"My Batman" Is Back!
Author: Bill Ramey
Tuesday, September 20, 2006
As we all know, the Batman character has been re-interpreted many times over during his (almost) 70 year existence. Consequently, there's actually no “definitive” version of The Batman. However, each fan has his own idea exactly what The Batman “is."
As for myself, it was the Batman TV show of the 60s that made me a Batman fan, but it was the Batman comics of the 70s that turned me into the Bat-freak that I am today.
The origin of "My Batman" can be found in the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers (see right) stories from the polyester decade. This Batman was truly The Dark Knight Detective. This Batman was intense. He was gritty. But what he wasn’t was crazy.
This all changed in the mid-1980s with Frank Miller’s landmark miniseries THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (1986). The Batman/Bruce Wayne of this story was an alcoholic, middle-age, recluse, who had “retired” from being Batman years ago. That is until he returns as a violent, grim, borderline psychopath.
It seems to me that TDKR begat, for lack of a better term, “A-hole Batman.” This interpretation of The Dark Knight, good or bad, lasted for about 20 years.
During this time period, we’ve seen The Batman of the comics grow more stoic, uncaring, isolated, and a tad off in the head. Frankly, it was hard for me -- a lifelong fan of the character -- to even like him.
And A-Hole Batman didn’t just exist in comic books, he could be found onscreen as well. Tim Burton’s two Batman films -- BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992) -- were strongly influenced by Miller’s TDKR. While The Batman found in the 1989 film (and portrayed by Michael Keaton) harkened back to his 1939 origins, it was it’s sequel that featured a version of A-Hole Batman front and center. And not only was he an A-Hole, he was a semi-psycho A-Hole at that.
Now while the films lightened up with the second and third sequels to the original ‘89 Bat-flick, The Batman in the comics continued down this path of A-Holiness. The comic book Batman became so neurotic and paranoid, he built spy satellites to keep a watch on the world’s super heroes. And at the end of INFINITE CRISIS #7, we witness The Batman contemplating shooting the main villain of the story, Alexander Luthor.
To be honest, I stopped reading Batman comics on a regular basis sometime in the late 90s. I was tired of the constant crossovers and gimmicky storylines (ex. KNIGHTFALL/KNIGHTQUEST/KNIGHTSEND -- pretty good, but gimmicky nonetheless). I was also a bit tired of A-Hole Batman as well. The Batman I grew up with was first and foremost a hero, and this guy had all but disappeared.
Look, I’m not here to bash THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS -- it’s fantastic for what it is -- but it simply didn’t have “My Batman” in it. And frankly, neither did any of the "Burton/Schumacher" live-action films.
Then in June of 2005, BATMAN BEGINS hit theaters. Director Chris Nolan and screenwriter David Goyer made it no secret that their Batman (portrayed excellently by Christian Bale) was strongly influenced by the comics of the 70s. The Batman of BEGINS, while still definitely dark and gritty, is still a hero first and foremost. Watching BEGINS made me a bit nostalgic and had me thinking back to those comic books from my childhood.
BATMAN BEGINS had rekindled my interest in the comic book incarnation of the character. Late last year, I returned to that world in the middle of DC’s INFINITE CRISIS miniseries. I picked up the issues that I had missed, and as I read, there he was -- A-Hole Batman. But as the story played out, it seemed that The Batman had reached an epiphany. He would leave Gotham for a year; revisiting the path that led him to become The Batman.
And when he returned to Gotham during the “ONE YEAR LATER” storyline, something was different, yet very familiar. It seemed that A-Hole Batman was gone, and had been replaced by The Batman from my childhood -- “Heroic Batman.”
Since then, I’ve got to say that I’m loving this “new” Batman that’s now appearing in the in-continuity Bat-monthlies. I’m very happy that I’ve returned to the comic books after an almost decade long absence -- especially since it seems that “My Batman” is back and better than ever!
BATMAN ON FILM.