Batman Turns 75!
Batman turns 75 this year! Somewhere, Bob Kane is telling people how he invented Batman’s 75th Birthday.
A brief timeline of Batman!
1939 - Batman appears in Detective Comics in what will be the last actual mystery/ sleuthing story Batman will ever appear in despite title of “World’s Greatest Detective”. A pretty obvious rip-off of Zorro, The Shadow and a half-dozen other pulp characters, Batman manages to do what Superman did with science fiction and somehow become the melting pot for pre-existing characters, existing as the one who would survive the 20th Century by getting better media exposure.
1939 - Batman sensibly uses gun
1940 - Batman unsensibly disarms himself
1940 - Dick Grayson is added in Detective Comics #38, leading to conversations by post-1986 fans of Batman talking about how a Batman with Robin makes no sense and how the early stories were better. All 74 years of them.
1943 - Insane/ kinda racist movie serials made that actually probably show you exactly what the “Batman is more realistic than Superman” and “Batman is cool because anyone can be Batman” theories look like put into practice. (ie: inept man-child and teenager look like circus people, bumble around)
1947 - Seriously. nobody gives a shit about Batman anymore and won’t for quite some time.
1950’s - Batman and Robin are outed by famed pschologist, Fredric Wertham. Batwoman and Batgirl suddenly introduced. Ace the Bathound. Batmite makes perfect sense. Batman’s chin so sharp, can open aluminum cans. Gigantic props litter Gotham.
1950’s - Batman comics are f’ing nuts.
1960’s - some really cheap cartoons get produced
1966 - Batmania! ”Batman” appears on CBS starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Kids have no idea it’s a comedy. Popular culture has notion solidified that all appearances of superheroes in media must be portrayed as a very particular flavor of camp. Show actually only runs three years, but gives us trifecta of Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether in decidedly well designed Catwoman suits. Introduces notion of Batgirl and makes the Batmobile the coolest car in America. Apparently, West and Ward had a non-stop, three year sexual smorgasbord.
1966 - DC decides not to cancel Batman comics, which it was about to do. Seriously.
1975 - I am born. At some point, I do not make this up, my first word is “Batman”. Reruns of the Adam West show are blamed.
1970’s - Batman comics take on darker tone, borrow heavily from 70’s-era adventure and martial arts movies with a twist of French Connection. Basically, modern Batman is born.
1970’s - “Legend of the Superheroes” is just really awkward viewing.
1970’s - slightly more expensive cartoons are produced
late 70’s - Batman and Robin show up on Super Friends, suffer through years of coloring inconsistencies and Robin’s inability to get along with Zan due to his jealousy and unrequited love for Jayna
mid-1980’s - Frank Miller puts out “Dark Knight Returns” and “Year One”. Pretty much everybody freaks out. All the wrong lessons are learned. New writers keep trying to find ways to bolt their lousy stories onto Miller’s work with varied degrees of non-success.
1988 - “The Killing Joke” and “A Death in the Family” released. Bad comics writers with nothing to say will spend next 25+ years returning over and over again to these two stories and Miller’s work to try to get a little of their heat.
1989 - Tim Burton’s “Batman” released and is big, cultural event. ”Bam! Wap! Pow!” expecting parents left a little confused, but kids like it. I see it four times in the theater. It’s actually a terrible Batman movie. However, the designs of Gotham and the Batmobile are iconic. We all get glimmer of hope that Billy Dee Williams will get to play Harvey Dent as Two-Face.
1992 - Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” released. I see it with girlfriend at the time and try not to say too much about Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman suit, but fail. Rocket-bearing penguins are not appreciated enough at the time of release. No signs of Billy Dee.
1993 - Bruce Timm’s “Batman: The Animated Series” hits television. More or less plots direction of Batman in all other media for quite some time. Makes Mr. Freeze interesting, relevant.
1996 - “Batman Forever” is made, fans of “Bam! Wap! Pow!” feel sense of relief. Tommy Lee Jones collects paycheck. Millions of filmgoers wonder why Hollywood keeps insisting on Nicole Kidman and chris O’Donnell. Billy Dee sad he got no check, but probably glad that wasn’t him. Was that Debi Mazar? What happened to her? I liked her.
Huh, according to Wikipedia she still does a lot of work, just nothing I watch. Too bad. She’s pretty cute. She was in this movie “Space Truckers” that’s pretty funny, and kind of like US-1, that 1980’s Marvel series about a trucker in space.
1997 - “Batman and Robin”. Jesus, this movie.
1997 - America kind of agrees Batman needs to just be in comics for a while, but “The All New Batman/ Superman Adventures” is really pretty good. There’s also “Batman Beyond” which is basically space-Spider-Man getting yelled at by his driving instructor. I’m underselling it.
1999 - Debi Mazar was supposed to be in the remake of “House on Haunted Hill”, but her scenes were cut and only available on the DVD extended edition. I only saw the movie on cable, so I missed that.
I wasn’t really reading Batman comics around this time. I got back into Batman post-Cataclysm. During the entire second go-round of my Bat-reading, it just felt like they decided Batman should be a selfish prick with everyone else cast as abused kids seeking his approval, including the JLA. It was kind of insufferable and kind of killed a lot of my Bat-fandom. However, that take of “he’s always right, so everyone listen to the moody goth guy” really appealed to a certain kind of guy in black t-shirts with wormy facial hair.
2002 - Debi Mazar was in “The Tuxedo” with Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Man, there’s a time capsule of a really specific pop culture moment for you.
2005 - Christopher Nolan does not adapt “Batman: Year One” as a 70’s French Connection-style bit of awesomeness as had been considered by other directors. But it’s a pretty solid Batman film, utilizing useful bits from the comics and wisely minimizing Katie Holmes as a love interest.
2008 - “Batman” Brave and the Bold” comes out and is pretty much the best TV show ever put on the air. Especially Seasons 2 and 3.
2008 - “The Dark Knight” comes out, and despite plot holes and a lack of Debi Mazar, is pretty much a great movie, superhero or otherwise. However, the movie will be haunted by the fact that it will be the last anyone sees of Maggie Gyllenhaal.
2011 - Batman’s history in the comics becomes ever murkier as, once again, DC refuses to reboot his history during yet another Crisis, making Batman’s history absolutely ludicrous. Also - Scott Snyder is hailed as great writer for adding yet another preposterous layer onto the “Wayne Family secrets” that will also be forgotten once the next writer comes on. Seriously, DC.
Oh, and the Joker, the wacky jackanapes of kids cartoons, cuts off his own face and ties it on with leather straps. Because: comics aren’t for kids anymore and comics don’t know how skin works.
2012 - “The Dark Knight Rises” turns Batman into a Charles Dickens pastiche, which everyone sort of doesn’t get despite being force-fed “Tale of Two Cities” in 9th grade. It’s a little tortured making it all work, but it’s still a pretty good movie. And to make up for the lack of Debi Mazar, we get both Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard. A pretty good trade.
2013 - Ben Affleck is yelled at again for “Daredevil” when he agrees to play “Batman” in the follow up to the god-awful Superman-as-dumb-guy movie, “Man of Steel”. Basically, comic nerds admit they haven’t seen any of Affleck’s work since Daredevil, and/ or Gigli.
Today - Batman is more or less the gateway drug to comics for a lot of superhero fans. As the ultimate wish-fulfillment character (money, karate, toys, always being right, and having a big cave where you can go and feel sorry for yourself and it doesn’t just look sad), Batman has become the most popular superhero of the age. The popularity of a rich guy who lashes out at things that scared him as a kid with costumes, karate and toys is probably as good a Rorschach test as any as you’re going to get for the human race. A point which Bat-fans defend by being angry at all other DC superheroes, because that’s useful.
I genuinely continue to love Batman as a character and concept, even when the comics are dreck, the cartoons are ham-handed, and even when I’m pretty sure the next Snyder-Batman-film will be rotten. At the end of the day, I think Batman is pretty keen.
Batman taught me a lot about tenaciousness, doing what’s right, caring about the details, the power of information and physically punishing anyone I perceive is doing wrong, despite my lack of official capacity to do so.
Debi Mazar continues to perform, and will soon be seen in the feature film continuation of “Entourage” where she will reprise the role of Shauna Roberts. She is married with two children.
Also, Shark Spray. Always carry Shark Spray.
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