Everybody knows who Batman is. And just about everyone loves him.
How has a character lasted so long and had so many variations and still remain so relevant... so popular... After all these years? Because he's Batman!
Yes, I know, typical Bat fan answer. But I wanted to talk about what makes this fictional character so important to me. Many people have talked on end about him. Filmmaker Kevin Smith talks about it on a weekly basis on his podcasts and movies. Now, it's my turn.
Here's my life as a Caped Crusader fan...
Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. I remember those three when I was a very tiny child of the 80s. I had sippy cups and toys, but I really have no clue who they really were. You know, other than them being really cool-looking! But how I never forgot Batman... is the image above. The 1989 blockbuster, Tim Burton's "Batman."
The hype... was EPIC! McDonalds, Kenner toys, the ads, the Prince soundtrack! There was no way you could escape the build-up of this flick at the time! This movie made me a fan. It's how I found the reruns of campy 60's series with Adam West, since again, they were really wanted to sell the crap out of this movie and the show was on tv all the time. But the '89 movie...
Jack as Joker, Keaton as Bruce/Batman, the visuals, everything, was amazing at the time! I even dressed up as the Dark Knight for Halloween. I would see every movie with Batman in it, in the theaters, from there on in. Minus one movie, which I regret not seeing at the time.
Because the first movie was a mega-hit and another one was on the way, the animated series was born. Thus, was born a phenomenon.
Every afternoon, and sometimes at night, "Batman: The Animated Series" would come on and I would be hooked. From the opening theme to the very end, I watched every bit of it. It's the show that made Mr. Freeze an important villain and one with a heart, no matter how cold he was. Harley Quinn was created here as well. Two-parters like the birth of Clayface and Two-Face were fantastic. "Almost Got 'Im" had the rogues gallery, while playing a poker game, talking about how they almost got Batman. "Christmas With the Joker" is one I play every Christmas, especially because of Bruce's similar dislike for the holiday.
If you haven't seen the series lately, it still holds up and you might want to give it a rewatch.
As I mentioned, one Batman movie I missed was "Mask of The Phantasm," which was The Animated Series' only theatrical movie release. And honestly, it is MY FAVORITE BATMAN FILM. It's an origin story, with romance and revenge and the most honest of them all. I liked it as a kid when I saw it on video, but over the years, I've come to relate more and more and it is just so well put together.
Moments like the one below always get to me. Bruce loses the love of his life, with nothing more to lose, becomes the Batman. Alfred, his faithful butler and father-like figure, sees the little boy he looked after become something else...
In time, I decided to read the comics and learn more about the actual history of the character. After all, it's where most of the TV and movies had been based off of.
Reading about how people had to choose between saving and killing his sidekick Robin, or how Bane broke his back and the Azrael aftermath, or The Dark Knight Returns.
Though I have not read all or even most of the Dark Knight's finest comic adventures, the stories that I have read inspired me. As an artist and as a writer. I loved the artwork of Arkham Asylum and Long Halloween was one of my first graphic novels. Dark Knight Returns also made me realize how much of a badass Bats can be, even as a grizzled veteran.
Killing Joke, done by a fan...
After the debacle that was the "Batman And Robin" movie, it was time for the Bat to come back and to the dark side where many thought he belonged.
Enter Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy.
It was more of a graphic novel than a comic book movie. People died in gruesome ways, albeit not onscreen. A lot of brooding and depressing moments. It was just dark. But to many, this is how Batman is supposed to be. And I can understand. He lost his parents before his eyes and just wants justice, at any cost.
So well done, each of these films. It also proved to me that he is not a comic book superhero like Superman or Spiderman. He's more human and more akin to Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. A smart character that uses his wits (and fists) to get out of anything, no matter the circumstances.
Even with the third film, "Rises," which SPOILER ALERT, has Bruce retiring as Batman. Plenty of fans did not like this, especially since he is not the type to quit anything. But as the films show, in this series, Batman symbolizes justice and wasn't just one man and can be anyone.
Each incarnation of Batman is different and the stories that come out of it are different as well and I am just fine with that. That's what makes him unique. That is why there have been so many tales to tell and variations to those that have already been told. If they were all the same, then we'd be stuck with Adam West running around with a gigantic bomb.
But one thing in particular that makes Batman Batman... the rogue gallery. The villains!
To make a great hero, you need a great villain. Each baddie has something in common with the Dark Knight. One focuses on fear, another has riches, another intelligence. But all of them have their identities that they hide from the world, and maybe this side they show to the world is more real than a Bruce Wayne or an Edward Nigma is.
It is all based on psychology and no other comic can really say that about their heroes and villains as much as the Bat Universe can.
Without a Joker, this is no Batman. Joker is humor while Batman supposedly has none. Most of the villains also use guns, while Batman won't ever.
We could do this forever... But yes, I love the bad guys just as much as Batman. They bring out the best and almost always... the worst in the Dark Knight.
So in short, I love the character. Every version of him. He never gives up, he's not perfect as much as it may seem that way. A character who will take it to the limit. Sure, he's got his depressing side, and psycho side, but is still very human. He's got riches, but still is unhappy, but he won't stop until Gotham is safe. No matter who wears the cape or whoever is by his side. With 3 Robins, Batgirl, maybe Catwoman, or Batman Beyond, or Gordon and the few cops that trust him.
Nothing will stop the Bat.