November 6, 2004

Batman We Hardly Knew Ye

One of my guilty pleasures...I love the old Adam West Batman tv show.

What's there not to like - the over-the-top dialogue; West's performance, which straddles the camp line; the outlandish worked on both a childish and adult level. Watching the Holy Batmania documentary on DVD (for a more detailed review, check out Digitally Obsessed) was a pleasant reminder - just view West & Ward's (then Gervis') versus the "alternate" take with Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell. One hits quite the right spot; the other comes off as wooden and campy in the wrong way. If anything, the television Batman came off as a little stiff, taking himself a little too seriously, but as someone who seemed, well, OK.

Of course, it didn't help that I also had just read JLA: Classified # 1 and Superman/Batman # 13 and realized...why is Batman such a frickin' grouch?

Ok, I get it - his parents were killed, his back was broken, his underaged companion was beaten by his worst enemy - he's not going to be the most pleasant guy. It makes me glad that I haven't checked out the Batbooks lately, because he seems patently unlikeable. He's a guy who is so driven that everyone else is pushed out. His "family" is there for convenience, not as support.

Batman, as a character, is a dichotomy that fits - a self-trained man fighting the demons of early loss; a loner who is attempting to "rebuild" a family; a detective who finds himself in some unique situations. However, it seems that the character is slowly, but surely, turning into Travis Bickle.

Reading Batman in the Eighties (which may not necessarily be a "golden age" for Batman), it appeares that even if the character wasn't his darkest, he was stable - a man who, at his core (according to Kingdom Come) is someone who doesn't want to see anyone die, who wants others to avoid the deep tragedy he himself has experienced. (Ironically, Batman is probably the most "sensitive" character - Superman acts out of a strict moral code; Batman acts out of a deep emotional one).

That might be why the television Batman is remembered, whereas the movie franchise gradually disintegrated - Burton and Schumaker forgot that, behind the cowl was a man, a man deeply hurt, a man wanting to not relive his pain. Now, the character just seems to hurt for no reason.

War Games or no, there's a good reason nobody's reading those books.

1 comment:

Psychbloke said...

I'm reading them, but you'd be right if you said I wasn't enjoying them.
It's accumulated too much as a concept - I think it'd be a good idea just to go back to year zero every decade or so and scrap any continuity.
There are promising signs looks like Bats is back to a loner in the main books, with the 'family' moving off elsewhere - jolly good thing too......
They let Jim Lee have all the toys out the box - let's put 'em away again.......