Friday, July 18, 2014

Celebrating 75 Years of the Dark Knight!

 This opening scene from Batman (1989) set the tone for the film, and along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns series, set the standard for Batman for a whole new generation of comic book fanboys and girls and movie goers.
 Gone was the campy fun of a man dressed in tights  being taken seriously by  authority figures. Batman had returned to his roots- a dark, fearsome figure, meeting out justice on criminals of all levels when the criminal justice system is not able to handle the case loads, or because of bureaucratic loopholes that allowing criminals to walk without consequences. I forget what issue of Detective Comics it was, but Batman was talking to a thug and the thug said he wouldn't be convicted. "Probably not," Batman said. "That just means instead of dealing with inmates, you'll keep dealing with me." The thug then turned himself in and confessed.
 This year, Batman/ Bruce Wayne turns 75 years old, right on the heels of Superman who turned 75 last year. Both characters were created for National Comics and they each represented opposite ends of the superhero spectrum. Superman is alien, endowed with incredible abilities- flight, speed, heat & x-ray vision, super-hearing, physical invulnerability, ridiculous strength, advanced technology. There isn't much Superman can't do.
 But Batman might be the ultimate in wish-fulfillment. Millionaire (now Billionaire) single guy and ladies man, who uses his resources to educate himself as broadly and completely as humanly possible and to train his body in martial arts, endurance and survival, and equipping himself with the greatest cutting-edge technology and exclusive devices. Add in the masked, secret identity and Batman can drive 170 mph all over Gotham, break down doors, beat people up, blow things to bits and come home and go back to being Bruce Wayne and party like it's 1999 again.
 Superman was made powerful- Batman makes himself powerful.
 In his 75 years, Batman has been the mentor to a whole array of crime fighters- beginning with Robin, the Boy Wonder (Dick Grayson) who would become Nightwing and moving on to characters like Bat Woman, Batgirl (who would become Oracle), Spoiler (who would become a Robin and then a Batgirl), Red Hood (Jason Todd- a former Robin who died then became the good-guy version of the Red Hood), Red Robin (who was another Robin!), Damien Wayne (a son of Bruce, raised by the villain Ra's Al Ghul and his daughter Talia), Azrael the Assassin (who filled-in as Batman when Bane broke Batman's back), Huntress, Catwoman, Cat Girl (who was a girl Robin the The Dark Knight Returns), the team called The Outsiders, the team called Young Justice, and the Teen Titans AND he even had a hand in forming the Justice League of America.
 Batman has immersed himself into our culture in his 75 years- from comics and newspaper strips, to radio shows and movie serials, to Saturday morning and after-school cartoons to blockbuster films and video games, to action figures and Lego sets to statues and art-house collectibles, to t-shirts and ball caps to amazing cosplay outfits that show up at big events. Here's to Batman, Alfred, Robin, Wayne Manor, the Batcave and every Arkham Asylum inmate past, present and future for giving us a fun ride of 75 years and we look forward to at least 75 more!

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