Tim Tan Huynh

Batman

23 Sep 2017 — Today is the fourth-ever Batman Day. I'm not sure why this date is noteworthy, but Batman history is as storied and varied as the character.
Batman
A close-up of Batman’s face, as depicted by Mikel Janin, appears on the cover of Batman Rebirth, Issue 1, June 2016.

I love Batman. I was obsessed with Tim Burton’s 1989 movie as a kid. I grew up watching re-runs of the Adam West show and, later, the animated series. I lost interest after that Joel Schumacher movie like everybody else, but then I liked the (first two) Christopher Nolan movies like everybody else. I haven’t seen either of the movies with Batfleck, but I’ve platinum-ed the original Rocksteady games, and I’m waiting for the latest Telltale episode.

Recently, I finished reading Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon. I wouldn’t say that the writing is elegant; the style is conversational, but Weldon is too try-hard for my liking. I don’t know if listening to the audiobook would be much better, but I wouldn’t have minded a more academic style considering the book’s presentation. I learned a lot about the history of Batman, though.

I didn’t know that Bill Finger had at least as much to do with the creation of Batman, then called Bat-Man, as Bob Kane. There’s a recent documentary about Finger’s contribution, and the writer has officially been given co-credit some 40 years after his death. Weldon is definitely on Team Finger because he paints an unflattering picture of Kane throughout the book; Kane is basically described as a braggart, plagiarist, and shill without labelled as such.

Another thing that I didn’t know about Batman history was the inconsistent popularity and direction of the comics. Batman comics were close to being shuttered a couple of different times in the pre-Internet era, actually. I assumed that the character was always super popular and was DC’s number-one property over the past 75 years. I was wrong. Writer Dennis O’Neal and artist Neal Adams saved Batman comics in the 1970s.

The O’Neal-Adams team set the template for portraying Batman as a “badass loner.” This template has been used for the past 40 years and is central to the character’s appeal, in my view. People like post-Internet Batman because of what he has and what he is: his next-level brains and near-perfect brawn are as essential to his character as him being calculatingly brutal and unwaveringly noble.

Besides his cape and cowl, Batman’s only constants have been his hardcore fans. Weldon seems to have no love for the people, mostly males, whom I would call fanboys. They’re passionate and possessive, and although Weldon acknowledges their importance, he distances himself from nerd ragers at the end of the book. He apparently believes, like I do, that Batman has endured because people can create different versions of him.