Bruce Wayne: "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible... a... a..."
Caption: "As if in answer, a huge bat flies in the open window!"
Bruce Wayne: "A bat! That's it! It's an omen... I shall become a BAT!"

Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Batman is one of the most popular comic book characters in the world. He made his debut in Detective Comics #27 all the way back in May of 1939. The character is currently owned and published by DC Comics.

After seeing his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, gunned down by a mugger when he was a child, Bruce Wayne dedicated his life to fighting crime in Gotham City and donned a pointy-eared bat-like disguise to strike fear into criminals' hearts. He's more a detective than a superhero, as he solves puzzling crimes and captures (mostly) non-superpowered villains, but the cape and cowl mean he spends a lot of time hanging around the spandex-jockeys in the Justice League. As the Dark Knight, he fights twisted criminals like the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Killer Croc, the Mad Hatter, Bane, Harley Quinn, and many others.

Batman is completely obsessed with crimefighting, but he has no superpowers at all, so it's a good thing that he's also rich enough to afford all the fancy equipment (including Batarangs, supercomputers, surveillance equipment, disguises, a Batmobile, and several other vehicles) and training that he needs. He never kills people, and he never uses guns, since he's reluctant to use the same weapon that killed his parents. He also attracts a number of assistants who are similarly dedicated to eradicating crime in Gotham, including four different Robins, two Batgirls, and a butler named Alfred.

Several movies (the best ones directed by Tim Burton, the worst directed by Joel Schumacher), cartoons, and a campy 1960s television show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, have been made about him.

Batman was created by Bob Kane and debuted in 1939 in Detective Comics #27. DC Comics, a Time Warner Company, currently owns the rights to Batman.

Batman is probably the most well-known superhero of all time, after Superman. He is notorious, not for spiffy, superhuman powers, but for ingenious gadgets (Baterang, Batmobile, Bat-Shark-Repellant, etc.) and keen intellect.

Batman's most famous partner is Robin. There have actually been three different Robins. The first, Dick Grayson, went on to become Nightwing. The second, Jason Todd, was killed by the Joker in Batman #428. The third, Tim Drake, is still currently serving as the Boy Wonder.

The list of supervillains encountered by Batman includes:

In 1998 Batman took on as apprentice Jean Paul Valley, also known as the assassin Azrael. When Batman was defeated by Bane (Batman #500), Valley masqueraded as Gotham's Dark Knight. Valley eventually sank into insanity under the pressures of defending Gotham. A recuperated Bruce Wayne defeated Valley in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63, wresting from him the Mantle of the Bat.

The 1989 Tim Burton film spawned several different video game interpretations of the Batman / Joker story. There was the standard Ocean film lisence platformer, released for Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and whichever 8-bit formats they could manage to port it to while still riding the wave of the movie hype. This had some inventive elements (such as a Batmobile driving subgame) but can pretty much be dismissed as standard waste-of-a-lisence fare.

At the same time, Sunsoft developed a Sega Megadrive game based extremely loosely on the film. This was successful in Japan, but of course did not reach any other territory in time to cash in on the film or its subsequent video release. The game was still heavily in the 8-bit / PC Engine school of game design. Elements are lifted from Bionic Commando, Ninjawarriors, and Shinobi. This game, although fairly unremarkable in itself, was the first of a protracted series of Batman-based games, each developed by different companies but retaining the same basic premise. The caped crusader was repeatedly called into action throughout the Megadrive's evolution : Sega's in-house Batman Returns (which spawned an enhanced Mega-CD version), Acclaim's Batman : Revenge of The Joker, a very poor Batman Forever tie-in, and the sublime Adventures of Batman and Robin, which also appeared on the SNES, and was developed by Clockwork Tortoise.

"I'm of a mind to make some mooky."

Directed by Tim Burton, this Warner Brothers film replaced America's memory of the campy Caped Crusader from the 60's TV show with a dark, brooding antihero, just in time for the angsty 90's. This tonal shift was inspired by Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (the flashback sequence in which Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered is lifted almost panel for panel) in which Batman has become an ultraviolent behemoth at the age of fifty, and diehard comic fans were aghast at the casting of Michael Keaton in the lead role. The uproar died down considerably after these people actually saw the film.

However, far more fun to root for is Jack Nicholson as the villainous Joker. He paints his name on famous works of art, he wears any garish combo of green, purple, and orange he can imagine, and he grooves to the fantastic soundtrack by Prince. Never before has megalomanical sadism been so hilariously charismatic.

Great in smaller roles are Billy Dee Williams as District Attorney Harvey Dent (the character who becomes Two-Face in Batman Forever), Robert Wuhl as plucky yet virginal reporter Alexander Knox-- basically a substitute Jimmy Olsen, and Jack Palance (before his Academy Award for City Slickers) as slimy crime boss Carl Grissom. Kim Basinger (who would also later win an Oscar for LA Confidential) is here too, as Vicky Vale, who technically is a talented fashion and news photographer, but really she's just the pretty chick who is frequently in peril. She screams a lot.

The screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skarren does a great job of catering to Batman aficionados and newbies by never explicitly revealing Wayne's secret identity in a single moment. They just draw closer and closer to it until you can figure it out for yourself (before, say, Vicky does) and if you already knew, no time was wasted. The dialogue is consistently inventive and fun, while remaining idiosyncratic for each well-drawn character.

If you still need an incentive to see this flick, Batman also has more groovy gadgets than James Bond, from batarangs to the Batmobile to grappling hooks. As the Joker says, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?" This movie is for the kid in all of us.

Tim Burton followed up with a sequel, Batman Returns, in 1991. Joel Schumacher directed two more which were much more colorful and campy, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, neither of which Michael Keaton wished to play the title role in.

Deh neh neh neh neh neh neh neh - BATMAN!

POW!

BAM!

OOMPH!

SPLAT!

WHACK!

Sandwiched between the Batman Comics and Batman movies there was Batman, the TV show. Starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as his trusty sidekick Robin, the TV show aired on ABC from January 1966 to March of 1968. In its heyday, it was so popular that it managed to air twice a week from 7:30 to 8:00 on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

What follows is a listing of “villains”, some memorable, some not, and the actor/actress, some famous, some not, who portrayed them.

The Archer - Art Carney – better known as Ed Norton from The Honeymooners
The Black WidowTallulah Bankhead
The BookwormRoddy McDowall
Catwoman 1 – Julie Newmar
Catwoman 2 – Eartha Kitt
Chandell – Liberace
The Clock King – Walter Slezak
Colonel Gumm – Roger C. Carmel
Dr. Cassandra – Ida Lupino
Egghead – Vincent Price
False Face – Malachi Throne
The JokerCesar Romero
King TutVictor Buono
Lola Lasagna - Ethel Merman
Louie the Lilac – Milton Berle
Lord Marmaduke Frogg – Rudy Vallee
Ma ParkerShelly Winters
Marsha, Queen of Diamonds – Carolyn Jones
The Mad Hatter – David Wayne
MinervaZsa Zsa Gabor
Mr. Freeze 1 – George Sanders
Mr. Freeze 2 – Otto Preminger
Mr. Freeze 3 – Eli Wallach
Nora Clavicle – Barbara Rush
Olga, Queen of the CossacksAnne Baxter
The Penguin – Burgess Meredith
The Puzzler – Maurice Evans
The Riddler 1 – Frank Gorshin
The Riddler 2 – John Astin – also was Gomez Addams from The Addams Family
The Sandman – Michael Rennie
Shame – Cliff Robertson
The Siren – Joan Collins
Zelda The Great – Anne Baxter

Shortly after the release of the 1989 Batman film Atari released an arcade title based on the movie (aptly titled, of course, Batman) in 1990. The arcade game follows the plot of the movie for the most part as you, the player, take on the role of Batman has he cleans up crime on the streets of Gotham City, chases Jack Napier in the Axis Chemical Factory, pursues The Joker in the art museum, returns to the streets of Gotham, and finally follows The Joker to the top of the cathedral. The game is essentially a Final Fight clone in which Batman can punch and jump his way through packs of enemies. The Bat can pick up gadgets such as the batarang that he can use against his foes. Running out of bat-lives gives the player the option to continue by dropping more coins in the slot. With enough cash on hand it's possible to finish the game with little trouble.

In between some rounds the game shifts to a first-person behind-the-wheel mode as the player takes control of the Batmobile and the Batwing. The object in these levels is to shoot the enemy vehicles and, in the Batwing levels, to snag The Joker's Smilex-gas-filled balloons for bonus points.

What makes this game shine are the graphics and audio. Batman is a large, well colored sprite and the world he inhabits is, without arguement, Tim Burton's Gotham City. Dark colors abound with little bits of Joker orange and green for color. Between rounds still scenes from the film are shown in amazing detail, including a close-up of Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne. The music is based on tunes from the movie (excluding Prince's soundtrack) and characters speak digitized sound bites from the film, including "The pen is mightier than the sword!" and "Wait 'til they get a load of me."

Overall Batman is a fun waste of an hour. It's difficult to find the game in the arcades these days, but it is fully emulatable in MAME if you can find the romset. Where does he get those wonderful toys, anyway?

Note: There used to be a lot of writeups at the node Batman is over-rated, but they all died painful, painful deaths. This writeup shall attempt an actual analysis of the issue, with words from both the Pro- and Anti-Batman factions.

Key Points of Argument:

1. Batman doesn't have any superhuman powers. Batman, Bruce Wayne, used his tremendous wealth to construct things like the Batcave and to build an armored suit with fully equipped utility belt. He uses them to fight crime.

Anti-Batman: Batman isn't really a superhero. Batman got to his station in life and society as a rich man, and how did he get rich? By building the massive wealth of the Wayne Corporation on the backs of the workers. Now he's using those riches to build some armored suit, get a lot of gadgets, and engage in questionable relationships with teenage boys. There's no reason to revere this man as a hero.
Pro-Batman: The fact that Batman doesn't have any powers is what makes him such an intriguing character. Batman was an ordinary kid until seeing his parents gunned down, and he decided to become an effective crimefighter. That's the classical story of heroism, a change of heart that leads the protagonist to do good things for the remainder of their life.

2. The class of villains which Batman has to defeat is different from that of many other heroes. Batman traditionally battles homicidal maniacs rather than superpowered foes. Not always true, but frequently true.

Anti-Batman: The only villains that Batman has to face are other ordinary people. They don't even have the equipped Batman suits and whatnot; very few of them even have gizmos! What this comes down to is that Batman beats up on these poor guys in suits, runs them over with Batcycles and throws them back in Arkham Asylum. If I had an armorized battle suit, I'm sure that I could beat up these emaciated loonies too.
Pro-Batman: The villains that Batman has to face show real dedication to their murders. Batman, as a detective hero, has to track them and predict their eventual crimes. He fights the villains that are suited to him. Need someone to fight a giant space monster? Call Superman! But if you need somebody to take down a serial killer that's been murdering thirty-year old businessmen, there's really nobody else to get in touch with. Turn on the Bat Signal or whatever. Oh, and by the way: Superman doesn't even have a signal.

3. Batman is reliant on other people. Batman relies on his sidekick, Robin (a position held by several different teenage boys), and his butler, Alfred.

Anti-Batman: Sidekicks are out, out, out. How many modern heroes keep sidekicks around anyway? Can you think of one popular superhero besides Batman that keeps a support staff around? Iron Man has the same problems, so he doesn't count. It's independent heroes that matter these days, not wussy-boy teams.
Pro-Batman: Batman's just a person, so he's allowed to have some backup. Alfred keeps him in touch with what's happening with the police, a valuable asset when he's busy in the city fighting crime and whatnot. And Robin? Robin's more of a trainee than a sidekick, presumably to take over when Batman dies. Hah.

How Batman Defeats Superman: Easy. Batman just invites Superman out for a drink that's spiked with kryptonite. "Here, Superman, try some Kryptonite lager." "Kryptonite lager? That sounds kind of suspicious." "Oh, don't worry. That's just what we call beer, laced with Kryptonite! I mean, malt liquor."

This has been a summary of the Batman is over-rated node.

The creators of the 1960s Batman TV show originally planned for a feature-length film to precede the television series. A film, they thought, would build hype that would enable them to sell the show to TV networks more easily. This did not end up being the case; a film was not made until production was almost completed on the first season. It was released in 1966.

Most of the main cast from the series returned for the film, including Adam West, Burt Ward, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Alan Napier and Madge Blake. Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith also reprise their series roles as supervillains the Riddler, the Joker and the Penguin. Lee Meriwether appears as Catwoman, as Julie Newmar was making another movie when this film went into production.

Story (um, I'd warn you about spoilers here, but we all know the bad guys lose)

(I was going to call this section "plot," but can we really use the word plot to describe the clasically campy '60s Batman?) Bruce Wayne and his "youthful ward," Dick Grayson, speed into stately Wayne Manor, through to the study, down the Batpoles and into the Batcave. They speed off in the Batmobile towards the stationed Batcopter. While flying over the ocean, Batman disembarks to try to board a nearby yacht, where Commodore Schmidlapp (seriously) is reported to be in danger. Just as he gets close to the deck with the Batladder, the yacht suddenly disappears, and the Caped Crusader finds himself being lowered into the ocean. Robin pulls the ladder up to reveal that a shark has latched itself on to his leg. Fortunately, this is no situation that the dynamic duo's Bat Spray Shark Repellant can't fix. The shark falls back into the ocean, where it promptly blows up.

Batman and Robin return to Commissioner Gordon's office, where they brief the press on the incident with the yacht -- without confirming that the yacht really did seem to disappear. To do so would create meaningless panic in the hearts and minds of good, honest citizens, Batman says. The press briefing is more or less routine, except for when a young journalist from the Moscow Bugle asks Batman and Robin to take off their masks so she can take their picture. Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara respond with all kinds of "HOW DARE YOU?" righteous indignation.

The journalists leave, and the two wildly dressed crimefighters, along with their tightless (though remarkably inept) police counterparts, try to figure out who or what could be behind this. They view a report about which of Gotham City's supercriminals are not in jail and learn that The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman are all on the loose. Which of them could possibly be behind it? The foursome then realizes that perhaps the plot is the brainchild of more than one supercriminal, and then conclude that they all must be involved using the most convoluted logic ever:

Gordon: Could be any one of them, but which one? W— which ones?
O'Hara: (gasps)
Batman: Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder.
Gordon: You mean, where there's a fish, there could be a Penguin.
Robin: But wait! It happened at sea! See? "C" for Catwoman!
Batman: Yet... an exploding shark was pulling my leg!
Gordon: The Joker!
O'Hara: It all adds up to a sinister riddle. Riddle-er. Riddler?
Gordon: Oh! A thought strikes me! So dreadful I scarcely dare give it utterance.
Batman: The four of them. Their forces combined...
Robin: Holy nightmare!

Batman then surmises that, if four supercriminals really are in on this together, their objective must be to take over the entire world.

Batman and Robin head back out to sea to try to find out how and why the yacht disappeared. They find a buoy in the water and try to determine why it's there. After removing one of the panels, they find a projector! The yacht was a projection! This, of course, wass also a trap; the four supercriminals are lurking below in the army surplus submarine that the Penguin bought from the Pentagon. They turn on the magnetic force inside the buoy, trapping Batman and Robin to it through the metal in their utility belts. They then fire torpedos at the Dynamic Duo; Batman is able to redirect the first three using his Batpolarizer. Then the battery dies. The pair is saved from the final torpedo by a noble, "almost-human" porpoise. Awww.

The four crooks, meanwhile, meet in their secret lair. They have kidnapped Commodore Schmidlapp and stolen his latest invention, a device that removes every last drop of water from a human being, leaving only a pile of dust. Catwoman explains that the United World Organization headquarters are in Gotham City, thus making it even easier for them to dehydrate a whole whack of diplomats and take over the world. Since their aim is not only to take over the world but also to get rid of Batman and Robin (the latter being a key requirement of accomplishing the former), they start planning to entice them into a trap. They also test the dehydration device on some of their henchmen, turning them into small piles of dust and filtering them into separate test tubes.

Catwoman, who was disguising herself as the Moscow Bugle reporter mentioned earlier, plans to lure one of Gotham City's (apparently numerous) millionaire bachelors into a date, where they will be kidnapped by the other supercriminals and inadvertantly leave clues for Batman and Robin pointing straight to the trap. Their plan hits a snag when the millionaire bachelor she chooses is Bruce Wayne, who, you know, kind of is Batman. She requests an appointment with Mr. Wayne and tells him that she received two threatening riddles written on Wayne Foundation stationary. He promises to look into it. Somehow, this leads to plans dinner and dancing. (Seriously.)

Batman arranges for Robin and his faithful butler Alfred to sit in the Batmobile near their date location and make sure nothing goes wrong and/or foil it if it does. They have dinner, then they go dancing, then they wind up at "Miss Kitka's" apartment. They're just about to get down but are suddenly interrupted by the other three criminals and their henchmen. Robin, meanwhile, has turned off the monitor in the Batmobile because he didn't think it decent to watch Bruce Wayne make out with his date. Or maybe he just wasn't comfortable watching what could easily have led into softcore porn with Alfred right next to him. Nonetheless, when he turns the monitor back on to check in, the apartment is empty and the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker are whisking Bruce Wayne and Kitka/Catwoman back to their lair.

On arrival, they start to wonder why Batman hasn't shown up yet. Bruce Wayne threatens to kill anyone who lays a hand on Miss Kitka, with whom he suddenly fancies himself in love. There's a fight scene, of course, and the henchmen wind up wasting the traps they've set for Batman and Robin on themselves. After some regrouping, Batman and Robin receive an "anonymous" tip pointing them towards a local tavern near the docks (incidentally, where the four fiends have their headquarters). They find a large bomb just about to go off. Batman grabs it and attempts to dispose of it, but there are innocent drunks/Salvation Army bands/nuns/teenagers making out/women pushing baby strollers/baby ducks at every turn! He runs circles around the dock, unable to find a proper disposing place and then makes a most astute observation:

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"

Robin runs after Batman, eventually hearing an explosion. Batman's not dead, however, having hidden behind some sturdy iron pipes just in time. The pair is then approached by the Penguin, disguised as Commodore Schmidlapp. They see through his disguise, but he refuses to give up the act and even offers to submit to a retinal scan -- but the equipment is in the Batcave. They Bat-gas him, knocking him unconscious so he won't see the entrance to the Batcave, and bring him there. Once they arrive, the Penguin rehydrates the five dehydrated henchmen, and a classic Batfight scene ensues. The dehydration and rehydration has messed with their physical constitutions, however, and as soon as Batman and Robin touch them, they turn into antimatter and disappear.

Thanks to two more riddles from the Riddler, Batman and Robin figure out that the criminals' ultimate target is the United World Organization -- but it's too late. They make it into the security council chamber and dehydrate the representatives from each of the security council members. Much like they did earlier, they put each into its own test tube. Batman and Robin are on the case, however, and the confrontation reaches its climax on a boat. After shelling out just enough humble pie to the male villains to render them harmless and prepare them for their stay in the greybar hotel, our heroes rush into the boat to confront Catwoman. Catwoman trips, her mask falls off, and she is revealed to be Miss Kitka! Batman is sad.

The real Commodore Schmidlapp emerges from his room and accidentally knocks over the test tubes carrying the dehydrated remains of the world leaders, mixing the dusts and dashing all hope for rehydration. Holy mixup, Batman!

Until...

Batman, being a scientist (as Homer Simpson would later go on to remind his wife), somehow manages to sort out which dust is which leader! The world holds its breath as they rehydrate the leaders, causing them all to appear back at the United World Organization security council chamber. Unfortunately, Batman didn't do a good enough job sorting out the dust and the leaders have become mixed up with each other. They speak in each other's languages, use each other's colloquialisms, and so on. One leader who is from some country other than the Soviet Union is seen banging his shoe on the table.

Batman and Robin inconspicuously exit through the window and scale down the building using their Batropes. And scene.

Reception

The movie apparently did moderately well despite mediocre reviews. Some sites note that Batmania (see what I did there?) had already begun to die down by the time the movie was released, which may have impacted critics' perception of it.

As for the present day, it is sporadically played on TV and has been released on DVD with a handful of...

Special features

Among the features included on the DVD are running commentary by Adam West and Burt Ward, a photo gallery featuring snapshots from behind the scenes, a tour of the many gadgets featured in the Batmobile and a short featurette about the series and film. The commentary is probably the most worthwhile thing, mostly because both West and Ward still much like they did in the 1960s, and it's kind of funny to hear them playfully mock the film. They also sporadically come up with lines they wish had been in the movie, provide insider information (Jack Lalane is in one scene!) and share stories about their castmates.

Among other tidbits revealed in the commentary, we learn that Lee Meriwether, despite having been a former Miss America and longtime performer, was extremely nervous about performing alongside the likes of Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith. Despite the nastiness of their on-screen characters, all three actors were supposedly very professional and went out of their way to put her at ease.

Amazon offers the DVD as a package with the DVD "Back to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt," an equally campy TV special in which the two actors team up to find the Batmobile when it goes missing right before a charity event while also telling the story of the original series through flashbacks.

Suspension of misbelief

Yes, the series is deliberately campy, but can someone please explain to me why Batman -- who's seen Catwoman without her eye mask during the series -- doesn't recognize her at all in the movie while she's posing as Miss Kitka? And don't say it's because she suddenly looks like Lee Meriwether. I'm still trying to figure out how Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether turned into Eartha Kitt.

Also, if Bruce Wayne is such a well-traveled and learned philanthropist, wouldn't he know a little bit more about Russian history and therefore know that a real Russian woman's name would not be Katyana Irenya Tatyna Karina Alisoff -- that her "middle name" would be based on her father's first name? (Yes, yes, it's fiction. I'm just nerdy.)

Nonetheless, it's fun. 

Resources:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060153/
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Batman_%281966_film%29
Batman. 1966. 20th Century Fox.

Bat"man (?), n. [Turk. batman.]

A weight used in the East, varying according to the locality; in Turkey, the greater batman is about 157 pounds, the lesser only a fourth of this; at Aleppo and Smyrna, the batman is 17 pounds.

Simmonds.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bat"man (?), n.; pl. Batmen (#). [F. bt packsaddle + E. man. Cf. Bathorse.]

A man who has charge of a bathorse and his load.

Macaulay.

 

© Webster 1913.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.