In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Caped Crusader, four Batman movies are making a return to theaters. Each of the four movies will be playing on the big screen for one day only next month.
The four movies returning to theaters are the four made in the 1980s and ’90s. They are Batman and Batman Returns directed by Tim Burton, as well as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin directed by Joel Schumacher.
You can find all of the info on when the movies are playing and where to get tickets below.
Batman has become one of, if not the most well known characters in the history of American pop culture. He’s been dark, he’s been bright, and he’s even been an agent of propaganda, but one thing that has remained consistent is that people know who Batman is. With The Evolution of Batman in Popular Culture, my attempt is to take an extensive look at all the ways that Batman can be interpreted, why he’s remained a consistent force in popular culture, and how he becomes a reflection of society making him the most iconic superhero.
When Batman (Bat-Man) was created by Bill Finger and Robert Kane, he was initially created as an answer to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s iconic superhero of the lower class. And while Superman was given super powers and a fighting stance against corruption, Batman was a little darker. The creation of Batman came mainly from pulp novels, Zorro, and the 1926 horror film The Bat. Batman was a weird creature of the night that, initially, wasn’t afraid to kill and would do so if the criminal “deserved” it. In his creation, Batman is already a reflection of an era that is commonly described as being hopeful, yet disillusioned in the face of World War II, a time when almost everyone was on board with the Allied Powers in their war against the Evil Axis Powers. Society was cut and dry, good and bad, so a four-color look at a wealthy vigilante lent itself perfectly to the culture of the time.
Furthermore, this interpretation of The Batman was moved into the popular propaganda films shown during war times where Batman and Robin teamed up to fight on the home front while all the soldiers were defending America’s freedom. Sure, if you try to watch The Batman and the Batman and Robin serials, you’re going to lose your mind if you’re brain’s not stuck in a World War II mindset in which you’re pretty much sure that Japanese people are completely evil and should be punished for all their evil deeds. Yes, it’s completely ridiculous and completely wrong, but it is 100% an accurate portrayal of the United States’ attitude toward the world at the time. Another aspect of this that’s worth mentioning is that in most superhero stories, this was the interpretation. In fact, this was the interpretation of most movie serials during the time period, but for the sake of argument, even as an overweight “on-a-budget” looking Batman, the interpretation is valid and represents the time.
The next major incarnation of The Caped Crusader came with “The New Look” that accompanied the heralding in of The Silver Age of comics. Oddly enough, with sales of superhero comics tanking, the introduction of the Batman TV show came to our Earth and showed a completely different side of Batman. This Batman was campy, this Batman was fun, this Batman was kid friendly, and above all else, this Batman was psychedelic. If one thing is tied to the 1960s, whether accurately or not, it’s the free love, acid freak hippie nature of society at the time. This youth culture was high on life and many other things which made straight-laced stiffs, like Adam West’s portrayal of the Batman character, completely hilarious. While kids were loving the cartoony action of Batman, the elaborate death traps created by brilliantly acted villains like The Riddler, The Joker, King Tut, and Egg Head, adults saw the humor that laced every other moment outside of the square Adam West. The cast was in on the joke, the adults were in on the joke, the only ones that were left out were the kids. And quite honestly, as a kid who watched this show growing up, it was absolutely perfect. All of the elements that are over done and goofy to me as an adult, which I still adore, were exactly what my child-like mind thought a superhero TV show about Batman should be like. The goofy, post-Wertham nature of The Silver Age in comics, alongside the ironic attitude of the country allowed Batman to be one of the biggest pop culture icons of the pre-Vietnam 1960s. Most today would refuse to admit the importance of this era of Batman, but when you take a grander look at his history, Batman reflects society, and that exactly what happened with Batman ’66.
Following the escapades of Adam West’s Batman, the titular character was relegated mostly to cartoon shows with interactions between other Warner properties like Scooby-Doo. Sure there was the live-action special Legends of The Superheroes which showed a handful of DC heroes fighting DC villains, but for the most part, while Batman was being redefined in the comics throughout the 70s, Batman for better or worse became a cartoon character. He stayed in the minds of children and parents until the 1980s when Frank Miller got a hold of him. In Miller’s The Dark Knight, he redefined what a superhero comic book could do, and alongside Alan Moore’s Watchmen, he changed comic books forever. Miller, as a writer, creates stories with hardboiled toughs in an incredibly dark setting, and after this version of Batman was brought to the attention of the masses again for the first time since the 1940s/1950s, Batman was once again The Dark Knight. This next step in Batman’s evolution led to filmmaker Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman.
Batman was the next big superhero movie after the Superman franchise took off and then ultimately fell off due to poor writing/directing/producing/lack of public interest. After the boom and economic hopefulness of the 1980s, we were met with the grunge era. The grunge era, as I’m calling it, accompanied musical acts like Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Pixies, and The Melvins, and was a sign of America’s youth caught up in a wave of disillusionment. Gone was the chrome horizon of the 1980s. What we were welcomed with, and on a path towards, was a somewhat dark era in which many felt ostracized and hopeless. It’s my opinion that 1989’s Batman helped usher in that time period, but either way, it’s hard to deny that Tim Burton’s cartoony gothic hero was not in part a reflection of that mood. When Batman hit theaters, fans saw a new Batman dressed all in black whose motivation once again became vengeance on the part of his parents’ murder. The gothic hero was an orphan on a grand scale, and considering the attitude of America’s teens at the time, people flocked to this interpretation. In fact, Batman stayed on track with Burton for quite some time, which included the debut of Batman: The Animated Series, which many young kids used as their first exposure to The Dark Knight and in the future, this series would become incredibly important, but we’ll get back to that in just a little bit when we discuss the modern era. This truly was a renaissance for The Batman.
Following the lead in Scott Snyder’s current run on Batman, DC Comics has posted a graphic containing all of the titles that will be participating in the Batman crossover event Night of the Owls.
Night of the Owls started this week with a prelude in Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows’ Nightwing #8 which kickstarted the first issue in the crossover event, Batman #8 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The concept of the mini-event is that Gotham City has a sordid past that even Bruce Wayne was unaware of. The Court of Owls, an evil group of assassins, has been controlling the fate of Gotham the entire time. There’s much more to the story including Dick Grayson’s lineage and an all out assault against the Wayne family and other leaders of Gotham City. It’s a war of Bats vs. Owls when most of the Bat-family is called upon to participate.
Few characters have inspired as many entertaining and visually-inspired fan films as Batman. Over the years the Caped Crusader has starred in several labor of love short films financed and created by longtime admirers of the classic DC Comics superhero including Sandy Collora’s Dead End (which pitted Batman against the Joker – played by the late Andrew Koenig – as well as Aliens and Predators) and World’s Finest (Batman teams with Superman to battle Lex Luthor); Jeffery Scheetz’s CGI-animated New Times (featuring the voices of Adam West and Mark Hamill); and John Fiorella’s Robin-centric Grayson.
The latest, and one of the best, Batman fan film to hit the web is Batman: Death Wish, and like the best short features of the pack this one has an interesting hook. You can watch the 12-minute film here below.
As most of you may know by now, DC Comics is relaunching their entire line of comics this Fall alongside a day and date digital comics initiative. What you might not know, however, is that it all started two weeks ago with the releases of the last issue of DC’s summer event Flashpoint, and the beginning of the new universe with Justice League #1.
This Wednesday is the second big week of releases. I’m picking up a lot of these books, and there are still a lot of books to look forward to in these upcoming weeks, as well as plenty that you and I will probably want to stay away from for varying reasons. So, in the order of kindness and assignments from my editor, I will be breaking down each title with their creators, what they’re about, and what you can expect from each of the new books. And, guess what? I’m not in love with a lot of the decisions that they’ve made, so this should be fun!
Every Tuesday through the end of September, I will be writing another installment so you know when you can get yourself to the store, or to your mobile app, and purchase your new #1s from DC Comics! Also, it’s worth noting, dear reader, that since you’re coming to the game a little late, you can’t be guaranteed an issue at the comic book store, so call ahead to see if they have it. Or if you go the store and they don’t have any copies left of these DC books, you could always buy an indie comic like 27 The Second Set, Baltimore: The Curse Bells, Pigs, and Moon Girl, which all come out this week, coincidentally. There’s more to comics than just superheroes from DC and Marvel, you know?
But that’s probably why you’re here, and now that I’ve gotten the indie comics alternative plug out of the way, let’s talk about the universe that I’d rather live in, the DC Universe!