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 Sean Gerber.
ABOUT SEAN: Sean Gerber is a life-long Batman fan from Orange County, California. Sean is a longtime BOF'er and has contributed to the site for many years as a writer, reporter and host of the BOF Podcast. He also the founder of his own site, MODERN MYTH MEDIA, which is one of the top sites on the Net discussing, well, our modern mythology.
1) What are your first memories of Batman and his world?
SG: My own Batfan origin story is not unlike a great many others. My first Batman memories are filled with the multi-colored fisticuffs of the 1960s television show. Truth be told, however, The Joker was the character that pulled me in first. Don't get me wrong, I loved Batman, but there was something about a bad guy dressed like a clown, but not like any clown I'd ever seen before, that I found and endlessly fascinating (and I still do). I do not know if my Batman fandom would have been so deeply engrained in my young psyche were it not for the Clown Prince of Crime. I am forever indebted to the late, great Cesar Romero and his mustache!
2) Comic book-wise, what's your favorite Batman story?
SG: BATMAN #1, hands down. It's the first appearance of The Joker (sensing a theme yet?) and more importantly, it's the first comic book I can ever remember reading. No, I did not have a premature sense of history as a young boy. It was just the first story included in a collection entitled THE GREATEST JOKER STORIES EVER TOLD that my dad bought for me when Tim Burton's BATMAN (1989) came out. This Joker, the original Joker, was so very different from Cesar Romero's. This Joker killed, but was kind enough to give notice on the radio. This was a villain Batman really had to outsmart in order to stop. To this day, some 25 years later, I still have that collection. It is the most enduring totem of my love for Batman and his greatest foe.
Ed Brubaker did a pretty awesome job with his modern retelling of "The Joker/The Joker Returns" from BATMAN #1 in BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.
3) Batfashion-wise, what's your go-to Batman gear?
SG: I have a lot of great Batman shirts, but my absolute favorite is the very first shirt Warner Bros. officially released for BATMAN BEGINS. It's black, obviously, with a faded, slightly bronzed version of Nolan's Bat symbol. I still wear that shirt all the time, including a few days ago when I looked at it in amazement over the fact that I've had it for 9 years now! Nothing in the history of fiction means as much to me as "THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY" and that shirt is a symbol of where it all began.
4) What's your favorite scene from Chris Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy"?
SG: The interrogation scene in THE DARK KNIGHT beats out some insanely tough competition to remain my favorite scene in "THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY". The best part of the best rivalry in comics has always been the philosophical, not physical, war between Batman and The Joker. I had always dreamed of a movie scene in which Batman and The Joker were seated across from one another at a table and having their debate over morality and ethics. Director Christopher Nolan obliged, letting The Joker do most of the talking, as he should, while perfectly defining the heart and soul of the two characters' conflict.
Take a moment and think about what happens in that scene. Batman assumes, as most would, that his enemy is out to kill him. The Joker, however, has far worse plans in store for The Dark Knight. Never mind killing Batman, The Joker is there to invalidate Batman's entire purpose. Joker is telling a man who's spent years training and endured all different kinds of hell in pursuit of inspiring the good in people that no such good really exists. Morality is an adaptive facade that is abandoned as soon as the going gets tough. But thanks for playing anyway, Batman!
This scene defines the entire film and has a tremendous impact on Batman for the remainder of the picture. Batman's first response, especially when he finds out Rachel Dawes is in danger, is to fight. He pummels The Joker, but to no avail. Each punch Batman lands is another small victory for The Joker and he laughs in celebration. This is a man Batman cannot intimidate. This is a fight he cannot win with his fists.
Have you ever noticed that Batman doesn't throw a single punch The Joker's way after the interrogation scene? He doesn't because he knows it will do him no good. To beat The Joker, Batman has to put his faith in the people he set out to inspire and see if he's really had the desired effect. Look at The Joker's face when the people on the ferry boats refuse to kill each other. He's not laughing anymore and that is Batman's ultimate victory, save for Joker's ace in the hole for the last scene.
5) To be fair, what's your favorite scene from the "Burton/Schumacher Quadrilogy"?
SG: "There ain't no Bat." Yes there is. There are plenty of great scenes to choose from in version 1.0 of the Batman franchise, but his introductory scene in BATMAN (1989) stands the test of time as my favorite. It is so simple and so effective. Batman beating up a couple of muggers may not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, but I still get a surge of adrenaline and a feeling of "Hell Yeah!" every time I watch that scene.
Up until that point, the only live-action Batman most people had ever seen was Adam West and in such little time, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were able to set a brand new standard for the character. I can't tell you how many times my 5 and then 6-year-old self uttered "I'm Batman" while running around the house with a blanket tied around my neck. I'd be lying if I claimed I don't still say it from time to time.
6) Excluding The Joker, which Batman villain is your favorite?
SG: Good exclusion. After The Joker, Two-Face is next in line. Call me a masochist or perhaps a sadist, but I love enduring the tragedy that is Harvey Dent's downfall. What makes Batman's rogues gallery the best in comics is not how cool they look, but the impact they have on our hero. Harvey Dent is such a great "normal" good guy to fight alongside Batman and to see what it does to Batman when Harvey becomes Two-Face is heartbreaking, yet I can never turn away. The scars on Harvey Dent's face reflect the emotional scars Batman has from what he will always count as one of his greatest failures. He could not save his friend. A man who could have been one of Gotham's greatest heroes fell on Batman's watch. Great storytelling.
7) In your heart and mind's eye -- and as a huge fan of "The Dark Knight Trilogy" -- what becomes of Bruce Wayne after the events of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES?
SG: As soon as Alfred leaves, Bruce Wayne asks Selina if she would mind picking up the check since he's a little light on funds. Most of his money was stolen and he was too busy faking his death to stop by one of his emergency stashes of cash.
In my heart and mind, the rest of Bruce Wayne's life after our last look at him in "THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY" is fairly uneventful. He's still a good man and can't stop himself from helping people. He just finds simpler, less conspicuous ways of doing so. He never goes back to Gotham and dawns the cape and cowl. He successfully overcame his need to be Batman and has moved on.
He made it, and he is happy.
8) What's the best ever one sheet/poster from a live-action Batman film?
SG: If I'm being objective and calling out the best one-sheet from a pure marketing perspective, there can be no doubt that the original Bat-Symbol one-sheet from BATMAN (1989) is the winner. An argument can be made that it is the greatest poster in the history of cinema, not just Batman movies. Has any other image from a movie poster been so enduring? They still sell t-shirts and posters with that symbol.
If I'm calling out my persona' favorites, here are my top 3...
"Welcome to a World Without Rules" with Batman in front of the building with a flaming Bat-Symbol from THE DARK KNIGHT; "Why So Serious?" with The Joker not quite revealed from THE DARK KNIGHT; and, "The Legend Ends" with Bane walking away from Batman's broken cowl from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.
9) Who is your favorite Batman writer?
SG: Bill Finger will always and forever get an honorable mention. Denny O'neil deserves a shoutout. My favorite Batman writer who's ever written a comic book is Paul Dini for all that he did in his amazing DETECTIVE COMICS run, but also what he did on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, and the ARKHAM ASYLUM video game.
Picking a favorite among those who've primarily served as comic book writers for Batman, I'm going to have to go with Scott Snyder. Perhaps I'm being a prisoner of the moment, but Snyder is firing on all cylinders in his Batman run right now. "Court of Owls" and "Death of the Family" both have shaky endings in my book, but overall, those stories are great and "Zero Year" is doing so much for the Batman mythos right now that it's ridiculous. We are getting fresh, updated origins for Batman, Jim Gordon, and (maybe, but we'll never know) The Joker. At the same time, we are getting the first legitimately great Riddler story ever told.
I put Two-Face down as my favorite villain after The Joker in part because The Riddler has always been a better concept than a character. Scott Snyder is changing that and by the time "Zero Year" is done, Riddler may steal Harvey's silver medal in by Rogue Olympics!
10) And finally, what's the defining "Batman Moment" of your life?
SG: Saving the best and most difficult question to answer for last!
My first viewings of each film in "THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY" all rank highly. Seeing all of the costumes and props from the aforementioned trilogy along with every Batmobile in the history of the franchise at the "Legends of the Knight" exhibit was unbelievably cool. Even better, my affiliation with you, Batman On Film has afforded me the unbelievable opportunity to meet Jerry Robinson, Michael Uslan, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Paul Dini, Jonathan Nolan, Emma Thomas, Diedrich Bader, James Tucker, and so many other important members of Batman history. I've even met Christopher Nolan twice!
Any of those moments would be worthy of a top spot, but the most significant "Batman Moment" in my life isn't a moment at all. It's a list of names...
The "BOF Trinity" - Sean, Bill and Mark - in Los Angeles, CA, July 2012
Bill Ramey, Mark Hughes, Brad L., John Bierly, Chris Clow, Justin Bolger, Paul Hermann, Josh Costella, and Robert Reineke.
These are the friends I've made through our shared love and appreciation of Batman. I count some of those names among the best friends I've ever had even though I've only met them in person a handful of times or not at all. With the BOF message board, BOF Podcast, and then Modern Myth Media Podcast all playing host, we have all been bonded by Batman.
My favorite part about being a Batman fan is talking about Batman with people who love the character as much as I do. I've made several friends that way and I will no doubt continue to do so. All the movies, comics, video games, animated shows, and collectibles in the world would never be as much fun without friends and fellow fans to enjoy Batman with.
To steal a line from another new friend I've made, LEGENDS OF THE KNIGHT director Brett Culp, "We ARE Batman!"
Thanks again to Sean 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.