Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Search of "My Batman"...

Here's an update of a post from 2008...
Okay, I know Christopher Nolan Batman series is a top-notch film trilogy. It's got a talented cast, superb acting, incredible stunts, sate of the art effects, impeccable production values, and drama of epic proportions. Now having seen all three, you may ask "Did I enjoy them?" Well, let's just say I survived them. 
Let me start by saying I am a Batman fan from way back. I've been buying, collecting and reading Batman (and various other DC) comics since about 1972 - when I was 8 years old.
I have a collection of hundreds of Batman toys and trinkets. I grew up on the old BATMAN TV series (Aunt Harriet! Batgirl! Lola Lasagna!), the wooden Filmation cartoons of the late 60s and of course the various corny but fun incarnations of SUPERFRIENDS throughout the 70s and 80s.
Also along the way there was the ridiculous 1966 feature with much of the TV cast, the newer (and improved) Filmation series from the late 70s (even though that show brought us the dreaded Bat-Mite!)
and the various odd projects like LEGENDS OF THE SUPER-HEROES (yikes!) and the infamous guest spot on THE NEW SCOOBY-DOO MOVIES.
While Batman continued to be marketed to us 70s kids in every shape and form from Underoos to Ben Cooper Halloween costumes, some of the best Batman comics ever were be published by National Peroidical Publications, aka DC Comics. 
Great runs like the sophisticated and gothic Denny O'Neill/Neal Adams issues which introduced the darkly seductive Talia (as seen in THE DARK NIGHT RISES) and the bold Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run in DETECTIVE COMICS (#469-476) which brought us the sexy and sultry Silver St. Cloud, were among the best and definitive interpretations. There was also some later good stuff in the early 80s from teams like Doug Moench/Don Newton and Mike W. Barr/Alan Davis. These were all "my Batman".
Along the way, there was some pretty dreadful stuff too, like most of WORLD'S FINEST and many BRAVE & THE BOLD outtings. Then came Frank Miller. 
Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and BATMAN: YEAR ONE (issues 404-407 of the BATMAN monthly) changed everything. These two grim and gritty bookend miniseries told the last and first Batman stories, setting the new standard for storytelling about the caped crusader and leaving other creators to fill in what happens in between. 
At the time, I thought both Miller's writing and artwork were refreshing and unique- but by the time he returned for a sequel, 2001's miserable and offensive THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN - I loathed both him and his style. His most recent Batman maxi-series (did it ever conclude??), ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER is pretty to look at (thanks to Jim Lee), but was not on my "must buy" list. Again, not "my Batman".
Tim Burton's BATMAN hit theaters in 1989, I was in fanboy heaven. Despite the miscasting of Michael (MR. MOM) Keaton as Bruce Wayne, there was finally a Batman that wasn't silly, corny and campy - though looking back, it might be after all. Then the dreadful Prince soundtrack kicked in. Ugh. But I liked it because there were lots of cool toys and other merchandise that I could buy and finally the Batman that I was reading about in the DC Universe kinda sorta existed elsewhere now.
Burton's sequel BATMAN RETURNS was a bit better, thanks to the Catwoman subplot...
and the great Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Face to Face" over the closing credits.
The less said about Joel Schumacher's BATMAN & ROBIN, BATMAN FOREVER and Pitof's (what the fuck kind of name is that?) ludicrous CATWOMAN the better. None of these were "my Batman" or "my Catwoman" - they were closer to being "My Little Pony".
Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and all it's various sequels were a lot closer to the Batman that I knew and loved, though I was not a fan of the futuristic and unneeded BATMAN BEYOND.

Another animated series called THE BATMAN ran from 2004-2006. I only saw a few episodes here and there. Looked okay, was a bit too Manga-oriented for my tastes.
Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS was a vast improvement upon the the Burton and Schumacher films - borrowing some elements from the O'Neill/Adams run. I was not and still am not impressed by the tank-like Batmobile. aka the Tumbler Definitely not "my Batmobile". I have only seen it BATMAN BEGINS once, and don't plan on watching it again any time soon, the same for the uber-popular sequel THE DARK KNIGHT. 
While die-hard fans of the 1960s ABC series wait for Fox and Warners Bros. to come to terms about releasing the show on DVD, Fox has released the 1966 theatrical film on blu-ray utilizing a deceptive DARK KNIGHT-themed advertising campaign. One wonders who might buy this expecting to see a grim and gritty Adam West.
The recent THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD animated series was pleasant and unxpected a return to "my Batman" - with great guest stars like Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, the Doom Patrol and the new Blue Beetle. The stories were smart, fun and placed the character firmly in a universe of super-powered friends and enemies that felt like the DC Universe I grew up loving.

As THE DARK NIGHT RISES continues it juggernaut across movie theater screens across the world, I wonder if there will ever be a film that lives up to the expectations that I have for "my Batman"...and will I ever see Aunt Harriet again?


B.C. said...

The Dark Knight is, almost without exception, a series of incredibly bad filmmaking choices strung together over an unbearable running time. About as far from a masterpiece as I’ve seen in the cinemas in a couple of years at least.

Tony Z™ said...

"My" Batman is like the first couple years of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger stories, and then the Neal Adams "New Look" until about the mid-80s. While I enjoyed Dark Knight Returns, it ruined the Batman universe going forward. "Look at those sales!! Let's turn Batman into a bastard!!!"
Haven't read much of Batman's solo adventures since.
Outside of comics, tho, I can enjoy Batman in almost any incarnation. Although I don't think it's the BEST. THING. EVER. I even totally enjoyed The Dark Knight.
BUT -- while I had reservations about the new Brave and Bold animated series when it was first announced, this trailer has won me over. This looks like it's going to ROCK!!

William Mercado said...

I found the Nolan movies a little too ponderous and he grounded Batman way too much in reality. The Bat Tank, and the costume, Bats comes off like a very depressed Iron Man. When the Joker in Burton's movie asked where does he get those wonderful toys, I didn't want to watch a whole movie of Bruce Wayne filling out requisition forms and trying stuff out.

Ookie said...

Bruce Timm's animated Batman is the best mix of dark and heroic. This carries through in Batman Beyond and the animated Justice League. I was dubious about Batman Beyond at first, but it is very true to the preceding animated continuity and further develops the Bruce Wayne character. The JLUnltd episode (aptly titled "Epilogue") is a fitting cap for the cancelled Batman Beyond series, and shows how Bruce can be tough and compassionate at the same time.