By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com
(Note: I had planned to have this up last week, but after learning about the terrible events in Colorado, I though it best to wait a few days. Though it should go without saying, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, who were not only members of our greater American community, but fellow moviegoers and Batman fans. Though far, far, far from the most tragic aspect of this horror, it’s still somewhat unfortunate that it will forever be associated with Batman; as a figure in popular culture, the Dark Knight has always stood as a symbol against guns and gun violence, as well as an idealization that hope and light can someday arise from great tragedy and darkness. Hopefully, as a nation and a society, once we’ve mourned and grieved these events – and learned from them – we will find our own way onward, toward hope and light.)
By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com
Well, you just knew this was coming, right?
So yes, thanks to our ever more crowded summer movie season, it’s already time again for another survey of a famous character in popular culture…and they rarely come more popular than the one and only Batman. Whether you think of him as the gritty, vengeful, and brooding Dark Knight, or the noble, altruistic, and exciting Caped Crusader, the Guardian of Gotham City is an indelibly ingrained part of our popular culture, an American icon (though not always in a positive way), and the definitive urban avenger. I also don’t think it’s unfair to say that Batman has long surpassed his contemporary Superman as the world’s most famous superhero, and he’s arguably the most consistently compelling and undeniably the most commercially successful superhero of all time. For me, though, and I think for any observer of popular culture, Batman should also be considered among the most fascinating.
As times go by, many famous characters are reinterpreted and recreated for each new generation, inevitably drawing upon the various tastes and subtexts of that given moment in time. Bob Kane’s Batman, though, perhaps more than any other character I have ever seen anywhere in media, has demonstrated an astonishing ability to be readily transformed and transfigured to any given era without ever subsequently becoming an anachronism. It’s not that Batman is timeless – though he is – it’s that he’s somehow always timely. It’s an amazing attribute, and one that makes the Dark Knight not only distinctive in the history of comics, but in world literature and media as well. Read the rest of this entry
For me, Batman began with Adam West. As an aggressively physical boy of eight, each half hour installment of that venerated 60’s TV show was a smack dose of all the things an aggressively physical boy of eight needs: bright colors, capes and at least two massive fistfights for every twenty minutes of story. When Batman Returns came out in theaters around this time, I very desperately wanted to go but my parents deemed the film inappropriate due to its violence and menacing atmosphere. They hadn’t even let me watch the first one, but they teased, they teased me by buying me those damn movie-version action figures that only built up the mythology of the Bat-man in my impressionable little head. This hurts-so-good trend peaked with a Halloween costume:
Fortunately it was also around this time that Batman: The Animated Series began broadcasting, and if my love for Adam West’s Batman was analogous to being hooked on smack, then its animated cousin had me whoring myself out on the street for my next hit.
Though I may have been too young to fully appreciate it, Batman TAS showed me how the character could be interesting in manner way beyond fisticuffs. There was emotion, sinister character pathos, gorgeous art deco art direction and, of course, Shirley Walker and company’s stunning live orchestra scores for every episode. I was finally allowed to watch the Tim Burton movies, and although I loved them both and even developed a mild obsession with Returns, by that point Batman TAS was my main fix, the definitive version. Read the rest of this entry
On Tuesday, October 18, 2011, the much-anticipated animated adaptation of Batman: Year One, the latest DC Comics film produced by Warner Bros. Animation, will be released. Beginning in 2007, Warner Bros. have put out eleven animated films, adapted from DC’s most popular characters and storylines, for the direct-to-DVD market. Supervised by the acclaimed producer Bruce Timm, the chief force behind the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, and other series from the DC Animated Universe continuity, the films are generally standalone works set within their own individual continuities and featuring both highly contrasting styles of two-dimensional animation and varying casts of voice actors. Besides being consistently solid and appealing to fans new and old, the films are mainly interesting for demonstrating the rather diversified and anti-canonical nature of today’s highly postmodern comic book media, where famous characters are consistently reinterpreted by different artists and writers while incorporating the zeitgeist of their times. In the process, they sometimes illustrate both the positives and negatives of that approach. Read the rest of this entry