower-level threats, and, upon graduation, are expected to join the JLA. The youngest heroes are prepared in an environment similar to the weekends-only Teen Titans of current canon.
Appendix A: Team Rosters
Elongated Man -- the detective
Associates--Flamebird, Lilith; Magenta, Thunder and Lightning
In training--Impulse, Mirage, Terra II, Supergirl, Rose Wilson, Argent, Joto, Prysm, CM3, Mary Marvel, Halo, Aura, Hero Cruz, Bushido, Bonfire, Junior, Monstergirl, Thunderhead, Zip Kid, Anima, Superboy, Wonder Girl II, Arrowette, Secret, Empress, Sapphire, Striker Z
Retired--Herald, Bumblebee, Red Star, Chris King, Pantha, Northwind
Graduates--Flash III (JLA), Fury II (missing), Jade (JLA->JSA), Atom-Smasher (JLA), Obsidian (JLA), Silver Scarab (now Fate, JLA->JSA), Icemaiden (JLA), Nightshade (JLA), Hourman II (JSA), Ray II (JLA->JSA), Geo-Force (JLA), Katana (JLA), Green Lantern V (Kyle, JLA, brief training stint only), Green Arrow II (Connor, JLA, brief training stint only), Firehawk (JLA), Dove II (JLA), Damage (JSA)
Never graduated--Speedy (CBI), Brainwave (evil), Tempest (solo), Risk (dropped out)
KIA--Hawk, Dove I, Golden Eagle, Terra I, Jericho, Kole, Danny Chase, Star-Spangled Kid/Skyman, Wildcat II, Dr. Midnight
Reserve--Doctor Occult, Hourman III (Matthew), S.T.R.I.P.E., Air Wave III, Iron Munro, Deep Blue/Indigo, Guardian (Metropolis), Max Mercury (aka Quicksilver), Uncle Sam
Retired--Fury I, Harlequin (Molly), Liberty Belle, Miss America, Neptune Perkins, Phantom Lady, Bulletman, Black Condor, Captain Triumph, Human Bomb, Chinatown Kid II, Cyclone Kids, Doll Girl, Manhunter I, Merry the Gimmick-Girl, Minute-Man, Mister Scarlet, Ibis the Invincible, the Ray, Red Tornado (Ma Hunkel), Spy Smasher, Tarantula, Tsunami, Vigilante I, Starman (Jack)
Deceased (includes AS-Sq)--Atom I, Black Canary I, Dr. Mid-Nite I, Dr. Fate I, Hawkgirl I, Hourman I, Johnny Quick, Mr. Terrific I, Sandman, Spectre I, Starman I, Wonder Woman (Hippolyta), Air Wave I, Amazing Man I, Americommando, Bulletgirl, Chinatown Kid I, Commander Steel, Crimson Avenger I, Doll Man, Firebrand I, Invisible Hood, The Jester, The King, Magno, Manhunter II, Merlin, Midnight, Neon the Unknown, Red Bee, Red Torpedo, Sargon the Sorcerer, The Spider, T.N.T., Tor, The Whip, Wing, Zatara
Status Unknown--Firebrand II, Flying Fox, Fury II
Gone Bad--Tigress II
* Hawkgirl II, Stargirl, Jesse Quick, and Jakeem were recruited straight in, bypassing the Titans. Hourman II graduated from the Titans, but was too ill to join the JLA and signed on with the JSA when he got better. Damage was snatched up straight out of the Titans graduation. Phantom Lady II was trained by her predecessor. The JLA and the JSA share a cordial yet increasingly strained relationship regarding new heroes and their placement.
Appendix B: Whatever Happened To....
(All of the following is subject to change as the universe evolves.)
Roy Harper (still called Speedy) is left on his own when his mentor, Green Arrow, all but abandons him to run around with Black Canary and Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan). Roy promptly heads down his path of self-destruction by way of his heroin addiction. Once recovered, Roy briefly enters the Titans program but soon leaves to put his skills to use for a US Government agency (he joins the CBI as a field agent); without emotional ties to the Titans or its members, he never returns to the superhero world and now works for the ISA. His codename is Arsenal.
Garth of Shayeris never joins the Titans in any official capacity; Arthur's suspicion of the surface world coupled with inadequate facilities and plain old disinterest keeps Garth in the water. As a result, the immortal mage Atlan finds him much sooner and spends many more years training Garth in his powers. Garth's experiences are still heavily influenced by his love of and eventual loss of Tula (Aquagirl), but he is more Atlan's protégé than Aquaman's former sidekick and is not bound by the shadows of his relationship with King Orin of Atlantis. There's a bit of the rogue and the rake in this Garth, a man who has grown up comfortable with his powers, confident in his abilities and his place in the world. Like all powerful mages, Garth inspires a bit of fear and suspicion and, despite his laid-back demeanor, he reminds JLAers a little more of John Constantine than of Zatanna.
Donna Hinckley Stacey Troy leads the awesomely confusing life she did in canon until the time when the Teen Titans would have formed. Instead of regular interactions and adventures with other teen heroes, Donna stays closer to home at the orphanage. There is never the deep friendship with Dick Grayson, the romance with Roy Harper, or the casual camaraderie of the other young men in the Teen Titans. Donna attends college where she meets Terry Long, the man she would marry and by whom she would bear her son Robert. Donna is part of the team Raven recruits to fight Trigon and stays with the team from then on, eventually becoming its principal mentor and advisor. When Wonder Woman eventually appears (just after Crisis), that's when Donna's connection to the Amazons is finally revealed, and Diana and Hippolyta welcome her as a lost member of the family. Terry and Robert die in a car crash, leaving the Titans as her only "family" and Donna more dedicated than ever to training the next generation of heroes.
Wally West's life is the least changed of the original Titans. He spends his formative years as Kid Flash, learning the ins-and-outs of superheroing from Barry Allen. Wally joins the fight against Trigon and, after Barry Allen's death during the Crisis, takes on the mantle of the Flash and joins the JLA.
When Raven shows up seeking aid against her demonic father Trigon, she is dismissed by the JLA as in canon. She goes looking for and finds neophyte heroes to help her: Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Starfire, Cyborg, Changeling, Jade, and Obsidian. Together, these youngsters manage to defeat Trigon. Afterward, with the JLA's sanction and support, they form the core of the Titans with the Martian Manhunter as their adult advisor.
b) The other Batfolks.
Dick Grayson -- Part of his story is told in "Blue-Eyed Boy" and the attendant meta.
Barbara Gordon -- Enamored with the idea of the Batman, Barbara creates her own version of the costume and seeks to partner with him. She is shut out in no uncertain terms and threatened with prosecution by the vigilant DA if she persisted. Disappointed and angry, she abandons that dream and seeks a different career. Her story is yet to be told.
Jason Todd -- Caught attempting to steal wheels off the Batmobile, Jason is unceremoniously sent into juvenile detention and thereafter into a cycle of petty crime and incarceration, eventually ending up as a prominent Gotham gang leader who has thus far evaded permanent capture.
Tim Drake -- When the Obeah Man kills both of his parents, Tim is placed in foster care and soon becomes an especial favorite of volunteer Gilda Dent.
Stephanie Brown -- Hatred for her father's petty crime transmutes into hatred for Batman and DA Dent for taking him away from her.
Helena Bertinelli -- Her brief foray into vigilantism doesn't end well.
Jean-Paul -- Undetermined.
Selina Kyle -- Faced with a Batman unwilling to tolerate her exploits and the prospect of ruthless prosecution if caught, Selina leaves Gotham for easier territory.