YOU, TOO, CAN SAVE THE WORLD – Our Crack Staff Reflects on the Ultimate Everyman
With the hotly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises newly in theaters, we ponder all things Bat-related…
by the Geek Speak Staff
with an Introduction by Kim Sorensen
Batman. Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight. There are so many things to say about Batman that it’s hard to know where to start. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and has since taken over the world. There has been every kind of incarnation of him: the campy 1960s Adam West version, the incredibly dark and violent version from the mind of Frank Miller in his Dark Knight tales, the campy and creepily odd Tim Burton version, and now the reason the world is talking about him once more, the more realistic (if less true to the comics) Batman given to us by Christopher Nolan.
At heart, it is a simple story: young Bruce is out on the town with his parents and sees them murdered right in front of him. Traumatized, Bruce then grows up and travels the world, trains to be a badass ninja, and because he also happens to be a billionaire, gets to use all manner of nifty gadgets when he takes on the role of savior of his hometown, Gotham City, clad in a costume and calling himself Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective. Even without super strength or the ability to fly, Batman saves the day and the world. He cleans up Gotham City. He stops alien invasions. In Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, Batman squared off against Darkseid, a new god, who had gone around the universe destroying and killing, defeating along the way many other DC heroes. And it was Batman who ultimately succeeded in bringing him down.
Batman killed a god. Not too shabby for a regular guy in a suit.
Here, Geek Speak’s crack staff ponders just what it is The Bat means to us, and whether we are pro, con, or utterly indifferent to his charms…
I was not prepared to enjoy Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins nearly as much as I did in the summer of 2005. I was a purist at the time, and nothing could touch Tim Burton’s Batman in my eyes. Before I get anyone lunging at me hoping to shake me violently into submission, I will explain that Burton’s film was the film I watched the most as a child, so it was a little hard to shake my admiration for it then, and even now. But despite that fact, I knew there was something special about Nolan’s vision for the character, something so wildly different that it could not be easily explained.
But then he unleashed The Dark Knight in 2008. It was the first movie I really followed from beginning to end, studying every piece of marketing, watching every trailer endlessly, eating up every morsel of information released. It became a bit of an addiction, I’ll admit, albeit one that was not necessarily unhealthy (though some will beg to differ). Heath Ledger’s death, mentioned to me in passing by a close friend at work, only made the film that much more important to me.
But why was I obsessed? What was the root cause that really explained why Batman, of all superheroes, was the one I followed and admired the most? What was Nolan tapping into with his films? Well, it’s simple: I am Batman. And so are you. And so is your friend. (But not his little brother, he’s still a pussy.) Batman is a normal guy, with obscene wealth, who does everything we dream about. He fights crime, he defends the city. He takes out the scum we wish we could rid ourselves of. He wheels and deals as he sees fit, as the judge, jury, and executioner. And rarely does he answer to anyone. Who would not love to be able to do that?
But on the flip side, he also lives our nightmares. He loses his parents, something we all grapple with and fear at one time or another. He sees friends and family crippled, beaten, murdered. He destroys people’s lives. And he has to live with this intense guilt, something few of us could even imagine and are mortified at the thought of ever having to live through.
Unlike Burton and miles away from Joel Schumacher, Nolan has wrestled with these ideas and has expressed them as fluidly as possible. When I am watching his Batman on the screen, I know I am watching the real Batman, the definitive version that the comics, movies, shows, games, all of them have been building to. And whether he kills him off in the final reel or not, it will not matter. Because Nolan gave us a unique vision, and one that strikes so close to home it is borderline terrifying.
So as I sit here, in a near outrageous frenzy waiting to watch The Dark Knight Rises, I wonder: what comes next? Will I be nearly as excited for Justice League? For some newbie’s take on the legendary character? I already know no one will ever compare to Ledger, so how can I even begin to think anyone’s vision can compare to Nolan’s? I guess all they’ll need, is just a little… push.
While I was vaguely aware of Adam West show (and all the cheesiness thereof), and did see Batman in theaters in 1989 (along with being kinda confused by the Prince video for “Bat-Dance”), it wasn’t until the follow-up cartoon of Batman: The Animated Series that really set me on the path for Bat-fandom. The cartoon was smart, exciting, dark, and served as both an excellent introduction to people not-too-well-versed with the comics as well as hardcore fans. But while the plots and writing were top notch for an animated show, it was the voices that really made it. Kevin Conroy is Batman, from then on and forever, as far as I’m concerned. But a stellar supporting cast rounds out the best version of the Bat-verse put to screen; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the cast found themselves on the list of the top voice-over artists working today (such as, oh, I don’t know, this list?).
And special mention must be made of Danny Elfman’s perfectly Batman-esque musical score (first heard in the Tim Burton Batman, and utilized as the theme song of The Animated Series). It has become as iconic as the John Williams theme for Superman. Ask yourself this: if you heard music from 2002′s Spider-Man… would you know it was Spider-Man? I’d bet there was a better than even chance that you wouldn’t. But if you heard Elfman’s (that makes it sound like Danny Elfman is a character in the Bat-verse, doesn’t it? Heh.) theme, you would know that it was Batman. You know you would.
But the character of Batman is amazing because of his smarts along with his skills. How many non-super-powered characters can regularly get the best of his/her super-powered counterparts? There is a reason he has earned the title of “World’s Greatest Detective”. Two more thoughts: 1) Batman is the only comic book character to lead to successful video games that are actually good! (2009′s Arkham Asylum and its follow-up, 2011′s Arkham City), helped in no little part by the voice work. And 2) He’s a man who dresses like a bat. And yet people don’t mess with him (at least, not more than once)! How awesome is that?!
First things first… Spider-Man is my guy. I had stacks of his comics. I would run down to the store once a week and scan for Amazing, Spectacular, Web of… whatever they had. I even looked at the other titles just in case Spidey made an appearance (even then I loved a crossover). Wisecracking, webslinging, wild Spider-Man was better than the dark and brooding DC Comics any day in my book. Okay. Now that we have that settled…
As an adult, I really love what the Batman comics have done. I’m thinking specifically of the “No Man’s Land” storyline where Gotham was hit by a massive earthquake and Batman, his pals, and even his rogue’s gallery, had to face a completely human situation. They may have been wearing masks and capes, but they were real people in those costumes. Batman made mistakes. Batman could be a dick, and he could be wrong. It’s rare to see that in a comic book hero, and I appreciate the risk they took to have Batman bleed a little.
Because what has always made Batman special is that he’s just a man. He has “wonderful toys,” as Jack Nicholson’s Joker so gleefully put it, but at the end of the day, he’s human. I think there was an attempt to make him an American James Bond with the first few movies, hiring a new actor for every film at the expense of common continuity, but it helped cement the fact that Batman doesn’t really have one single face. He’s everyman.
And while we’re on the subject, any Bat-fans not watching Person of Interest are missing an amazing alternate-universe retelling of the Batman mythos. It’s set entirely in the real world, and the villains are far from the Clayface/Killer Croc variety, but the parallels are unmistakable. Reese (Jim Caveziel) is Batman and Finch (Michael Emerson) is Bruce Wayne, separated into two distinct people. Zoe (Paige Turco) is Catwoman, a semi-trustworthy alley. Carter (Taraji P. Henson) is Renee Montoya/Commissioner Gordon, the cop who is reluctantly drawn into the mystery of this anonymous vigilante. Fucso (Kevin Chapman) is Harvey Bullock. As the first season went on, it became clear that Reese was accumulating a varied crop of villains. In Batman, the cops traced reports of “a guy in a cowl and cape.” In Person of Interest, Carter is haunted by “a tall guy in a suit.” John Reese is the Dark Knight, as envisioned by JJ Abrams.
But Spider-Man could still kick his ass.
Between morning episodes of Barney and afternoon screenings of Sailor Moon and Dragonball, cartoon episodes of Batman (and yes,Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman) filled the void. What I best loved about this particular masked crusader is the simple fact that he wasn’t born with any crazy super powers, but cultivated his own arsenal of artillery and collection gadgets. The Sailor Scouts (though re-born on Earth and sure, technically human) have the powers from their respective planets; Goku, Picollo, Tien, etc. are aliens living on the planet; Peter Parker becomes super human with a spider bite, the X-Men team are in a class of their own and Clark Kent also happens to be, well, alien as well.
Bruce Wayne gave young, naive and hyperactive children (re: me) the chance to throw ropes around, jump over boulders and speed around in 4X4 red plastic jeeps. It allowed regular children, after realizing mutant powers aren’t readily accessible just yet, a chance to still be a superhero. Of course, I got to pretend to be the main superhero with a too long blanket trailing behind me while my kid brother was relegated to my (not-so)-trusty sidekick. When I ventured away from comic super heroes and into the world of anime and manga, it was the many (many) various Batman movies that recaptured my attention. Some were good, some were meh – but they all ultimately had my back straighten and eyebrow raised in curiousity prior to watching the films. Needless to say, Christopher Nolan’s reinterpretation of the franchise and his final installment has me giddy with excitement.
There is something irresistibly attractive about Batman. He is the black sheep of the superhero world. The guy who doesn’t trust any of the other supers and has a plan for taking out each one of them should they turn rogue. I always wondered: what would happen if Batman turned bad? Could he take down all the others with his sneaky plans?
Probably not. Because, you know, Batman, for all his wiles, doesn’t actually have any powers at all. This being the case he is, in fact, the least plausible hero out there – yes, even less plausible than a guy being hit by radiation and gaining the power of [insert the power of pretty much every superhero except Superman].
With Batman we are being asked to believe that one rich guy with a cape could triumph over the all-powerful Superman whenever he feels like it just because he has a kryptonite ring. That it is more likely that he would land even one punch on the Man of Steel, rather than Superman simply eye-lasering him from outer-space. Sure.
Now, the Nolan Batman movies are undoubtedly improvements over the awful campy movies preceding them and Batman Begins, in particular, is a lesson in how to do an origin story. But Nolan (unlike in Inception) doesn’t appear to trust his audience to put together the symbolism of his work, insisting instead on beating us over the head with the fact that Batman is the dark knight and Harvey Dent is the white knight, etc etc. My God, was there anyone by the end of that second movie who hadn’t figured out that Batman was a symbol of the anti-hero? Jesus Christ, he beats the crap out of nameless thugs like they insulted Wayne Manor’s opulent décor.
In the end, Batman strands as the Harry Potter of a bygone age: the guy anyone could be. Except the kids who believed that then were just as stupid as the ones who believe a Mattel wand will make their cat fly now.
Batman. Yeah. Hold on a moment while I get my wallet so that I can pull out my nerd card and let fans squabble over who gets to set it on fire. Why? Well, because I just don’t care about Batman. At all. I remember watching the old campy Adam West Batman with all the random exclamations and the cartoony sound effects splashed across the T.V. screen, and I remember thinking it was weird. Even as a kid, I wondered who on earth would be scared of a grown man dressed like a ballet-studio reject. Why didn’t the criminals laugh themselves into a stupor?
As for the darker, more mature incarnations? Um, well, yeah, I’ve never seen those movies and I missed out on reading the comics. Power to those who enjoy them, they just have never struck my fancy. I know they’re supposed to be deep and Bruce Wayne is meant to be tortured, conflicted and all of those angsty synonyms, but I just do not care. Which is not to say that if I were invited to a Batman marathon I would mock the series incessantly (although with my attitude, I would be curious as to why anybody invited me anywhere), I would just show up and eat all the popcorn and then drift off into a contented nap devoid of Lyrca-clad men.
Like many of us, I grew up half-watching reruns of the campy 60s Adam West Batman, in my memory now a jumble of BAMs and KAPOWs and Robin’s incessant cries of “Holy Vaguely-Clever Reference to Something We Were Just Discussing, Batman!” I found the whole thing laughably ridiculous – as I suppose was intended – and thus hadn’t much respect for the Caped Crusader and his garishly-clad Boy Wonder. It was only with a viewing of Tim Burton’s 1989 dark, twisted take on the mythology that I began to appreciate the Bat for the tortured and sardonic millionaire/vigilante that he so manifestly is, enough that it turned what I can only describe as disinterested contempt into, if not outright adoration, then at least an understanding of what has made of him such an icon since his creation in 1939. (Something that still eludes me with Superman.)
Of course, as a comic fan, Frank Miller’s near-legendary dystopian story arc, The Dark Knight Returns, has since become an object of some admiration to me, and Batman Beyond is as much high school melodrama as it is superhero cartoon, and thus I have a soft spot in my heart for it as well. But it is that 1989 Burtonian vision that remains my favorite incarnation of this particular superhero – as carried out with supreme haunted cockiness by the perfectly-cast Michael Keaton, in addition to featuring an unforgettable Prince soundtrack – and really is the only reason that I am “Pro” Batman at all. Because otherwise he’s just the guy in the baggy pajamas and with the “Shark Repellant” on his utility belt, or the second-string do-gooder practically on the same level as Aquaman on the old Saturday morning Super Friends, or a stony-faced Christian Bale easily out-charisma’d by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, and frankly, wouldn’t be worth the time I have just spent thinking about him.
When The Dark Knight Rises opens and millions of people see it, I can see many of them proclaiming the Nolan films the best trilogy of all time. I’m sure some LOTR and Star Wars fans will have something to say about that, but I’m sure we will all agree that it’s the best comic book film trilogy of all time. I believe Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and Bryan Singer (X-Men) wrote the book on how comic films should be done, at least for this generation—and here we have Nolan breaking that mold and going beyond the “it’s a comic book movie” formula and delivering to us a grandiose experience like never before.
I dig Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader and I tolerate Batman Forever, but what Nolan has done is redefined a genre. People were outraged when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Heath Ledger gave his best performance as a deformed clown that did earn him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. These are boundaries that are broken. Nolan has created his own ‘verse’ in the comic book genre. When people refer to Batman, they clarify if it’s Batman or the Nolanverse Batman. That’s a feat that I can only applaud.
I have always loved Batman, and I always will. Whenever I think of his background as a superhero, of the millionaire playboy who struggles to keep the streets safe at night, I feel a sense of warmth inside. I feel overwhelming depth in his story, and that’s because I grew up with Batman. Batman: The Animated Series, to be specific, one of the gems of kids cartoon shows. Batman was always benevolent and righteous, but his friends kept getting blown up! His friend Harvey Dent got his face blown up before Batman could save him, and became Two-Face, etc. Now that’s pathos, right there.
My stance on Batman was cemented when I was 8-years old, but it has endured throughout the rest of my life fairly well, especially considering how I think that Begins and Dark Knight were kind of clunky IMAX show pieces. I love Keaton’s Batman, how it’s so slick and self-sufficient in the face of the Batman story and the bright colors/spandex. And Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson actually acted (what a concept!). And OMG, the 80s comics (which, on a different note, is my favorite comic era). My prize possession is Justice League #1, with Batman joining the new JL, and being all caustic and grouchy—as I grow older, I can only hope someday I can be as realistic about my life as is that Batman, and maybe even be hero to someone like me.
When I was a kid, I watched the 60s TV version with my dad. I didn’t understand why he thought the show was funny. To me, it was just cool. For the rest of the day, I’d tuck a pillow case into my shirt collar and zip around pretending I was the scallop-caped crime-fighter.
As I got older, I learned to appreciate the show’s over-the-top camp and was sufficiently embarrassed by how much I’d enjoyed it. Then at some point it became cool to reminisce with my generation about growing up with Batman. Sitting around one living room or another, our own kids now zipping around pretending to be the caped crusader, we talked about the old show. We recalled the glory days of neon-clad super villains, Bat Shark Repellant, and the Super Thermal Batman Underwear. We chatted with fondness about Adam West’s earnestly avuncular Batman and Burt Ward’s hyper-enthusiastic Robin. And then we switched over to how brilliantly Batman – in the dexterous hands of Tim Burton – re-evolved into the comic book hero of our youth. No one thought Michael Keaton could carry it off. But being a short, marginally goofy-looking lip-licking nerd brought just the right amount of humanity and humor to the 1989 incarnation. Sitting around with our friends and all of our adult status symbols, we looked back and realized that we, like our cowled hero, had evolved from simplistically silly into serious citizens with adult responsibilities, political connections, and grown-up toys.
One of the key elements that makes Batman unusual and inevitably appealing is the character’s varied manifestations from 1930s vigilante detective to 1960s campy caped crusader to Saturday morning’s cosmos-hopping Justice League add-on to Tim Burton’s Prince-infused pop icon and now to Christian Bale’s gravel-voiced high-tech ninja angel of Gotham. There have been dozens of Batmans (Batmen?) over the years, and each one speaks to a different element of what we look for in a hero. He’s not clever or funny. He’s not a radioactive alien mutant. He doesn’t banter with the bad guys or fill up the IMDb quote page. Instead, he’s the heroic template who fits in where and how we need him most. With only minor exceptions, most superheroes are as they have been. The Wolverine of today remains the Wolverine of my youth. Same with Superman, Spider-Man, and pretty much all the rest. Only Batman has ventured across genres, traversed generations, and morphed substantially to fit the fluctuating zeitgeist.
It helps that Batman doesn’t have any powers. Without powers, Batman is the opposite of Superman. (Like most of my generation, I have a stadium-sized VIP place reserved in my heart for Christopher Reeve and his 1979 Superman. But I could never really buy into the historic Superman character all the way because a god doesn’t really need me to root for him.) Superman is sacred. Change so much as the hue of his cape, and we’ll know about it. But Batman can be and has been whatever we have imagined ourselves to be at any given time in our lives. A good person trying to be great while dealing with a childhood trauma? At one time or another, isn’t that pretty much all of us?
Because he’s always been portrayed as just a troubled rich guy with cool gadgets and a turbo-charged sense of vengeance, Batman has been able to transcend the superhero mythology to become a hero in a human being. We can all aspire to be Batman. I can’t fly. I can’t lift a car up over my head. And I sure as hell can’t see through lead. (Without my glasses I have trouble making out the big E on the eye chart.) But I can dress all in black. I do have a fast car and a cool motorcycle. I have a pocketful of technology – from flash drives to cell phones. I even have a sidekick, a goofy comic relief wingman from next door who makes me look better by comparison. Batman may not be the strongest or the most elaborately flashy of the superheroes. But at least he’s attainable.
For a kid, that goes a long way.
More than almost any other hero, Batman has become iconic and indispensable. After all this time, he has proven himself a true survivor – in the comic book universe and in our own. He is elusive, yet he endures. I’m looking forward to sitting around with my buddies in ten or twenty years, chatting about whatever interpretation of Batman comes along next.
Batman is an interesting one – no real super powers per se means that it’s actually a man that’s fighting off the hordes of evil that threaten Gotham. You know what’s cooler than a man? A man rich enough to buy all sorts of super-funky, experimental, crazy gadgets to use whilst kicking some serious ass. Not only that, but let’s show a billionaire heir to family fortune *coughParisHiltoncough* who COULD just romp around and make bad video clips and home movies, OR they could actually get their hands dirty. A people’s champion from the bourgeois? A billionaire people can relate to? A real actual decent human being that had money?! Such things are unheard of! This is what I think makes the Bat so successful. He’s actually human. (And a ninja. And super rich.)
Of course SOME people will still hate him for his money, power and influence. But let’s move beyond these petty individuals.
There’re a few other things that make Batman cool.
1. Adam West
I don’t care who you are, Adam West is a freaking champion. The man is a legend, and a legend born of the Bat. I STILL chuckle when I think of “shark repellent”. It was cheesy, it was stupid, and it was infallibly brilliant.
The only thing that could have made Adam West’s Batman any cooler would have been a cat launcher.
2. Tim Burton
Okay, so the whole 90s Batman thing PROBABLY went a little too far. But it was styled, it was big, it was more than could be imagined. It still didn’t take itself too seriously, and that is ultimately how it gets away with such ridiculous Win.
3. The Dark Knight film series
Forgetting Heath Ledger for a brief moment here (I know, boo, hiss), the whole series gave Bruce Wayne some motivation, some background, some grit, some actual background and justification for the way he could kick serious portions of ass. It made Gotham real. Yes it was still larger than life, but it’s a freaking super hero movie people!
A believable bat… that’s awesome.
4. Arkham City
Whilst he may not be my favorite character: Richie Rich gone bad is pretty cool. Adam West…. Adam West…
I’m already on record as having been less than enthusiastic about The Dark Knight – the expression of which opinion drew an extremely passionate response from fans of the film, of which I understand there are several. And it would be reasonable to assume that under normal circumstances, my lack of appreciation for that particular film might carry over to its sequel. Remember on The Simpsons, when the family went to see the long-awaited blockbuster Cosmic Wars: The Gathering Shadow, while in the theater next door a single weeping patron watched an indie called The Momentum of Things starring Jim Broadbent and Ellen Burstyn? Yeah, under normal circumstances, that would be me crying over the sad plight of the under-aged British coal miner while my family cheered on Our Heroes in high-def 3-D with surround sound across the way.
However, we live in extraordinary times. Just this week, several film critics received death threats – death threats! – from individuals who were offended by the critics’ less-than-glowing reviews of The Dark Knight Rises (which, it’s worth noting, none of the threaten-ers had actually seen, the movie not yet having been opened to the public). Death By Fanboy: Not interested, thanks. Regretfully, I note that self-preservation must trump journalistic integrity, so I’d like to state now, publicly, for the benefit of the entire readership, that The Dark Knight Rises is sure to be THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR – NO, THE DECADE and it’s going to win ALL THE OSCARS THEY AWARD IN 2013 AND 2014 and I AM AFLAME WITH ANTICIPATION FOR WHAT IS CERTAIN TO BE A PERSPECTIVE-SHATTERING EXPERIENCE IN FILM. Am I right?
Those underaged British coal miners, alas, will just have to wait until next weekend for my tears.
Let me first get this out of the way. I’m not going to lie, I had no interest Batman until around 2008. This was at a time where my internet usage, particularly on nerdy forums, was at a ridiculously unhealthy peak, and there was no escaping the hype for The Dark Knight. So yeah, I saw promo shots of The Joker and some badass trailers and I hopped on the fucking bandwagon, okay!? I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong to call Batman a “pussy” prior to seeing this movie. I was merely uneducated in him, and more importantly, uneducated in Christopher Nolan’s presentation of him and his amazingly dark and grounded universe.
After seeing the movie for the first time, I still don’t believe I quite “got” how incredibly impressive it was. It took me another couple of viewings down the line and finally getting around to seeing Batman Begins to make me understand that this wasn’t just a good comic book film series, this was something completely unprecedented. A modern film franchise masterpiece. Calling it anything less is an insult to film!
So yeah, I’m a fan. And yes, I am very, very, very much looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises. I can’t think of any comic book film that has ever had so much expectation riding on its caped back, and I honestly can’t see it not meeting, nay exceeding, this expectation. Rise motherfucker, rise!
My first real memory of any of the Batman genre is sneaking past my parents to join the older teenagers in the basement during a Christmas party to watch the 1989 Keaton/Nicholson Batman movie with the sound really low just in case the parents opened the upstairs door. I was a rather under-exposed young teen at the time, and this dark film with its creepy villain and horrific plot mechanism was at the far edge of my innocent tolerance. I had a hard time sitting still and keeping my eyes on the screen. The juxtaposition of going caroling and then sitting in the dark watching murder and mayhem ensured an indelible impression of smiling psychopaths. The sarcastic commentary from Batman went mostly over my head, though I still remember the line when he is accused of being insane and he responds “I thought I was a Pisces.” This Batman movie experience became the model against which I judged all others… Also, it turned me off of cosmetics for life.
My first introduction to Batman was the 1960s Adam West series. During mindless summer vacations, Batman would be on along with The Price is Right and I Dream of Jeannie. It was a great way to pass the time while my friend and I baked cookies or contemplated walking to the pool. And while I never thought at the time to say “Holy Whatever Batman”, it crept into my vernacular once I started taking computer science classes in high school.
In the midst of all this summer fun, Tim Burton’s Batman came out. It was pretty 80′s-tastic. Michael Keaton was a good choice for Batman. Jack Nicholson was a perfect Joker. Plus, it had a pretty great 80s soundtrack. More than one dance recital/competition was filled with great jazz numbers to various Prince songs. And, while I am aware of the other three movies in this franchise (with their two subsequent new Batmans) the only things I remember about those movies are Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” and the U2 song that has a pretty kickin’ video.
Batman was just something in the background until high school, and then, BAM! The Animated Series showed up. What a fantastic after-school cartoon. I would come home, make a snack and sit with my dog to dive into the world of the Dark Knight. This series was epic: with his overly-square jaw and the drawings done on black paper to make the series even darker. It was part of a block with Gargoyles. It fit right into the hour between the end of school and the start of sports practice. Everyone would talk about it while we ran. Later, when I met people who actually read the comics, I would learn that this series was pretty true to the comic book lore, making it all the better. Every once-in-a-while, there is a rerun on, and I will still stop to watch it.
Of course, the current Dark Knight movie franchise is good. I enjoy its more sober, less-over-the-top, rendition of Batman. It follows the established story (as well as The Animated Series) pretty well, I thought Heath Ledger did a good turn as the Joker and I am excited for the third installment. (Though, I wish Christian Bale would stop eating sandpaper before talking. What is that?). But it was The Animated Series made Batman number one in my comic book world. I like the X-Men; I like Spider-Man; but Batman, he wins. He is a self-made man. Everyone else needed radioactive spiders or mutant genes, Bruce just needed a good ‘ol story of revenge, some ninja training and a bunch of nutcase villains.
Plus, the engineer in me just loves his utility belt.
Batman. Bat. Man. Seriously, once upon a time someone put these two words together and came up with a now legendary superhero. Stranger things have happened, yet somehow this particular oddity keeps coming back again and again, and I keep on not paying him any attention. This may sound more than a little anti-caped crusader, but I think overall I’m going to come in decidedly neutral on this one. Yes, the newest string of movies are damn good, but Batman as a character deserves almost none of the credit on that one. You could have interchanged almost any hero for the Dark Knight and had the same story. The villains on the other hand were perfect, but we’re not here to talk about them.
I like my superheroes with superpowers and a heart of gold (save the helpless masses because it’s your calling, not because you feel obligated and no one else is willing to step up), and so Batman just never really struck a chord with me. Rather than being inherently good he’s broody and vengeful, which at times can be outrageously sexy but just doesn’t fill the hero void that the likes of Superman, Professor X and countless others do. He goes full force to save the day whenever called on, so that does get him points, and I’m certainly not against the guy, but with literally countless superheroes to choose from… I’ll let him keep doing his thing while I go swoon over someone else.
It’s not that I’m pro or anti-Bat. It’s just I think he’s, well, a has-been. Keep in mind that my sole experience of Batman is through the movies, so perhaps my impressions come too much through Hollywood’s lens—but, to me, the whole franchise has always seemed to be less about this damaged, vaguely neurotic hero and his damaged, wholly psychotic enemies than it is about the setting: Gotham, AKA New York City. Gotham is itself damaged, seething with dysfunction and corruption. That’s not today’s New York, the one with the cleaned up Times Square and whole new neighborhoods with fancy shortened names undergoing gentrification (DUMBO anyone?). The Bat’s new York has the same dystopian grit that characterizes Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner—and just as Blade Runner’s “future” is very much stuck in the 80’s (with America in decline against Japan), Gotham feels like a product of those times as well, when the city-that-never-sleeps seemed to be kept awake by its own murder statistics. Were Hollywood not guilty of entirely ignoring the middle of the country, they’d pick Gotham up and move it to today’s Detroit, in which case it would make much more sense, but would be a lot more empty. It’s kind of hard to portray a teaming petri dish of dissolution when huge sections of the city are depopulated and blocks-long factories stand abandoned. Maybe I’m just too aware of that to look forward to seeing Gotham again.
At some point in almost all of our lives we have wanted to be a superhero, to put on a costume, and go fight crime and save the world. The reason we have this dream and we sometimes naively think that we could pull it off is because of Batman. Batman’s best friends with Superman, and has a very on again off again flirtation with Wonder Woman. He’s an integral part of the Trinity, and he’s on a team with the fastest man alive, a psychic shape-shifting alien, a king of the ocean, and a space cop. And he’s only human. The fact that an ordinary man, albeit a slightly crazy man, saves the world without the use of any powers takes amazing courage, and makes the rest of us envious and want to follow in his footsteps.
– The Geek Speak Staff
HAVE A COMMENT? QUERY? COMPLAINT? A — DARE WE HOPE — COMPLIMENT?
CONTACT US NOW