BOF’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of Batman with another installment of “10 Bat-Questions with….” Below, you’ll find my Q&A with longtime BOF reader, HitFix.com's Kris Tapley. He's also my good friend...though I have to let the fact he's a Redskins fan slide.
ABOUT KRIS: Kristopher Tapley is the Editor-at-Large for HitFix.com. He has covered the film business for over a decade. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Times of London and Variety. Follow him on Twitter @KRISTAPLEY.
1) I'll start with the standard question: What are your first memories of Batman?
KRIS TAPLEY: It's sort of a mixture of things. Super Powers action figures, comic books from the mid-to-late 1980s, re-runs of the 1960s television show, etc. But vividly I recall the build-up to the release of Tim Burton's film in 1989, and specifically the image of the Batwing howling around the spires of Gotham Cathedral in television spots for the film. It was such an event, a must-see kind of thing, and that build was pretty much seared into my memory from that moment forward.
2) Currently, there have been seven live-action Batman films -- eight if you want to throw in the 1966 feature. Which one is your favorite?
KT: I have to stick with the first Burton, BATMAN. It's the movie I've seen more than any other, the movie I can literally sit down and quote pretty much beginning to end. It has such style and swagger. It may not have been the most faithful representation of what the character is supposed to mean, but it exists, narratively, as a rather brilliant "Elseworlds" sort of story. Nicholson is on fire as The Joker. The movie left a crater in the industry and meant a lot for the business going forward.
3) OK, let's jump from the films to the place of Batman's original incarnation, the comics. Which Batman comic book story is your favorite?
KT: YEAR ONE is like the richest piece of iconography in the character's mythos, I have to say. There's something elemental, quintessential and just pitch-perfect — outside of the handling of Selina) in how it rebooted the story of Bruce Wayne. The best of the film incarnations — Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Begins, for instance — know how to borrow from this story and serve their own visions of the origin well. However, I also have a soft spot for the entire KNIGHTFALL saga from the 90s.
4) In addition to live-action, there have been several animated Batman films. Got a favorite of that lot?
KT: I'll resist the temptation to go with the obvious, Mask of the Phantasm, which was indeed a pretty stellar accomplishment, and I'll say Under the Red Hood. I wasn't expecting much of it, mostly because it was based on an arc that left me largely unmoved, but somehow they managed to tell it in a fresh and exciting way with the animation and it kind of grabbed me. Few of the other Warner Premiere titles have done that.
5) Over Batman's 75 year history, there haven been a TON of artists and writers contribute to the Batman legacy. Who are your favorites?
KT: For the artist, I'd say I go back and forth between Tim Sale and Norm Breyfogle, but I'd have to say Breyfogle. I grew up with his incarnation of the character and his take on it really remains quite unique and striking, and even quite sinister at times. As for writer, I think few have really balanced a sense of entertainment with a non-pretentious level of dignity like Paul Dini has. It's always controlled and focused work that never gets away from him like it does some writers.
6) Going back to the animated Batman, there have been several animated endeavors starring The Batman. Which one is your favorite and what would be its standout episode?
KT: You have to say Batman: The Animated Series, right? The original. It was such an awesome vision, borrowed from the movies at the time, but something also pure and new. I've forgotten so many of those episodes, but I liked the stand-alone quality to a great many of them and right now I'm particularly thinking of "Beware the Gray Ghost".
7) We're zig-zaggin all over the place here! Back to the live-action films, which individual scene from any of them stands out for you?
KT: That's a tough one. I think they all, even the poor films, have showcase scenes. Axis Chemicals in Batman, the opening credits of Batman Returns, the circus massacre of Batman Forever, the interrogation of The Dark Knight, the subterranean Bane fight of The Dark Knight Rises, etc. But for me, there's always been something so fluid and masterful about the training sequence of Batman Begins, and particularly the use of Ducard and Bruce sparring on a glacier intercut throughout it. It of course recalls the old "Shaman" LEGNEDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT arc but it was fresh and pretty exciting to see that depicted on the big screen.
8) When it comes to comic book superheros, Batman has the greatest rogues gallery, bar none. Which villain is your favorite?
KT: It's not The Joker, believe it or not! It's probably Ra's al Ghul. He's not always used well and often I think the tendency to deal with Talia and the love/passion angle between her and Bruce kills some of the momentum that can be built with a Ra's story, but he's so much more sinister to me because he's this Keyser Soze figure. I loved the way they treated him in Batman Begins and I think there's something consistently magnetic about the guy.
9) Think fast: Best Batman character that isn't The Batman?
KT: Jim Gordon.
He is just so fascinating and effortlessly layered. In the early years, the one good cop in a city gone rotten. Willing to work with a vigilante, who's identity I'm sure he eventually discerns but he just couldn't care less. He has a job, same as The Batman: protect the city. Their developing relationship has always been part of the bedrock of the mythos to me.
10) Finally, what is the most significant "Batman Moment" of your life?
KT: Seeing the Tim Burton film in 1989, easily.
It was the first time a movie was an event to me, where these images on the big screen were just a little more than a diversion. They were on a certain scale that made me think, "Wow, movies kind of kick ass!" I'd say that's a seminal moment for me given my career trajectory. I saw it three times in the theater, which, at the time, was a LOT for me!
Thanks again to Kris for being a part of BOF's celebration of 75 years of Batman! If you have any suggestions for B75 guests or B75 questions, send them to me via JETT@BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM.