Doing Batman Right

By Bob Case Posted Wednesday Oct 25, 2017

Filed under: Batman 113 comments

It’s accidental Batman week here at Twenty Sided. I was planning to post this last week, but had to delay, so here it is. In this series I’ll be writing my opinions about the general Batman zeitgeist, where I think it’s gone right, and where I think it’s gone wrong.

What it looks like when it's going right.
What it looks like when it's going right.

I decided at a very young age that Batman was my favorite superhero, and I’ve stuck to that decision since then.

I was very much into Batman as a kid. Once, when we went to drop my Dad off for a flight, I wore my Batman costume to the airport. It wasn’t Halloween or anything. I just wanted to wear my Batman costume.I regretted that decision once we got inside. I didn’t like attention, and I didn’t anticipate how much attention I would draw by wearing a Batman costume to the airport. I even liked things that were Batman-adjacent. Somehow I learned that Batman had been partially inspired by Zorro, so I became a Zorro fan too.

Looking back, I’m not quite sure what it was that enchanted me so much about the character – what Batman had for a young me that other superheroes didn’t. I suspect I was attracted to the versatility of the character. On the one hand, I knew the character could be, and often was, dark. On the other, I watched the Adam West show religiously. Neither dark Batman nor Adam West Batman seemed either more or less Batman than the other. Which meant that if I wanted to pretend to be Batman, which I often did, there was plenty of freedom of tone in that fantasy, which was a great relief to me during the confusions of preadolescence.

This quality is still what intrigues me. At this point Batman has been done by so many different creators, for so many different audiences, in so many different styles, in so many different formats, and in so many different decades, that he’s almost taken on the feel of a public-domain character, like Robin Hood or Dracula. In fact, I wish Batman was a public-domain character. I have no strategy in mind for exactly how to persuade his owners to give a lucrative franchise away to the public for free, but maybe some bigwig at DC is reading this right now, ready for a road-to-Damascus moment.

As I understand it, Keaton couldn't move his head while in this suit. His performance while in the costume had a quality of stiffness, almost frustration, that somehow fit very well into the movie. Also, do you remember when Michael Keaton played Batman and it worked?
As I understand it, Keaton couldn't move his head while in this suit. His performance while in the costume had a quality of stiffness, almost frustration, that somehow fit very well into the movie. Also, do you remember when Michael Keaton played Batman and it worked?

The reason I wish this is that Batman has been losing his versatility for a while. Even in the eighties and nineties, there remained a tolerance for the madcap, either in the grotesque (Tim Burton) or exuberant (Joel Schumacher) styles. But now the once-chaotic waters of Batman seem to have stopped stirring, and the sediment is settling at the bottom of the glass.

What I’ll call “modern” Batman exists roughly at the intersection of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder. As meals go, this one is all meat and no veggies, and certainly no dessert afterwards. It’s also all very Adult and Literary, and in the long run may result in a tragic shortage of Batman costumes worn to the airport.

I don’t claim to know why this is happening. You’d think a variety of Batmans, designed for a variety of tastes, would be more profitable than one single Batman designed to serve one relatively narrow (though apparently quite lucrative) demographic. But hey, that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks. Whatever the reason, the vitality of Batman is being slowly constricted by increasingly-specific habits, like an actor with a mostly comedic background being squeezed into an inflexible rubber suit.

Worse still, these habits, which I’ll start to get into next week, are of mixed quality. Some are rich in possibility, while others, in my opinion, have become distractions. In examining them, I hope we’ll come to a more complete understanding of what Batman was, what it is, what it should be, and what I’m worried it will become. See you next Wednesday, same Bat-time, same Bat-place.



[1] I regretted that decision once we got inside. I didn’t like attention, and I didn’t anticipate how much attention I would draw by wearing a Batman costume to the airport.

From The Archives:

113 thoughts on “Doing Batman Right

  1. Redrock says:

    Batman was a favorite of mine for the longest time. Still is when it comes to screen adaptations, be it the small or big screen. In comics, though? The whole grimdark, infallible, always ready for everything thing they have had going since Grant Morrison has really worn me down over the years. Also, as I get older, I find it harder and harder to not get annoyed when stories disregard the way Bruce Wayne could actually be doing as much if not more good as himself than as Batman.

    Which is why I have been gravitating towards Daredevil as my default noir-type superhero, who is more flawed, conflicted and interesting. The last two runs of Moon Knight were amazing. Even some of the extended Bat-family, like Red Hood and Red Robin seem to be more exciting than Batman when it comes to comics. But, again, some of the more brave adaptations are amazing. The Telltale Batman is one of my favorite Batman stories in a long time, for example.

    1. methermeneus says:

      You know what I love? Batman as the patriarch of the Bat Family. Stuffy Batman trying to understand these crazy kids and teach them how to survive fighting crime, while at the same time madcap playboy Bruce Wayne bumbles along somehow managing to fake being a decent mentor for [traumatized kids/his friend’s daughter/an aspiring FBLA/ his estranged and overly-serious son]. Okay, maybe I only wish that last one were true; I don’t think Damien ever had to deal with Eccentric Billionaire Bruce Wayne, but it would’ve been even better than his interactions with Dick because he already knows this is the same guy as Batman, what the hell, Dad? That was the best part about Batman, Inc., and the main reason I wish that story line had kept going. It’s definitely why Batman needs Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Oracle (I’ll be honest, I liked Barbara more in a wheelchair), Black Bat, Black Canary, Red Robin, etc.

      1. Redrock says:

        Yeah, the Bat-family definitely brings out the best in Batman, but a lot of the time he is still that all-knowing insufferable hardass. And when the family comes to his rescue from time to time, those moments are increasingly cliched and telegraphed. I really enjoy the brief moments in comics when Batman is allowed some levity, usually after they’ve just ressurrected him. I also think that it’s time to make him older again, closer to Batfleck. That would work better with the whole family angle. Man, I spend way too much time thinking about that stuff.

        1. Volvagia says:

          That the movies absolutely refuse to couch Batman in that way is kind of psychotic. Even when Robin has been adapted to live-action (Batman Forever, The Dark Knight Rises), he’s too old for them to approach it that way, so Robin just ends up this…nothing…of a concept that they should have either cut at the script stage. I get why both major live-action franchises did that. The studio wants “overblown live-action tentpole starring Batman and major villains” (and the directors chosen seem more than happy to oblige) so that’s what the studio is going to get, regardless of whether it prices out a lot of avenues.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Batman Inc may have ended, but that story idea did not end. If you are interested in following up on it, read Batman Eternal (year long storyline collected in a couple of books), followed by Batman & Robin Eternal, followed by Detective Comics Rebirth. In the last, Batman is leading a team of all of the Bat Family (and some reformed villains!) against villains built up throughout all of those earlier titles.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    Holy coincidences, Batbob! Aye, Keaton's batperformance was a bit (a batbit?) of underbatrated genius, if you ask me. I guess I'll shamelessly drag out this quote of mine again from two years ago and, er, yesterday – regarding the oft-mocked “let's get nuts” scene:

    you have Michael Keaton pretending to be Batman, who is “˜pretending' to be Bruce Wayne, who is pretending to be an unhinged tough-guy. And Bruce Wayne doesn't do a very good job of it, which comes across in Keaton's performance. However, Batman (arguably) is an unhinged tough-guy, and that undercurrent also comes across in the performance.

    and I'll look forward to quoting myself again if & when we get to Batkeaton in batearnest. Looking forward to this series! – a POWerful 💥 good idea.

  3. Yerushalmi says:

    What I'll call “modern” Batman exists roughly at the intersection of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder. As meals go, this one is all meat and no veggies, and certainly no dessert afterwards. It's also all very Adult and Literary, and in the long run may result in a tragic shortage of Batman costumes worn to the airport.

    Two words: Lego Batman.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      One word:

      1. Matt Downie says:

        Zero words:

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Minus one :

          1. silver Harloe says:

            Minus :

              1. Syal says:

                Two words:

                Two words:

                Two words:

                Two words:

                Two words.

                1. Mousazz says:

                  Ten words:
                  Eight words:
                  Six words:
                  Four words:
                  Two words:
                  Zero words:

    2. Metheos says:

      Three words: Lego Batman sucked.

      1. BenD says:

        The point that LB is a very different batflavor stands even if this is true. (I'm not sure it isn't. I liked the movie but possibly not in any way that disagrees with this statement.)

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        Seventeen words and a symbol: Lego Batman sucked far less than Batman & Robin and Batman vs. Superman so cut it some slack.

        1. Dev Null says:

          This may be related to the fact that “make jokes with Lego” is a far more nuanced and interesting plot than anything Batman v Supes had.

        2. Bloodsquirrel says:

          A bleach smoothy would also be better than Dawn of Justice, so that’s not much of a point.

        3. Perceptiveman says:

          Maybe I’m weird, but I really REALLY enjoyed Lego Batman.

          It hit all the right notes in playing off the fundamental absurdity of the Bat-franchise, and provided a great sendup of the problems with grimdark gravelvoice Batman.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            No,you arent weird.The majority of people like lego batman.Because he is THE definitive batman.

    3. Geoff says:

      I was going to make a similar point. Agreeably, the movies Batman has become universally dark, but there is a lot more Batman out there for kids. Batman the Animated Series continues to be popular despite it’s age, the Lego Batman movies have also done well and I’m sure there’s a number of other current DC kids shows featuring the caped crusader that fit the more light hearted tone. The campy, Adam West version may not have a modern analogue though…

      I think, as adults, we’re uniquely ill-suited for judging the range of a character’s presence across kids’ lives. Based on my own watching habits and what you’ve mentioned of your own, my consumption of Batman media has only been through movies for many years now. Only recently did my kids get old enough that Lego Batman became a thing I was aware of on more than a cursory level. Viewing Batman only through the lenses of the movies around when I was growing up, the Tim Burton and other Batman movies were always more “adult” and dark than any of the TV shows featuring him at the time.

      1. Volvagia says:

        Batman: The Brave and the Bold?

      2. Vermander says:

        I would even say that the Bruce Timm animated version of the character is the definitive Batman for me. I think it strikes just the right balance of serious and silly.

    4. Lachlan the Sane says:

      Will Arnett is my OTB (One True Batman). I want to see him play Batman in live-action. I don’t think he has any action movie experience, but he’s certainly tall enough.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    Bob Case MrBtongue is the Pele of complaining about videogames

    Random thought that has nothing to do with the article: having lived eight years in Hawaii, and not being particularly “up” on soccer, every time I see this line I wonder what being the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes has to do with complaining about videogames.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Someone who really hates lava levels :D

    2. Droid says:

      I guess he really means to refer to that divine entity, otherwise he would write Pelé, right?

      1. Syal says:

        I always thought it was a reference to Key and Peele.

    3. LCF says:

      “complaining about videogames”

      Could be violently eruptive or softly effluent on a titanic scale, I guess?

    4. Kathryn says:

      Ah! I hadn’t thought of making a Pele pun for my serial microfiction about a woman who owns a company that builds lairs for supervillains and who is currently building a volcano lair. I do a volcano pun about every couple of months and was running dry. Thanks!

      (The next lair she’s building is for a superhero whose power is generating electricity. I have a LOT of puns waiting in the wings for that one.)

      1. Decius says:

        Subcontractor? I ‘ardly know’er!

  5. LadyTL says:

    My Batman moment was with the Batman animated Series from the 90s. The noir aesthetic and dark colors contrasted against some great stories worked so much for me. I could see how he was a detective and it felt like a good transition between campy Adam West and the more serious tone going in the comics at the time. To be honest that Batman has been my perception of Batman since because of the mix of camp and serious. It also helped that the writers seemed to take all the characters seriously no matter how silly the idea or origin, even silly ones like Man-Bat (which as a kid I actually found the cartoon version pretty scary).

    I feel almost spoiled for Batman in a way. The Nolan ones were too serious and focused on the old ultraviolence to me compared to the cartoon while the Snyder one seems like we have missed all the best bits of Batman somewhere and just have burned out stupid Batman (and also way too focused on ultraviolence.) There is some good moments in some of the newer cartoons such as Batman taking Hal Jordon down a few pegs in Justice League: War or in Justice League vs. Teen titans where he literally poisoned himself to avoid being possessed by a demon but they are just scattered around and feel like writers are sneaking these moments in versus being a part of the script and plot.

    1. Turtlebear says:

      The animated series definitely was my favourite interpretation. The character felt so right and blended brilliantly with how Gotham was presented and how the villains were portrayed (apart from Clayface in my opinion, but then again, I was always put off by the fact that he could inexplicably turn his hand into giant metal spikes and could never really take him seriously).
      I was actually watching a few episodes a few months back until the uploader was copyright-striked into oblivion, and was impressed at how well it holds up today as it did in my memory.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        I've just caved in and finally started watching The Animated Series (BatTAS?) for the first time so as to be up to speed for the likely discussion of it in this series & associated comments. (And I do mean “just started” – I hit “˜pause' on Series 1 Episode 1 in order to type this comment. Certainly holds up so far. Although I'm like 9 minutes in so am perhaps not the most comprehensive judge as yet. Bullock's currently throwing his weight around. Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be a fat joke. #batshaming)

        1. MichaelGC says:

          One comment right off the, er, bat – someone mentioned that Affleck was the muscleiest Bruce Wayne yesterday, and they must not have been thinking of Bruce Waynimated, as this guy is built like a brick shi”” outhouse, as we say in Britain. 🇬🇧 (Oh, and Gordon has quite a strong jaw there, does he not? Chinnissioner Gordon, I bet they call him. Behind his chin. I mean back.)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Animated batmen(batmans?)are off the scale.Even the dying of old age batman is wider than a closet.

        2. Daimbert says:

          I found that BTAS starts slowly and a bit clunkily, but gets better as it goes along. Justice League, in my opinion, is where they really knew what they were doing and everything comes together.

          1. John says:

            The thing about BTAS is that the quality of the writing can vary wildly from episode to episode. It’s mostly very good, but there are some real clunkers, including the infamous “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement”. The quality of the animation can vary fairly drastically as well, as the show was animated by at least two different studios. (For clarity, I’m referring here to the show’s original run and not the post-Superman revamp.) The good studio was Sunrise, which–in addition to about a billion anime–also animated American shows like the roughly contemporaneous Spiderman cartoon. I’m not sure who the not-so-good studio or studios may have been.

            1. Daimbert says:

              True, but a lot of the early episodes are good in terms of writing and ideas but aren’t executed all that well, having some good scenes but being clunky at times, like “Christmas with the Joker”. “Heart of Ice” might be the first really, truly good episode, and things improved from there as they got their act together and learned how to do animation well.

              1. FelBlood says:

                “Harley and Ivy” with the director’s commentary is hilarious.

            2. Christopher says:

              Yeah, Batman TAS is the most uneven of any of their shows I’ve seen.

    2. LCF says:

      The Animated Serie was My first Batman, and I’m better because of it despite a tragic lack of sound.
      Really, street noise, step noises, fight noises, breathing even, all of them are missing except on rare occasion.
      The rest of the show is awesome.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    what Batman had for a young me that other superheroes didn't.

    A butler catering to his every whim.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      The Avengers had a butler! Although … Jarvis wasn't the butler of any of them individually, so I guess he wasn't catering to anyone's every whim. More an appropriate but per-person limited subset of targeted whims. So, right you are; carry on.

  7. Ardis Meade says:

    Batman: Brave and the Bold. The number two Batman cartoon, ever. Might help counteract the sameness you’re feeling.

    1. Mousazz says:

      Ah. The cheesy one-liners! They’re so cringy, yet so good!

      Shame it ended in 2011 though.

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        Robin: “Holy rusted metal, Batman!”

        Batman: “.. .. .. what?”

        Robin: “The ground, it’s made of metal and rusted.. and it’s got holes in it!”

        Batman: “.. .. right”

        I loved that callback to the weird lines so much

        1. Blackbird71 says:

          It was the moments like this that made “Batman & Robin” enjoyable for me. Yes, it was a terrible movie, but every time it got silly or corny, it took me back to watching Adam West and the nostalgia factor kicked in.

          Sometimes, you just need a Batman you can laugh at.

    2. Ravens Cry says:

      Yes! BTAS and spinoffs was, and is, my favourite Batman interpretation in any medium, but Brave and the Bold was a refreshing bit of zaniness in the increasingly grim and gritty portrayal of Batman.

    3. Christopher says:

      I like that show. Back a few years ago I had a big animated DC stint and binged the Justice League shows, Batman TAS, Superman TAS, Young Justice and Batman: the Brave and the Bold. And to DC’s credit, all of these shows are at least decent. I got tired of B:tbatb after a while, because there’s only so many times you can be cheesy and surface-level without it all feeling kinda shallow, but it was a lot of fun for a time and was a breath of fresh air.

      The musical episode with Neil Patrick Harris is the one I’ve returned to the most.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Yes! The Music Meister episode! Probably the one I liked best after Deep Cover for Batman (the one where he goes on Crime Syndicate Earth).

    4. JBC31187 says:

      Brave and the Bold works because Batman is everybody’s straight man. Here he is, speaking in his gravelly super-serious voice, fighting jetpack gorillas or getting his mind switched about.

  8. Awetugiw says:

    It's accidental Batman week here at Twenty Sided.

    It seems so, yes. But is it a week of accidental Batman, or an accidental week of Batman?

      1. Awetugiw says:

        Technically correct. The best kind of correct.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I wonder:how long before xor enters regular speech and that joke disappears?

          1. LCF says:

            As long as most people do not study Logic, it will not happen.
            It may very well never happen outside of our common cultural bubble.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              We meme it!

              1. MichaelGC says:

                I've been trying & failing to think of a good one. There's Yoda and Hamlet, but both of their ones are of the form:

                [a or not-a]

                so the exclusivity is already taken care of.

            2. MadTinkerer says:

              Yeah, I can’t wait for exception handling to become an essential part of English grammar.

          2. Thomas says:

            My prediction is never.

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          Loosely speaking, technically correct is the best kind of correctness.
          Technically speaking, loosely correct is the best kind of correctness.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I’m trying to decide if it’s more amusing to picture someone who accidentally finds himself fighting crime and solving mysteries in a bat costume, or a Batman who is prone to hilarious and occasionally tragic accidents.

      1. Awetugiw says:

        Given the other comments in this thread, I think the proper answer is “yes”.

        As a more serious answer: I can’t speak for you, of course, but I consider the “someone accidentally ends up fighting crime dressed as a bat” funnier.

        “For medical reasons, Bob needs to wear a neck-brace that makes him look a bit like a bat. While walking home from the hospital he takes a wrong turn and accidentally runs into a robbery. And by ‘runs into’ I mean that he bumps into the robber, giving the victim the chance to escape. The robber has a knife and is furious, but fortunately Bob manages to get away before the robber recovers.

        The same day, Shamus has to visit New York. Of course, with all the air pollution, NY is not a very good place for Shamus to be.* So he wears a sealed environmental suit which, you guessed it, makes him look like a bat. The suit also limits his vision and mobility, however, so Shamus stumbles and falls right out of a second floor window. Fortunately, a mugger breaks Shamus’ fall. Not only does Shamus survive, he also saves another victim.

        More and more of these accidents happen, and a legend is born. A week of accidental Batman.”

        *I have no idea whether Shamus would actually have trouble breathing there. Probably not.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Now that is a batman movie I would watch the hell out of.

        2. Fade2Gray says:

          By most accounts, the Chrioptera Appreciation & Preservation Society’s annual gala was a huge success, but Bruce didn't care. For him, it was just another catering gig. This time with the added indignity of being forced to wear a pair of silly bat ears. He had just stepped outside for a smoke break when he saw her. There, lying on the ground, almost hidden by the thick fog, was the body of a woman. Crouching down near the corpse, he looked for clues to her killer. No obvious wounds. No signs of strangulation or poisoning. He knew the killer wasn't motivated by theft because her purse and jewelry were still in place. The only clear clue was a set of oddly shaped foot prints leading away into the night. Standing, he knew what he had to do…

          It was time to call the police.

      2. Since my ESO character wandered blindly into their masked vigilante questline and ended up becoming the Scarlet Strider (in my head anyway as the real title is not as cool and my opening move is a spell that summons cliff striders), I vote for the former. It’s endlessly funny to me to run around Morrowind attempting to solve crimes and punish wrong-doers when I’m a Breton fresh off the boat who hasn’t even the slightest idea what’s illegal or not, and who refuses to wear the cowl as it would mess up her hair.

        1. Geebs says:

          a spell that summons cliff (racers?)


  9. Daimbert says:

    The question I’d have here is if you are only talking about the recent movies/movieverse, or including the current comics. I don’t read them myself, but here it seems like you’re taking the movies and commenting as if that’s all Batman is, and since he started from comics I’d like to know if the comics are doing the same thing as the movies.

    1. Supah Ewok says:

      Plus, he seems to be missing Lego Batman and the newish Adam West animated movie, both received very well. I’d say that his argument as-is is about 3 years too late, as a concerted effort to stir the very waters he’s saying have settled is going on right now.

    2. DanMan says:

      Short answer, yes they are. The comics are doubling down on the “world’s greatest detective” to the point of omniscience. Basically, bad grimdark things happen, but Batman already knows what is going to happen before it happens so he stops it.

      I can’t remember any fun, light-hearted Batman comics in the past 3 years at least.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        There was a Batman ’66 digital comic that went from 2013-2016. It was also collected in graphic novels if you don’t do the digital thing. Very charming and funny, while being even smarter than the show that inspired it.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    Also related, the Joker: while he CAN be a dark reflection of the Batman who pushes our hero to the very edge of his moral code…

    …he’s also a lot of fun as a madcap villain trying to enact crazy schemes, rob banks, or just wreck stuff for the shits and giggles.
    He was the highlight of the games (Arkham Asylum at least; less so the other two) for me, because whatever he seemed to be doing, he did it with 100% enthusiasm and seemed to be having a whale of a time. Even when being punched in the face by Batman he was laughing.

    Meanwhile (in the movies at least; is it the same in comics?) the ‘fun’ part of the Joker seems to be missing. Heath Ledger’s take on the Clown Prince was great, yes – but then Suicide Squad featured some ridiculous grim-faced edgelord in clown makeup who wasn’t in any way relevant to the plot or fun at all. Which, considering how prominent he was in the marketing for that movie, really didn’t help it out.

    Also, said marketing campaign was one of the worst examples of clueless executives trying to appeal to an audience they neither understand nor respect since EA Games’ ‘Your mom hates Dead Space’ adverts.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nicholson had fun also.To me,that joker was slightly better than the Ledger one.

      And a bit less known,jerome on gotham also was rather fun.Though he had to die* in order to become like that.

      *Gotham is a bit….complicated.

      1. Fade2Gray says:

        Back when Jerome first showed up and was then promptly killed off, I had a sneaking feeling that DC/WB didn’t want him overshadowing their big budget movie jokers. And then Leto’s Joker was a bit of a flop and, what do you know, Jerome was back.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          If that were the case(which is a strong possibility),it backfired on them hard.Jerome really wouldnt be able to overshadow even Leto when he was alive,but once he died he sure rose a bunch of pegs on the joker ladder.

      2. Agammamon says:

        Nicholson did an amazing job of taking the Caesar Romero Joker and making him vicious and a serious opponent for a serious Batman – while still keeping the madcap ‘hijinks’ of the Romero version out front. If anything, he’s a pretty good screen realization of the Joker from Frank Miller.

        Ledger’s performance was amazing and his character is a masterfully done nihilistic villain – but he’s not really (IMO) got any real connection to the past characterizations of the Joker. He’s got more in common with Anton Chigurh’s Nietzschian will-to-power schtick than anything in the Batman universe.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Heath Ledger’s Joker was pretty similar to some versions of Grant Morrison’s Joker. The character is legion and even the terrible Jared Leto version is superficially similar to the “gangsta” Joker from the OGN titled “Joker”.

    2. Daimbert says:

      Actually, that was the issue I had with Ledger’s Joker, especially when compared to Hamil’s: he had the menacing part down, but not the goofy part. Hamil’s perfectly switched from utterly lighthearted to utterly menacing in a heartbeat, and when you added in the insanely homicidal things that the Joker did IN a purely lighthearted tone you had what I consider to be the perfect Joker.

    3. JBC31187 says:

      I think Leto’s Joker could have worked if it was just a role he was playing: picture the Joker freaking out that he doesn’t have Batman/Gotham’s attention like he used to, and locking himself in his office for a week to find a new hook. Then getting angry because no one else likes his new, edgy backstory and personality.

      1. Guest says:

        tbh, I hate Jared Leto, but I think he could have been a tolerable Joker if there was a reason to have him in the film. There wasn’t. He needs to be a major antagonist.

        The film “Assault on Arkham” does this great. Much like SS, the Joker and Harley have a relationship going on and are working together, and the Joker is a final act villain with a hellicopter, except this time, he really is the final villain to the batman storyline, which also has Harley Quinn’s resolution being leaving the joker. There’s a lot of things going on in that film, a lot of characters with their own motivations, but they keep it relatively straight. And it really works for the “These are the bad guys” sort of story. It’s an ensemble story and the Joker often isn’t on screen, he’s just one of many plots going on, which keeps his presence low, but maintains him as a main antagonist.

        If you want to include THE JOKER in your batman adjacent story he is the Headliner. It’s the Joker, of course he is. Having him crash a helicopter and appear as sequel bait isn’t really that helpful, he just feels like he’s there because the Joker is their selling point. You are here for their Joker, who is a) irrelevant to the plot and b) not what you wanted in The Joker. Things should be going on outside of the squad, people should be trying to escape, all of this is completely left out.

        Leto’s Joker sucks, but even a bad joker can be good if used properly, if you’re going to include him, you’ve got to know that people will take him seriously. Don’t waste their time, making them feel like they tolerated a subpar interpretation of the character for no reason, to suggest he’ll appear in a sequel you aren’t interested in, because this film is awful.

        I think he could have worked if there was even a reason they put him in the movie. He needs to connect plotwise. And, once the Joker is involved, you’ve explained why HQ is invited along, and the “Does she go with the Joker, who she loves, but who abuses her?” or “Does she go with the squad, who, despite everything, have had her back?”. Ideally the resolution should not mention family, these are hardened criminals, but this question should be your tension for most of the film, which actually gives the moment she decides to reject the Joker and stick with the squad and “Do the Right Thing” weight and payoff.

        Even the abominable story to Batman Ninja featured Joker as a main antagonist, who Batman fights more than anyone, because once you put the Joker in there, of course that is who Batman is fighting.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I wonder if you will include gotham here as well.Many people overlook it,but it technically has a good batman in it,even though its not the actual batman character,but comish gordon*.It has plenty of grimdark moments,but at the same time it has plethora of fun and silly moments.Its called Got Ham for a reason.

    *Like I said above,gotham is a bit complicated.

  12. Thane says:

    I don't claim to know why this is happening. You'd think a variety of Batmans, designed for a variety of tastes, would be more profitable than one single Batman designed to serve one relatively narrow (though apparently quite lucrative) demographic.

    You might find this an interesting read:

    Basically, the owner of the rights to Batman doesn’t like the lighthearted batman and only wants grimdark darkgrim batman stories to come out. How that jives with Lego Batman, well… You’ve got me.

    1. Nixorbo says:

      <blockquote]How that jives with Lego Batman, well… You've got me.

      Well, you see, they also like money and since The Lego Movie made approximately all of the money, well.

  13. Cozzer says:

    I’m not the biggest Batman fan around, but I’ve seen a few of his incarnations and I have to say my favorite is the one in the Telltale series.

    The story gives an equal amount of spotlight on Bruce Wayne and Batman, leaving the old “which one is the real mask” question unanswered (or giving to the player the chance to choose their answer). He’s a serious figure with serious issues and character development, but he’s not an edgelord. He’s superheroic and superhumanly competent, but not the unsufferable “I have predicted every single thing that happened” meme. I really love their take on the character.

  14. tmtvl says:

    Batman? Oh right, that blatant Shadow ripoff. j/k I loved the Adam West series and the Burton bat-verse.

  15. DavidJCobb says:

    Oh hey. This is completely off-topic, but I didn’t know you’d keep writing for Twenty Sided after your Game of Thrones crit. I guess I expected it to be a one-off? It was really good writing, so it’s cool to see you’ll be posting more here.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I wouldn't say that. I mean, it's solidly on meta-topic! And I completely agree: I enjoyed much of the GoT writing even though the only thing I knew about that series is that it involved a throne. Or I guess several of them.

      So, as this is a topic I know a fair bit more about, this is a really nice surprise!

  16. Hal says:

    What I'll call “modern” Batman exists roughly at the intersection of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder.

    This might be the case for live action adaptations, but, as a lot of other people have pointed out, Batman retains some other influences in the various animated versions. In other words, live action gets you The Dark Knight, while animated gets you either the Caped Crusader or the World’s Greatest Detective.

  17. Cybron says:

    Looking forward to this, not interested in game of thrones but I do love me some Batman.

    I’ll also throw in for BTAS. It has my favorite portrayal of the Joker in any medium.

    1. Ravens Cry says:

      Oh hell to the power of yes. I know its pretty common knowledge now among Batfans, but when I found out that madness was acted by the same actor as a certain moisture farm-boy turned space wizard, I was absolutely floored. That laugh . . . !

  18. Ravens Cry says:

    One of the few outliers in the more recent increasing amount of grimBat was Batman: Brave and the Bold, the animated series. That was a delightful break from all the super serious Batman stories to something that managed to have much of the flavour of the 60’s show while having the freedom of animation.
    Now, Batman isn’t my favourite comic book character, but, yes, I also love his, overall, wide range of tones and interpretations, and likewise with his archenemy and dark mirror, the Joker.

  19. lucky7 says:

    So…funny story about myself and Adam West Batman.

    I saw the movie when I was about…seven or eight. My mom had recorded it on DVR, and we watched it together. I took that movie DEAD seriously as a kid, and I still rank it as one of my best movie experiences, so Adam West holds a special place in my heart for that, even if later on my favorite proved to be Kevin Conroy (watching B:TAS and Beyond reruns with my younger brother was a great experience.)

    The movie also holds a bit of extra meaning for my family, because the pier where Adam West Batman is carrying around the bomb is the place where my aunt and uncle met. So, yeah. Probably stands as my favorite of the movies because of all that.

  20. Dev Null says:

    I’ve never been a huge Batman fan – never really liked “rich guy buys cool toys and illegally punches people but gets away with it because he’s rich and connected” as a theme. Call me a bolshie. But I did love the old Adam West Batman just because the villains were so much fun (and well-played.) So I too miss a bit of the humour of old-school Camp Bats. My theory for where that version has gone is that it conflicts too strongly with Grimdark Bats; not only is it a different view of the character, but it’s a view so different that even knowing it is out there actually ruins the fun of the Grimdark Bats fans. So Camp Bats has simply moved to other characters; the Tick, Powerless, Deadpool, Ant Man, Dr Horrible, etc. People who like a bit of humour still get their fix, but the hard-core Batman fans are not obligated to start a holy crusade to destroy the sacrilege.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Well, also: Batman & Robin was campy, and universally reviled – so any Batman idea that seems at all like that probably makes studio executives scream and clutch at their wallets protectively.

      Seriously, don’t underestimate the degree that people seem to hate Batman & Robin. The stuff I’ve seen people say about it online, you’d think that film took a dump in their breakfast while simultaneously punching them in the face.

      1. John says:

        Batman & Robin may be campy, but it’s a very joyless kind of campy. The script tries, sure, but apart from Uma Thurman none of the principal actors seem to have gotten in to the spirit of the thing. (Well, maybe Schwarzenegger, but it’s hard to tell with him.) And that may be the least of the film’s problems.

        1. ehlijen says:

          Both arnie and thurman were having a blast. Sadly, no one else was, as people wanted more dark batman, less adam west style antics.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Both Arnie and Thurman are highlights for me in that film. But then again I love puns, and Arnie’s always done one-liners well. Still I think he was into the spirit of that movie.

          But yeah, B&R had a hell of a lot more problems than just being campy.
          Incoherent scenes, bad acting, nonsense plot, bad (both good-bad and bad-bad) jokes, a tone that veered from serious to whimsical and then back, way-too-fast…

          and it was campy. Probably too campy for a lot of people (seriously, have you counted the number of statues of buff, scantily-clad dudes in that movie? There’s one the size of a skyscraper! Not a feature of Gotham City *I* remember).
          It’s not bad because of the camp or the whimsy (YMMV), but it is bad – so the fact that we can’t have Camp Batman in movies anymore is like collateral damage.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Batman and robin wasnt reviled because it was campy,but because it was trying to be in between.It was neither full camp nor full noir.Everything was dark and bleary,yet the villains were bright and colorful.Robin was the bumbling sidekick but at the same time a serious angsty teen.Alfred was dying of a serious diseases,and so was the villains wife,yet that same villain was spouting one liners and eating ice cream.Etc.

        You simply cant crash two opposite styles like that and expect a good result.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Well, you probably can, but you’d need much better writing. Anyone who comes up with the Bat-Credit Card should not be straining their talent when it comes to writing screenplays.

          Though apparently, everyone’s favourite Studio Interference apparently played a role in how Batman & Robin turned out…

          1. ehlijen says:

            C’mon, the bat credit card was pure Adam West. The delivery was poor (and happened in a scene being thoroughly stolen by Thurman), but the gag itself doesn’t deserve *all* the flak it gets.

  21. Al__S says:

    The most recent “batman done right” being of course The Lego Batman Movie

    1. Ravens Cry says:

      Because that Batman is literally every Batman who has ever existed. The OmniBat.

  22. Michael says:

    I’m curious if you’ve seen Holy Musical [email protected], since if you like the more comedic style of batman, should be at least potentially something that interests you…assuming that “unofficial youtube musical” isn’t a dealbreaker for you at least :-P

    1. Ravens Cry says:

      They had a brief bit of a Batman musical in Batman Beyond*. It was, in the words of Old Bruce, “shwarbage.”
      *Old Bruce was wonderful; just this cantankerous, crotchety old bastard with a tongue of acid and a heart of gold.

  23. Blackbird71 says:

    That first pic! It looks like Batman needs some Shark Repellent Bat Spray! I think Robin keeps it next to the Manta-Ray Repellent Bat Spray; can someone grab a can and toss it to him?

    My mom grew up watching the Adam West series on TV, and then I grew up watching the re-runs, so needless to say the series holds a special place in my life. As good as some of the other portrayals and interpretations of the character are, this will always be Batman to me. The silly camp and humor is a critical part of the character that has been missing too much of late; not just in “Batman,” but much of entertainment in general has shifted away from a place where such silliness is allowed.

    I’m really looking forward to reading this series!

  24. Burning says:

    I’d play the heck out of a videogame with Arkham style gameplay adapted to an Adam West tone. Just throwing that out there.

    1. Kaisius says:

      I preordered Arkham Origins solely because it came with the ’66 Batman costume.

  25. zompist says:

    If you like the lighter-toned Batman, there was actually a Batman ’66 comic till last year.

  26. Kathryn says:

    Adam West and Burt Ward did a TV movie/mockumentary called “Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt”. I remember it being very, very funny, but I saw it only once about 15 years ago, so…

    When rewatching the West Batman movie, towards the end, I completely lost it when Batman said seriously, “Let’s leave, but inconspicuously…through the window.” Not only was that line ludicrous on its own, but I knew that as a child, I would have taken it completely at face value, fully accepting that it would be inconspicuous to leave a skyscraper through the window. Haha.

    Anyway, I look forward to this series because I too love Batman.

  27. Dreadjaws says:

    What I'll call “modern” Batman exists roughly at the intersection of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder.

    Sure, if you’re talking exclusively about live-action movies. Story is very different in animation and other media.

  28. Anachronist says:

    I remember having an epiphany about the original Adam West / Burt Ward show. When I was a kid, the Batman show was a very serious superhero TV show. Then I stopped seeing it (the show stopped airing, or we moved several times, or a combination). Once I became an adult, a TV station started airing re-runs, so I scheduled time to watch, expecting to re-live childhood memories. I was floored. I remembered the episodes, but the show was actually a comedy! And enjoyable for an adult, but so over-the-top in melodrama, snarky dialog, and campiness, that I found myself entertained in an entirely different way from the entertainment I experienced in childhood.

    Around the same time during adulthood I had another epiphany when I realized that a lifetime of believing that Girl Scouts baked their own cookies was false. But that’s another story….

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