Entertainment Geekly Mailbag: Batman talkback!
Big week for Bat-talk! Last week, I published a couple Geekly columns focusing on the Dark Knight Detective. First, I drew up my list of the hundred greatest Batman comics, movies, TV episodes, etc. Then I considered whether it was possible to have entirely too much Batman at one time. And would you believe it, everyone has an opinion about Batman–and a ton of great recommendations! Read on for the highlights.
Darren Franich was dead-on right in his piece ‘Dark Knight Fatigue Rises,’ but from just one perspective. In July of 2013, Cartoon Network debuted DC Animation’s new CG series “Beware the Batman.” This complex, well written series was intended to, ironically, tackle and do the very things Franich brings up in his article. Batman has a female partner, he operates outside the system, the writers heap-on the psychology as the Season advances so well you’ll question how much Bruce Wayne is left in Batman. Wayne’s allies abandon him at times, fueling his mistrust and instability. Above all, the series hits home that money, gadgets and a Batcave never guarantee Batman victory. After 3 months, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. Animation, and DC Animation pulled the show, issuing no press release nor comment as to ‘why.’ Seven months later, Cartoon Network announced the remainder of the First Season’s episodes would air at 3:00am on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show itself was canceled. This wasn’t a ‘content’ nor ‘ratings’ issue, though Cartoon Network at times dipped into those waters.
Rent or buy “Beware the Batman Season 1” Parts 1 & 2 if you, like I, are a fan of the Batman Mr. Franich wrote about. There is another important reason to view this series. You’ll get a glimpse of the Batman that Warner Bros. and perhaps DC Animation, seem intent on burying. After all, what place does social relevance, intelligence and risk have when you’re forced to take the smartest character DC has and potentially dumb him down to ‘play nice’ with the overloaded ‘Justice League’ members in two $250,000,000 productions over the next 4 years?
Beware the Batman is a complete blind spot for me, although part of what makes Batman such an interesting course of study is that everyone has a blind spot when it comes to the sheer amount of content spread over the last seven and a half decades. Based on Ted’s description, Beware the Batman sounds pretty great–although I have to admit to being immediately skeptical of any CGI cartoon that isn’t called Xavier: Renegade Angel. And I’m a little bit skeptical of the conspiracy theory that Warner Bros. is “burying” anything Batman-related. By the same token, it’s entirely possible that DC Animation is preparing a fleet of Justice League-ish cartoons to tie into the hoped-for DC movie megafranchise–and they’d prefer a flagship Batman cartoon that’s more in keeping with the default Batman mythology. (IE: No female sidekick.)
Truly a nice list, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one thing that you got wrong. In number 64, “the idea of The Riddler,” you wrote that “The Dark Knight movies never even approached the Riddler” which is not completely true. In my mind there is a very clear allusion to the Riddler character in The Dark Knight, in the form of Coleman Reese. Like Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler, he is an employee of Bruce Wayne, who figures out his secret identity. True, he never gets the super-villain treatment in the movies, but is still portrayed in a slightly vilified light. And he doesn’t have a cool name like E. Nygma. He’s just Mr. Reese. Mister Reese. Mysteries.
I have never heard this theory before and I quite enjoy it, although it’s basically a smarter version of the Dark Knight Rises assertion that anyone has ever had the middle name “Robin.” Again, you have to wonder: How is it possible that dream-within-a-dream puzzle master Christopher Nolan didn’t immediately gravitate to mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma mastermind the Riddler?
Great list! Here are ten of mine (some of which made your list):
1. The Robin cape my mom sewed me as a little kid, because we couldn’t find a Robin costume at the store.
2. The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest – Perfectly used not just Batman and Superman, but also Joker, Harley Quinn, Lex Luthor, and Lois Lane. Batman and Superman are initially skeptical of each other, investigating the other’s identity and vying for Lois Lane. But the best sequence is the background fight between Harley Quinn and Luthor’s body guard Mercy Graves.
3. No Man’s Land: Batman stripped of all his gadgets and resources, and the villains of Gotham ruling the city as the US government declares the city a No Man’s Land. Every Bat-character gets a chance to shine (from Scarecrow to Huntress to Commissioner Gordon’s wife to even Lex Luthor) in this story that ran through every Batman book over a year.
4. Birds of Prey by Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone: Batgirl got shot and crippled by the Joker in a legendary story that could have ruined the character of Batgirl. Dixon and Simone did amazing work (following up on John Ostrander’s work with the character in Suicide Squad) to turn the wheelchair-using Barbara Gordon into the hacker Oracle, an essential part of not just Batman mythos, but the larger DC Universe. Her disability really made her stronger.
5. Nightwing’s butt
6. Batman: The Black Glove: Batmen from around the world (think El Guacho from Argentina and the Musketeer from France) must work with Bruce Wayne to solve the case of a murderer in their midst, with trippy story by Grant Morrison and groundbreaking visuals by JH Williams.
7. Planetary/Batman: Planetary, the archaeologists of super hero history encounter multiple versions of Batman (inspired by the 60s show, Frank Miller, and more) with writer Warren Ellis’ wild ideas and John Cassady’s gorgeous and varied renditions of different eras of Batman.
8. Gail Simone’s Catman: Catman is a rip-off or Batman, right down to having a Catmobile. But Gail Simone’s treatment of Catman in Secret Six (relaunching in December) turned the anti-hero into his own character, drawing on the best elements of Batman but making him something unique.
9. Gotham Central “Dead Robin”: From the comic book police procedural Gotham Central, the cops of Gotham have to solve the murder of a boy wearing a Robin costume in the storyline that best showed the promise of the series.
10. Batman/Wonder Woman shipping: To the best of my knowledge, DC has never gone all-in on a Batman-Wonder Woman romantic pairing, but they danced around it on the Justice League Unlimited comic and in Joe Kelly’s JLA comic. It makes so much more sense to me that Wonder Woman would be interested in a warrior like Batman over Superman.
God, “No Man’s Land” was so awesome. And I love that we’re all in the Oracle fanclub!
1. The only addition I’d make is Batman: Mad Love (The original comic story, not the [perfectly fine] TV adaptation). It’s got everything you could want. There’s a death trap escape that forces Batman to intellectually manipulate his enemy. There’s a Character Origin story for the continuity minded. And it’s a character study of the Joker that brings his (truly f%^ked-up) relationship with Harley into stark relief.
2. The Riddler’s central gimmick makes it incredibly difficult to write a story featuring the character. That’s probably why so few comics have really utilized it on the level of “Riddler’s Reform.”
3. The “Younger Gotham Water Board Technician” from Batman Begins is Portrayed by the same actor as Following’s unnamed protagonist. I just fan-canon both films as being part of the same continuity.
Don’t forget that the doctor from The Dark Knight Rises is also the doctor from Memento. Also, I forget the source of this theory, but I seem to recall after Inception came out that a lot of my Nolan-obsessed friends conceived the idea that everything that happens in the Dark Knight trilogy is a dream that Dom Cobb and his dream squad is incepting into Bruce Wayne’s mind in order to help him get over his parents’ death. If you ride along with this theory, Dom was hired by Alfred–and because the subconscious of the inceptioneers always seeps into their dreams, Dream-Alfred in the Dark Knight movies looks exactly like the paternal figure from Dom’s life–his father-in-law, also played by Michael Caine.
Actually, I wonder how many more random cameos it would take to construct an entire Nolanverse. Like, is it possible that The Prestige is the Ur-Prequel, set in a universe where Nikola Tesla’s coil-based techno-magick gradually seeped into the 20th century, creating a world that is very similar to ours–except that criminals can hack into your dreams (Inception) or maybe use equivalent technology to conjure up real-life nightmares (Scarecrow in Batman Begins)? And this same universe gives rise to a group called the League of Shadows, which utilizes a substitution system (Ra’s Al-Ghul is never the real Ra’s Al-Ghul) that’s weirdly in line with the double-clone-twin motif of The Prestige? Maybe the reason why the Joker has the magical ability to be everywhere in The Dark Knight is because he discovered Hugh Jackman’s machine, and there are actually multiple Jokers running around Gotham?
I’m not saying this is true, but I am saying that there will definitely be a scene at the end of Interstellar where Matthew McConaughey crashlands in the past and meets David Bowie-as-Tesla.
Keep the Batmask! Another 10 pounds and you’ll be Adam West (OK, maybe 20). You could even go back to the GIF of yourself on the office chair in Batcostume. Only problem: who’s yer Burt Ward?
I was in college when that Batman was on TV first time around, and nobody before or since has been able to match Eartha Kitt/Catwoman in my overheated daydreams. (Seven of Nine came close, but with a different kind of humor, and by then I should have been too old for that sort of thing.)
I don’t think Grant Morrison can be surpassed. Nor Donal Logue.
Batman/Hellboy? (Or /Abe Sapien?) Batman in a Felix Castor novel?
I probably don’t get enough sleep.
Donal Logue can never be surpassed. “Batman/Hellboy” would be awesome. Felix Castor, question mark? What’s sleep?
Hated your Batman article in EW. Your basic message was– you don’t like Batman. I think you made some of your own villians[sic].
One of the loopier lines of argument that comes up constantly in internetland is the idea that criticizing part of something means you don’t like the whole thing. This is ludicrous, particularly in the context of things like Batman or Doctor Who or any TV show that’s been on long enough to have ups and downs. But if holding complicated opinions about characters created to appeal to children is evil, then you can call me a supervillian [sic].
Enjoyed your “Batman List.” But dude, #BatmanReturns is HORRIBLE. ;)
Everyone is allowed their own opinion, but this is an insane statement. The only truly horrible Batman live-action movie is Batman & Robin, and even that movie possesses an incoherent ’90s decadence–it’s like a parody of something that only existed in a nightmare. But Batman Returns is fantastic. Nolan’s movies are interesting mainly because he never seemed interested in making a superhero movie. Burton’s movies are interesting because he was fascinated by all the weird aspects of superheroes: The costumes, the repressed psychosis, the grotesquerie of packing sex and violence into stories nominally geared towards children. It helps that Batman Returns is one of those increasingly rare superhero movies where cast feels like a genuine ensemble–where Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny De Vito and Christopher Walken all have legitimate character arcs.
But what really sells Returns is the playfulness–the fact that Burton, having comfortably established himself with the miserable first Batman movie, turns the movie into a twisted toychest of weird delights. Like, Michelle Pfeiffer in this scene has more to play with as a performer than anyone in the Dark Knight movies.
Petition to have Kate Mara play Harley Quinn in Gotham (if it ever happens).
This article sums up everything I hated about the Dark Knight trilogy. Gotham is definitely more my cup of tea because the focus is on the larger-than-life characters that surround Batman. Hopefully shows like Gotham will shift the public’s perspective away from Nolan’s version and re-embrace the superheroics.
True, although the weirdest thing about Gotham is that it’s refocusing on the larger-than-life characters only in the context of showing them when they were smaller-than-life. We’ll see.
A. Gotham is great so far and B. Stop pimping Jennifer Lawrence. Enough of her already and that one good movie she was in that wasn’t overrated.
I admire the contrarian instinct, particularly when the contrarian instinct leads you to to argue that Oscar-winning Best Friend To The World Jennifer Lawrence is overrated. And I’ll admit that there are times when J-Law seems uninvested (the X-Men movies) or wildly over-the-top (American Hustle.) But I’m a ride-or-die supporter of her turn in Silver Linings Playbook, a genuine screwball comedy pretending to be an indie dramedy that requires an actress who appears to be young and old and wise and crazy and terrible and perfect all at once. Also, J-Law was the bomb in Catching Fire, yo.
Professional complainer Darren Franich calls for change and the best he can come up with is Jennifer Lawrence as Batwoman?
Johnny Utah Surfs For Justice
Um, um, um, what about Kate Mara as Harley Quinn? But this is totally accurate statement, JUSFJ, casting everyone’s favorite casting rumor as the female version of the most famous superhero is the opposite of bold thinking. And for all of Jennifer Lawrence’s prodigious skills, she was born in 1990, which means her casting could only vibe as a preboot-ification “younger version of” cash grab.
What if, instead, you mix together bits and bobs of Bat-mythos to come up with an entirely new setting? Pitch: A modern-day Gotham where “Batman” has fought the good fight for seventy-five years–to the point where Gotham is a crime-free utopia, ruled by a criminal-alarm system similar to the proto-NSA surveillance system from the end of The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne himself is long dead–at some point in the ’60s, he handed the Batsuit over to Dick Grayson, followed by Tim Drake and an assortment of other orphans with black hair. Twist: The Batman early-warning system was created by Wayne Enterprises, and at some point in the ’90s or 00’s, Wayne Enterprises became “Batman Enterprises” (most people knew the Wayne family had something to do with Batman, anyhow.)
The problem: That turned Gotham into a sub-1984 corporatopia, where everyone is in the pocket of Batman Enterprises and its various constituent parts. Over 75 years of Batman vigilantism, the Gotham Police Force basically disintegrated–leaving Batman (and later Batman Enterprises) as the only real line of defense against criminals. This was great back in the ’90s, when Batman Enterprises was flush with cash. Now, post-Recession, Batman Enterprises will only patrol your neighborhood for a fee–which means half of Gotham is a gentrified paradise and the other half is a wasteland. In this very modern dystopia arises a new hero: Catwoman, taking the name of the mysterious figure who became a legend on the bad side of Gotham. Catwoman is fighting a war on two fronts: Against the criminals who rule the bad side of town, AND against the fleet of crimestoppers known as “The Batmen” who consider her bad for business. Catwoman is played by Jessica Chastain or Paula Patton, and has a teen sidekick named Catgirl played by Quvenzhane Wallis or Hailee Steinfeld.
Or I dunno, Batman can just punch Superman, I guess.