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The Dark Knight Rises Leslie Thompson needed in sequels


Signing off
May 2, 2004
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B:TAS Bio: Leslie Thompkins attended medical school with Thomas Wayne and Rupert Thorne's brother. After graduating, she remained close to Thomas Wayne and opened up her own free medical clinic to help those in need, but cannot afford medical assistance. Leslie was the first one to console Bruce when his parent's were killed that faithful night. She watched him grow up to be a man, and is one of the few people who know that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one. She also knows the secret identities of the other Gotham Knights as well. She's a well respoected doctor in Gotham, and one of Bruce's true friends.

Dr. Leslie Thompkins

Leslie Thompkins is an anomaly: in the violent world of superhero comics, where disagreements are often settled in bloody aerial brawls, Leslie shines as a rare bastion of pacifism and proponent of non-violence. For over 25 years, she has been one of the strongest and most unique women of Gotham. Thanks go out to Bob for this incredibly well-researched and thorough look at the good doctor!
Leslie Thompkins debuted in Detective Comics #457 (1975). Denny O’Neil's story, entitled "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley," was destined to become a classic. It was later reprinted in two different collections of Batman stories so that modern-day Batman readers wouldn’t have to search through dusty back-issue bins or pay an exorbitant price to read it.
This first Leslie shared a number of similarities with the current post-Crisis version, but also differed in a couple of notable ways. In both versions, she is the young woman who arrived on the spot after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents to comfort the boy and temporarily take care of him. (Later it was suggested she was present in the role of a social worker.) The other important aspect of her story that has never changed is her complete devotion to the cause of non-violence. In later years, Denny O’Neil said that the inspiration for the character was Dorothy Day, founder of The Catholic Worker and noted pacifist.

The major differences between the current Leslie and the original, pre-Crisis version are: 1) The new Leslie is clearly identified as a doctor; 2) The new Leslie is noticeably younger than the stoop-shouldered octogenarian of the original story; and, most importantly, 3) The new Leslie has played a more significant and ongoing role in the life of Bruce Wayne than simply being the old lady he went to visit once a year in Crime Alley on the anniversary of his parents’ deaths.

Indeed, considering that Leslie was used only three or four times from her debut in 1975 till Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, it might have seemed that she was never intended to be any more than a peripheral character. But all that changed after the Crisis, thanks mostly to Mike W. Barr, who loved the character and brought her back into post-Crisis continuity in a big way with Batman: Year Two.

Since that seminal work, Dr. Leslie Thompkins has become an integral part of the Batman/Bruce Wayne mythos. But curiously, until very recently, most of her story has been told only in flashbacks. This has made it very difficult to put together a chronological portrait of Leslie. While I was researching this project, reading all of the Leslie Thompkins back issues I could find, John Wells wrote a piece entitled "The Leslie Thompkins Story" for The O’Neil Observer #4 that proved invaluable to me for checking my facts. Unlike his article, which examined the Leslie issues chronologically by release date, I decided to put together a sequence of issues that would enable the reader to read Leslie’s story as it unfolds in "real time," regardless of the release dates of the particular issues.

I would recommend that anyone investigating the post-Crisis Leslie start with No Man’s Land: Secret Files & Origins #1. This issue contains a short biography of Leslie written by her creator, Denny O’Neil, with facts about her early life that are unavailable elsewhere. It also has an illustration by an artist I personally consider to be one of the best LT illustrators, Dale Eaglesham. He and Roger Robinson seem to be the only artists who treat Leslie as more than just a generic old woman. They convey the young, idealistic doctor underneath the inevitable layers of the aging process.

What do we learn from this issue? First, that Leslie was an only child. Her father was a manufacturer, her mother a former debutante. Early in her life, Leslie could see that money had not brought her parents happiness. When she encountered the philosophies of Gandhi and Tolstoy in high school, she decided to devote her life to service and helping the needy. After an initial outburst of anger, her father made her a deal: he would finance her medical education if she would defer her final career decision until after graduation.

Next comes a significant point in the biography, as it relates to Leslie’s age. O’Neil says that Leslie graduated from Gotham State Medical School at age 23, still determined to pursue a life of service. "A few months later (italics mine), returning from a house call at about 11 p.m., she found a boy sitting near the bodies of his parents, who had been killed by a mugger. She cared for the child, young Bruce Wayne, until he was able to return home, to the guardianship of the family butler, Alfred Pennyworth."

If Leslie was 23 years old when she found the nine-year-old Bruce Wayne, and Bruce is, at best, now only in his late thirties, Leslie Thompkins can be no more than 53 years old in current continuity. Yet many artists draw her as elderly. This is a major glitch in the current Bat-books.

There have been many retellings of the night of the Waynes’ murders. One of the best is Batman #0 written by Doug Moench. However, in both his story and Alan Grant’s story in Shadow of the Bat #0, there are major contradictions to the story told by Mike W. Barr in his prelude to Year Two (found in Detective Comics #574). Barr clearly indicates that Leslie invited Bruce to stay with her right from the crime scene itself. Moench’s story shows Leslie inviting Bruce to come with her for the first time at the gravesite, reminding him that they met on the night of the killings. Grant adds the surprising detail that Leslie was an old friend of the family who assisted Alfred in raising Bruce.

To complete the confusion of Leslie's early years, in the more recent Gotham Knights #7 by Devin Grayson we get what we can assume to be the current take on Leslie Thompkins's introduction into Batman continuity. (Incidentally, Denny O’Neil was still the Bat office editor at the time this issue saw print, so we can also assume it had his blessing.) This issue is so important to the history of the character that we need to look at it more closely.

First of all, it establishes the "old family friend" status of Leslie, showing her arrive at Wayne Manor and meeting Alfred for the first time. She had been summoned there by Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, to consult with her as a fellow doctor on a new pneumonia strain. The implication is that Leslie already knew Thomas and Martha and had seen Bruce before, presumably at some location other than Wayne Manor.

The next flashback in this issue shows Leslie with Bruce at the crime scene (with no explanation as to how she got there), asking the detective in charge if she can take the boy home to Alfred. This sequence also shows that it was Leslie who had to break the news of the murders to Alfred.

Another flashback shows Leslie arriving at the Manor to help Alfred deal with a recalcitrant Bruce (looking to be at least a couple of years older by this time). Implied in this scene is that Leslie had not been a regular presence at Wayne Manor after the fatal night up until this time.

Yet in the next flashback, Alfred goes to Leslie’s office to consult with her after Bruce leaves home for his "see the world" phase. The timing coincides with Leslie leaving her ritzy office for good to devote herself entirely to her clinic work. This scene also shows a growing intimacy between Alfred and Leslie.

That intimacy reaches a peak in the next flashback as we see Leslie a guest at the Manor for tea with Alfred. Just as things seem to be moving along to a physical encounter between the two, in walks Bruce in his Batman suit with a bullet wound, in need of medical attention. The curious thing about this scene is that it leaves uncertain whether or not Leslie knew that Bruce was Batman before this. If so, then it contradicts an earlier story that we’ll get to later.

Two more flashbacks, one relating to Batman’s broken back and Alfred’s first resignation, and the other concerning "No Man’s Land," complete the issue. This story caused a bit of a stir by introducing the aborted romance between Alfred and Leslie, cut short by their devotion to other purposes -- hers to the clinic, and his to Bruce. The greater significance of the issue, however, was in its revamp and clarification of a lot of Leslie Thompkins's history.

There have been a number of other flashback stories featuring Leslie Thompkins, but it’s as difficult to put them in order as it is to decide whether or not they are still considered to be parts of the current character’s history.

For example, the "Faith" story arc in Legends of the Dark Knight #21-23 was Mike W. Barr's attempt to tell how Leslie, who had heard about and detested Batman, first came to realize that Batman was actually Bruce Wayne. In view of Grayson’s more recent script, it’s hard to know if this story should be considered part of continuity.

Other notable Mike W. Barr stories, like Year Two and the stand-alone premier issues featuring the Reaper -- Madness and Full Circle -- deal with events that happened early on in Batman’s career, and all feature Dr. Thompkins. I might note that Barr’s take on the character seems to differ notably in one respect from O’Neil’s, and later, Grayson’s. The latter two write a Leslie Thompkins adamantly committed to non-violence. Barr’s Leslie seems to be more "situational" in her ethics. For example, Barr has shown Leslie wielding a baseball bat to protect her clinic and patients from hoodlums. It’s hard to imagine O’Neil or Grayson ever writing a scene like that.

Leslie had a few brief appearances in the "Knightfall" era -- called upon, among other things, to use her indomitable courage to stand between aggressors and the patients she has committed herself to helping. At least in these stories, we finally get to see Leslie written in current storylines, not just in flashbacks.

Her real opportunity to shine in the Bat-books came with "No Man’s Land." Early on in that crossover, Devin Grayson wrote one of the best Leslie-Batman exchanges in the history of the character, in an arc entitled "Fear of Faith." As usual, this dialogue is set in the clinic where Dr. Thompkins works. Leslie admits to Bruce that, much as she is committed to helping the needy, one of the biggest reasons she stayed in Gotham through all its hard times was the example of Thomas Wayne, who had once told her it was worthwhile to keep working as long as there was even one person who needed his help. When Leslie then asked Bruce why he stayed, he replied, "Part of me stayed -- just for you."

There are a couple more key scenes set in Leslie’s clinic during "No Man’s Land," most notably in Batman Chronicles #18, which contains arguably the best Leslie Thompkins story of all: "Spiritual Currency," a Grayson/Eaglesham production that once and for all defines Leslie’s philosophy of courageous pacifism amidst a convergence of criminals and heroes, including Mr. Zsasz, Huntress and Batman. Leslie has never been put through the wringer as she was in this heart-stopping story.

The bulk of Leslie’s appearances during and immediately after the events of "No Man’s Land" can be found in the pages of Azrael, scripted by O’Neil. Fans of Jean Paul Valley seem to have a very hard time with this era in the book. Personally, I find it fascinating. Leslie tries to reach out to Jean Paul and convert him to a course of pacifism, with significantly mixed results. The culmination of her efforts is in the "Prophet" arc, in which Leslie sends Jean Paul to find and help her own brother (a major contradiction to the "only child" status of the character that O’Neil had just recently scripted), who had become a crazed religious zealot on the other side of the world. She admonished Jean Paul to apprehend him without violence, and thus, without putting on his costume that would trigger the savage side of his character. His faithful resistance to donning the costume, even under the severest of provocation, was a milestone for the character of Azrael, even if the mixed results of the mission caused him to reassess his own stand on non-violence.

In more recent times, Leslie has played a role in the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive" story running through the Bat-books. Both Devin Grayson and Ed Brubaker have taken on the character for this plot, and done credibly with her. She has also played a minor role in the current Azrael plotline, identifying an element in Jean Paul’s blood that is both turning him into a metahuman and killing him at the same time.

Leslie has also appeared recently in the new Catwoman series. Batman enlisted her to help Selina stabilize her life. Selina has become quite attached to the Doctor, and even wants to contribute to her clinic and mission. It will be interesting to see what fruit this plotline will reap in the future.

I don't want everyone to know Bruce's secret but I like the idea of having Leslie Thompson since her inclusion could help with the further characterization of Bruce Wayne as Leslie enables him to open up to his true feelings more than anyone, even Alfred. She and Alfred are his surogate parents and allow us to see Bruce's vulnerable side from time to time.

I would like to see maybe Joan Allen (the contender, Bourne Identity) play her.
ditto! leslie's a great character. i hope they include her, even if its just a cameo.
I really wanted her in the Begins... alas :(

Agreed..she should show up in the sequel :up:
Leslie fan's should check out Anderson Gabrych's run on Detecive Comics. She was featured quite a bit and the stories with her were brilliant.
As much as I too would like to see her, if she wasn't in this first movie, I doubt she will show up in any sequels.
nolan's roll'n said:
Yeah and played by Vanessa Redgrave.

I hope Leslie is in TDK and played by Vanessa Redgrave!:up: I can see Redgrave's Leslie great charisma with Caine's Alfred and Bale's Bruce.:up: :batty:
Bruce should suggest that Harvey Dent discretely sees Leslie in hopes of controlling his anger issues simular to the animated series.Also, I'd love to one day her Leslie tell Batman how she understands why he always returns to Crime Alley during a certain night each year but how she prays that one day there will no longer be a time when the Batman will need to exist.
Majik1387 said:
She's my second choice but my first choice will always be Vanessa Redgrave.

Good taste. I like Vanessa a lot too, she is a great actress and she would be perfect for the role. Also, i like Julie more, because she is my favourite actress and she could fit the role nearly pefection. Also, Helen mirren would be good too.
I don't want to see a really old woman play Leslie like Eva Marie in SR and Aunt May in Spider-Man. Leslie was Thomas Wayn'es peer and should be middle aged at this stage. Susan Sarandon would be my pick.
I dont know, but , for me, Leslie is a woman in her mid-lates 50s or first 60s. But still atractive for her age. That is what i see in the comics version of Leslie, or at least, in more versions of the character in the comics. Julie Christie and Vannessa Redgrave or even Helen Mirren would be awsome because they have those qualities. Susan Sarandon the same, but i dont know, i preffer a british lady to have better cheministry with Caine's Alfred.
What about Gates McFadden from Star Trek:
What about Judi Dench playing Dr Leslie?
Leslie Thompkins would be a cool addition to the new Batman cast. I could see Vanessa Redgrave playing the part.
I'd love to see Leslie in the sequels. Vanessa Redgrave or Helen Mirren for me.

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