Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Which is your favorite Batman?

Not an easy question to answer, really. There are so many to choose from, much more than Superman, if truth be told, but here is a list of the ones that pop into my head when I think of the character:

  1. Original Bat-Man, by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, et al. This Bat-Man smoked a pipe and only went out when there was a crime broadcast on the radio, or his fiancĂ© was in danger. Even after the introduction of Robin a year later, this character remained virtually unchanged for decades. This version of the character was more lighthearted than what people think. In fact, way back in the beginning of the Golden Age of comics, Superman and Batman we very different from the way they are today. It was almost as if they swapped personalities somewhere in the 70's. This is also the version of Batman that I link to Adam West, Super Friends and the Brave & the Bold cartoon. Kind of campy at times & definitely not the brooding avenger he became. 
  2. 1970's Batman, the Dark Knight. The 1970's is when Batman started to brood more and the stories got grittier. I hesitate to use the term "more realistic" since it's comic books, but this was when Rupert Thorn, a Gotham Crime Boss that didn't put on tights, was introduced. Batman was also more involved in the down-to-earth storylines rather than the Save the Planet from the Menace of the Week kinds of JLA/Superman/Green Lantern stories. I would argue that this Batman, in general, is what we still had in comics up until the past few years. 
  3. Azrael Batman, pretender to the throne. Following the success of the Death of Superman, DC decided to knock off Batman by having Bane break his spine and paralyze him. Rather than having Dick Grayson aka Robin I aka Nightwing takeover (because it might just last and they wouldn't be able to get Bruce Wayne back), Bruce decided to pick the psycho, brainwashed assassin from the holier than thou Order of St. Dumas. Obviously, he went way around the bend and forced the miraculously recovered Bruce to come out of retirement and reclaim the job. Not my favorite storyline, as you might suspect. I liked the Death, Funeral, and Return stories over in the Superman titles, even though I knew it was a gimmick, but this just struck me as way too forced a set of circumstances in Batman. But, as I have stated before, I LIKE the idea of an original hero retiring/dying and having a replacement take over permanently. This could have been a great time to have Dick become Batman with Bruce as an advisor, but it didn't happen. 
  4. Dick Grayson, Son of the Bat. When Batman got on the wrong end of Darkseid's Omega Beams, several people tried to fill the role. The one that came out on top was, of course, Batman's original partner. Dick changed the costume slightly and moved out of the Cave to downtown Gotham (as Bruce did briefly in the '70's). After fighting to have people accept him as Batman, which didn't take long, Dick became an integral part of both Gotham crime fighting and the Justice League, which seemed to feature many possible successors such as Donna Troy, Supergirl and Jessie Quick. Of course, this couldn't last and Bruce was returned to the land of the living and immediately formed Batman, Inc. (so as to allow Dick to remain as Batman). Obviously, with the New 52, this is now a defunct history, but it was nice to see the Squire become the Knight. (As an aside, some people knew that this was someone different inside the costume from 2 clues. First, this Batman did a lot more acrobatics, a tribute to the circus in Dick's blood. Secondly, this Batman smiled.) 
  5. Animated Batman, Icon of the Small Screen. Batman: The Animated Series is the be all and end all of cartoon treatments of Batman. Not only is Bruce Wayne shown as merely a role that Batman plays (with different voices even), but is introduced us to a very successful revamping of many of the characters. While Batman was the main character, it was presented as more of an ensemble show. Alfred was integral to many of the plots, sometimes even verbally smacking Bruce upside the head when he needed it. Commissioner Gordon's Police, with Detective Bullock and Patrolwoman Montoya, were presented as being much more effective than you might come away with in, say, the Adam West show. Not to mention that the voice actors are now THE people that are associated with the characters, so much so that they were tapped for the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City video games. It's just not Batman if Kevin Conroy isn't doing the voice, IMHO. As you can probably tell, this is my favorite version of the character, since it's all encompassing without getting depressing, not to mention that I can watch it with my daughter and we both enjoy it. I would also include the Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited shows in with this as well.
    1. Batman Beyond. Although a distinct person, I have to include Terry McGinnis as part of the TAS universe and, thus, as a sub-entry. This is what I was talking about above, with Bruce becoming the mentor and having another Batman out throwing the punches. It was quite well done, with Mr. Conroy returning as Bruce, and the writing really held up. It's a shame that most animated series don't last very long, because I would really have liked to see more of this one. But, if you've got to go, you can't go out better than bringing back the original Joker and then killing him off.
  6. Live Action Batmen, most of them anyway. There have been many men who have put on the tights of Batman, and only some that got it right. I will be skipping the movie serials, which I do have on DVD, due to most people being unfamiliar with them.

    1. Adam West – Probably the best known Batman, and certainly the one who held the title the longest, is also the one most people despise. I don't, and it's probably because of 2 reasons. First, when the show was made, Batman had been written pretty much this way for about a decade, so it's not like this was any great departure. Secondly, this is the Batman that I was introduced to as a kid, so I guess it will always hold a special place for me. In fact, West has become so inseparable from Batman that he went on to voice the character in later Super Friends episodes and has even done a cameo on "Batman: The Animated Series" as The Grey Ghost, a TV character that Bruce Wayne watched as a boy. Even so, "Bat Shark Repellent"? Who thought THAT was a good idea? Even as a kid I didn't buy it.
    2. Michael Keaton – I actually liked Keaton's Wayne better than his Batman, not that his Batman was bad, just he was a little too … off. In any case, this is the only Batman that dealt with the Joker in the appropriate manner. Did he kill him? Not directly, but he didn't save his life either. I'm sorry, I love the character of the Joker, but there are just so many bodies that a hero should allow. Why the duel identity had to be revealed to Vale or Kyle is still a mystery to me.  
    3. Val Kilmer – This situation is the reverse of Keaton, since I like Kilmer's Batman better than his Bruce Wayne. Yet again we see the "secret" getting out to everyone and their sister, which does nothing to add to the story at all, IMHO. Still, Kilmer makes Batman as believable as possible in this movie, and I have to give him credit for that, since there wasn't much to work with there.
    4. George Clooney – Really? The less said about this debacle the better. 
    5. Christian Bale – The most recent actor to wear the cowl is probably my favorite of the five. He definitely got the "grim avenger" thing down and is easily the most violent batman on screen. I really liked how they had Alfred and Luscious Fox helping Wayne, and how they were both able to stand up to him. Again, I'm not thrilled that he had to let his girlfriend in on the secret and what the heck is with that voice? He couldn't do anything else to make Batman and Bruce Wayne sound different? He probably couldn't keep that up for more than a few minutes before needing a Bat-lozenge.  Oh, and one more thing.  Ra's, as in Ra's Al Ghul is pronounced "Ray-Sh" NOT "Raz".  They did that bit in Batman Beyond.  Sorry, but that irks the hell out of me every time I hear it.
That's my list. I'm sure I have forgotten some, not being the Bat-Expert that others are, but I think it's pretty comprehensive. Just remember to "Tune in next week. Same Bat-Time. Same Bat-Channel."


  1. Overall, I would say that the animated series Batman, where Kevin Conroy does the voice, is my favorite. Especially the first season, where the villains and other characters are getting established, the series rivals any other portrayal I've seen. The decision to start Harvey Dent as Bruce's friend and keep him that way for several episodes before turning him into Two-Face was brilliant.

    Batman Beyond has a lot of good things going for it, but it doesn't really stand up to the shadow of its predecessor.

    Although for the sake of completeness you should include the 1960's and 1970's cartoons as well. Both the Superfriends portrayal (itself voiced in later years by Adam West) and the Filmation cartoons with Alan Soule and Casey Kasem. Also The Batman, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. They're all unique portrayals, although I don't think much of them.

    That said, I'm a big fan of both the Michael Keaton and Christian Bale films. For a live action Batman, you don't cast for Batman. You cast for Bruce Wayne. It's easy to forget just how big a deal the first Keaton film was in 1989; that was what really opened Batman up to a serious portrayal. Keaton at the time was chiefly known as a comedic actor, but when he's on that roof holding the mugger over the edge and whispers "I'm Batman", he claimed it.

  2. Oh, I know how big Batman was in '89. I was one of its biggest fans, but that was before I got into Batman in the comics. Seen in context of all the versions out there, no live action Batman stands up.

    I included Brave and the Bold in the "Original" category since it is essentially the same as the '50's comics version. As for The Batman, I haven't seen it so I really can't comment.