Batman Began

This was the moment - True Love
In 1988, I discovered Batman when the newspapers ran with the story that Robin's death would be voted on by readers. Yep, the new readership they wanted by writing sensational event stories sucked me in. Until then I read black and white Phantom comics and had never considered buying the more expensive American magazines. And besides, Batman was some campy crap from TV. I was ignorant to the comic series, but this news that the Joker had pounded Robin to a bloody pulp with a crowbar got me interested. It seemed the campy stuff was over long ago. The first actual Batman comic I saw completely won me over. It showed him upside down, hanging from a tree. Oh yeah, I wanted to be that guy. It was the most striking image I had ever seen. I was smitten, and I still am.

Nipple free
I started to devour all things Batman. All the back stories and stand alone graphic novels, all the compendiums, and toys... everything. I drew batman icons on paper, and made suits for costume parties. There's something about that icon that is primal to me. I've even got a Batman symbol tattooed on my shoulder and I never tire of it. I became obsessive for the Dark Knight and I studied the character with devoted admiration. Soon after, I discovered that Tim Burton was making a film, and my imagination went wild. What would the Bat suit look like, and the car, and the cave? How would they show the years of dedicated training that formed this dark and disturbed yet focussed superior hero (yes, superhero) detective. It was a big budget movie and I hope it was going to be the biggest movie event of my lifetime.

Batman broods, and I like that idea. A hero that sulks. I could do that. Bruce Wayne is the epitome of obsessiveness and was a normal guy with billions of dollars, and dedication. Much like the Phantom, I was interested in the idea that anyone could be a superhero if you had a good reason and some determination. I've had plenty of arguments with people about the label 'Superhero', but I'll stand by it. Batman is 'super' enabled, much like most of the heroes of Gotham. He's more than ordinary... Super Ordinary? He's completely honed, so bad guys are completely owned.

Cool. Very cool.
Back to the movie. It opened to some deep emotionally charged soundtrack and a camera angle that weaved and swooped us through a maze that later revealed itself as the Batman emblem itself, in all its glory. It was beautiful and perfect. This was going to be great! The first scene involved a very dramatic and operatic caped figure instilling fear into a couple of thugs, and he told them... he, was Batman. The Batsuit looked dark and shiny and although he had a fat looking head and a chest emblem that didn't quite look right AT ALL, it had flair and presence.

It was all set up to be something more than magic, but then the Joker showed up, and literally stole the show. He stole it. He was in most of the scenes whereas I wanted to see more Batman. Not a Clark Kentish Bruce Wayne clutzing about and NOT the Joker being campy. I wanted to see the batsuit again. I wanted to see the cape fluttering by as he swang through the city and jumped from rooftops. He could hardly move his neck. He had so much rubber on him I couldn't see how he could make like Bruce-Lee and stealthily get around and kick ass, but for me, it's all about the cape, and the cape looked great.

Issue #700
I left the movie completely disappointed. Why wasn't he swinging through the city and jumping between rooftops? Why wasn't the movie simply called 'Joker'. I was underwhelmed, and kinda upset. On subsequent viewings I got a better perspective, but it wasn't my Batman. It was 'a' Batman though, and there was a lot to love about the movie. We never got enough time with BatBruce, and decades on we're still begging for more time with the man. In Batman Begins, we did at least get some backstory to the Bat story and then later we were lucky enough to get another Batman/Joker movie. Yeah, he still has the clunky bat-suit, and unfortunately it looks like it was made from car tires, tread and all, but it was a huge brilliant movie (although full of plot-holes). It'll probably be another twenty years before we see Batman and Joker at it again where their Dynamic Dual can be dissected some more, but I'm learning to be patient.


FilmSamurai said...

Very nice piece on The Bat.

I grew up reading comics in the late 60's early 70's and was fortunate enough to read first hand the brilliant Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams run of Batman in Detective Comics and then through Bob Haney/Jim Aparo's Brave and The Bold run.

During that time I even enjoyed the campy 1966 Batman TV show. Even back then I got the humor and I never understood why people can't enjoy both serious and campy Batman. They are just different interpretations.

I was excited by Tim Burton's Batman the Movie of course when it first arrived, but now it's virtually unwatchable for me. I prefer Christopher Nolan's vision but I would have been interested to see Darren Aronofsky's version as well.

Batman is and always will be my favorite superhero. He is just too fucking cool.

mothpete said...

I think I'm just about ready to start watching the campy series now. I think my young'uns would love it.