Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So Who's This Batman Fellow?

Doug: There has been quite a bit of talk in these parts lately about the Caped Crusader. We've dealt with him on TV, at the movies, and under the creative watch of such luminaries as Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Frank Miller. Of course, some of his rogues have come up in conversation as well. Many of you have expressed very differing opinions on the Batman. How about today if we put it all in one place -- who is your Batman: what's he like, what does he do, and how should his villains be played?


Dougie said...

MY Batman is probably Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis' version. He lives in Wayne Manor with a faithful butler and a wide-eyed daredevil for a ward. Bruce Wayne is a mask that occasionally slips showing the steely personality beneath. Batman has a flirtatious relationship with Catwoman which just embarrasses Robin ("Dames! Huh!"). Batman has his own Fabulous Five- the Outsiders- at hand for diabolical nasterminds and would-be world-beaters.

His arch-enemies do not peel off human faces and eat them; nor do they cripple their victims. They go to jail, not a mental hospital.They are neither ninjas nor serial killers.

The Batmobile is neither a tank nor a motorised shoe. There is one Batgirl:Barbara Gordon. Gotham City is not an industrialised Gothic cathedral- it is home to a series of audacious and surreal giant props/advertising displays.

In essence, I'd like a reversal of every Bat-trope from the past twenty years.

david_b said...


Hear, hear. Mine would frankly be the Batman TAS version. Nice intrigue, nice depth, sparks of dry humor, the dark knight NOT all Miller-steroided up, with Adams or Infantino tenures coming in close second/third.

I get a bit annoyed when critics lob the 60s 'New Look' in with the television series.. Granted both trends ended up feeding into each other, but I greatly applauded Infantino's move away from Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite, outer-space Batman, you name it. No one ever seems to remember just how dire and insipid the comic got by 1962-1963.

The 'New Look' was a wonderful re-emergence of our hero, most of which carried over into the first year of the television show. Obviously the show got ridiculous and lost all the clever balance of Bruce Wayne/Batman scenes by it's 2nd year, but the writers just got lazy in my book.

Edo Bosnar said...

As written by either Steve Englehart or Mike Barr, & drawn by Aparo or Newton.

William said...

I agree with David B. I consider "Batman The Animated Series" to be the definitive version of Batman, as far as I'm concerned. I would change almost nothing about that show (the writing, the art, the overall design, the voice acting) all spot on, IMO.

Now, as for Batman himself, I think he should be portrayed as a mix of 4 famous individuals (2 fictional, 2 real people): He should have the brains and detective skills of Sherlock Holmes, the gadgets and savor faire of James Bond, the fighting skills of Bruce Lee, and the imposing presence and no-nonsense demeanor of Clint Eastwood, all dressed up in a bat-suit.

Once that is established, he should FIGHT CRIME! Not time-travel, not set-up corporations with armies of bat-men, not build space robots to watch over the Earth, etc.

Batman, as a concept, is one of simple elegance. It' has a purity that you would think would be hard to screw up, but a lot of "creators" still seem to manage it. I have never really liked Batman all that much in the comics. I've followed it off and on over the years, but I've never loved any of the Batman comic books as much as the concept of Batman itself. That's why when the BTAS came out, I was like "YES!" (lightbulb over head), that is BATMAN. That's exactly the way it should be done in the comics as well. But in the comics, they always overcomplicate the stories and weigh them down with a bunch erroneous garbage and concepts that are mostly just a lot of unnecessary filler.

I also haven't really liked any of the live-action Batman movies. Not one has ever really gotten it "right", IMO. None of the people ever involved with making a Batman Movie seem to "get it". Burton wanted to make a couple of "Phantom of the Opera" style horror movies, (which he did), and then he wedged Batman into the role of the Phantom. Schumacher apparently wanted to share his homoerotic fantasies with the world, and he used Batman as a means to do so. And Christopher Nolan is just out to prove that super-hero movies can be ultra-realistic and tries to logically "explain" every aspect of Batman's mythos. From the name, to the costume, to the cave, to the Bat-mobile, which kind of ruins the whole thing for me. I know a lot of people are ga ga over the new movies ("Begins" and "Dark Knight"), but it just doesn't seem like Batman to me. It seems like some angry jerk in a black suit (with pointy ears on it) working out his mental problems by beating people up. The Bruce Wayne in those movies just doesn't seem like he's really all that into being Batman and fighting for "justice". He's more out for revenge. They are more like dark crime noir films with Batman thrown in as the catalyst. I think they were both good movies, just not good "Batman" movies. In fact, the only theatrically released Batman movie I liked was "Mask Of The Phantasm".

Sorry for the rant, but I really like Batman as a character, and when he's done right (which is not often enough) he's one of my very favorites.

Anonymous said...

I could go for Dougie's version. Pretty much any Batman from 1940 (with Robin) until whenever that awful Ra's al Ghul was introduced. Or Adam West is perfect for me.

--Matt alias Anonymous

Anonymous said...

am i the only one who finds it pretentious & ridiculous when batman is called THE batman? no one in reality would ever say Hey we need help let's call the batman & the spiderman for assistance!

joe bloke said...

I'd pretty much go along with Dougie, too, I think, although I'd throw out almost all versions of Batman - with the exception of the animated series, and Kelley Puckett & Mike Parobeck's wonderful comics series based on the show - since, & including, Frank Miller. my Batman would be the Batman of Denny O'Neil and Bob Haney and Frank Robbins and Steve Englehart, the Batman of Neal Adams and Jim Aparo and Irv Novick and Marshall Rogers. my Batman is the world's greatest detective, not some psycho boot-boy crushing larynxes and stamping on faces. my Batman doesn't drive an armoured assault vehicle, he drives the coolest car EVER. my Batman wears tights.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Joe Bloke!

Doug said...

Anonymous --

Yes, I believe you are the only one who finds "the Batman" -- or to pay even more of an homage to Bob Kane and Bill Finger, et al. -- "the Bat-Man" pretentious and ridiculous.


Garett said...

I enjoy Brave and Bold by Aparo/Haney, but I wouldn't say that's the real Batman--too quirky. I liked The Dark Knight movie, but the growly-voice Batman isn't for me either. I recently watched the '60s Batman movie again, and found it a blast--love the colorful characters and goofy wit...this is entertaining Batman, but not Batman himself.

My sense of Batman is probably Neal Adams' version--serious, intelligent, determined. No Robin around. On a mission.

Is he the most flexible character ever, to go from the camp version to the dark version?

joe bloke said...

Yeah Anonymous!

I used to call him "the" Batman all the time. then, I got lazy. I might start doing it again. just to annoy people.

& I forgot to mention Robin. my Batman has fights crime with Robin the Boy Wonder. Dick Grayson.

nude0007 said...

I like Dougies version of the batman, but TAS nailed the mystique, the way Batman should be. I didn't like the kiddie animation, though. If he had looked more realistic, it would have been a hands down perfect Batman.
I agree with William on almost every point except I thought a pretty good bit of the First Chris Nolan Batman worked, except for the Batmobile climbing walls and shape-changing, and the crazy elevated train bs. Maybe a few more. I HATED the 2nd as it goes against all that Batman is and stands for, and the third looks terrible! Batman is smart and sneaky, not a Battering man. I would think he'd use more minimal strength martial arts like judo and pressure points. He would prefer fighting smart, not fisticuffs. And please, get over the "Batman can take out Superman or most other super powered villians" bs. I have always thought he might be better if he could fly. Not super-sonic, maybe even keep it a secret as a surprise advantage.

pete doree said...

William nailed it there. Just a couple of adjuncts though: As much as I loved Neal / Marshall / Frank / BTAS versions, and as much as Bob Haney's scripts are insane: Batman is drawn by Jim Aparo. End. Of. Story.

Also, I do kind of like Nolan's two movies, but holy god, are they earnest. Superheroes are meant to be FUN, Chris, y'know?
Also, the ending of 'Batman Begins' REALLY annoyed me: " I'm not going to kill you...but I don't have to save you "
Interesting distinction there, Bale, that'll be you KILLING Liam Neeson then, won't it?
No, that's The Punisher you're thinking of, NOT Batman.

Anonymous said...

I liked the old Batman who sometimes made booboos and would be outmatched if he had too fight more than a handful of goons.

Matt alias Anonymous again

Anonymous said...

not a fan of the batfilms but looking forward to seeing anne hathaway in catsuit. just hope catwoman isnt a hooker a la frank miller

Anonymous said...

Silver Age/New Look, with Carmine Infantino artwork and scripts by Robert Kanigher and Gardner Fox, after Julius Schwartz threw out the space aliens and bug-eyed monsters, and before the TV fad. Having said that, it's an over-simplification when some critics say that the comics degenerated into high camp/low comedy in 1966. The camp fad had some influence, but the comics never got as self-consciously silly as the TV show.

Anonymous said...

I feel that some people are missing one of Batman's finest characteristics: his malleability. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a literary character that can be interpreted in so many different ways, and still retain it's identity. I don't like every version, but I like enough of them to make the whole   thing worthwhile.

One of the benefits of growing up bronze was buying those 100-page super spectaculars. So much DC history was available for 50-60 cents a pop. I bought everyone I could find, and really grew to appreciate the different variations.

That being said, I'm with Joe Bloke here. O'Neil and Haney capture Batman's voice the best for me. And Batman looks most like Batman as drawn by Adams, Aparo, Giordano, or Novick.  Haney never thought any plot-twist was too crazy to use. But blazes, he really found Batman's voice once he was paired with Aparo.

I loved B:TAS. Kevin Conroy gets my vote for best Bat-voice ever. I loved the Brave & the Bold series too. Outrageous! I hated "The Batman" cartoon in between. Batman with a teenager's high voice? Come on! Terrible art direction, to boot. Even the Filmation cartoons kicked that one's bat-butt!

James Chatterton

Sent from my iPhone

Rip Jagger said...

Put me down for the Neal Adams version of the Batman. His realistic renderings of the character at about the same time (and soon thereafter) as the TV show, were a revelation about what the character could be. The Batman became flesh and blood in the capable hands of Adams, the last artist to truly redefine the character until the animated versions a few decades back.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

The one true Batman is Olen Soule.

Anonymous said...

Dougie – great and very succinct comments.

OK – I have zero relationship to Batman or to any DC heroes except what I stumbled across accidently in years of collecting only Marvel.

I liked the camp show when I was very young, then kind of hated it when I got into super heroes and now I like it again, viewed through a sheen of irony and high camp.

Firstly, can’t believe no-one but James mentioned Dick Giordano. He is Batman to me and the only artist who ever made me think I was missing anything by being monogamous to Marvel.

Secondly, I think that what worked in Nolan’s Batman is all the same stuff that worked in Burton’s, which suggests to me that there is a core Gothic, dark, mysterious and slightly psychologically-disturbed character who works very well on the screen, but is maybe more a director’s perception of the comics than anything derived from the comics, except the look.

Thirdly, favourite Batman story: Killing Joke. This is probably heresy because of Barbara Gordon, but I remember being so impressed that at the end, the two old foes just sit on the rooftop, Batman laments that their fight has gone on so long it can only end with the death of one them, and by way of an answer the Joker tells the story about the two lunatics escaping together, which so completely captures his character and the futility of Batman’s fight with him.


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